Once you’ve examined and interviewed developer to a shortlist of just a few experts, a small initial paid project—a.k.a. a test project—gives you a chance to see each one of them in action. It’s an effective way to help you feel confident you’re working with the best freelancer for the project at hand.

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A trial project can also help you:

  • Sharpen the focus of your project
  • Try different approaches, or
  • Confirm whether your timelines are realistic.

1.) Spec out the test project

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If you have a project with a foreseeable scope of work and clear achievements, you can use the initial phase of your project or choose a module to start with that’s the same in difficulty to your remaining project. When considering developers, this is a procedure that can work well.

Break down your MVP into smaller components. For example, if your building a SEO SaaS application, you may start with an API wrapper for Google Search Engine. Or you may task the developer to build parts of the front-end.

This type of activity is commonly used to see how your dev team with creative skills approach a project.

2.) Paying for the test project

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What is a fixed-price project

The fixed-price project is normally budgeted before the start of the job, and if you accept, you are committed to the price. If you set a high price at the beginning and the project is completed on time and under budget, the fixed price may work out well for you. In the creative industry, however, the scope of the job can be unclear in the beginning stages. The client may not like the work or need additional changes and revisions that can add hours — or days — to your schedule. If a fixed price project increases, or more issues complicate the job, you could be stuck losing time and money.

What is an hourly project?

An hourly rate is most preferred for those freelancer and should be used when you are not sure of the job’s parameters, such as the revisions, deadline, or approval process. It is also an advantage for those who are working in house because it is the most convenient way to bill: You work a set number of hours and get paid your hourly rate for the actual time you spend on the project. In hourly rate, client will usually ask you to complete a daily or weekly time sheet, which is used to pay you and allocate expenses to the project.

An initial project often works well as a fixed-price project: It typically has a narrow scope of work, and you and the freelancer can negotiate a short timeline and a set price. This helps make it easier to set expectations for the first work you do together.

But setting up an hourly project can also be informative. For example, if you and the developer aren’t sure how long it should take to do a particular type of work, an hourly project can help you get a sense of a reasonable baseline. Although a developer who can’t estimate work may not be a good fit the role to build your MVP, which has a strict timeline and budget.

3.) Create a scorecard

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Evaluation is one way of knowing how a certain project works and will give you an idea if the project was successful or not.  

You already know the people on your shortlist are the experts. So how can you evaluate the results? It often isn’t easy.

Consider not just the skill and project requirements but also the factors that will make your next project a success. For example:

  • How well did they meet or exceed your needs?
  • Did they give you feedback or ask for clarifications proactively?
  • How effectively did they communicate?
  • Does the final product reflect the attention to detail you’re looking for?


A paid starter project gives you a preview of how someone performs when they’re doing real work and creates an opportunity for you to see how well you work together. By making it part of your process, you can have peace of mind that your project has the talent involved to help ensure it’s a success.



Testing out the technical skills of a developer is only half of what you need to build the MVP of your startup. You also need to ensure that developer has experience to scale the application and the dev team. At Bootyard, we have been scaling Ruby on Rails applications since 2011. We have agile practices geared towards help remote clients. If you have an idea you want to work, email us at info@bootyard.com