How To Hire a Back-End Developer
A back-end developer is responsible for the performance, stability, security, and speed of your site or app—all the behind-the-scenes functionality that makes everything the user sees and does possible. Because they create the different types of server-side software that powers the front-end of your app, you’ll want someone with a great mix of skills that can include database programming, API programming, middleware, server scripting, testing, and integrations.
Define your project scope
Deciding what technologies and integrations will go into the back-end of your project is one of the main purposes for a creative brief—a document you can share with the developer that provides contextual information about the project and their role in it. It should outline what you’re hoping to deliver to users on the front-end so the developer can conceptualize the logic required to bring that to life.
These details may include:
- General information about your business or industry, and your target audience.
- A summary of your project in terms of the tech required to make it happen: What it is, what service it provides to users, and why it’s happening.
- The complexity of the app, if you can speak to it: The database design, how much will it need to scale/grow down the line, server resources required, etc.
- UI wireframes or mockups and existing server and database infrastructure.
- Any existing integrations or APIs the project will need to rely on.
- A project timeline, including any key milestones/deliverables and testing timelines.
- The project budget.
A thoughtful and well-defined brief won’t just help your project run more smoothly; you can also use it to write a job post that will be more likely to attract a talented developer who can get the results you’re looking for.
How to write an effective back-end developer job post
Writing the perfect job description to find a back-end developer takes one thing: Details. They should have plenty of context around the business goals and logic of your project. Explain in detail what the front-end is designed to do so they know what’s being asked of the back-end software they’ll be programming.
Will they be creating the back-end for a real-time chat application, or coding a data-heavy app that requires a lot of calls back-and-forth to the server? Are you using Windows or Linux? Not all backends are created equal, so to appeal to the top talent suited to your project, your description should explain:
- The problem you’re trying to solve with your app or site
- Your existing infrastructure: Operating system, software stack, server setup (on site, containerized, or deployed in the cloud?), integrations, databases, APIs, etc.
- The deliverables and the timeline
- Specific requests for the proposal process
Back-End Developer FAQs
What does a back-end developer do?
The backend is needed to drive a high performance application. Any database and server resources that power your cloud application are considered the backend component, and you want this component developed well or your application can suffer from speed issues and data corruption.
- Database: The platform that contains all of your stored data from customer information to analytics data.
- Server: Where your applications run. You could need more than one server and an administrator to manage them.
- Application code: The code that runs on the server but isn’t seen by your users. Most software engineers excel with backend application code.
- Middleware: An API or web service is considered middleware. Middleware can be called by just your software or by the public with their own software.
- APIs: APIs are another form of middleware, and they run on your servers. They either expose your internal software or public events that you want to publish to other coders.
How much does it cost to hire a back-end web developer?
The first step to determining the cost to hire a back-end web developer will be to define your needs. Rates can vary due to many factors, including expertise and experience, location, and market conditions.
Cost Factor #1: Project Scope
Scope is a major cost factor for every project, especially when it comes to back-end development. Backend development can often be misunderstood or underestimated because the results are rarely visible—instead, it makes up the invisible “machinery” that powers your cloud application. Unless you’re using a back-end-as-a-service (BaaS), which still requires engineering help to set up and integrate out of the box, there’s a lot of setup and coding that goes into setting up back-end architecture. It’s important not to cut corners, or you’ll have an app with poor performance that constantly needs fixing.
Database: Every application that uses dynamic, stored data needs a database—either on-site or in the cloud, or both. The platform shouldn’t matter as much to you as the cost and efficiency, and depending on the complexity you require from your database design, this can have a big impact on your back-end budget. For instance, you wouldn’t use Microsoft Access to power a large enterprise application. Most projects require an enterprise database solution even if you start out small. An enterprise solution will allow you to grow and eliminate the possibility that your database is holding back company growth.
Once a database is built, it’s incredibly difficult to redesign and restructure it, especially once the application depends on it to run. It’s often better to spend a little more ensuring that the database is designed for scalability and efficiency rather than consider redesigning it in the future.
Server/Cloud Resources: Infrastructure is the next major cost to consider, whether you’re using on-site resources or utilizing cloud-based, microservice-based servers. You need enough resources to power your application, but you don’t need to pay high costs for resources that you don’t require. Your developer can help you decide which server resources are right for you, then assist with setup and integration. You might only need one server to start but need several servers in the future. One of the great advantages of cloud hosting is that you can scale server resources as your business grows.
You won’t be able to exactly estimate the cost associated with database and server scope, but your developer can help you determine a rough estimate based on your idea and business requirements.
Each programming language has a different hourly cost range. You can pay anywhere between $50/hour to $300/hour, depending on your project scope and business requirements. The server operating system you choose for your cloud platform will also have an impact on the language you use. For instance, C# is common for backend Windows development while Ruby, PHP, and Java are common for Linux-based services. Again, your developer will help you determine the right development platform that’s right for you.
Typical Rates Charged by Backend Developers*
|Type of Back-End Developer||Description||Average Hourly Rate*|
|Basic Back-End||Expert in making minor changes including documentation and testing.||$35-50 +|
|Intermediate-Advanced Back-End||Beyond fundamentals, also has skills with a specific platform such as .NET and PHP.||$50-100 +|
|Full-Stack Developer||Mix of front-end and back-end technology expertise. Solution stacks such as MEAN or LAMP. Server-side technologies like ASP.NET, Ruby or Python.||$75-150 +|
*Reflect rates charged by freelancers on Upwork [in North America with over 1,000 hours and 90% success rate].
Cost Factor #2: Geography of Your Developer
Every location has a different cost of living. This cost of living can drive the hourly rates your developer charges. You can find a less expensive developer in other cities, states, or countries, but just be aware that time zones and miscommunications can be trickier to navigate. When you work with someone outside of your time zone, you must make sure that they are available when you are available and they clearly understand the backend coding requirements.
With a fluid flow of communication, you can be successful with a backend developer from anywhere in the world. In some cases, a larger project with multiple developers requires a project manager to help facilitate communication, documentation, and to relay ideas from you to the developers.
Cost Factor #3: Backend Platform
The type of platform you use is also a factor. Windows and Linux are the two main platforms, but Linux has several distros or “flavors” to consider. Your cloud hosting platform uses a specific operating system; some offer both platforms. Again, your developer can help you decide which operating system is right for you.
The database platform you use can also determine the cost. Oracle is a common enterprise-level platform, but it’s expensive just like Microsoft SQL Server. A free option is MySQL, but you’ll need a developer with expertise in MySQL. Several other free open-source database platforms are an option. Speak with your developer to determine the best one.
The following chart is a basic range in costs depending on your project:
|When determining scope & rates charged by developers:|
|Project Scope||Hours||Approx. Hourly Rate|
|Database fixes||10-20 per bug||$50/hour|
|New development||10-100 hours||$50-$150/hour|
|Add to existing app||10-30 hours||$50-$150/hour|
You won’t be able to fully estimate, because only a backend developer can take your requirements and turn them into a design. When you post your project, it’s important to detail all the components you’ll need from the developer including any backend design to ensure you get the most accurate estimate possible for the entire application.