Pitfalls to avoid when hiring a freelance developer

A laptop, a cup of coffee and a set of headphones on a small table

It’s no secret that web development is a very competitive market. As sites like Upwork, Fiverr and Freelancer become more popular, it becomes harder for freelancers to get noticed, which in turn makes it more difficult for clients to connect with genuine talent. This leads to some incredibly bad practices – fortunately, there are a few ways you can sort through the pack and identify qualified candidates for your project.

Five star ratings (and why they are meaningless)

Okay, ‘meaningless’ might be a strong term, but rating systems on sites like Upwork are inherently flawed. A reasonable person might assume the following:

  • 5 stars – perfect
  • 4 stars – very good
  • 3 stars – competent
  • 2 stars – below average
  • 1 star – terrible

Here’s what those ratings are usually interpreted as:

  • 5 stars – acceptable
  • Anything else – avoid like the plague

Of course, we’re not saying that constructive feedback isn’t useful. Let’s say you’re a client and a developer has just completed your job successfully, but it was delivered a little late and they didn’t let you know beforehand. You may assume it would be fine to give them 4.5 stars, with a comment that they could maybe work on their communication.

There’s a good chance that developer will message you and ask you to increase it to 5 stars.

It’s difficult to blame the freelancer in that situation, because anyone with a rating below 5 stars will often be passed over entirely, even though ratings are entirely subjective – some clients will happily award 5 stars for a completed job, whereas others may rate more realistically. Then there are freelancers who are completely new to a system and have no rating at all, despite being talented developers.

On such systems, rather than simply checking the star rating, we recommend looking at the comments that clients may have left – these tend to at least give some insight into the capabilities of the candidate. That said, a much better gauge of ability is how the developer initially responds to your job posting, which leads us to the next point…

A four and a half star rating
4.5 stars, every freelancer’s worst nightmare

Quoting before seeing the requirements

This one is less common on freelancing sites, where project budgets are often stated in the original posting. However on other platforms, such as Facebook groups, this is a common situation:

  1. The client posts their job, with little detail of the actual requirements.
  2. Twenty people comment saying they can do it for x amount.

As blindingly obvious as it may seem; it’s impossible to quote on a project without seeing the project’s requirements. In the ongoing quest to get noticed, many developers (and agencies) will leave a comment suggesting they can do it for what seems like an incredible price. These are the people you absolutely should avoid – either their price will change once the full requirements become clear, or they simply won’t be competent enough for the job.

A decent freelancer will want to discuss the project with you in more detail first. For complicated projects they may even suggest writing a specification document to make sure you are both on the same page. At the very least they should let you know how they plan to carry out your task.

Though it may be possible to give a rough estimate up front, there should always be a caveat saying it depends on the full requirements – this may seem like a longer way of doing things, but it will save multiple headaches later on.

A notebook on a desk, with a title written but no notes
The average brief provided by clients

Unrealistic promises

To be fair, the blame for this one falls partly on the clients. Of course the most well known example of this is when a business owner asks to be ranked on the first page of Google – something which at the very least is not going to be quick or cheap, if possible at all.

Again, in order to get the job, developers may agree to any requirements no matter how unrealistic they are. As tempting as it is to do that, a good candidate will manage the client’s expectations and come up with a more feasible solution.

Dollar bills planted in soil
We promise to make your money grow! Literally!


This is always going to be a delicate subject, but the simple fact is that you need to be able to communicate with the person handling your project. If you’re hiring someone whose first language is not the same as your own, make sure you talk to them in depth about the project. It should be fairly obvious early on if you understand each other – the last thing you want is to waste both parties time by having to explain things multiple times.

Likewise if your business or project is being marketed towards people in your home country, it may help if the person you hire is familiar with the culture of said country. This is especially true if you’re looking for someone with marketing or SEO skills.

A very messy desk
A typical freelancer workspace


Of course one of the main considerations when hiring a freelancer is how much they are going to cost. While a high price is obviously undesirable, sometimes a price that’s too low is also a cause for concern. If a price seems unrealistically low then it may be a sign that the developer’s skills are not enough to complete the project.

Stacks of pound coins
Too low a price can be just as bad as too high a price

The most important recommendation we can give when hiring a digital freelancer is to ask plenty of questions and make sure you are a good fit before committing to them. If you notice any of the red flags above, then it may be time to look elsewhere.

Also be aware of where you are hiring your freelancer from – be sure to only use reputable sites. Some good places to start looking include:

You may find that hiring an agency can alleviate some of the issues above, but we’ll discuss the benefits of that in a separate article. Of course, if you do hire a freelancer, you may also decide that you want to hire someone to manage them – something Black Void specialises in.

Why you need Onyx – the Marketing and Maintenance Package

So you have a fresh logo and branding, an optimised website, and you’ve setup your social media pages (if not, check out our Pearl package first). You’re ready to start marketing your business – but what’s the best way to reach your customers? What happens if something goes wrong with your website? And how do you respond when a customer has trouble using it? If you’re comfortable handling these situations on your own then that’s great! However if you’re looking for someone to take the load off you, then this is where Onyx from Black Void can help.

A laptop showing website analytics

The marketing

All businesses need a marketing strategy, but often it’s hard to know where to start – particularly if you’re based in a different country to your own. We’ll help you figure out your target market (if you haven’t done so already) and the best way to reach them, then we’ll do the heavy lifting for you. Depending on your business that could involve writing articles for your website, keeping your social media pages up to date, and helping you with your online and offline advertising.

