Hiring a Freelance DevOps Engineer: What You Need to Know

From discovering the best time to hire to understanding how much to pay, this is your guide to successfully hiring a freelance DevOps engineer.

When a tech-based organization begins to grow successfully, it’ll eventually find itself looking at ways to scale and improve its existing processes. You might be looking at migrating to a cloud infrastructure that better suits your current and future needs. You may need to bolster your automation to help your team quickly get through the more mundane parts of their workday. Your company must streamline development and deployment procedures to deliver faster than your competitors.

Whatever the reason, you’ll inevitably need help making your team’s work go faster and smoother than ever. That’s where a DevOps engineer comes into the picture. Their experience and expertise in software development and systems administration provide a powerful combination for implementing strategies to improve your organization’s workflow. Whether you want to streamline your development process, optimize your infrastructure, or improve collaboration across teams, a DevOps engineer can provide the guidance and support you need to achieve your goals.

What Does a DevOps Engineer Do?

DevOps engineers are highly skilled professionals specializing in developing and optimizing software systems. They possess a unique combination of expertise and experience in software development and systems administration, which enables them to produce solutions that streamline organizational processes and maximize the efficiency of the entire tech team. By leveraging their computer programming and systems management knowledge, DevOps engineers can bridge the gap between software engineers and IT operations, working seamlessly between both teams to ensure the effective development and deployment of your products.

The tasks typically handled by a DevOps engineer include:

  • Designing automated processes, such as implementing continuous integration pipelines.
  • Managing cloud infrastructure through platforms like Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure.
  • Implementing procedures to deploy applications quickly and securely through continuous deployment principles and tooling.
  • Providing consultation for development teams to offer expert advice on best practices, tool selection, and process optimization.

They’re also responsible for maintaining the safety and stability of software systems, constantly monitoring and troubleshooting software systems to ensure they function correctly and securely. Additionally, they work to develop and implement disaster recovery plans and other measures to ensure that software systems can withstand unexpected events.

By leveraging their knowledge of the latest technologies and understanding organizational dynamics, they can develop the right strategies for your company to enhance productivity while helping reduce costs. Their ideal combination of hands-on expertise and experience will boost your company’s capacity and make your team’s work go faster and smoother than ever before.

When’s the Best Time to Hire a DevOps Engineer?

The best time to bring a DevOps engineer into your organization will vary according to where you currently are and your plans around DevOps for the future. Identifying the right time to bring in an engineer is almost as important as hiring them. If you onboard a DevOps engineer to your organization too early, you risk spending money unnecessarily and not making the most of their talents. If you hire someone too late, they might take much longer to provide results as they untangle existing processes within your company.

Depending on your existing situation, there are a few phases in your organization’s life where it makes sense to hire a DevOps engineer:

When your projects are beginning to take off

Most teams don’t need a dedicated DevOps engineer early in their formation since there will be plenty of other areas where you can and should dedicate your resources initially. An argument can be made that most early-stage companies won’t need someone dedicated to DevOps, at least for the first few months or even the first few years. However, having someone specialized in DevOps as part of your initial team can benefit the organization if you plan it right.

A DevOps engineer who enters your organization early can help set up efficient processes, robust infrastructure, and effective workflows for your entire team. This initial work helps establish a culture of quality and consistency that can carry your team far. You may have existing team members with enough experience to take on these duties, but they likely have their own responsibilities and won’t have the opportunity to dedicate the time needed for this work. Given that these systems can help save tons of time, money, and effort in the long haul, it’s best to let an experienced hand give the attention and focus needed to get this right from the start.

When your organization begins to feel complexity creep in

In every growing organization, there will come a time when you begin to notice that your existing processes aren’t as smooth as they once were. You may read more customer complaints about the sluggishness of your application. Maybe your infrastructure budget is growing out of control because you don’t know how to make it more efficient. As projects evolve and progress, a DevOps engineer can step in to help you alleviate these bottlenecks.

A seasoned DevOps engineer can help pinpoint areas that are beginning to negatively affect your systems and devise strategies to remedy these issues efficiently. For instance, they can help migrate your old system architecture that’s starting to run slowly to more powerful cloud-based services or set up your current environment to scale as your company expands. They can also collaborate across disciplines to make deploying new software a simple automated process. Their involvement at the first signs of complications could be the difference between a team constantly shipping new features and a team that rarely ships anything because they’re preoccupied with putting out fires.

