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Lessons from an Elance Pro

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.