Of course you’ll want to know how well your marketing is working, so we’ll keep an eye on your analytics and tweak things as we go.

What goes on inside a business is just as important, so we’ll help audit your internal processes and offer suggestions on how to automate or streamline them.

We can also help you identify and set up different communication channels for your customers to reach you, and even assist with customer service and technical support.

A computer screen showing an HTML editor

The maintenance

Imagine owning a car and never having it serviced. Now imagine doing the same thing with your website. Most sites having multiple moving parts, and the technology is regularly updated. Even small WordPress based sites will need periodic updates to fix any security holes and improve the user experience. However with any major update there is the risk of functionality breaking.

We’ll help keep your website updated with the latest platform versions. Depending on the site and the size of the update, we may suggest setting up a temporary staging site to perform the update on, just to make sure nothing breaks. We’ll also deal with any server issues and other technical problems that may arise.

Larger custom built solutions will often continually evolve based on your customers’ feedback. We’ll work with you to identify what needs improving and will carry out the updates as required.

How it works

Onyx is a retainer package, which essentially means you pay for a block of our time each month. How many hours you pay for depends on your requirements, but we’ll discuss that with you before we start. Your hours will rollover up to one month, so you don’t need to worry about using them all up, and we don’t mind if you dip into the negatives a bit. Our retainer hours are discounted, but of course if you require a particularly large or urgent update you can pay for those separately at our standard rate.

We’ll work with you to create a list of the priority tasks for each month, and we’ll send you a status report at the end of the month so you can see exactly how your hours have been spent.

As always we’ll discuss everything with you before you agree to anything. If you’re interested in signing up to Onyx or have any questions, feel free to get in touch and we’ll get back to you ASAP. We look forward to hearing from you.

Why you need Pearl – The Business Startup Package

A pearl

Whether you’re starting a new business, or have an existing one and want a fresh new look, our Pearl package could be exactly what you need.

Let’s look at what is included:

  • Logo design and branding
  • Simple, fast website
  • Website analytics and SEO
  • Assistance with domains, email and hosting
  • Social media page (as required)
  • Business card design

We, at Black Void,  like to think that’s quite a good deal for $900. If you think so too, then shoot us a message to let us know about your business and we’ll get back to you ASAP. If you need a little more detail, then let’s break it down.

Logo design and branding

Without searching online, can you picture the McDonald’s logo in your mind? How about the Apple logo? The answer is almost certainly “yes”.

A little trickier, but take a look at these colours:

Example logo colours

Do they look familiar? If you guessed that they were the colours of the Google logo, you’d be correct.

A company’s logo and branding should be clean, simple, and most importantly, instantly recognisable. We’ll work with you to create a unique logo and produce a style guide for use in your marketing materials.


Whatever product or service your business provides, it’s going to need a website. Yes, nowadays many people will find you through social media and other means, but without a site you’ll look unprofessional and potential customers will miss you.

We’ll provide you with a simple, clean, fast site, with everything you need to attract new business – contact form, map, gallery, social media integration, and more. We’ll build it on a CMS platform so that keeping the content up to date will be easy.

If you need an e-commerce site or something a bit more complicated, we’ll be happy to help there too – just let us know what you’re looking for.

Website analytics and SEO

Of course with a website comes Search Engine Optimisation or SEO. Although it’s become more of a buzzword that developers use to try to attract business, it’s still important.

We’ll make sure your site is optimised with the latest techniques such as schema markup, and because getting to the top of Google isn’t everything (or in some cases, possible), we’ll look at other ways to get your site noticed too.

We’ll also set you up with an Analytics account so you can see how your website is performing and adjust your marketing accordingly. After all, ‘statistics are the grammar of science’.

Assistance with domains, email and hosting

What use is your website without a domain name? In fact, your domain should be one of the things you take into consideration when deciding on a company name. We’ll help you register this and make the necessary DNS changes. We’ll also find a suitable host (depending on your requirements and location), deploy your site, and configure your email.

You might have noticed that we added ‘assistance with’ at the start of this section. We’re not trying to be sneaky there – domain registration and hosting are ongoing yearly/monthly costs, so we don’t include these in the package price. However, our help setting you up will take away the strain of getting started.

Social media page

Facebook login page on a mobile device

Love it or hate it, Facebook is still widely popular around the world. Most businesses should have a Facebook page, and in many countries it’s actually used as a primary way of buying and selling products and services. We’ll create and configure your page for you, along with some suitable artwork to use as your cover photo.

While a Facebook page is what we consider the ‘minimum’ for your social media presence, depending on your business and location we may recommend you sign up to other platforms too, such as Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Telegram, and more. The logo design provided by Black Void will look great on any of these too!

Business card design

It’s strange that even now there’s still not really a killer app to really replace the humble business card. Offering a business card when meeting a potential contact or client makes a great first impression. In fact, in some cultures is almost expected that you’ll exchange cards when you meet someone, and entire etiquettes have evolved around this. We’ll design a sleek and impactful business card for you, based on your company’s branding.

Free consultation

Of course before any of the above happens we’ll discuss your requirements with you for free. Generally, this will be done on a call unless you happen to be local to us, in which case we can meet in person.

Each of the above services is provided separately as well so if you’re interested in the package or want a quote on something more specific, don’t hesitate to get in touch. We’ll get back to you ASAP to discuss things further.

If you need ongoing support with marketing, website maintenance, project management, or another digital project, we have a retainer package for that too. At Black Void, we are here for all your startup needs.  We look forward to hearing from you.