When your team is looking for speed

In today’s business environment, speed matters. Imagine that one of your competitors begins providing new offerings that make your customers consider migrating to their service. Your team will feel the pressure to ramp up the pace of delivering new features quickly while maintaining the high quality that your customers have come to expect from you. In these scenarios, a freelance DevOps engineer can be a game-changer to help take your team to the next level.

A DevOps engineer can assist in implementing a robust continuous integration and continuous deployment pipeline that facilitates quicker updates without sacrificing quality. They can also introduce monitoring and observability to ensure that your systems maintain peak performance throughout rapid delivery cycles. These services, among many others that a freelance DevOps engineer specializes in, can put your team in a position to thrive and stay ahead of the competition.

Why Hire a Freelance DevOps Engineer Instead of Making a Full-Time Hire?

One of the most common inquiries when looking for a DevOps engineer is whether the team should hire a full-time engineer or bring in someone on a contract or part-time basis. Depending on your organization and needs, you might get more from a full-time hire than a temporary freelancer. This question isn’t just about bringing someone in—it’s a critical decision that influences your team and organization.

When hiring a DevOps engineer, you need to analyze different factors, like the expertise of your existing team, the scale of your current and future projects, and your organization’s long-term goals. Understanding each of these elements will guide you in making an informed decision.

When to Hire a Full-Time DevOps Engineer

Hiring a full-time engineer will make more sense if your organization is rapidly expanding and your roadmap contains multiple projects that require someone with DevOps experience. Having a dedicated resource within your team will help you develop solutions that align best with your company’s business strategy and objectives. It also allows for a consistent integration of new processes and technologies, which makes adding future functionality seamless.

A full-time DevOps engineer will also become an essential, consistent presence in your team, helping promote collaboration across the board. They can help ensure your team’s development and sysops are in sync, working alongside developers and system administrators to ensure swift and reliable product releases. Additionally, it saves time and effort that you or your tech leads would otherwise spend onboarding new freelancers for different projects.

When to Bring in a Freelance DevOps Engineer

Sometimes, you may only have one or two DevOps-related projects requiring specialized skills that your in-house team doesn’t have. You may have someone who can handle these types of projects, but they’re busy on other matters. For these situations, a freelance DevOps engineer is an ideal choice. Someone who can quickly come in with the skills your project needs and take it head-on will produce quicker and often better results. Instead of spending time and energy on a long, drawn-out hiring process and waiting for a full-time engineer, you can have a freelancer take care of what you need in a matter of weeks.

A freelance DevOps engineer can also make for a wise financial decision. While a freelancer’s hourly rate is typically higher than a full-time hire, you won’t have to worry about benefits, taxes, or any other overhead costs associated with a company employee. You can also enlist their services as needed instead of keeping someone on your roster with a full-time schedule. Over time, it can make a freelancer a more economical alternative to a full-time engineer.

What Can a Freelance DevOps Engineer Do for You?

Having a freelance DevOps engineer on your team can be a significant advantage for any organization, regardless of where they are in their journey. Their expertise and skillset enable them to seamlessly integrate with your existing projects at any stage and enhance your team’s productivity to new levels. Their involvement can provide a fresh perspective on optimizing workflows within your organization and inspire innovation across the board.

Here are a few of the things a well-seasoned DevOps engineer can do for your team that will help your team operate on a different level:

Enhance existing processes with automation

These days, leveraging automation is vital to staying ahead in business. You and your team need to develop, test, and deploy products quickly if you want to stay one step ahead of your competitors. A freelance DevOps engineer can implement systems like continuous integration and continuous deployment pipelines to augment your current software development lifecycle. Using tools like Jenkins or GitHub Actions not only speeds up shipping new features but also maintains a high level of quality throughout the process.

One of the benefits of bringing in a freelance DevOps engineer is that they provide a fresh perspective to improve your current processes. An external expert can identify opportunities to automate that may be overlooked by your team as they’re handling the day-to-day work. Spotting and establishing these new automated processes that your team might have disregarded can significantly boost your team’s capabilities and your organization’s operations.

Establish consistent and repeatable procedures

Most organizations working on software development don’t work on a single product. It’s not uncommon for a team to be responsible for multiple software projects and new ones coming up on the company roadmap. Maintaining consistency between these projects is essential so your team can reduce the time and effort involved in managing different configurations and tooling. Otherwise, they’ll spend more time on context-switching instead of focusing on doing their best work.

A freelance DevOps engineer can add immense value by implementing repeatable processes to reduce the time and effort involved in managing existing projects and setting up new ones. Some examples are using Infrastructure as Code (IaC) tools such as Terraform by HashiCorp and AWS CloudFormation to easily manage your organization’s tech infrastructure or creating scripts to set up project dependencies automatically. These standardized procedures can help your team transition smoothly between different projects and launch new initiatives faster.

