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Need To Hire A Developer? Avoid The Generic Freelance Marketplace Trap




by Jeff Williams


Let’s face it, new startups are eager to find great deals when it comes to hiring freelancers. With strapped budgets and pressure to prove a new business model, cheap and fast is the name of the game. The pressure to hire low-cost offshore developers is pretty strong. Dominating this market has typically been the domain of the generic freelance marketplace.



Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at



However, once a new startup has begin hiring in a generic freelance marketplace, several fundamental issues become apparent. Before we discuss what these issues are, it’s important to remember that these issues will never be fixed as the generic freelance marketplace is always able to blame either the client or the provider. And of course they take no responsibility for the quality.


For example, if you hire a developer and they don’t do a good job, then this is the client’s fault. If you do work for client and you don’t get paid, this is your fault. Why? Well, clearly either the client or the provider didn’t do the proper screening right? Is that totally fair?


Sure, freelance marketplaces have online reputations for providers that allow you to make good hiring decisions. But do these online freelance marketplaces do anything to weed out those providers that don’t provide quality services? And the answer is, no, they do nothing.


So the question then becomes, what needs to be done to ensure that this relationship is successful? Now before I answer this question, I’m going to have to give you a small disclaimer here and tell you that I am the owner of so my opinions may not necessarily be completely unbiased. However, all of my opinions were formed in solid project methodology and based on what I learned when I became a certified project manager more than 20 years ago. I have also built hundreds of applications and I know when a good project or bad project is going to happen long before it happens!


The Problem With Generic

When you hire to build an application, typically a planned project does not exist. Therefore it’s impossible for a developer to tell you how much it’s going to cost to build your application. Since freelance marketplaces are open to just about anybody and most don’t know how to find the tools to plan, you can imagine for every good developer there’s about 50 hucksters. Hucksters who will use this ambiguity of no project plan to give you an low ball estimation fully aware they can later say, “Oohhh you didn’t tell me about the home page! I am am going to charge another $500.”


For those of you who have used of generic freelance marketplace before, you may have noticed that upon posting your job you will have hundreds of quotes that arrive in a thinly veiled completely useless form letter. Pretty quickly your choices are going to become based on vague information, ambiguous project details in nonspecific promises.


The project must always be planned before you hire. And you must always work with developers who are willing to give you itemize quotes on a spec by spec basis. Sure your specs will change and the project will experience scope creep but if you can’t get off to the right start you’re going to wind up in big trouble.


Of course the provider’s work history and online reputation is extremely important. But if they’re not providing at least an average feedback rating in the marketplace, that marketplace should ban that provider.


Building an application for any startup is always going to be a challenge. In fact it’s a challenge for big corporations too! I know when I worked at Oracle Corporation we had many projects that failed. In fact Oracle was famous for buying failed projects(companies) and then selling them for millions of dollars. Projects fail all the time. And it’s not because they were bad ideas or bad developers it was because they were planned and managed properly. There was a lack of communication and visibility. Managing App Projects are not like managing other kinds of projects. It’s not realistic to just take a standard project management tool and adapted for the app building process. App building has a very unique set of dependencies that must be respected in order to meet deliverables and these just can’t be found in generic freelance marketplaces.


Avoiding the Generic Marketplace Trap

So if you’re getting ready to build the application for your startup, take the time to plan your project before you hit the marketplaces. Hire extremely carefully and only those providers who are willing to commit to your project plan. Start your project slowly and monitor your provider’s ability to stick to the plan, manage scope creep and meet deliverables. Finally, if you don’t read code find somebody who does and ask them to evaluate your developers work.


Building apps is a tough and expensive business. It’s easy to falter along the way. It’s always been a little frustrating to me how generic freelance marketplaces give you the impression that help clients from falling into those traps over and over again. This is just not true.


If you’re going to use a generic freelance marketplace, then I highly recommend you pay for those serious project tools, design tools and testing tools. Make sure that you have a very structured and regimented project because despite the promises you are not helped or protected in a generic freelance marketplace from failure.


This article has been syndicated with permission from the Weblance Blog.


Photo Credits | Courtesy of Jeff Williams

Author : Jeff Williams

Jeff Williams has worked in several sectors of technology - from the ERP space to incubating small internet startup business - for more than 20 years. In the late 90′s, Jeff worked for companies like Oracle and Thompson Reuters. More recently, Jeff has been running a young startup business in a privately funded incubator located in Asia. His latest venture includes

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