If I were to hire an external developer to customize my Salesforce org, how do they get access? Am I required to purchase an extra license just for them to do the initial setup, and make modifications every now and then?

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    You can purchase one extra license and assign it to your active developer. – Tushar Sharma Mar 8 '18 at 16:50
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    Ask your account executive about a Limited Login License, which allows only a few logins per month. They're less costly than normal licenses, with the obvious limitation that they can't log in more than a few times a month. – sfdcfox Mar 8 '18 at 17:21

If you are talking about Community/Portal users, then yes.

If you are talking about internal/platform users, then that's going to be tough. Actually, you're talking about a user who has to make configuration changes to your org, so that is, by definition, an internal user. You won't be able to buy a limited login internal license unless you have some serious spend with Salesforce.

I wish I had better news. You'll just have to deactivate another user while this contractor/consultant is working.

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