Still looking for a PHP contractor….

At work I’m still looking for a short term PHP contractor. Perhaps I’m being unrealistic in my expectations/requirements (rate/location/duration/skills etc), but nevertheless…. As I’ve not found anyone via normal channels (twitter/phpwm user group etc) I thought I’d turn to a random recruitment agency (who I’d spoken to a week or so ago).

Yesterday I interviewed one guy – who’d been a programmer for a number of years (10+) – using Visual Foxpro (whatever that is) – presumably it’s a dead language, as he wants to move across into PHP. He has very basic PHP experience (yet claims 2 years on his CV), figured out how to do FizzBuzz and Recursion without too much help – but didn’t know anything about object orientation, separation of concerns (specifically MVC), security (obvious SQL injection) or unit testing and failed to make any comment on what is almost the worst code I could find to present to him. This isn’t necessarily a problem – I would normally be happy to train someone – however, not when I’m paying him £25/hour and I’d be lucky if he was productive within a week. (Hint: students are better than this when they’ve only been in University for two years).

Today, I therefore continued hunting, with mixed success. I had three more CVs – all asking for more money, and one looked quite good – but had a requirement he worked remotely after the first few days (well he does live in Telford). Another, who is local, I’m interviewing tomorrow. Wanting to do some homework on him, I had a look at a couple of websites mentioned in his doctored CV  – the first is clearly .Net from the error message it throws when you pass a > into it’s search box – so either they replaced his PHP site quickly or his CV is misleading. The second has a PHP error on it – and is only (effectively) a themed wordpress site which looks like it’s slowly rotting. From these I found out his address (hint: whois $flamingodomain) and an invalid email address/domain (which archive.org seems to not do much with). Typing in his name into Google / LinkedIn, Facebook etc produces no obvious matches. So I know hardly anything about him, and for all intent he may as well not exist. Great sales job there.

From talking to the recruiters it seems it’s difficult to find decent PHP programmers – and anyone who may be decent will almost certainly not be programming PHP as their primary language (i.e. they’ll be doing web development in Java/.Net, and know PHP quite well). This seems a shame, but really only confirms what I already knew from interacting with others in the community. I’ve known for ages that I’ve effectively taken a large pay cut by running my own company, and doing PHP. It sucks that this continues to be the case. Clearly I’m a martyr or something.

So, if you happen to be a contractor looking for work, please make an effort. I’m not overly impressed so far, and may just end up stalling customers for another week/month instead.

(Oddly I wrote this post, posted it, and it vanished. What are you up to wordpress? Why do you want me to retype things in twice?)

30 thoughts on “Still looking for a PHP contractor….”

  1. Unfortunately hiring for Systems Admins is equally challenging and tedious: there are plenty of them out there who know Windows and will drop you a CV with brief footnote to the fact they may have seen or felt up a Linux box sometime in the last 5 years.

    There are plenty more who have extremely basic skills and can potentially install a package like Apache, but know nothing about configuring it or tuning it for workloads.

    There are practically none on the market at a ‘reasonable’ rate who have experience in “large scale” systems administration, working with 200+ boxes on a daily basis running an eclectic mixture of services.

    Within the ‘practically none’ minority there is another tier I’ll call ‘rare as rocking horse shit’ who know anything about configuration management, automation, etc etc etc.

    Is there a genuine shortage of these folks? Perhaps education and most workplaces just aren’t giving people the experience needed? Or perhaps those folks just command significantly higher rates of pay?

  2. PS: I interviewed someone recently who had quoted 15 years of networking experience, mostly related to Linux systems and servers. Unfortunately he was unable to explain the very basics of TCP/IP and CIDR; seemed to know precisely zero routing protocols; had once upon a time ‘maintained’ a load balancer which cost “tons of money” but the implementation was done by a consultant.

    Frankly all of that is about as useful as a chocolate teapot. But he still wanted £30k. Oh how I did “Pffffffffffffft” as I showed him out through the door and said “we’ll be in touch”.

