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What to Do When Your Developer Has Gone AWOL

You’ve brainstormed a bold idea, acquired an intelligent and supportive team, and hired a software developer to help bring your vision to life. Your project has been progressing smoothly, when suddenly, poof.

In the blink of an eye, your developer seems to have vanished into thin air. They’re no longer returning your calls or emails, and you’re left scrambling to pick up the pieces of your unfinished project.

Believe it or not, having a developer go AWOL (absent without leave) is not a death sentence for your software project.

Here are 5 things you can do to regain control of the situation:

1. Take a deep breath.

Losing your cool isn’t going to do anyone any good, and it’s certainly not going to help you get your project back on track. Take some time to clear your head and reflect on whether or not you’re dealing with a true crisis or just a simple miscommunication.

It’s possible that your developer was on vacation for the week or you missed an email explaining that they’d be off the grid for a day or two. If you let yourself panic, you may overreact or lash out at your developer unnecessarily.

The only way to move forward in a positive manner is to take a deep breath and remain calm.

2. Communicate calmly and clearly.

Once you’ve cooled down, reach out to your developer and address the issue at hand. Be very clear about the fact that you have deadlines to meet and schedules to stick to, and that you need to know if they will be able to continue working on your project.

Keep the tone of your exchange professional, not personal. Don’t get angry or emotional, and don’t assign blame. Your developer is less likely to hide if you approach the matter purely in terms of business needs.

If all you hear back is radio silence, let your developer know that they’re off the project and that you’ll be hiring a replacement.

3. Assess the possible pain points.

Before seeking out a new developer, spend some time reflecting on where things may have gone wrong. Did you partner with a developer who truly shared your goals and values, or did you go for the cheapest hire? Had the project begun to spiral out of control in terms of budget or deadlines? Did you clearly communicate your expectations? This is especially important for both sides and not just in terms of the work, but also in terms of communication. How often and when will you communicate?

It’s important to assess the situation to make sure that history doesn’t repeat itself with your next developer.

4. Review your priorities and goals.

Continue with regular status meetings and set a time to review your upcoming deadlines and major milestones. It may be possible to move forward according to schedule, but you may need to make some adjustments. Either way, be sure that the entire team is on the same page and has a clear understanding of what needs to be done to keep the project on course.

5. Find a new developer.

If your developer has truly gone AWOL, you’ll need to find a replacement to keep the project moving forward. While you may feel pressure to find a new developer as soon as possible, it’s more important to make sure you find the right person, and not just the first available.

Search within your network and reach out to other socially-focused businesses and organizations. Find out who has been happy with their software developer and ask them for a referral. This will ensure that you’re hiring someone with a proven track record who shares your values.


Having a developer go AWOL can seem like the beginning of the end for your software project, but it’s entirely possible to recover using the steps above. You can also minimize the risk of hiring a flaky developer by checking out our 7 tips for communicating with your developers and ideas for building trust with your developer.

We’d love to use our web development skills to help your project flourish. Contact us today to discuss solutions for helping your business idea grow.

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About the author

Barry O'Kane

Barry is the founder of HappyPorch. With 20 years in the web development industry as a programmer and agency owner, he has a preternatural ability to decipher the systems and processes code that holds many teams back from achieving their goals. Partners say Barry gets to the root of issues quickly and makes it downright easy to deliver good work.    

While he's unbelievably grounded, it's not uncommon to find him sailing through the trees as he paraglides his way round the world.