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  1. #1
    I hate Spammers mobyme's Avatar
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    Is there room for another freelancer site?

    Do you think there is room for yet another freelancer site? If you do what is it that really tees you off about the ones that already exist? I mostly use them for sourcing people rather than the other way round and I am always hearing my freelancers griping about the different sites. I for instance really like Elance, but a common complaint I hear is that they are too expensive from the freelancers point of view. I have heard that certain other sites don't check out the people who post projects well enough and that too many projects are canceled;is this true? I would really like to hear your views regardless of how trivial they may seem and what you think could be done to improve the current freelancer sites.
    Better still; what would your perfect freelancing site be like?
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  2. #2
    In memoriam gold trophysilver trophybronze trophy Dan Schulz's Avatar
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    I'll gladly answer this one, Chris.

    I avoid freelancer sites for two reasons. One, so-called "clients" who want their sites fast, good and cheap (can have two of three, but not all) who are ready and willing to take the freelancer's hard work for nothing and run away with it like a thief in the night.

    The other reason is because of auto-bidders who don't pay attention to what clients post, spewing forth vomit like "I can do this for you right away, and have many years of experience in Web design. Thank you for choosing us!"

    Ok, there's a third reason as well, which ties into reason #2. Find me a prospective client who actually knows how to articulate what they need and I'll sell you a bridge in Brooklyn. I doubt you can, and I know for certain I don't have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you anyway.

    Get rid of those and I think you'd have a freelancer site that works well and would become popular, though you will have to monitor and moderate it heavily.

  3. #3
    phpLD Fanatic bronze trophy dvduval's Avatar
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    I think the main way you could do a freelancer site right now would be if you are already managing large amounts of customers and programmers and are simply bringing those people together using a system link a freelance site. Doing it from scratch is not very likely to get you very far.

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    I hate Spammers mobyme's Avatar
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    Thanks for your input Dan. So to get the ball rolling on this do you think that there should be a minimum payment for certain tasks and a moderation that would automatically remove any auto-bids. What is your opinion on Escrow, do you think it should be obligatory?
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  5. #5
    In memoriam gold trophysilver trophybronze trophy Dan Schulz's Avatar
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    Yes, escrow should be mandatory. If they have the money they are willing to budget, then they should put it where their mouths are.

    Furthermore, dvduval hit the nail squarely on the head with regard to the best way to get such a project off the ground quickly.

    Another thing that annoys me is how general the categories are on most of the freelancer sites. As you well know, I specialize in creating Web sites using the bare minimum of clean, semantic and valid markup that works cross browser with as few hacks as possible (with the goal being none, obviously). As such, I don't need to deal with people demanding when I'm going to have that .psd file made so I can get to the coding (they should have the uncoded design ready in my case), since I don't deal with creating graphics.

    Then again, I'm not your typical person either. (By the way, we need to talk. I think you know what it's in regard to.)

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    I hate Spammers mobyme's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dvduval View Post
    I think the main way you could do a freelancer site right now would be if you are already managing large amounts of customers and programmers and are simply bringing those people together using a system link a freelance site. Doing it from scratch is not very likely to get you very far.
    That's an interesting take and worth looking into. I'm not really sure that I want to make a business of this at all at the moment. I guess I'm trying to find out what is going wrong with what ought to be a straight forward business of introducing someone who wants work done to somebody who can do the job; and why there are so many dissatisfied users on both side of the fence. I don't have any problems with my subbies at all and yet what I do has many similarities.
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    I hate Spammers mobyme's Avatar
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    Just to bring things up to date a bit. When I posted my original post to this forum I also posted it to several others in an attempt to remove any bias from the replies I would get. Two things have come to light; the first is that the level of dissatisfaction from clients and freelancers alike with the existing sites is far higher than I imagined (although seemingly not on SP) and that Dan's frustration regarding categories is commonplace. I have looked at the categories that are available on most sites and am having difficulty in seeing how the categorisation could be improved. Does anybody have any suggestions?
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  8. #8
    In memoriam gold trophysilver trophybronze trophy Dan Schulz's Avatar
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    Well, for one I'd conduct some research to find out which categories people actually want to post in.

    Here are a few examples (obviously being multiple choice, so that a person looking for a freelancer who can design a site in Photoshop, convert it to HTML/CSS/JavaScript and then plug that into a custom back-end consisting of PHP and MySQL can easily target those people, then have the site filter results based on those skill sets).

