If you are a code monkey, then there are umpteen options available to make a living without doing a 9-5 run-of-the-mill job in a IT factory. Some of the sites that cater to developers are RentAcoder,GetAfreeLancer, ELance. The first 2 are free while you have to pay a sum for Elance upfront. The commission charged as project fee varies for each of these sites.
These sites are hugely popular with developers in the developing countries such as India, Pakistan, Brazil, Argentina and some Easter European Countries such as Romania, Ukraine etc.
Are these sites for you? Some hard facts revealed:
- If you are a very fast and smart developer, you can probably earn somewhere between $1000-$2000 a month or less. Which is a decent amount for a month in these countries. So it does not make any economic sense for developers from the US/UK or any such nation to ocmpete in this space. Moreover, most of the service buyers are from these countries looking for cost-effective solution from the offshore developers.
- There is a lot of hardwork involved for service providers as there is fierce competition. Every project you bid for, there are atleast 25-30 bidders with all kinds of strategies such as “solution first-pay later” to “minimum cost, low quality” etc etc. So bagging the project and then delivering within time takes its toll in the long run. Not a easy show as a full time corporate job where you can afford to relax for a few days or days when you don’t feel like it, just shrugg off and say “Lets do it tomorrow”.
- If you are looking at making a career out of it, then you need to have a plan. Probability of burnout because of stress, success rate of bids/projects won is high. Good for code monkeys who just want an interim change. This is not your way to entrepreneurship. You can’t make money while you are sleeping as in an established business. You work like a dog today and if you continue on the path you work like one even a year later.
- If you are in it for fun for lack of anything better to do, then by all means you can have all the fun you want to as I’m doing currently.
- A good learning platform. It is a good learning platform where you get paid while you learn on the job. Just don’t be foolish enough to admit it.
What are the resources/skills you need to be successful?
- Proficiency in English to be able to communicate.
- Be good at what you do - know atleast one language thoroughly such as PHP, Perl, Java, XML etc While you have the time you can pick up something else that interests you.
- Project Management : Who says you don’t need Project Management skills? Sure you don’t need all the documents of a SEI CMM firm but the basics are absoultely required to be successful. It is all about communication and communicating effectively all the time. Requirements management, expectation setting, delivery management, defining deliverables etc. is all in the game. You are your manager here. You just wear different hats at different points in time - developer, coordinator, project manager
- Time Management: This is by far the most important skill required. Since there is no bus/train to catch at 8:30 a.m. does not mean you don’t exercise discipline and sleep in until 11:00 a.m. Browsing/searching for projects can get addictive. Stick to a time schedule and work by the clock.
- Logistics: Having an office at your home with a broadband internet connection where you are not disturbed while you work helps. Ofcourse you can run errands when you feel like taking a break but have a plan and be organized.
Finding success with the freelancing sites such as getafreelancer, rentacoder is not easy. Getafreelancer, Europe’s answer to the widely popular American competitor Rent A Coder, was established in February 2004. On last count, the site boasts of 189,848 users and 91,595 posted projects which is still a far cry from RentAcoder’s user base of
I have been a member of both the sites for the past 30 days and I find GetAFreelancer much better than RentAcoder for the following reasons:
- E-mail notification: Periodic e-mails notifying a service provider of newly posted projects is a very user friendly feature. One does not have to browse or search for projects through the site’s user interface. You can set alerts defining the project criteria such as projects PHP and Perl only that fall in the range of $30-$100. Or Java projects that fall in the range of $1000-$3000. The number of e-mail that gets triggered in a day depends on the number of new projects posted. I just take a cursory glance at the listing in my e-mail and if something interesting catches my eye, I goto the site for further details to bid.
RentACoder’s alert notification system works only when you have won a project.
- Low No-action rate from buyers: The buyer no-action rate is way high on RentAcoder than on GetAFreelancer. I’ve had 0 success on RAC till now. All the projects that I have bid for on RAC have either been cancelled or there has been no response from the service buyer.
- Mode of payment: Escrow payment is available on both. But I believe the percentage charged by GAF is slightly higher than that of RAC.
- Privacy: Again both the sites dictate the same terms and conditions. Service buyers cannot contact service providers directly. Revealing e-mail address is an offense and you stand to get blacklisted on doing so for projects less than $500.
- Value for service: GAF fares low on this as compared to RAC. It is very common to see buyers posting projects to develop a clone site such as ebay.com or something popular as digg.com while quoting a price of $30-$100. They want the moon for peanuts.
- Service Buyers: Service buyers from Europe are very finicky. Language is an issue with them. They generally try to squeeze in as much as they can going beyond the specifications of a project. Americans are very professional in this regard. They know what they want, they say what they want in clear terms. Even if they don’t, they are quick to admit it and are courteous. As principle, I try and avoid European buyers.
In the 7 years of my corporate life, I’ve never worked so hard for $100. Well, maybe I have as memories of those night outs in Chicago come back now but that was once in a blue moon and it was fun. On one instance Harper and I stayed up the whole night for launch and were dying to get back home early next morning when T asked us to stay on until he came in just to find us crouched under our respective desks. Aaah well I’m digressing.
So I wanted to get a taste of freelancing. V had enrolled me in getafreelancer.com a couple of months back and I was randomly going through some mails while deleting the hundreds in the ‘freelance’ folder. A lot of demand for PHP so I thought how hard can it be and here I start learning PHP last Monday. After one unsuccessful bid for $65, I bid another one for $50 and this German guy chose me as the service provider. I can’t tell you in so many words how ecstatic I was that day. $50 is a very meager percentage of even my first salary but I felt this was something I had earned on my own.
What ensued afterward was a nightmare working with this person. Thankfully, there weren’t many issues on payments or whatever and he subsequently chose me as the service provider for 2 other projects. To quote his words in one of the closing mails, he writes
Let me again say that i really like to work with you and know you tried with 100 per cent to make it possible. please forgive me for beeing a little bullheaded, pickheaded and stubborn about this issue - i was just looking too much forward on exactly this .
I guess that just sums up the experience. What I have come to realize is that the rest of the breed out there (service buyers I mean) aren’t going to be any easy either.