Provide advice on improving current systems

A freelance DevOps engineer not only provides assistance with hands-on work, but they’re also a trusted advisor. They can analyze your existing processes comprehensively, pinpoint trouble areas that are ripe for improvement, and offer modern solutions to make your systems better than they ever were. For example, they can use tools like Docker and Kubernetes to enhance your old, slow deployments with containerization or introduce operational frameworks like GitOps that simplify existing processes.

Their guidance isn’t limited to only the technical aspects of your projects. Their extensive experience working with multiple teams can help foster innovation and encourage the adoption of best practices that lead to a more streamlined and efficient working environment. They can also guide your organization to adopt new technologies and collaborate more closely across departments and domains, leading to a more aligned and well-coordinated team that produces exceptional results.

Where to Find Quality Freelance DevOps Engineers

Finding the right DevOps engineer freelancer paralyzes most organizations when they need to hire someone for the role. Sourcing potential candidates, vetting them, and deciding if they’re a good fit for your team is one of the most challenging parts for any company, especially startups and smaller organizations. Bringing in someone who isn’t ideal for your organization costs time and money, so it’s essential to start on the right foot by knowing where to find quality engineers for your situation.

Here are a few established ways of finding the right engineer for your needs:

Reach out to former coworkers and employees

Finding someone you have worked with is the best way to hire a freelancer. A former coworker or employee who’s available to work with you on a contract basis is an ideal solution since you’ll know their skills and work style, skipping the time-consuming vetting process required for candidates you’ve never met before. Reach out to someone you know can do what you need—you never know when a former coworker or employee is available to work. It’s the quickest way to acquire the expertise and experience you need in your organization.

Finding a former teammate willing to work with you saves a lot of time and effort in the hiring process, but you still need to put in some legwork to ensure the engagement is suitable for both parties. Refrain from assuming that because you both worked well together in the past, you will still work together well now. Your current situation might vastly differ from your prior experience together, which can cause friction if you don’t set adequate expectations. As long as you identify what each party will get from this engagement, former teammates will be the best way to hire a freelance DevOps engineer.

Referrals from the people you trust

Besides hiring someone you’ve worked with before, the next best way to know you’re hiring a quality freelance DevOps engineer is by a referral from someone you trust. The best people you can hire are the ones that come highly recommended by your existing team members. Someone on your team might know an excellent engineer who can quickly contribute to your cause. It’s also likely that they have worked closely with this person in the past, which makes them an ideal candidate since there will be built-in rapport from the start.

Just like hiring someone you know, you should also take the time to vet referrals, even if they come from a well-trusted source. Many referrals come from someone attempting to help out a close friend and often don’t consider how the freelancer would fit in your current organization. It would help if you also examined whether the referral’s skills are what you need for your project. Taking the time to know your referrals will help you find the right freelance DevOps engineer with less effort.

Attend meetings and industry events

Attending meetups or events in your industry can also yield a goldmine of highly qualified freelance DevOps engineers. Many experienced freelancers attend these events to share their knowledge and establish new relationships. These meetings are usually informal, giving you a chance to connect in a more genuine way where you can gauge their abilities and experience and determine if someone seems like a good fit for what you need.

Meetups and industry events often include discussions, workshops, and presentations covering the latest trends in your particular field. Many freelancers participate in these activities, which gives you an excellent insight into their knowledge and desire to improve as a DevOps engineer. Attending and participating actively in these meetings also boosts your company’s presence, making your organization an attractive destination for top talent. Building authentic relationships can potentially turn into mutually beneficial collaborations.

Spend time searching on freelancer hiring platforms

If you’ve looked for a freelancer to help you on any project, you’ve likely visited some of the more popular freelancer hiring websites such as Upwork or Freelancer.com. These sites provide access to thousands of potential freelancers you can hire at low rates, but it comes with a caveat. The low barrier of entry to show up on these sites means you’ll find plenty of low-quality candidates who don’t have the skills they claim or have poor communication skills. However, with time and patience, it’s possible to find a skilled freelance DevOps engineer even on a tight budget. Just be aware you’ll need to spend a ton of time sifting through all the automated applications and unqualified candidates to find someone who’s the right fit.

