You can’t expect an operator of an ecommerce store to know the practices of Magento development, or to more deeply know the development processes in general – for this very reason, in this article we’re going to give you some help so that you can choose the best Magento developer.
We are also going to review whether it’s worth hiring an ecommerce development team or a Magento freelancer instead, and also, which one you should choose for which jobs exactly.
We’re going to touch upon the below topics in the following:
- Magento freelancer or ecommerce agency – the differences
- About freelancers
- About ecommerce agencies
- What should you pay attention to if you want to find a professional Magento developer?
- How much does it cost to hire a Magento freelancer?
- Staging server
- Development process and going live
- Project management
- Experience with migration and integration
- So which one: ecommerce agency or Magento freelancer?
Magento freelancer or ecommerce agency – the differences
We have already touched upon this subject in one of our previous articles (What makes a top-notch Magento Developer?), now let’s look at it in more detail: when is it worth assigning a bigger team, a Magento ecommerce agency (or development company) with the development job, and when can it be better to look for a Magento freelancer, one (or might as well more) freelance developers working alone?
About freelance Magento developers
People usually become freelancers because there is one or a couple of areas in which they can do amazingly professional work. They are real experts who are capable of getting the jobs done alone in a field of expertise, jobs that even a team can’t do at times. This is not true at all times, of course, but dealing with freelancers is really worthwhile only if they are like that.
For this very reason, in case you need some very special development that on the other hand is not of large scale, or in case some kind of a special problem arises, it may be wise to turn to a freelancer who is a widely recognized expert of the subject.
It’s also a fact that freelancers usually work for a lower price – operating a team is more expensive, especially because of such additional costs like having to maintain an office or having to provide equipment for the work. In case of a freelancer, such expenses are minimal in comparison, thus they can undercut well below the prices of the big development firms.
Many times you’d also be better off with a freelancer when it comes to flexibility. Since you don’t have to cut your way through contact persons, or a project management system, but you can directly talk to the developer working on the project, you can make yourself understood more easily and more quickly. Of course, for this reason, the really good development companies employ people whose only job is to facilitate that communication.
The disadvantage of hiring a freelancer may be that they have quite obvious limits: they can’t be experts in all fields at the same time, so in case some sort of a new problem arises, you will have to involve someone else, too.
There may also be problems with reliability: freelancers tend to disappear from time to time, or work at night for that matter, consequently, no matter how flexible they are, discussions, communication may still turn out to be more difficult in the end.
About professional Magento ecommerce agencies
The biggest advantage of a team is the team itself: if you choose a company with several people, then you will pay for the access to the knowledge and competences of a lot of people that together can solve practically any kind of development problems.
All aspects of the project are handled in the same place, you don’t have to involve new, external people, which means that the development goes much more smoothly, moreover, in a way that is transparent for you as well.
In addition, they will also be more likely to provide appropriate support: usually there’s a person within the team appointed for the communication with the client, which is by all means advantageous.
Their main disadvantage is obviously the price: if you want to have access to the knowledge of several professionals, you will have to pay the price of that. However, there’s a good chance that this turns out to be a profitable investment, because you get such a service for your money that a freelancer wouldn’t be able to provide.
If you think that it’s better for you to choose a Magento freelancer instead of an ecommerce agency for your project, since it’s a smaller scale development, or because you’re looking for flexibility or for other reasons, you should check out the Toptal site.
The specialty of Toptal is that they’ve specifically gathered the best professionals.
You can find specialists any time on the site who are capable of doing the best quality work in a given specialty field – and this quality is guaranteed, since Toptal quite toughly regulates who can advertise themselves in their system. The site is obviously expensive, but the reason for this is that you’ll certainly find a competent person.
And this brings us to how you can tell whether you’re really dealing with a professional, be it a freelancer or a development firm.
What should you pay attention to if you want to find a professional Magento developer?
It may depend on a lot of factors what price is set for a development project, however, we can give you some general advice.
If somebody works for a very low price, you should approach them with caution in the first place. The rates may vary from country to country. For example in Germany, development work done below 50 euros per hour is considered suspiciously cheap.
Think about it, we’re talking about ecommerce software applications here – about a system that has to manage products, deliveries, transactions, etc. professionally.
On the other hand, if they’re too expensive, you should ask why that is. It’s quite possible that the high price is justified, it may happen that you’re talking to such a professional team in which a lot of different experts work together on the projects, whose work is more reliable and quicker than that of others, and not least, they also meet the deadlines.
In this case, even if you pay a higher price, you will be better off financially in the end, than if you hired a less professional Magento developer.
How much does it cost to hire a Magento freelance developer?