  3. You should probably reconsider your idea of ‘placing somebody in the office’. If you want to hire the best guy, you mostly need to hire somebody who is external, because the best guy for the job just doesn’t live in your area ;).

  4. Pieter – yes, obviously I could hire someone remotely – but I’d only be comfortable doing this if I’d had some experience with them. Perhaps I’m old fashioned in this respect.

  5. Visual foxpro is part of the microsoft visual range of RAD developer tools. MS in there wisdom thought they should buy up foxpro which if memory servers right is either dbase 4 compatable DBMS(or lite version).

    Anyway maybe not really doing a good job of
    explain what it is. but anyway its old hat now.

    My first job was in foxpro dos doing a data entry system for a drainage network package.

    I never did get to use Windows foxpro.

  6. I know I’ve had a few agencies contact me recently (I’m a PHP developer with about 8 years experience, 6 years systems admin, 10 years Perl [bit rusty] and other bits), but in the current job market I find my full-time permanent role quite reasonably (and secure) and I’m on a pretty good salary (more than double the rate quoted if converted to hourly).

    I think the problem is actually the agencies – they don’t seem to “get” PHP: I’ve even had CVs amended where they’ve changed my PHP experience to .net as they are “both web based” (and, therefore, identical) or they know they are looking for a “LAMP” person – but they don’t know if the P is Perl or PHP (or even Python).

    Anyway – have you tried something like http://careers.stackoverflow.com/ , http://www.phpjobs.co.uk/ or http://jobs.zend.com/ ?

  7. Ricky C – I think you’re right in regards to agencies not ‘getting’ PHP. I’ve not tried any of the various job sites – although I obviously could. I suppose I was initially hoping to get someone through the local PHP usergroup, but haven’t. And yes, I suspect you’re right – the IT sector (well, at least web dev) seems to be doing quite well at the moment, and I suppose most people would have opted for permanent roles (if they could) rather than contracting through the recent ‘downturn’.

  8. I’d love to go for something like this, but unfortunately I have a full time job, and I live on the south coast. In fact I’ll be bold and say I reckon I’d be an ideal candidate (7 years PHP experience, know about MVC, use Zend Framework regularly, try to keep up-to-date with security etc. – the only thing I lack that you’ve mentioned is knowledge of unit testing eep!). Perhaps that’s why you can’t find anyone – as Pieter Kokx says, they may be in another area of the country and as Richy C is as well, are already employed full time.

    I agree with your comment David, about people opting for permanent roles – skilled developers could earn tonnes more money, but if they can get by on a slightly lower paid permanent role which offers stability, I know which I’d rather choose…

  9. James – I probably sound like I’m asking for everything – honestly, I’d be happy if I found a local developer who knew about MVC, wasn’t going to make obvious security holes and could do fizzBuzz + summing up e.g. array(1,2,array(1,2), array(1,2,array(6)), 6) etc [recursion]. I don’t expect to get someone who is a raving Unit tester – but I’d expect them to have heard of it – and be able to look at some atrocious PHP and make suggestions on how it could be improved (anything from variable naming, security, separation of concerns, indentation, …. ). Knowledge of e.g. ZF is just a bonus as far as I’m concerned – as I’d be happy if they knew e.g. symfony / code ignitor / something else instead.

    I think I’ll just give up, and work weekends.

  10. According to Google maps Telford to Bromsgrove is less than an hour which is very commutable. If you want someone in the office then that’s what you should get – the reason you pay the increased wages is partly due to the inconvenience of location. In the past year I’ve not worked anywhere that was less than 200 miles away from home.

    You could try and find an agency that specialise in PHP even if the agency aren’t local to you. I’ve been working with one who is trying with some success to become the place to go when you need a Python contractor. This benefits both his clients and the contractors. If the agent hasn’t been placing people with the skill set you’re after then they won’t have a list of people to call up and will be relying on job boards and therefore add no value to the process.

