By Andrew Neitlich

Lessons from an Elance Pro

By Andrew Neitlich

I just completed a project on Elance, and I have to say that the results were excellent for the price. In fact, Elance has proven to be a surprisingly good source of talent, despite my having had to pay for a few duds here and there.

I got a fantastic product designer off Elance.

And now this Indian firm did a fantastic job on a site for probably 1/10 the cost of what a US developer would have charged.

But that’s not the point of this blog.

He did two things that EVERY web developer should do at the end of a project, whether on Elance or not:

1. He thanked me for my kind words, gave me the invoice, and asked if I wouldn’t mind paying right away.

2. He asked for me to provide a favorable testimonial to him, which I did.

He also did something else that I liked: As we reached the end of the project, his developers indicated that they were going to fix all remaining issues “right now.” And they worked with me for an hour via IM to fix those issues. So rather than going back and forth for days to wrap up the final details, they wrapped up right away.

That was refreshing, and the developer also noted that I could of course come back with issues in next 30 days if any came up.

Now he did do one thing that most of you will find annoying, and I did too: At the very end, when invoice was due, he asked me how much I wanted to pay (vs. referring to our original agreement). He suggested a bonus was in order. In some ways, I agree with him because he went above and beyond and provided tremendous value. But his real bonus will come from 3 additional projects I have for him. And asking for something outside the original agreement bugged me.

However, before dismissing this technique as obnoxious, please note that it can be a good technique to use at the beginning of a project (when it is more appropriate) when negotiating with a client, although it can’t be done on a bid site like elance. Negotiation studies have found that asking for a little bit more after almost finalizing an offer can work well. For instance, car dealers (not that any comparison is in order between developers and car dealers) will ask for $100 or $200 more after receiving an acceptable offer from a prospect. You can do the same.

I hope the above 2 paragraphs don’t take the point of this entry too far from the main points:

1. Present the invoice immediately and ask for prompt or immediate payment.

2. Ask for testimonials with every project.

3. Wrap up projects quickly. Don’t let them linger.

  • That’s good to hear… great advice and I’m glad you’ve had such good results from eLance. I’m thinking of getting bids for an upcoming project that would just be too expensive domestically. It’s nice to know people are getting good results from outsourcing.

    And I totally agree with the 3 main points… excellent advice, as always!

  • jacarandabill

    I am rentacoder coder. My experience comes from about 60 succesfull projects there and numerous other outside of rentacoder.

    1. Present the invoice immediately and ask for prompt or immediate payment.

    Yes but you always have to give the buyer some time to fully test the deliverable. In addition, you have to be very carefull how you will ask about the immediate payment. There is the “danger” to sound to eager to finish and move on without caring about any critical bugs or fixes.

    2. Ask for testimonials with every project.

    It isn’t necessary if the project finished succesfully.
    I never asked for a good testimonial. The buyers always feel that they have to say a nice word.

    3. Wrap up projects quickly. Don’t let them linger.

    That is really important. I totally agree.

  • nemanja_nq

    I am thinking to join elance like provider. :) Nice article.

  • Someone who cares

    Are you proud of the fact you are sending your business outside the US? It sounds like it. That’s unfortunate.

  • Anonymously

    Are you proud of the fact you are sending your business outside the US? It sounds like it. That’s unfortunate.

    You need to grow up… Globalization is good for the US, Andrew saved money and if you don’t like it too bad.

  • bobsorenson

    Globalization may be good for the US as a whole in the long-term. But then again if we as a Nation are not able to innovate and improve productivity here in the US at a fast enough pace, the standard of living of many people will fall significantly. If your standard of living is not falling it is easy to post anonymously a “grow up” comment.

    Greed over compassion.

  • Capitalism and innovation rules! If you don’t like the game, don’t play. If your standard of living is affected, be creative and come up with a new way to better yourself instead of passing blame. That really just ticks me off!

  • whitestorm

    Andrew is a businessman and as such he has to think of the bottom line when he makes a business decision as to who he hires for a project. Why should he pay ten times the amount just to keep the money in the US if he can get the job done for 10% of that amount in a satisfactory way? If Westerners (and I obviously include my native UK in that) can’t compete on low cost, high quality software development these days then it’s time for innovation amongst our institutions of learning and commerce to help workers become more productive or efficient in other areas as happened when the Far East took away our traditional heavy industries and, especially in Northern Ireland, our staple shipbuilding and textile industries which we had been world leaders at the beginning of the 20th Century.

    Continually paying over the odds for suppliers just to keep the money in the country of origin will ultimately lead to loss of productivity, efficiency and profitability all across that country. I have no problem then with using low cost suppliers to help make my products and services more profitable.

  • aneitlich

    This is a great discussion, so a new blog entry has been created just for it. See the next blog entry….


  • webgirlNY

    After viewing elance’s pricing, I don’t believe he got it at 1/10 of the cost. I think that’s an exaggeration. I’m sure there are some US firms who would quote 10x the cost, but I’m also sure that there are US firms whose quotes would be in line with elance. Maybe Andrew can show us the site and tell us what he paid?

    elance’s pricing isn’t that far off of my pricing and I’m a designer and developer (asp/sql) with 7 years experience.

    And while I find compelling arguments on both sides of the globalization debate, I’m not going to discuss that here. However, Andrew does seem to enjoy pointing out that he hires overseas designers. It would seem he’s already given up on US designers and maybe even looks down his nose at the lot of us. Which may be the best for his bottom line. Fine. But I for one am not going to follow all the links he posts to his (unimpressive) websites and buy products from him.

