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”:

  1. 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.
  2. 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?