There are also freelancer hiring platforms that only allow proven freelancers to be a part of their service. Companies like TopTal and A.Team require their available freelancers to go through a lengthy application process before making them available for hire, and a vetting process only allows qualified freelancers to make the cut. You’ll have a much better chance at finding an excellent freelance DevOps engineer on these sites, but it will come at a higher cost since you’ll pay the freelancer’s rate and the service’s rate on top. For the times you need an expert quickly and have the money to hire them, these sites work great.

Tips for Successfully Hiring a Freelance DevOps Engineer

Now that you know what a freelance DevOps engineer can do to improve your organization and where to find them, you still need to determine if their skills match your team’s needs. Although there are fewer risks in hiring a freelancer compared to hiring a full-time employee, you will still want to take the time to evaluate them to see if they’re suitable for the role and your organization. Otherwise, you’ll risk wasting time and money chasing a poor fit.

Here are a few pointers that will help you out on your journey to hire a freelance DevOps engineer:

Identify the skills you need to set clearly defined goals

Before considering hiring a freelance DevOps engineer, you’ll need to spend some time up-front determining what skills you need from your ideal candidate. This step is critical as it will help you scope your project early and make searching for a suitable freelancer easier. Knowing the necessary expertise beforehand makes the recruitment process much smoother and less of a hassle.

One mistake many organizations make is making their job description too broad in scope. You’ll risk attracting freelancers who aren’t quite right for your projects or deterring those who are a good fit by not providing the clarity they need. While an expert freelance DevOps engineer has a wide array of skills, identifying what you need without going overboard will help you narrow down the pool of potential candidates to your best options and keep your focus tight to help make the project successful.

Screen them in person or through a video chat

Once you’ve found the right freelance DevOps engineer for your organization, you must coordinate some time to have an initial chat with them. If they’re local to you, meet with them in person. If they’re working remotely, schedule a video chat. This initial meeting serves as an opportunity to assess their experience and measure their interest in the work. More importantly, you can gauge their communication skills, which is pivotal for any role. It’s not uncommon to find people who might push back on this, but ensuring a prosperous business engagement is essential.

It’s vital to consider the freelancer’s time at this juncture and value their time meeting with you. Many organizations use these initial conversations to extract free work from a promising candidate, consciously or not. This meeting should help both you and the freelancer to begin building rapport for potential collaboration in the near future. Even in this technology-driven era, the human connection is a valuable part of crafting a successful partnership.

Set clear expectations early on

Once you’ve found the right freelance DevOps engineer for your organization, make sure you set expectations with them early. Many freelance projects derail due to unclear expectations, poor communication, and scope creep. By establishing a clear and mutual understanding of the tasks that need to get done from the start, both parties can avoid ambiguity and align with your organizational goals, fostering a positive working relationship.

You can set expectations from the start by implementing a contract that explicitly outlines the scope of work. This document should contain the tasks, project milestones, and deliverables expected for the project. You can use the contract as a roadmap to guide the project’s process and to help you avoid any unclear areas that might lead to conflicts later. Keeping everything crystal-clear from the beginning paves the way for a smooth and stable collaborative environment.

How Much Should You Expect to Pay for a Freelance DevOps Engineer?

Understanding the financial investment you need to hire a freelance DevOps engineer is a critical element of a successful hire. Knowing typical going rates for DevOps engineers will help you plan your project accurately based on what you’re willing to pay. It can help you determine a clear definition of the work, the type of results you can expect, and establish payment schedules. This information can assist you in adding any buffers in case of unforeseen circumstances to help avoid surprises down the road.

On average, expect hourly rates ranging from $30 to $50 for entry-level engineers to over $150 for experienced or specialized engineers. The rates for freelance DevOps engineers vary considerably based on various factors, such as their skill set, location, your project’s complexity, and experience level. Each of these factors will guide you toward finding the right fit for your projects and your budget.

Let’s break down some of these factors and how they affect what you can expect to pay for a freelance DevOps engineer.

Experience Level

The experience level of a freelance DevOps engineer is typically the primary driver of their costs. Like in any profession, a DevOps engineer with a substantial amount of experience is likely to command higher rates than someone new in the field. However, experience level doesn’t always translate to higher rates, based on the other factors we’ll discuss later in this article.

Entry-level DevOps engineers might not have extensive experience under their belts and may need more supervision to complete their assigned tasks successfully. However, they are usually eager to learn and can provide fresh perspectives on your existing projects that your organization can benefit from. For projects not requiring specialized expertise or years of experience, the lower costs of hiring an entry-level engineer can be a good choice, especially if you’re on a tight budget.

