The Complete Guide to Hiring Your WordPress Developer Partner

As an experienced tech consultant who has built dozens of WordPress sites, I‘ve seen the heartache and headaches unqualified developers can cause once given access to a site‘s inner workings.

Between stalled progress, shoddy code, and abandoned projects, low quality freelancers can leave your site outright broken – or worse still, vulnerable to being hacked.

The stakes for making the wrong hire for custom WordPress work are extremely high.

But the good news is, you can avoid these pitfalls by using the right hiring platforms and asking the right questions.

In this comprehensive 2,800+ word guide, you‘ll get:

  • An overview of the top talent marketplaces for WordPress experts
  • Details on vetting developer skills and experience
  • Actionable advice on negotiating project pricing and scope
  • Recommendations for safeguarding sites through due diligence
  • Bonus tips from a WordPress pro!

Let‘s start at the beginning – an introduction to the leading platforms for connecting with WordPress talent around the world:

Top Platforms for Hiring WordPress Developers


As one of the largest online freelance networks, Upwork grants access to a formidable pool of over 12 million registered freelancers from 180+ countries.

Over $1 billion in yearly revenue moves through Upwork‘s platform, which has quickly become a leading option for companies seeking nimble, on-demand access to talent.

From their site:

"Hire the world’s best talent on Upwork – the top freelance website trusted by over 12 million businesses."

However, the vast range of experience levels also means you‘ll need to carefully vet candidates‘ specific WordPress skills yourself.

Upwork Core Features:

  • 12M+ registered freelancers
  • 180+ country talent reach
  • Advanced profile filtering & screening
  • Hourly, fixed fee and milestone payments
  • Additional fees (20% under $500, 10% after $500)


Whereas Upwork casts a wide net talent-wise, Toptal takes an exclusive approach – offering a highly curated network of the top 3% of freelance developers.

Developers must pass a rigorous screening process with less than 3% making the cut.

Although the available talent pool is much smaller, the extensive vetting provides higher guaranteed quality.

Toptal Core Features:

  • Top 3% talent acceptance rate
  • Thorough vetting and screening
  • Average hourly rate of $60+
  • Full service project & engagement management


Exclusively targeting WordPress freelancers, Codeable vets then connects clients with their hand-picked, certified WordPress developers.

After submitting project details, clients get matched to their top 5 recommended expert choices for the assignment.

Codeable Core Features:

  • Strict WordPress freelancer focus
  • Pre-vetted WordPress developer talent
  • Provides fixed project pricing
  • Holds payments in escrow until completion

The remainder of top platforms for sourcing WordPress developers include:

  • – End-to-end project teams including developers, designers, project managers
  • WPHired – Job board for posting and hiring for WordPress roles
  • Jobs.WordPress – Official Automattic job board, visibility in WP community
  • Stack Overflow – Massive visibility among developer audience (100M+ monthly visitors)
  • RemoteOk – Focused on remote talent, promotes listings across 200+ sites

Now that you know the places to post jobs and connect with WordPress experts – how do you evaluate the actual development chops of these developers?

Vetting a WordPress Developer‘s Technical Abilities

Sifting through the myriad of profiles on these platforms can feel daunting.

Here are the key indicators I examine when assessing a developer‘s WordPress qualifications:

Technical Skills

  • HTML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP expertise
  • WordPress configuration & customization
  • Theme & plugin development ability
  • Database experience with MySQL or similar
  • Security optimization best practices
  • Page speed optimization techniques
  • Version control fluency (Git)
  • OOP concepts

Delivery & Communication

  • Successful WordPress project examples
  • Glowing client testimonials & reviews
  • Clear English language fluency
  • Accountability, ownership and urgency

Cultural Fit

  • Personality aligns to company values
  • Collaboration style fits with team
  • Timezone overlap

I also directly ask pointed questions during initial interviews:

  • Walk me through building a custom WordPress plugin from A to Z
  • How do you optimize sites for speed while ensuring security?
  • What‘s your familiarity with WordPress hooks?
  • What debugging processes do you use when issues emerge?

Pay attention here to the level they discuss specifics vs vague generalities.

Probe past the surface level by asking follow up questions on troubleshooting approach.

For example: "Can you share a specific example of a complex issue you recently faced on a WordPress project and how you solved it?"

Based on their responses and what details they expand on, you can get a good feel for their hands-on expertise.

However, I‘ve also been duped before by slick talkers that know just enough to get by.

So in the next section, I‘ll cover some key mistakes to avoid when reviewing candidates.

Common Pitfalls & Red Flags to Watch For

The hiring marketplace for WordPress talent, like any industry, has its fair share of subpar players mixing amidst top talent.

Here are several red flags I watch out for when evaluating developer profiles:

💩 Limited Portfolio

A surprisingly common tactic—copying portfolios from other legitimate developers then passing it off as their own work during interviews.

Verify portfolio projects by contacting past clients or searching for plagiarized copies floating around online.

💩 Cookie Cutter Profiles

Instantly generated profiles containing generic descriptions, skill keywords and random stock images.

Cross-check credentials like client logos, reviews, and portfolio.

