When Do You Need to Hire a Programmer

UPDATE: In case you’d like to learn more about what goes into planning, building, and deploying a website, we strongly recommend that you watch our “Web Developer AMA (Ask Me Anything) webinar”. In this webinar, our panelists – popular experts Cal Evans, Michelle Schulp, David Bisset, and Mario Peshev – will answer various web development questions and share their own experience on the topic. You can also listen to our podcast episode “Do I REALLY need to hire a developer” where host Cal Evans talks more on communication with your developer, defining budgets, reporting on the task, and so on.

If you are thinking of building a website, a web application, or a web-based store, at some point, you are going to ask yourself the question, “Do I need to hire a programmer?” The short answer to that question is “It depends.”

Three Scenarios

The real answer to that question will depend on who you are and what you are trying to build. Let’s take a look at three common entrepreneurs.


  • Alice owns her own hand-made widgets store but wants to branch out into selling her widgets online.
  • Alice understands the intricacies of hand-crafting widgets of high quality. Alice understands to a great extent who her market is and how to reach them.
  • Alice knows what she wants her website to look like but doesn’t have the skills to stand up the site, design the site, and maintain it.
  • Alice plans on managing all of the content and products on her site. She just needs someone to deal with development and design.

Alice needs both a developer and a designer to work with her to get her site up and operational. After that, she will need her developer partner on a retainer to handle monthly maintenance, and deal with issues as they arise. She will need her designer only when she wants to re-skin her site or add new graphical elements.


  • Bob has an idea for a new service that is web-based.
  • Bob understands how his idea will work.
  • Bob knows what he wants the website to look like and how the application will flow.
  • Bob is not planning on selling multiple products or services, just this single idea.

Bob needs a development partner for the long haul. Bob should seriously consider hiring a developer either part-time or full-time until the product has shipped. Bob will need a designer to develop the graphical elements, but since there is a single service involved, the relationship with the designer will be temporary.


  • Mary wants to set up a webshop to sell her photography.
  • Mary is a power-user. She understands computers and knows a little about programming.
  • Mary is comfortable with computers and has always wanted to learn programming.
  • Mary has a steady permanent income, and this project will not be her primary source of income in the beginning.

Mary probably does not need to hire a developer. Given that she is a photographer, a creative pastime, she may not even need to hire a designer. Mary can start with existing plugins and themes and customize them as necessary, using the WordPress admin interface.

If Mary chooses a good hosting partner like SiteGround, that will take care of WordPress and plugin upgrades, as well as routine backups and scanning her site for malware, she doesn’t need to immediately invest in a developer retainer to manage all of that. She can set these things up herself.

Mary may need to hire a developer in the future if she needs the functionality that does not currently exist in plugins she can download or buy. She may also want to eventually hand off the management of her infrastructure to a developer partner so that she can focus more on her photography.

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Seriously, It Depends

As we’ve seen in these three different scenarios if you need to hire a developer, and at what stage of the project, largely depends on the project, and on you. If you are unsure about whether you need a developer, chances are good that you do.

Invest a little in your project by hiring a developer to sit down with you and do the “discovery phase” of your project. This is where the developer listens to your idea, asks you a LOT of questions, and then presents you with a detailed plan on how to build out your idea. They will most likely also present you with a quote for what it would cost for them to build it out.

The great thing about paying for the discovery phase though is that you now own the documentation that comes out of it. If you have any doubts about the developer you have chosen, you can shop the project around to other developers who can take the documents and give you an estimate without having to go through another discovery phase.

Don’t wait until you’ve gotten into the weeds of your project only realize that you are in over your head. Make the decision on whether to hire a developer early on in your planning phase. Then, invest the time necessary to find one with whom you feel comfortable working. Your project will go a lot smoother in the long run.

author avatar
Cal Evans

PHP Evangelist

One of the most admired people in the PHP community, who has dedicated more than 16 years to building the amazing PHP community and mentoring the next generation of developers. We are extremely honored that he is a very special friend of SiteGround too.

Comments ( 10 )

author avatar

gws imex

Jul 02, 2020

The article is awesome. I have a site, which I have an idea but don't know how to go about these things. The real word is that I lost. With this article read, I begin to get myself together one more time. Thanks and remain bless!

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Jul 10, 2020

Good and informative article. It would be nice if you linked to some sites where people could contact developers and/or designers, better if they have some partnership with siteground.

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Sep 25, 2020

I agree. I have hired two developers from "online" developer sites and was ripped off terribly. I overspent for things that made absolutely no help to my website. I currently have a guy who is great and does a good job but is very busy and hard to make time with.

author avatar


Jul 11, 2020

Very helpful, thank you. Especially that last piece: Seriously, It Depends. Stated clearly and basically, perfect for a complete novice like myself.

author avatar

Andre Liem

Aug 26, 2020

Great article. Running my own web services business for the past decade I get this question more and more as everything becomes more DIY. What can I do on my own? And the answers here are very accurate. If this is your primary business or startup idea and you’re not technical, you need to find someone to be there for the big or small stuff. Wordpress in particular needs maintenance like a car. It’s a challenge in this market because DIY tools are eroding the SMB web servicing market leaving small businesses to find unknown gig freelancers because all that’s left are expensive agencies. The other point to keep in mind is that with more businesses going DIY, there is a growing amount of sites but fewer are optimized for sales. This isn’t something that comes with the tools as it’s not just installing a SEO plugin, it still takes some expertise and is a huge opportunity for small businesses because few competitors are really positioning their sites for sales conversion.

author avatar


Sep 12, 2020

Great article. I'm just starting out as a freelance website developer and find these articles interesting to read. I've only just recently started using siteground and had to reach out to the support for an issues with site. They advice that because is was a custom built site and not on wordpress, that they couldn't help and that I would need to reach out to a developer. So I dug around in my code and found a solution. However, the support from siteground was fantastic with another issue.

author avatar

Martin Waring

Sep 23, 2020

I can’t figure out how to add myself (a web developer) to my client’s list of collaboration users. It just says the package needs to be Go Geek or higher. Surely this must be the most fundamental use case there is. I recommend Siteground to my client. They buy hosting and want me to set it up for them but I can’t without going through 2 factor authentication every time I need to log into their account. This hasn’t been thought through.

author avatar

Hristo Pandjarov Siteground Team

Sep 24, 2020

The client must go to the Sites -> Manage -> Users -> Add, then choose Collaborator and add your email address and name. You will receive an invitation and once you accept it, you will have access to that site. You as developer don't need to own an account in order to work on sites hosted with us.

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Sep 25, 2020

So we did that but my developer still couldn't make staging site or do basic functions? He is a collaborator but does not have full access. It is very frustrating.

author avatar

Hristo Pandjarov Siteground Team

Sep 28, 2020

Make sure you add him as collaborator and not as client role. Collaborators have almost full access to your account.


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