    I would suggest casting your net a bit wider – are there national PHP boards/mailing lists that you could post to? Job boards would be another avenue which you could try. If you get really stuck and could do with the services of a sleep deprived Pythonista give me a shout.

  11. David,

    You’ve hinted at the fact that you might be looking to pay in the region of £25/hour, but you’ve not made it clear if this figure is stated in the communications you’ve sent out so far.

    The good news is that people with the skills and experience you seek are out there – I have the good fortune to work alongside such people every day and would consider myself (as a long-term PHP contractor) to meet your criteria quite comfortably.

    The bad news (in my opinion at least) is that the people you really want are likely to be in work already, and will be somewhat indifferent to a onsite rate of £25/hour, especially for a short-term commitment. A salaried job of £30k or a longer-term contract rate of £30+/hour is what most of your potential targets are likely to be looking for.

    As you’ve discovered, there are plenty of “PHP developers” out there. You’ve also discovered that many of these don’t have the necessary skills or experience that you need. Whilst headline contract rates for PHP developers may look seductively low due to the supposed supply of talent, the reality is that the few genuinely skilled and experienced PHP people are fully aware of their niche status and only bother with employers/recruiters willing to pay a realistic rate/salary.

    If you’re not currently broadcasting the rate you’re looking to pay, you might want to start doing so. Most job ads that offer “market rate” (or some other recruitment cliche) are looking to offer anything but – this tends to result in the good people simply skipping these ads and moving onto the next.

    Sorry to cast a pessimistic slant on your situation – but I hope in one way or another that you’ll find my thoughts useful!

  12. Jon – I’ve not looked for a PHP contractor before, so don’t necessarily know what the market rate is (and I don’t know what sort of hit recruitment agencies take either). I also didn’t have much of an idea of what to expect from any possible applicants.

    I mentioned the one guy expecting 25/hour, and he would require more training I’d be prepared to give; coupling this with the messages I was getting back from recruitment consultants implied that it wouldn’t be easy to find someone – and most of the better programmers available would actually be PHP/Java/.Net programmers (where presumably PHP isn’t their primary focus). Perhaps I looked at the wrong agencies…

  13. I shudder to think of the state of code in the industry (I shouldn’t really as we regularly see the poor quality of code produced by people in a similar or slightly lower price bracket to us) if expecting someone to have *heard* of separation of concerns in a web app is too much!

    We do honestly interview students better than this bloke who expected a rate that is, to be honest, as much as we could support with what our customers pay (it seems to be the downside of the generally good flow of work we get). We have employed students who have required far less training than he would have done. In my opinion these are entry level ideas – things that we teach people in our one-week “learn to program” type course for novices

    If other employers are paying £25 an hour for people who write such poor, unmaintainable code, then they really don’t understand what they’re doing (and people like us will probably end up rewriting it in a few years time when it has all turned to a pile of unreadable mush!

    We’re not looking for someone with experience – they can learn on the job from the good developers we have. What we need is someone who has enough interest in their own career to have learnt how to do their job with some semblance of professionalism!

    Admittedly I’ve been too busy reproducing to write any code over the last couple of years, but while I think we may have to find someone who can only be onsite part of the time, there should be some inexperienced but enthusiastic developers out there wanting to work and learn – we just have to find one!

    Also, my experience from the other side with recruitment agencies has taught me that they really don’t know what they’re talking about most of the time, so it wasn’t my first choice to go through them!

  14. From a informal survey of friends, earning £35k+ is common before reaching 30 years old in I.T., however jobs often require that level experience have salary ranges of £25-30k. Maybe that’s why people often switch to freelance.

    Talking of freelance, people I’ve met doing that all say they charge £300-£400/day so £25/day seems low.

    That said for a lot of people it not all about the money. I think many techs would like to know they can work in a flexible environment where there ideas can be used, casual dress code, interesting projects etc. – though that’s probably more employees than contractors.

