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Structured Query Language (SQL) is the language of relational databases. Relational databases power the backend architecture of websites and applications, as well as internal software for any organization. All relational databases use SQL, but syntax can be nuanced based on the platform that you use. The three main platforms are Microsoft SQL Server, MySQL, and Oracle. There are several others on the market, but to help you get an idea of how to budget for your next SQL developer project, we’ll focus on the top three platforms.

It’s important to note that big data databases use a different structure and language. NoSQL is used for big data databases, and this article focuses on relational, SQL databases. The structure and architecture for a big data project is much different, so you need to determine which kind of platform you want to use before you build your product.

Cost Factor #1: Scope

Poor database design and development can hurt software performance and hinder scalability, so you’ll need a dedicated SQL programmer who can ensure your design is efficient and optimized from the start.

As with any software development project, scope is always a huge cost factor. It’s often difficult to understand the scope up of a project—especially where database design is concerned. Database-related estimation can be more difficult because it’s often a total unknown to a non-developer. It’s easy to see front-end development and scope out functionality because we interact with it directly on a daily basis; database design, logic, and programming, however, are all the invisible parts of the product.

The scope of a database project is usually proportional to the scope of the front-end software product, but this is a general rule of thumb and not always absolutely true. The database design usually gets more complex when you need more data and queries to review that data. For instance, a blog database can be complex due to all of the content, permissions, users and features needed to run the blog. However, the front-end of a blog is usually much less complex to the user. This is an example of larger scope that most clients can’t estimate.

The best way to determine the complexity of your relational database project scope is to lay out the amount of data and features you need from your software. Complex software usually requires a complex database solution.

Cost Factor #2: Scalability

Another topic you may struggle to estimate when hiring a developer for your SQL project is the scalability component. Scalability is your database and software’s ability to grow with new features and design without disrupting current features. You should be able to add features to your database without having a complete overhaul of the system.

You normally don’t need to specify that you want a scalable database—the SQL developer should make an effort to create a database that’s scalable from the get-go. However, you can specify that you want a database that you can extend upon should the software grow and need feature enhancements.

When you hire a SQL developer, you’ll first need to describe and communicate your idea. This allows the SQL pro to create a design that works with your front-end software. A SQL developer and any front-end developers will need to work closely together to ensure that the two components work well together and offer scalability for future growth.

Cost Factor #3: Geography & Expertise of the Developer

It’s a global economy for online freelancers and clients. Each city, state, and country has its own cost of living expenses. There are pros and cons to hiring outside of your city, and many of these play a part in your cost, even if the developer’s hourly rate is lower. Time zones, communication, and compliance issues are a few concerns to keep in mind.

SQL developers are database experts, so you want someone who can provide you with professional database designs. This can range from $50 per hour to $300 per hour, depending on the level of expertise and geographic location of the developer. Also consider that developers in a far off time zone won’t be available during the day, and this can extend the deadline and cost for your project.

When determining scope and costs
Project Scope Hours Approx. Hourly Price
App exists – bug fixes needed 10-20 per bug $45/hour
New development 10-1000 hours $50-$150/hour
Add to existing app 10-100 hours $50-$150/hour

So How Much Should I Expect to Spend?

There are many factors that go into determining the budget of hiring a SQL developer for your project, but the best way to get a general estimate is to contact freelancers that have experience programming SQL projects similar to yours, with great client satisfaction, and ask for a bid. Just remember: a SQL developer will need to work with your front-end developer to ensure the two components work together smoothly.