💩 Overselling Skills

Embellishing or outright fabricating abilities, such as claiming expert level WordPress skills that turn out to be beginner at best.

Ask probing technical questions during interviews to reveal true competency.

💩 Price Bait and Switch

Presenting unrealistic low-ball bids only to demand higher pricing once project underway.

Lock in formal pricing in contracts. Institute payment milestone schedule.

💩 Disappearing Act

Initially very responsive and eager—right up until first payment clears. Then impossible to reach and abandoning project.

Stipulate check-in schedule and progress tracking in agreement.

💩 Hard Selling

Very aggressive pursuing the project, making too-good-to-be-true promises in hopes of securing deal.

Take it slowly and don‘t get roped in. Do extra vetting checks even if pressured.

💩 One Man Show

Responsibilities becoming overwhelming for solopreneurs juggling every task. Quality and turnaround times suffering.

See if they have support team to tap for bandwidth.

So those are just some examples of problematic hiring cases I‘ve come across first-hand.

Hiring anyone sight unseen certainly involves risks. But you can minimize exposure through careful vetting, setting detailed project expectations, and putting legalsafeguards in place.

Now let‘s explore best practices when negotiating project scope and pricing.

Defining Project Scope + Pricing

Laying out clear deliverables, responsibilities, and payment terms keeps everything on the same page.

For fixed or milestone based pricing, be as granular as possible in detailing required outcomes for each payment amount.

For example:

Milestone 1: $5000 – Completion of technical specification document detailing theme functionality, content types, plugins, security checklist

Milestone 2: $15,000 – Delivery of complete functional beta version of custom theme code meeting approved specification

Milestone 3: $5000 – Migration of existing content, testing, and launch on live site

When opting for hourly based pricing, institute a cap by task, phase, or overall budget threshold that cannot be exceeded without written approval.

Document everything to avoid misunderstandings down the road. Have both parties sign off.

Now what about establishing realistic rates?

**WordPress Developer Rates 2022**

According to recent data from PayScale, the average global hourly rate for a WordPress developer is $25/hour, ranging up to $60/hour:

  • Entry-level WordPress developer: $10-$25/hour
  • Mid-level WordPress developer: $25-$40/hour
  • Expert WordPress developer: $40-$60/hour

Rates scale higher based on specific skillsets like JavaScript, custom plugin development, Divi, WooCommerce, etc.

Be wary of candidates drastically undercutting these industry averages—it could be a red flag for inexperience.

And fair rates ensure you attract and retain qualified developers invested in doing good work.

Next let‘s explore best practices once you‘ve connected with a promising prospect.

Safeguarding Your Interests

While platforms like Toptal and Codeable closely vet their talent pools, no hiring process is ironclad.

Here are a few extra precautions I take:

Background Checks

Even if the platform conducted checks, perform your own screening depending on project sensitivity.

Code Repository Access

Require developers to collaborate through a centralized repo like Github to maintain visibility.

Milestone Based Payments

Don‘t pay 100% upfront. Tie installments to progress to ensure accountability.

IP Rights + Escrow Provision

Include provisions for IP rights and codebase ownership in contract.

For very large projects, stipulate code escrow access as added protection.

Finally, don‘t underestimate personal chemistry fit, not just technical qualifications.

Choose someone you feel comfortable placing trust in as an extended member of your team.

Now that we‘ve covered quite a bit of ground on safely hiring WordPress developers – I want to wrap up with a few insider tips from my decade of WordPress experience.

Bonus Tips from a WordPress Guru

Tip #1: Hire a Specialist if Possible

Generalist web developers may "know WordPress", but likely not the intricacies needed for advanced projects. Whenever possible, hire dedicated WordPress experts instead.

Tip #2: Take Small Test Drives

Start new developer relationships with smaller, low risk projects to first validate skills and communication style.

Tip #3: Require Demos Before Payment

Don‘t pay final milestone amounts without seeing working demos first. This incentives quality delivery.

Tip #4: Build in a Runway

Leave timeline wiggle room for unexpected issues or additional complexity emerging mid-project.

Tip #5: Don‘t Abandon Completely

Once launched, have quarterly check-ins at minimum to address any lingering issues and keep core plugins/WP updated.

Tip #6: Develop Backups Internally

Slowly train in-house team members through dev partnerships to reduce future reliance on outsourced developers.

Key Takeaways

We‘ve covered quite a bit of terrain around safely hiring WordPress developers:

🛠️ Tools – Use specialized hiring platforms to connect with top WordPress talent globally

🕵️‍♀️ Vetting – Ask probing questions and watch for red flags to deeply qualify skills

📃 Process – Institute milestone payments tied to demo approvals before releasing

📝 Document – Formalize project pricing, scope and responsibilities in written contracts

🛡️ Safeguard – Conduct background checks and implement code access controls

💡 Insights – Follow proven recommendations to avoid pitfalls from a WordPress veteran

With the exponential growth and demand for WordPress sites, I hope these tips empower you to find the perfect development partner ready to deliver exceptional results.

By taking a methodical approach to vetting and onboarding, you can assemble a dream team ready to bring your online vision to life.

Here‘s to WordPress success! Let me know if you have any other questions.