Freelancer.com — a platform for trivial projects

Greg Young said in a couple of his presentations that every developer should at least once hire another developer (and pay him in cash out of his own pocket). Coincidentally, about the same time when I heard this phrase, I got an idea for a project that will heavily rely on source code parser. The main focus of the project is on the user experience. The convenient visual data representation and smart operations are the leverages that are going to make users effective and the project successful. There is one problem though…

From the very beginning, my plan was to concentrate own efforts on front-end and middle-tier parts of the system — essentially, on everything but the code parser. Writing a code parser is fun but it’s definitely a lot of work as far as my computer sciences degree reminds me. After making a day-long unsuccessful attempt to generate the parser using ANTLR and existing language definition I quickly gave up. Greg’s obvious idea came to my mind very soon: why not to ask somebody to build this component for me?

This is how I found myself on freelancer.com. I’ve already had so me experience with this platform in freelancer’s role. One or two tiny projects were developed a few years ago and I didn’t like the experience. Programmers from India, China, and other Asian countries were actively underbidding on all the project. Getting a piece of work to do was not easy at all. What was not obvious to me is how good my competitors were.

The memories of very high competition gave me an impression I can hire a decent dev at a reasonable cost. It only took a few minutes to post a one paragraph long project description. Within a few more minutes I got three of four responses. The price tags were really fantastic! No single person asked for more than $277!

I mean, the price is too good to be true, right? My question was what the shape of the project management triangle is going to look like for me. Will it take an eternity to complete the work? Will I face the low-quality solution in the end? Or is the price actually a little optimistic at this point (may be even intentionally misleading)? There was only one way to figure it out.

I formulated a more detailed project description and sent it to 21 individual and team who made a bid. Only 10 folks replied me after that. And only 2 responses were realistic and honest: “We need to know way more about your project details before we commit”. The rest of the bidders showed very immature thinking; all of them gave an unrealistic 5-10 days timeline without even basic understanding of what a parser is.

From what I experienced as a client I can conclude that freelancer.com is a platform that can not be used for any serious project. And by serious, I don’t mean a WordPress design/template, or a website, or a database-centric project. These trivial projects can potentially be done presumably at the cost of low quality. There are several problems with the platform:

  • Candidates rush to bid on your project and as a result don’t provide adequate time and cost estimate;
  • The proposals lack a roadmap, milestones, or any other sort of time-bound work split.
  • Developers are so focused on getting a contract by all means, they don’t really read the project description.
  • What’s even worse, the candidates are not willing or unable to work with any kind of open-ended project definitions.
  • All the previous points collected together work as a very strong indicator of developer’s immaturity, which, in order, is a great contributor to low code and solution quality.

At the moment I am not sure what to do. Maybe the answer is TopTal, I will give it a try…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s