There Are No Cheap Ruby on Rails Experts


One of the most important factors in hiring a Rails developer is hourly rate. Within reason, you want to hire the highest priced developer you can afford.

We’re trained from youth to be bargain shoppers. This is largely because we live in a world of commodities. A commodity is something you can buy from multiple sources, and be fairly certain that the quality will be the same. A Ford Mustang will be exactly the same no matter what dealer you buy from. Even the cheapo espresso maker at Walmart ($30 and worth every penny) comes with a minimal expectation of quality, because you can return it otherwise.

The world of service is an entirely different ball game. Granted, some technology platforms are so saturated with developers and certifications (Microsoft, I’m looking at you) that you can often brow-beat a bottom dollar price out of a reasonably competent developer. Ruby on Rails works a little differently. The better the developer, the higher the demand for their services. And thus,

One of the most important factors in hiring a Rails developer is hourly rate. Within reason, you want to hire the highest priced developer you can afford.

What is a good rate? This can be a touchy subject, but I’ll give you my honest opinion. If you’re looking to hire a contract developer for anything less than $50 an hour, you’re not going to get your money’s worth. If you’re paying $25/hour or less, your developer is learning Rails on your dime. An exception would be someone who is already gainfully employed elsewhere, and wants extra work after hours. They’re less picky because it’s not their primary income, and they may even be trying to break into freelance with lower rates. If you’re willing to work around their schedule, you can sometimes get a good deal.

For the rest of us who need work done on a firmer schedule, and the ability to communicate during office hours, any developer charging less than $50/hour is usually struggling to get work in the door. Expert developers are typically in higher demand, and fetch rates up to, and above, $100/hour. Of course, all of us have lowered rates to fill up billable hours, but that’s not something you can count on when hiring a developer.

You can’t afford not to…seriously

I know it’s cliche, but it’s true. A good rails developer will pay for themselves. I’ve done more than one rescue project where the original developers were cheaper, but couldn’t get the job done. And typically, a well qualified developer will pay for their higher rate because they simply get the same work done in less time.

Price is definitely not the only consideration. But a low price should be a very low priority, while a higher rate is often a good indicator of a higher-caliber developer. Another is their expertise at Test Driven Development, and you can read my page about automated testing in rails to learn how to spot the pros. Finally, ask for the usual – code samples, recommendations, and examples of working sites.

In summary, price should definitely be a factor, but in both directions. Filter out the hourly rates you can’t afford, but also filter out developers with rates significantly lower. You’ll have a better product for a lower price as a result.

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2 Responses to “There Are No Cheap Ruby on Rails Experts”

  1. Ricardo Says:

    Jaime,

    You make some very good points. Too much emphasis is placed on hourly rate and not value. I have seen so many projects over the years where cheap (read: not so good) developers were brought in for projects. They did half baked work, “created” many bugs and cost the companies ten of thousands of dollars in “perceived” product value. In the end, these “cheap” developers cost them way more than the “expert developers” at $100. That is why I humbly believe so many businesses are in trouble; they cannot make good basic business decisions.

    Take Care,

    Ricardo

  2. Rails developer Says:

    A bit self-serving, but that’s expected :-)

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