On the other hand, experienced DevOps engineers bring years of hands-on expertise to tackle the most complex projects more effectively and independently at a higher price point. They’ll often have specialized knowledge that you might need for a project, along with the experience to spot possible pitfalls earlier and provide a forward-thinking approach to help your organization in the long term. Mid-level or senior-level DevOps engineers are perfect choices for projects that need a deeper understanding of the project and strategic thinking that goes beyond the work in front of them.

Skill set

The skills required for a successful project will influence how much you can expect to pay for a freelance DevOps engineer. Some DevOps skills are currently in high demand, such as container orchestration with Kubernetes, complex integrations with cloud services like Microsoft Azure, and implementing continuous integration pipelines using services like Jenkins. Engineers who can work on these tasks typically command a higher rate due to their sought-after skills.

Specialization also affects the cost of hiring a freelance DevOps engineer. For instance, engineers with credentials in specific domains like the AWS Certified DevOps Engineer or the Certified Kubernetes Administrator certifications have demonstrated their proficiency and up-to-date knowledge in those areas. As such, these freelancers will also charge more since they can skillfully do the job in their specialized areas.

Another area to consider for a freelance DevOps engineer is their soft skills. Freelancers who can communicate effectively, have the capacity to manage your project independently, and can deeply understand your core business add incredible value to your organization. Freelance DevOps engineers demonstrating solid technical competence and soft skills can collaborate across teams, foresee potential obstacles, and work efficiently to lead your projects toward success. This combination makes them more valuable than someone with technical brilliance yet lacking people skills.

Location

The geographic location of a freelance DevOps engineer also affects their rates. Engineers based in developed countries like the United States and England will charge significantly more compared to engineers living in developing regions like India and Nigeria. The difference is primarily due to their area’s higher cost of living, but there are other factors to consider beyond pricing based on location.

While the price difference doesn’t always indicate someone’s ability to do the work you need, their location should be something to consider for your needs. Some areas of the world have greater exposure to technological advancements and broader access to companies who work on these, which can play a role in someone’s career development. For example, a freelance DevOps engineer who lives in Silicon Valley or has vast experience working for cutting-edge companies in that area will likely have more hands-on experience working with the highly specialized technologies you need for your project.

Organizations now have the opportunity to tap into the global talent pool instead of trying to find someone local. You also must consider other potential ramifications when it comes to pricing by location, such as time zone differences, potential language barriers, and working styles that may affect communication and collaboration. Depending on your needs and desires, location may be a vital part of your decision to hire a freelance DevOps engineer.

Summary: Your Roadmap to Hiring a Freelance DevOps Engineer Successfully

Lots of factors come into play when the time comes for your organization to hire a freelance DevOps engineer. Knowing the right time to hire someone is essential so you don’t waste your time or money on an engineer you don’t need. You also need to determine if a freelance DevOps engineer’s flexibility and specialized skills are more suitable for you than bringing a full-time engineer, as sometimes it makes sense to have someone in-house for long-term projects.

When you’re ready to bring in a freelance DevOps engineer, finding a quality freelancer requires knowing where to find and vet them early. With the right candidate, learn the exact skills you need from them for your projects, set clear expectations, and spend some time gauging their knowledge and communication. Finally, knowing what to expect to pay for a freelance DevOps engineer will help you scope your project accurately and find the perfect fit.

The goal of hiring the right freelance DevOps engineer is not only for them to do a job but also to foster a prosperous and collaborative environment that can help your organization thrive now and in the future.


If you’re currently looking for a freelance DevOps engineer, let’s talk. With extensive experience in software and DevOps engineering, I can bridge the gap between development and operations in your organization. You can learn more about my experience or read one of my articles to better understand how I can help you and your team. Let’s collaborate to find the perfect solution for your team and project needs—contact me to schedule a call today.

Also, if you want a summary of this article and a checklist to help you hire a DevOps engineer for your organization, check out my free guide, Hiring a DevOps Engineer: What You Need to Know. This concise PDF will serve as your guide to find the right engineer to boost your organization’s ability to deliver high-quality products and ensure it can tackle any technological challenges that come its way.

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About the author

Hi, my name is Dennis! As a freelancer and consultant, I work with tech organizations worldwide to help them build effective, high-quality software. It's my mission to help these companies get their idea off the ground quickly and in the right way for the long haul.

For over 20 years, I've worked with startups and other tech companies across the globe to help them successfully build effective, high-quality software. My experience comes from working with early-stage companies in New York City, San Francisco, Tokyo, and remotely with dozens of organizations around the world.

My main areas of focus are full-stack web development, test automation, and DevOps. I love sharing my thoughts and expertise around test automation on my blog, Dev Tester, and have written a book on the same topic.

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