Hourly rates of freelancers vary greatly, you can choose from rates ranging even from 4 to 150 US dollars – obviously, depending on what has already been described above. At the ecommerce agencies, you can find hourly rates of even 200 dollars or more – but by paying that price, you’re paying for the long term relationship as well, because it’s not advantageous in every case having the job done by a single professional, and that’s it.
It’s indeed worth searching for the ones that are not the cheapest – you may even need to teach Magento basics to those who ask for less than 20 dollars an hour.
Magento is a monster: it’s one of the most complex systems, for the understanding of which, and for the obtaining of proficiency in its development, a lot of time and energy is necessary. You can find many Magento ecommerce agencies and freelancers as well who claim they are experts in Magento, but actually they’re just scratching the surface, and they couldn’t cope with more complicated projects.
Ask them things like after they have developed a new module for example, can you update Magento to the next version without problems, and if yes, what makes that possible. You should also ask whether they can speed up the system’s operation, and if yes, how. Ask about the details even if you’re not an expert.
If they can’t answer these questions without having to think too much about them, the alarm bells should again start to ring.
For that matter, it’s always worth checking the company: ask about them from others, ask for references, search for information about them on the internet. It’s best if they can show you assignments they’ve already carried out, something that’s already finished and works fine, something that shows you in practice what kind of solutions they provide.
Preferably, if you buy a development service, the developers try that in their own development environment first: they integrate it, test its operation, correct eventual errors, and they install it on the staging server only after all that.
If they want to install a recently developed function on the staging server right away, you should definitely ask what the reason for that is – they might have a good reason for that, but that’s hard to imagine. On the other hand, if they want to install it immediately on the production server, that obviously indicates that something is wrong, since we’re talking about a live online shop being visited by the customers every minute or so.
Development process and going live
You should definitely inquire about how the finished developments are installed. Is there a staging server or everything goes live immediately?
Going live involves risks, consequently, it can cause serious inconveniences to the customers, and thus loss of prestige to you.
Professionals don’t upload files with FTP, they deploy and think in releases. There are software tools that were specifically designed so that the development and deployment work can be done with the least possible errors, or that in case of problems, resetting to the previous faultless version (version management) goes quickly – one of the most popular tools like that is for example Gitlab.
In order to get to know more about this, you’ll have to inquire again about the process of the development – and after having read the information above, you can see that it’s worth going into the details.
In case of complex development projects, it’s not enough if the developer is an expert in his job – he also needs to continuously communicate about it with the client.
This is of vital importance, since the way of thinking of the clients and of the developers is many times different, and it’s not by chance that the contact persons and project managers, who can turn the client needs into professional tasks, have such an important role in the more professional teams.
Therefore, the only companies or freelancers you should choose are those that are willing to consult with you, where this is part of the service. But you shouldn’t only pay attention to whether they discuss things with you, but also to what they have to say.
If you feel that it’s a salesman who is sitting in front of you and not a developer partner, you probably already have a problem: a professional will not want to sell you unnecessary things, take your money for unnecessary work. His communication will not be focused on sales, but on what you need and how he can perform that work the best way.
This is especially important in case of extensions: it’s your partner who will have to find the best for you, because unfortunately, there is a great deal of extensions on the market which cannot at all be considered good.
As the owner of an ecommerce store is not an expert in this, he will have to trust that the experienced professional will find the best solutions for him and will properly integrate them into the system.
The same experience is important when the business needs can only be met with custom development, because there’s no extension on the market that would be enough by itself to cover the special processes.
You always have to be aware of what phase the given project is in precisely at a given moment, at what stage it is, and, preferably, you shouldn’t know about this because you are told about it in email or over the phone, or because their job has simply gone live without a prearranged date and without your approval.
A professional works with tools (there are plenty of PM tools that fit in the pricing of freelancers as well, e.g. Basecamp, Redmine, Atlassian JIRA), which allow the client to check any time what stage the project is at, and also allows that it becomes clear for him what’s happening at the given moment.
Experience with migration and integration
It may also be an important question what kind of experiences the developers have in the field of migration and integration (e.g. ERP system) – in particular the ecommerce agencies have a greater knowledge in this field, such experience in case of Magento freelancers is expected to be much less.
It’s also an aspect whether they teach you how to use the modules implementing the new functions after they’ve developed them. Professionals don’t let go of the client’s hands after the development phase is over, and that’s not only because of the support. They thoroughly teach the client how to use the developed tool, so that he gets along by himself, and so that he recognizes the errors – so that he remains a satisfied client and he turns to them the next time as well.
In case you need a simpler development fast, it’s usually worth hiring a freelancer.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for a partner who will help you in the long run as well, who can also cope with more complex projects and has experience and routine in all areas, then a Magento ecommerce agency is a more fortunate choice even if you have to pay a higher price. Because this reliability, comfort and diversity is an amply profitable investment in the long run.