A happy programmer is a productive programmer, and Ruby is an object-oriented programming language with a laconic syntax that was expressly designed with programmer productivity in mind. Whether you have a need for development speed, rapid prototyping, or a quick way to bootstrap a project using the latest best practices and standards, Ruby is an excellent choice for your software development needs.

So how much does it cost to hire a Ruby developer? It all depends on the level of expertise you require, and the overall scope of your project. In this article, we’ll cover these and other cost factors to consider in drafting a budget for hiring a Ruby developer.

The Secret to Attracting a Top Ruby Developer? A Solid, Detailed Brief

Before we dive into budgets, you’ll first need to develop a clear understanding of what you are trying to build. A great way to obtain that is to get started on another aspect of the hiring process—writing a detailed job post. Ruby is most often used alongside Ruby on Rails, an MVC (Model-View-Controller) framework for building the back-end of a website. However, as a general purpose programming language, it can also be used to build desktop applications, domain specific languages (DSL), or in the case of mruby, embedded systems like IoT devices.

The key is to write a clear and detailed project description that will allow potential developers to self select for your project based on their skills, experience, and interests. The best job briefs will provide background information about you, your company, products, and/or services, project scope and timeline, and any supporting documentation that helps illustrate what you’re trying to accomplish. For some more resources, learn how to write an awesome job post on Upwork here.

With a clearly defined project in hand, it’s time to build your budget—here are some important cost factors you may want to consider when determining the cost of your project.

Pricing your Project

Rates charged by Ruby developers on Upwork vary from $20 to $150 an hour or more, while fixed price contracts may vary widely based on the duration or scope of your project. Let’s take a closer look at some of the factors that weigh into the cost of hiring a Ruby developer.

Scope of Work

Did you take our advice and draft that project description? Great, you’ve just taken the first step of building any budget — defining project scope. There’s a big difference in scope between running repetitive unit tests on your Rails back-end, to building an entire RESTful Ruby application from scratch. If you’re new to software development, here’s a list of the types of deliverables you might list in your project description for a Ruby developer:

  • Translate wireframes and storyboards from the designer into a Ruby back-end code
  • Perform unit tests and analyze results
  • Build a RESTful API
  • Database management with PostgreSQL

What are you trying to build? If you’ve already got wireframes and mockups for the front-end, you might need backend API’s for front-end features like chat rooms, login authentication, or streaming video. Projects like these can be broken down and funneled into your favorite software development methodology of choice.

Beyond the nature of the work involved, your estimated time to completion will also factor into the cost of a developer. Drafting a quick timeline or gantt chart can help you organize your project and negotiate milestone payments with your developer. Milestone payments can be distributed as a percentage of your total budget for a project on a payment schedule, tied to specific tasks in a task board (Agile), or as simple as providing 50% up front and 50% on completion.

Tip: Adopting an Agile development methodology can help you save time and money over traditional waterfall approach to software development. Start with a minimum viable project (MVP), the bare bones of the application you eventually wish to create, gather live feedback from the market, and let validated data guide the development of your project. This will help you avoid that dreaded pitfall of sinking cost into a product the market doesn’t want.

Expertise and Experience

As with any professional skill, the more years of experience a Ruby developer has under their belt, the more they are going to charge. Things like location, and whether you’re hiring an individual contractor or an agency freelancer, will also factor into the rates you’ll see charged on Upwork. Factors such as whether or not a computer science degree is required, or the quality of past projects, can be used to judge the validity of a rate.

Beyond experience, you’ll also want to pay attention to expertise — the skills and technologies that define the capabilities of a particular Ruby developer. It’s no secret that the majority of Ruby programmers you encounter will list Ruby on Rails as a skill. But you can learn so much more by seeing what other technologies they list under their belt.

If you see front-end frameworks like Angular or React, you know you have a full stack developer on your hands. If you see technologies like mruby, a lightweight implementation of Ruby for embedded systems, you know that this Ruby developer could help you with your IoT project. The rates of freelancers may also be affected by industry demand for other skills under their toolkit. Focus on the freelancers whose technologies best fit the needs of your project.

Since Ruby is most often used as a server-side language for back-end web development, the following table breaks down the rates of the typical types of Ruby developers you can find on Upwork. Keep in mind that the listed skills are just suggestions and it is more important to judge a developer by their portfolio than the presence or absence of certain skills.

Typical Rates Charged by Ruby Developers*

Type of Back-End Ruby Developer Description Average Hourly Rate
Basic Back-End Ruby fundamentals (Ruby, Ruby on Rails), familiarity with database technologies like SQL. $35-50 +
Intermediate – Advanced Back-End Beyond fundamentals, also skilled in other Ruby frameworks like Sinatra. Back-end languages/frameworks like C#/.NET, PHP/Laravel, Python/Django, etc. $40-100 +
Full Stack Developer Mix of front-end and back-end technology expertise. Confident using Ruby on Rails as a full stack solution (with HAML and ERB for front-end). Familiar with front-end frameworks like React. $45-150 +

*Reflects rates charged by freelancers on Upwork in the USA with 90% success rate.

Build your Budget

With a detailed project brief in hand, a clear portfolio of your ideal React.js developer, and a solid scope of work, you have just about everything you need to estimate the cost of hiring a freelance Ruby developer.