Illustration of a checklist and a computer with coding and programming concepts on the screen

About SQL Programming

Structured query language (SQL) is the foundation for back-end database programming and design. It’s the language that allows us to access and manipulate databases, execute queries, retrieve data, edit data, and insert new data—essentially, everything that makes databases interactive, not static. If you want your website or application to be dynamic and interactive, you’ll need a SQL developer to design and program your database.

What Does a SQL Programmer Do?

Using the SQL coding language, a SQL programmer designs tables, writes queries, and ensures that these queries perform at optimal speeds. Most SQL developers are either database administrators or experts in managing database development. There are different flavors of SQL depending on the platform you use, but they all perform the same basic functions—retrieve, add, edit, and delete database data. And a SQL programmer will be well-versed in all of these functions.

Typical tasks for a SQL programmer include:

  • Reviewing query performance and optimizing code
  • Writing queries used for front-end applications (websites, desktop applications, or cloud apps)
  • Designing and coding database tables to store the application’s data
  • Data modeling to visualize database structure
  • Working with application developers to create optimized queries
  • Creating database triggers for automation, e.g., automatic email notifications
  • Creating table indexes to improve database performance
  • Programming views, stored procedures, and functions

Some SQL programmers assist the database administrator with standard maintenance, but this is not usually required. However, having experience in database administration and maintenance is a great addition to the standard skill set of a SQL programmer. If your database administrator is on vacation or leaves the company, the SQL programmer can easily fill in.

Defining Your Project & Writing a Project Description

If you need someone to design a database for you, work with your website developers, or optimize a slow database, you’re looking for a SQL programmer. To attract the best talent on a platform like Upwork, you’ll need a great project description.

Before you begin, you should clearly define what you need and what you’re looking for.

  • Know what database platform you want to use. The three most common are SQL Server, MySQL, and Oracle. If you have an existing application, you can find out what database platform you use by asking your developer or contacting your host provider. You’ll definitely need to know this information for the project description.
  • What challenge is your SQL programmer solving, or helping to solve? Clearly explain the tasks and needs of the project. It’s helpful to identify the specific services and deliverables with enough detail so that freelancers can determine that they’re able to perform the work and to bid on a price for the work.
  • Define what level of experience your project requires. Upwork has three levels: Entry, Intermediate, and Expert.
    • Entry-level SQL developers can create simple queries that don’t require too much advanced code. For instance, an entry-level programmer can create simple queries that retrieve customer information, but they probably won’t be able to create complex reporting data sets. Entry-level SQL programmers should have their work reviewed by an expert before anything is deployed to the production database.
    • An intermediate-level SQL developer can typically code easy to advanced queries and even perform some database maintenance and optimization for performance. An intermediate-level SQL programmer can be great for simple websites that don’t have too much overhead. For instance, intermediate-level SQL programmers can tackle blogs or small e-commerce stores.
    • An expert SQL developer should be able to do it all—optimize your queries when your website is too slow due to database performance, write queries for heavy traffic databases, and design tables and indexes for the best database architecture and performance. An expert SQL programmer can reduce the time it takes to retrieve data from several seconds to just a few milliseconds. This optimization is critical for high-end databases and applications.

How do you know what skill level you need? Let’s say you’re looking for a SQL developer for an e-commerce store. If it’s a small store, an intermediate-level SQL programmer is likely to be the right fit. As we mentioned previously, you’ll need to hire both for the experience level you need and the database platform you have, whether it’s MySQL, SQL Server, or Oracle.

Below is a sample of how a project description may look. Keep in mind that many people use the term “job description,” but a full job description is only needed for employees. When engaging a freelancer as an independent contractor, you typically just need a statement of work, job post, or any other document that describes the work to be done.

Project Overview
XYZ Company is looking for a SQL programmer to create and optimize database queries that run a small e-commerce store cloud application. We need someone to handle queries for the database and return data sets for the frontend.

Deliverables include:

– Determining what data must be returned to the application and writing queries for it
– Optimizing any existing queries to speed up performance
– Creating and designing tables when new new modules are added to a software product
– Reviewing current database design and making suggestions for better performance
– Creating table indexes that optimize query speeds
– Defining triggers on necessary tables
– Determining the right stored procedures, views, and functions for the application

Deadline for deliverables:

-All work must be completed by XYZ date.

Skills:
– Database administration
– Table design including normalization
– Database backups and recovery is a plus but not necessary
– Understanding the way databases work with cloud applications is also a plus

Read this article for more tips on how to write a great project description.

Reviewing SQL Freelancer Profiles & Interviewing Candidates

After posting a detailed and thought-out project description that defines your SQL developer’s tasks, you should receive several proposals from freelancers across the globe with a variety of skill sets. How do you choose the right one for your project?

Freelancers can display their previous experience, work history, college education, and what they have to offer. For any programming project, the most important thing is often experience. Junior-level programmers can be a good option if their work will be reviewed by a senior-level SQL developer, but for most projects, an intermediate developer or above is necessary.

Experience
Experience is especially important with SQL programmers because they create the queries that form your website’s output. For instance, suppose you have a list of products you want to show customers after they log in, a SQL database query handles this process. Gauge their experience level both by reviewing previous work and asking specific questions when you interview them. Most programmers are used to answering technical questions as part of the interview process. You may choose to ask your freelancer some basic SQL programming interview questions to judge their level of experience.

For SQL in particular, it can be difficult for a freelancer to display portfolio items, but you can review the items they uploaded to their profile and their previous work experience. A college degree is a good nice-to-have, but it’s not necessary if the freelancer has several years of experience coding SQL queries.

Professionalism
When interviewing freelancers, also consider what it would be like to work with them. SQL programming often involves repeat projects; each time your application changes, the database is usually affected. Establishing a good relationship with your programmer will help with future bug fixes, application upgrades, or other work you’ll need as your business grows. Carefully screen by confirming they have other clients, asking for recommendations and reviewing feedback if available.

With the right SQL programmer, you can run your development project smoothly. Just take the time to create a detailed project description, review each freelancer’s proposal and skill set, and ask them a few SQL interview questions to determine if they’re the right fit for the project.