Most of you know that for quite some time now I’ve raised the “for hire” flag. As a freelancer I haven’t had much luck, except for a few jobs I’ve taken and for which i have to tell Kim a great thanks. She always puts a good word out for me and i am very, very grateful for this. I don’t want to sound wrong, I think that the problem is I haven’t pursued it as much, in terms of hooking my self up with social networks and the blogosphere in general. I am not complaining. I think though, that there is one more aspect on my failure.
A few years back, a very big source for a freelancer’s income were sites like Scriptlance, where people would just post projects they wanted done, then coders and designers would bid for that. The trend that I have noticed happening the last couple of years, on all of those sites, is mediocre coders bidding extremely low on projects. For instance, they would bid on a two day job as low as $20-$50. That price is not competable by any serious freelancer.
As a result, most of the clients have acquired two “skills”:
- They always know the work that has to be done extremely well, they know it’s nothing much, but, they just need someone to code it for them. Since they know so much about it, the only speculation i can make about it, is that they are bored to do it themselves so they need someone. At least, that’s what it sounds like.
- The price they always expect, regardless of the job at hand, is less than $50. If it’s a simple banner insertion or a new site from scratch, that’s the price they expect.
OK, I know I am exaggerating a little but you all must have stumbled on this. I recently read an article from a designer complaining about the same thing (unfortunately i can’t find a link now, if anyone knows what I’m talking about you’re welcome to post it on the comments). I believe it’s the same problem.
Now, one would say “fine, why one wouldn’t want to have his job done with as less as possible”. Here is a big problem. A huge percentage of those coders are complete amateurs. They are presented with a job at hand, find a code snippet that does almost that, fix it up a little bit and then patch the client’s site. In a jiffy, they are out the building. Why is that wrong? Because having no idea about structured and secured coding, it is highly likely to cause a problem. Either too much memory will be used, too much CPU, the code might be exploitable and so on.
One more thing I do, and I firmly believe most serious freelancers out there do, is I analyze my client’s site. I check out the WordPress version he uses, the number of plugins, which ones, check out Secunia for exploits on those plugins, back up site and database, and generally do some background work that none of those low bidders would have done. No one asks me to, but I think it’s the professional way of treating my client. It’s like a doctor with a patient, I will focus on the “painful” area but i will give a general examination as well, just to make sure everything runs smooth. When I’m done, I’ll email the client with a full report of problems I might have found and suggested solutions.
A few days after the “coder” was done with your site, you just find out that it has been hacked or your hosting company will suspend your account for extremely high usage of resources and so on. And what will you do then? You will most probably pay the money to the “expensive” coder to have him fix the problem. Most probably, it will take much more time to pinpoint and fix the problem that it would have taken to code it in the first place. The result? You have payed the “cheap” coder and then the “expensive” one, which cost you much more.
Now, why am I talking about a balance? Well, there are a lot of coders out there that think coding is some super ancient black art and their pay should be really high for that “super” skill they have. I’ve heard some crazy prices in my days and i believe people are getting scammed this way as well.
What i suggest is this. If you want something done then have a look around. Check out prices and previous work. Talk with the person. See how quick and willing he is. Do not overvalue extra low prices. They are most probably to cost you more in the long run. Balance price and quality on your coder.
I think i have nagged enough. I just felt like writing this post because i have stumbled across people mailing me, and once i give them a budget they never show up again. I really hope they didn’t get scammed. How about you? Have you hired a freelancer? How do you choose one?
I’m glad I’ve helped you even a little. I have a lot of respect for your skills and am hoping to find more work for you.
The job bidding sites have almost become impossible to earn any money from – you end up competing against ridiculously low bids and overall the clients are a pain.
When you provide an estimate do you tell them about the extra services that they will be receiving? Someone complained about my price for something and then when I explained exactly what he was getting for the price he thought it was a better deal. Personally, I would rather have someone disappear after receiving the quote than emailing me back with a rant about the price.
It’s difficult – you spend time providing estimates to never hear from the person again, or you provide a proposal and a price and the person tries to keep adding things, or the client disappears for weeks and then expects you to be available as soon as they decide to email you to finish the project. But then other people are really awesome.
Your skills are awesome though and more people should know about you. I think marketing yourself and word of mouth is going to generate more income than scriptlance ever will.
@Kim: First of all thank you again for your kind words and you support. Now to be honest i haven’t told a client “you know what? you’ll be getting this and that and the other” since i believe this is what a professional is expected to do, care for his client. I guess it also shows a lack on my marketing skills… I will have to agree on client’s disappearing rather than ranting and trying to add more to the to-do list after the quote. On the other hand i also agree that there are some awesome people out there that really understand what a coder does…
Anyway, all in all, i think that acquiring friends and helping out is what will really help as you suggested and i seriously see it as an extra cash every now and then…
This is happening every where. I had many experiences of dealing with such people who wants the best for a very cheap price.
As Kim said, Getting clients by word of mouth or through friends will surely benefit.
Another thing I noticed is that, even some companies which do a lot in freelancing are using the same policy of working for pennies.
You stole the words out of my mouth in your post.
Stratos, at a very high level, you seem to live in an “Ideal” world, where everyone ought to know and behave in a way which is correct. I might be wrong in the way I am analyzing you, but atleast this is what I feel looking at your posts and little mail interactions we had before. Marketing is as important as the actual work. Some people mis-use their marketing skills to fool the customers, but few others don’t care to use it to put across their business in a way the buyer would understand. I have “ZERO” experience in freelancing, but I feel Kim has put everything in a beautiful way through her comment on top.
@Prasanth: I think we all agree here that the problem exists the way both me and Kim put it. It is every freelancer’s experience unfortunately and not only mine as it turns out…
@Raju: I guess you are right. That “ideal” world is my world. I believe that the client will look for his own good on both price and quality and it seems that price is the only thing. I guess you are focusing on me advertising my self but i think my problem is i just can’t think that way. It’s not that i don’t want to it’s just that i can’t look at my work that way that’s all. That’s why i can’t be a business man ever 😉 I suck at marketing 🙂 As for freelancer i will rely on what Kim and you said. Word of mouth.
Thanks for dropping by people and leaving valuable feedback!
Strato about marketing yourself: “Μ’οποιον δάσκαλο καθίσεις τέτοια γράμματα θα μάθεις” so my dear, welcome to the club 🙂 (sorry for the Greek). But knowing how good you are, I guess word of mouth will be the thing at the end 🙂
@Anya: Thanks for dropping by! I really appreciate it! As the word of mouth i guess it’s the only way for all of us 😉