  • webgirlNY

    In other words, we’re good enough for him to sell to, we’re just not good enough for him to buy from.

  • GDA

    Can we see that site?

  • EOBeav

    Andrew is an American, but didn’t SitePoint originally begin by an Australian designer? Many of the posts in the forums and in the blogs are from international sources, so it shouldn’t really offend anybody in here if a contributor is hiring some of his labor outside his native country.

    I’m an American, and I can see the value of buying American first from my own ethnocentric perspective, but I just can’t see that happening on a site like SitePoint.

  • Brian


    I am curious…
    What percentage of the the things you wear are made in the US? One percent? Two percent?
    Your beef… Is it from the US or Argentina (where a huge amount of US consumed beef comes from)? How about your other food … Is it mostly from the US?
    You automobile… Is it American made, by Americans for an American company, using American parts?
    Your home entertainment items… Is any part of your home theater American made by an American company?

    Take a look around Walmart, Ikea, Home Depot, Lowes Home Improvement, etc. These companies are rich off of imported products. Where do you shop? Exactly, what percentage of your income goes to buy products made in America, by an American owned company?

    So, Andrew uses an overseas firm to build a great product for less than it would have cost to build the same product domestically. His company is stronger for the savings, and America is stronger when our companies are stronger.

    Crying when a foreign company offers more value and better service for less money is a complete waste of time. In general, people will always buy what they believe is the deal for their money.

    The issue is not what Andrew paid. The issue is why are you and I not on eLance, offering more value at a competitive price. So, quit bitching and learn to compete in the international IT market.


  • Your beef… Is it from the US or Argentina (where a huge amount of US consumed beef comes from)?
    Yeah! our beef are just the best in the world ;) but here they are expensive because it is best to sell outside. I’m complaining? well… no.

    The world is changing fellows, this discussion is the living proof of it. You will always find people who is afraid of change; so… don’t take it personally. Just play the game; those people will end up playing too.

    Javier Cabrera

  • friendsterindia

    US based software professionals can subcontract work to indian firms.They can handle the marketing part.Or they can come to india and start their developement centre here at low rates. Visiting india is not expensive.Try visiting bangalore,hyderabad,delhi, chennai, kolkata etc. Hire a consultant. You can easily get Office at technology park. Put a ad in naukri.com and you are ready to start operations in India.You can also contact me at techtiger@goowy.com . My friend’s firm is building largest tech park in Kolkata.You can get really great value from me related to property and hiring best talent.

  • aneitlich

    While the point of these blogs is not supposed to get personal about me and my buying habits (as the issues discussed are supposed to be bigger picture), this blog entry seems to have gotten personal in a non-factual way. I hate when that happens.

    I checked my Quickbooks for this year about where I purchase services. 75% of the services I’ve purchased from designers and developers are from people who reside in the good ol’ USA. 25% are from overseas resources. So please stop assuming that I see it as a virtue to look overseas.

    I look for best source in terms of quality and price. In this case, I was fortunate to find excellent quality and excellent pricing.

    But do me a favor if you don’t mind…let’s focus on the big picture strategic issues. Don’t try to extrapolate or project who I am, what I am about or my philosophy. If you have a hunch about what I believe, email me privately and ask. If you have a “beef” about who I am and what I represent, email me privately and rant all you want.

  • Inversarium

    @ Someone who Cares!?

    What’s the big deal about outsourcing work?

    The net’s a global village and it doesn’t matter who you get your work done from as long as it’s done good.

    And personally, I think more on terms of being a citizen of the world than of ‘just’ my own country. I love my country and people just ‘as much’ as I much as I love ‘every’ other country and its people. So if I have to outsource work ever, I’d do it just as happily as I’d get it done here in India.

    And btw, if I wasn’t a designer and needed design work done according to my frame of aesthetics, I’d definitely be getting it outsourced! I wouldn’t be thinking, “Damn! I’m sending business outside India. How unfortunate!”

    Get the bigger picture and be more open system. Just my two cents.

  • Inversarium

    And oh yeh. Almost every audio CD I’ve ever purchased has been of a foreign artist and rarely Indian (except for psytrance!). Where does “how unfortunate” come in from here?

  • Anonymous

    A minute ago I was reading an RFP on elance and the guys was asking to built a site for him which is ebay + myspace + citysearch with a budget of 25k, he did not undrstand oen thing, only the yearly electricity bill for the servers of that projetc will exceed hi budjet, so whats that exciting about elaince?

  • Laurel

    I came across a similar article on ResourcePad exchange here:


    You guys may wanna look at it and share your experiences.

  • sophia10

    Actually i think differently for e lance-
    “The bigger problem on Elance, in my experience, is dummy projects. Some buyers post projects simply to get an idea of the cost or to try to find free work.”

    Actually our organization wanted to hire virtual employees for web designing and SEO. And we are looking for whole virtual team. Because now it’s become very expensive for our organization to recruit employees :( And we need reliable and quality virtual employees.

    We were prepared to post our requisite on freelancers or e lance sites. But we have observed the unacceptable thing. “Dummy projects”. Due to which we people unable to understand that why our bids not get awarded. Ultimately the outcome is wastage of time as well as money in the entire biding process. So, what next?

    Then our team decided to directly contact companies who are providing virtual employee services. But the question is “RELIABILITY and Hiring charges”.

    We have got replies from some forums and communities. So, now we have one option company http://www.marketraise.com. It’s nice.

    But we want best service provider with better package.
    So, the major facts which we believe with freelancing/e lance/other bidding sites are
    Disadvantage- Lack of reliability
    Advantage- time and money saver

    Thanks in advance

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