When Do You Need to Hire a Programmer

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.

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.

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 ( 3 )

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!



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.



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.


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