    Web Design
    • Web Template Design (create an uncoded template in a graphics program such as Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro - probably won't generate a lot of revenue, but it does give suppliers the option to go the uncoded route, just like here on SitePoint with the uncoded design contests)
    • Web Graphic Design (create design elements such as logos, interface elements like those crappy Web 2.0 gradients and fades, ad banners and so forth to be incorporated into a Web site)
    • Flash Animation/Design/Development

    Front-End Web Development
    • (X)HTML and CSS
    • JavaScript
    • XML/XSLT/RDF/RSS/Atom

    Web Application Development
    • Database Applications
    • Ajax (yes, I listed this here since both front and back end skills are required)
    • Back-End Web Development
      • PHP/MySQL/PosGreSQL/Other Databases
      • .NET/MsSQL
      • Java/Oracle


    The list can go on, to include things like Web copywriting, copy editing, on-site and off-site search engine optimization/marketing, information architecture, accessibility and usability, Web server deployment and administration, and so forth.

    But at least it's a place to get started. One thing I would do though is make sure providers don't post crap like "I need one person to make me a $50,000 site designed in Photoshop, coded in XHTML/CSS, JavaScript/Ajax with an RSS feed that is dynamically generated by PHP and .NET (yes I have actually seen stuff like this) which gets the data from a MySQL and Oracle database on the same server that will be built by hand by Friday for only $200 even though I know it would take a team of talented designers and developers nine weeks to design, develop, test and deploy."

    In fact, a feature that could prevent this sort of thing is to provide "price guides" that can act like a quote estimate to the provider to make them ask themselves "Do I really need this?"

    Of course, this is just a rough idea. Don't take everything I say as gospel.

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    I really doubt that incorrect categories is the real reason that people are dissatisfied with freelance bidding sites.

    I really think it's more of an "expectations" vs. "outcome" issue. And I'm not sure that the model will ever account for that issue.
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    I hate Spammers mobyme's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by amf45 View Post
    I really doubt that incorrect categories is the real reason that people are dissatisfied with freelance bidding sites.

    I really think it's more of an "expectations" vs. "outcome" issue. And I'm not sure that the model will ever account for that issue.
    Is this on the part of the clients or the freelancers? I ask because it seems there are as many unhappy clients as there are freelancers. I'm not sure that a freelancer can have much more "expectations" than to be paid the agreed amount, for the work that was agreed and that all payments are made at the agreed times. Or is there more to this than meets the eye and if there is; what is it?
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    The entire model for these sites is based on the idea that the client has a clear idea and clear specification on what they want and that they are willing to pay a fair price for it and that freelancers who bid on it are all semi-equally qualified and able to deliver the work without a whole lot of managing on the part of the client.

    Gee, how many ways can this go wrong?

    The people at oDesk have some software to help alleviate some of the management headaches and although I still don't like their business model so much, maybe that's what's missing with these bidding sites: better tools to help the clients and the freelancers manage the process AFTER the bid is accepted but before the project is completed.

    Would a bidding site that included tools to do source code control, document management, spec management, knowledge management, and maybe even testing help transform this market segment?
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  12. #12
    I hate Spammers mobyme's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by amf45 View Post
    The entire model for these sites is based on the idea that the client has a clear idea and clear specification on what they want and that they are willing to pay a fair price for it and that freelancers who bid on it are all semi-equally qualified and able to deliver the work without a whole lot of managing on the part of the client.

    Gee, how many ways can this go wrong?

    The people at oDesk have some software to help alleviate some of the management headaches and although I still don't like their business model so much, maybe that's what's missing with these bidding sites: better tools to help the clients and the freelancers manage the process AFTER the bid is accepted but before the project is completed.

    Would a bidding site that included tools to do source code control, document management, spec management, knowledge management, and maybe even testing help transform this market segment?
    Great minds work alike because that is one of the conclusions that I am being drawn to as well; however it becomes difficult to see how it can be achieved without a radical overhaul of the type of client and freelancer that would be allowed to participate in such a site.

    More thoughts would be appreciated folks.
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  13. #13
    Sesame Street Iimitk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mobyme View Post
    Great minds work alike because that is one of the conclusions that I am being drawn to as well; however it becomes difficult to see how it can be achieved without a radical overhaul of the type of client and freelancer that would be allowed to participate in such a site.