  15. If you’re still looking for a PHP contractor please get in touch with me, I’m very interested.

    I have learned Object Oriented design approach and just learned how to use namespaces (new in PHP v5.3). I operate my own Ubuntu Web Server and I program for fun.

    I’m 21 years old and I have been teaching myself how to program for over 4 years. I just recently started my own LLC and I’m looking for fun and exciting projects to take on.

    I also have a lot of experience with JavaScript (AJAX, JSON, & jQuery).

    I look forward to hearing from you!
    Thanks, Jeff

  16. Hi,

    I’m from India and would like to discuss about opportunity to work with you. I’ve more than 6+ years of experience with LAMP platform. If interested, please write me back.

    regards,

  17. Hi David,

    From my current experiences I can understand as I’m finding qualified PHP developers hard to come by.

    Two pieces of advice though – if you’re not sure about market salaries for contractors – take a look at http://www.jobstats.co.uk – it should help you get an idea of what to offer.

    And secondly think about signing up to somewhere like http://www.technojobs.co.uk/jobs/php – getting involved with these guys gets your job on http://www.itcontractjobs.co.uk (a great little find for any contractors) and you get access to their CV database – worked a treat for me!

    Obviously there are other IT job sites to think about but in my experience this one offers the best contact with contractors!

    Hope to of been of help,

    Grace

  18. You say “… I’ve effectively taken a large pay cut by running my own company, and doing PHP.”.

    Given what you have outlined, there is clearly a shortage of PHP Programmers. I too have had to deal with what you are dealing with. I also know the market will bear $100 an hour for developers. I assume if you were able to bill out $100 an hour for 25 hours a week, you would make more than most top end PHP developer jobs.

    Finding quality PHP developers is a whole nother thing. That is a mystery I am trying to unravel also.

  19. Middlemen, hey! Who need them … 😉

    Wishing you every success with your search. The contract market seems pretty opaque at times.

  20. We are looking for work and happy to help out.

    Have a look at our website [http://www.phpgenie.co.uk] and let me know what you think.

    Kind regards,

    Daniel

  21. Hi, my wife is looking for a php contract job, at the moment I’m working for a large internet marketing company doing SEO services and she is also doing some part time development for ecommerce sites and developing payment gateways so they maximise ROI and integrate smoothly with Google analytics. She has helped me write functions for WordPress as I’m also a front end developer and she is currently working in a Drupal environment, found a bug in world pays system and sorted it out. A few years back she developed an intranet system for a large games company and has been skipping between C++ development also. If you would like to view her CV, please contact me for more information. Thnaks for your time.

  22. Hi David,

    Wishing you a warm new year 2013!

    Well, could you please let me know if you are still looking for LAMP Contractor. We are staffing and consultancy in LAMP, Mobile, .Net, Java, NoSQL technologies.

    Thanks,
    Shubham

  23. Hi,

    If you are looking for someone to work on a contract / freelance basis I would be happy to put myself forward.

    I cannot find your email address so wrote my comment here. If you send me an email at jamesbarnsleyfreelance@googlemail.com I would be happy to send you my CV.

    James.

  24. Hi,

    I understand I’m a little late to the party here but if you’re interested in taking on a contractor in coming time then let me know. I’m located in Lichfield and I have 8 years PHP/Sysadmin experience.

    Regards, Ste

  25. Hi David,

    Whilst procrastinating at work (oops…) I stumbled across your blog and felt somewhat compelled to offer you an extending hand in your search for the rather dying breed of PHP developers. In this last week I have placed 7 high caliber developers into varying organisations and would be more than happy to forward you some CV’s. Let me know your thoughts buddy…

    Regards,

    Gilberto

  26. Well seems you have gotten quite a few responses though i thought i’d make one if only for the SEO.

    I am a PHP developer with about 7 years experience of PHP and a few more of general development.

    cheers
    jamie

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *