Are you a smart, savvy designer looking to save time and money in your business?
If so, you’ve probably considered hiring a web developer on retainer.
Having a trustworthy developer at your disposal would make your life so much easier, but you’re hesitant to pull the trigger on that commitment just yet. It’s not that you don’t have enough work to keep your developer busy—far from it, actually—but you just aren’t sure what you should be looking for in a retainer agreement.
Some considerations—like rates—are obvious. Other, more subtle considerations are just as important as the obvious things, though.
In the excitement of negotiating your agreement, these other considerations may be forgotten. To ensure that you hire the right developer on terms that are fair to both parties, make sure you’re clear on the answers to the following four questions:
#1: Do you work well together?
This is the single most important consideration for hiring a developer on retainer.
The whole point of having your developer readily available is to simplify your business life and reduce your website-related stresses. If the two of you clash or rub each other the wrong way, you could be in for more stress and complications, not less!
If you and the developer in question have worked together in some capacity before—on a one-off project, for example—you should already have a good idea of how well you work together.
Haven’t worked with the developer you’re considering? Try to hire her for one project or on a hourly basis temporarily to get a feel for your dynamic as a team.
If she only works on retainer or testing out her development services isn’t practical, see if you can get a “one-month trial” of her retainer services. You may pay a higher rate for this trial, but knowing you’re choosing the right developer (or that you’re dodging a bullet!) will be worth the extra cost.
I’m not kidding when I say that is is the most important consideration: I encourage all of my inquiries who are interested in the retainer model to work with me on a low-commitment basis first. Any developer with your best interests in mind will do the same.
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#2: Can she handle all of your development needs?
Does the developer you’re thinking of hiring only work on a certain platform or with specific languages? If she is unwilling to work with anything different, you’ll potentially need to hire another developer for projects outside of her area of expertise. On the other hand, if you only work with one platform, you’d do well to hire an expert in it.
Think carefully not only about your current development needs, but your future needs as well, when you answer this question.
#3: What is the minimum length of her development retainer commitment?
Just like the cable company, some developers require you to commit to a minimum length of service. Also similar to other services, standard agreement terms vary from one developer to another.
In addition to minimum commitment length, be sure to ask about what happens at the end of your commitment. Sometimes you automatically convert to a month-to-month retainer; sometimes you need to sign a new agreement to continue receiving service.
#4: Can you make changes to your development retainer agreement? Under what terms?
Over time, you’ll most likely find that your development needs change. Does your agreement with your developer allow your retainer to change, too?
Make sure you’re clear on the terms of the changes: there may be a certain window in which change requests need to be made, or you may be penalized for changing the agreement before it has expired.
As I’m sure you can see, there is much more to choosing a developer for retainer services than how much she charges. With the answers to these 4 questions, though, you’ll feel much more confident in your decision when it’s time to sign on the dotted line.
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