So you've signed up with Shopify and want to get a custom theme developed, or customizations made to a stock one. Here are our recommendations on finding a development partner, based on helping hundreds of store owners get up and running.
As a rule of thumb, you should be looking to get 2 - 3 quotes from various developers, and remember the clearer you can be in your specification the more accurate the quote will be. Quotes can be project based, where the developer will quote a figure to complete the entire job for you. Alternatively, you can hire by the hour.
Each developer should be able to give you examples of their previous Shopify work. Getting references from their previous clients doesn't hurt either.
Where to find developers
As for location, generally speaking it is easier to deal with someone in the same timezone, but ultimately it is about working with someone you can trust that matters most.
The cost of the theme modifications is a difficult question to answer as it will vary widely depending on how many changes are required, the complexity of the changes, and who is doing the work.
Larger projects, such as a completely custom theme, will cost at least $2000.
When getting a fixed price bid on a project, be sure to ask how change requests will be handled. There is usually some contingency built in for changes but make sure all parties are aligned. Also discuss and agree upon timing of the project. We've had clients engage us and then spring it on us that there is this editorial coming out next week so will the site be finalized by then (we met the deadline, but hey, I enjoy weekends as much as the next guy!).
Hourly rates range widely as well - expect between $30 - $150/hour. I'm generalizing here, but at the higher end of the price range you will be dealing with very experienced developers who write good quality code, so although more expensive at first glance, you may find it ends up cheaper in the long run.
How long will it take?
This will also vary depending on the size of the project. Bear in mind that most developers are already working on projects, so unless it is a really small project don't plan on them being able to start immediately.
Most developers will offer to fix bugs with their code/theme for a period after the work has completed. In our case we offer a 3 month warranty period.
A good development partner will be able to help you outside of pure technical implementation. For example, they should be able to recommend payment gateways and who to set up a merchant account with, advise on Paypal Pro vs Express, and provide local knowledge about GST and Shipping.
Hopefully this will give you some food for thought. If there is anything I've missed, please post a comment.