    More thoughts would be appreciated folks.
    Well, I think the major problem with these freelancing sites is their lack of education for both designers & clients. Designers should be educated about business issues thoroughly; how to write good proposals, how to estimate their rates, how to communicate with clients etc etc. Clients, on the other hand, should be educated about the web design & development industry; what does designing (or developing) a website takes? How many skills are necessary? How web design & development is charged i general, etc etc.

    This should be done through a fully-fledged knowledge-base system that is well-positioned among the whole system through best UI & information architecture designs.

    Next, I believe the system should put in place a detailed project submission form for clients. One of the reasons that make clients post crappy things like "I need one person to make me a $50,000 site designed in Photoshop, coded in XHTML/CSS, JavaScript/Ajax with an RSS feed that is dynamically generated by PHP and .NET (yes I have actually seen stuff like this) which gets the data from a MySQL and Oracle database on the same server that will be built by hand by Friday for only $200 even though I know it would take a team of talented designers and developers nine weeks to design, develop, test and deploy", is that they're provided with a neglecting textarea box that is 300px x 200px to write such RFPs!

    Such RFP submission form, should be deeply integrated with a minimal pricing scheme to help clients KNOW from where they should start thinking. For example if a client wants to develop a web application in PHP, then the form the system goes as follows:

    Puts in a minimal 1000$ for it being a development project.
    The from would ask the client what databases should the application supports. Every checkbox he/she checks puts in 200$.
    If the clients wants the application front-end be CSS-based (through radio buttons), then the system puts in 500$.
    If he wants it to validate, another 500$.

    ..and so on.

    On submission of he form, the system would provide the client with a rough estimate about the project costs, and then asks him to put his own costs, being a value between two minimum & maximum values determined by the system according to certain formulas.

    To make the system more reliable, then a tradional feedback system MUST be developed to accompany the marketplace growth. A feedback system helps stabilizing & assuring confidence on overall, and hence, helps getting rid of the annoying overhead of checking credibility of all involved parties that everyone seems to suffer from.

    Sorry my ideas are cluttered & I posted them as they come to my mind.
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    One more thing that came to mind: a webex type of collaboration/conferencing system that clients and freelancers can use to communicate with each other either using audio or video feeds. At a charge, of course, but at least it should be an option to help facilitate communications during the project development.
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    I hate Spammers mobyme's Avatar
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    In light of the last couple of posts is there a case for a clients project specification to be evaluated and a minimum bid price being established prior to it being posted to the site (a sort of manual version of simsim's proposal) and then only allowing freelancers of a known ability to bid on the project? Or does this do away with the whole freelancer site idea and bring it more into the realms of an introductory agency as suggested earlier by dvduval. I personally like amf45's idea of a video conferencing system and can see no reason why this couldn't be utilised prior to submitting or accepting a bid as well as after. Yes, there will be trust issues but surely no more than there are already. Your thoughts please.
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  16. #16
    Sesame Street Iimitk's Avatar
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    Video Conference is overkill to me. Not all parties involved would be on broadband. I suggest a system similar to Alibaba's TradeManager. It can be easily done with using Skype along custom programming through their API I guess.

    Just my .02 cents.
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  17. #17
    In memoriam gold trophysilver trophybronze trophy Dan Schulz's Avatar
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    Another thing to consider is that valid code or the use of semantic markup and CSS should not cost $XXX extra. As I told Chris via a private message earlier in the week, it shouldn't cost any extra, since it should be an assumed core competency of the designer/developer.

    Perhaps some sort of screening process for prospective freelancers and a free education program for clients is in order. It would create a niche market for those who take pride in their work (freelancers) as well as clients who don't want to deal with drive-by freelancers looking to make a quick buck at the client's expense.

  18. #18
    SitePoint Zealot codescribbler's Avatar
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    I'll throw in my comments....

    1. Some kind of pre-screening of freelancers would be nice. I honestly don't want to be associated with the quality I see from a lot of these people.

    2. I agree on the more specific categories. So sick of listings that expect one bargain-basement person to be an expert on every step. Make clients break out their project into its components--the graphic design, the template code, the backend scripting. Hookup the associated listings across categories for the same project so a multi-talented person has the ability to bid on multiple components if appropriate.

