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How Much Access to Give a Freelancer

So you’ve got some updates you want made to your WordPress site, and you just found a great freelancer to help you with your website. You paid him a down payment and you are ready for him to get started. But what kind of access should you give him to your website? Does he need access to your hosting account? Maybe you’re just starting a blog or maybe this is your ecommerce business. Either way you should take steps to protect your digital properties. So before you email any password, you need to know how much access to give a freelancer. I’ve had clients that I did work for ask me this question in the past, and I try to give them an open unbiased answer. This is the recommendation I give when it comes to websites, and hiring someone to work on your websites.

How Much Access to Give a Freelancer?

For a WordPress website there’s 4 levels of access you can give a freelancer. Starting from the most access:
  1. Your DNS Registrar Account, this is where your domain is registered, such as NameCheap or DynaDot. This account basically controls ownership of your domain. Anyone with access to this account can control the DNS name, where it points to, or who owns its. Your domain name is very important and you want to protect it. There’s not a lot of situations you would need to give it out. Only give access to your Registrar account if you really trust the person and it’s needed to do the job. If you are hiring someone to setup your site from scratch they may need access to resolve the DNS to your new host. Note, depending on where you bought the domain this could be the same account as #2.
  2. Your Hosting Account, this controls management of the web server where your website runs. On most hosting environments this is your cPanel login. If you are running your website on a VPS somewhere like Digital Ocean, this might be SSH access to the server. If you’re hiring a freelancer to build you a new site from scratch, they will probably need this much access to load WordPress and set up your databases. But if you have the site up and running and you just need someone to make some customizations or design changes, they don’t need access to your host. Anyone with your hosting account can fully access to your website files and database. Probably the biggest risk you face is that someone will make a mistake and bring down your website. Some hosting providers all you to create a secondary account that can be given to a freelancer, and that allows you to maintain primary control.
  3. WordPress Admin Account, this lets you login to the /wp-admin/ section of your WordPress site and control content, plugins, and themes inside WordPress. For any kind of WordPress customization work, you will need this account. But its very easy to create a second WordPress Admin account, I would recommend you do that and retain your primary WordPress Admin account. If you have an existing site that you want to protect, I’d recommend creating a backup of your site first. If anything goes bad, you could always restore.
  4. A WordPress Editor Account, this let someone edit and create posts and pages in your WordPress site, but they can’t manage accounts, plugins or themes. It’s a good option if you hire someone to write post for you. They can’t get into the Administrator functions of the site but they can write and upload content.

In summary, try to refrain from giving out access to #1 and #2. Always create backups and keep copies on your computer before you start any kind of work on your website, this protects you on multiple levels. But really use your best judgement if you’ve worked with this freelancer a lot and you trust him, then you should feel safe in giving them your account information. If you’ve only exchanged a few emails with this person you may want to hold off on giving this person full access to everything.

I’m an avid Technologist, while I do work on architecting solutions that span from the desktop to the data center, my passion is Web Infrastructure.
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