    3. To supplement the specific categories, facilitate virtual team formation, letting freelancers find other freelancers to jointly bid on comprehensive projects and provide virtual workspace--wiki? messageboard? live chat? whiteboard? Give team members the ability to rate each other after a project, providing others on the site with a professional's opinion of their work, not relying on clients who just want it cheap, fast, and glossy.

    4. For Zeus's sake, use a project posting process that resembles a real spec, forcing the client to at least consider the details of the project and not just free-enter a paragraph that I'm sure covers it in their mind but gives no real representation of what will be required. Supplement that with resources for learning how to write a proper spec and RFP and understanding what pitfalls can derail a project and make it go over budget or schedule.

    I would love a freelancing site with some degree of exclusivity, a basement on project values, something that provides clients with an appropriate perspective of what these projects involve and how much it should cost, and the points above. I keep going through existing sites now and then looking for filler projects, but it just doesn't seem worth it.

  19. #19
    I hate Spammers mobyme's Avatar
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    Thanks simsim, Dan & codescribbler So, another question; would it be possible or desirable to grade freelancers? You will be aware that there are a lot of freelancers who do not have formal qualifications despite popular recognition that they are exceptionally talented at what they do; how would you accommodate them? Would it be fair for instance to ask them to submit some of their recent work for appraisal prior to being allowed to join the site? What do you think the reaction would be to such a proposal? It would be really helpful if those members of SP who use freelancer sites to outsource work could post their experiences because at the moment it seems to be a bit one sided. codescribbler I particularly like your "Team" concept and it is something that would appeal to me as a client; in fact it is not dissimilar to what we do already as a company when we outsource to bolster our stretched workforce.
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  20. #20
    In memoriam gold trophysilver trophybronze trophy Dan Schulz's Avatar
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    I think a combination of a test and a portfolio of recent work could work. I'm hopefully not going to be doing anything on Sunday (other than follow the Bears game), so I'll see what I can do about drafting a basic test for you (and by basic, I mean basic).

  21. #21
    PHP/Rails Developer Czaries's Avatar
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    A website that seems to be doing a good job of solving the "expectations vs. outcome" issue is www.odesk.com - you may want to have a peek at their website. They use competency testing across multiple subjects as well as other ideas to cut down on the riff-raff.

  22. #22
    I hate Spammers mobyme's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Czaries View Post
    A website that seems to be doing a good job of solving the "expectations vs. outcome" issue is www.odesk.com - you may want to have a peek at their website. They use competency testing across multiple subjects as well as other ideas to cut down on the riff-raff.
    I have real problems with odesk. I have used it as a client and while there is a lot to be said for it's transparency and audit trail I feel it undermines the very foundation of doing business with somebody which has to be trust. I could never get comfortable with the concept of "spying" on someone who is working with me either here in my office or online and don't think that counting keystrokes and mouse clicks is the way forward. It also raises another issue for me which I guess is best described as "thinking time"; every project requires thinking time and without trust or a fixed price which allows for it, the provider will always finish up the loser. One thing that odesk has definitely got right is it's emphasis on communication and I think that any new site should incorporate their level of communication facility.
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    Quote Originally Posted by mobyme View Post
    ... One thing that odesk has definitely got right is it's emphasis on communication and I think that any new site should incorporate their level of communication facility.
    This is why I brought up oDesk earlier. However, on further research two things jumped out: (1) they are WELL funded, so make sure you can tap into that same level of funding; (2) their communication facilities don't go far enough and clients still have to deal with massive timezone differences if they want to closely manage a project.
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    I hate Spammers mobyme's Avatar
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    We have discussed escrow for clients; what are your thoughts on providers having to face a penalty if they do a disappearing act (one of the biggest complaints of clients). It would work something like this. The provider making a bid for a project of say $2000 is required to deposit $100 by way of a guarantee if their bid is accepted. If they then bail out of their obligations or make themselves incommunicado this is forfeit and donated to a nominated charity. I sort of like this idea and think it would help in reducing automatic or irresponsible bids but I can also see it causing a certain amount of hardship and creating a barrier for individuals in countries where a $100 is a lot of money even though they are going to get it back on completion of the project.
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    If $100 is a lot of money, the $2000 is HUGE. It might cut down on the riff-raff if you made it a sliding scale between 10% and 20% of the total bid (smaller percentage as the size of the project grows). But I would have the deposit go to the client for the hardship of having to start over and get another bid.

    Think of it as a "performance bond" that a LOT of other service industries have to purchase in order to perform work on a project.
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