[Baypiggies] Elance, Guru, Contract Work etc.

Roderick Llewellyn roderick at sanfransystems.com
Mon Nov 1 18:29:52 CET 2010

I avoid sites like these like the plague. This is priceline.com for 
programmers, where the advantage is totally with the one offering the 
job. You're competing with the entire world for these jobs, so the whole 
game is to drive down your compensation to the lowest possible level on 
the planet. Do you really want to be paid the going wage in Bangalore? 
No problem if that reflects your cost of living (i.e., you live in 
Bangalore). But since this is BayPiggies, you probably live in the Bay 
Area. So you're paying the highest cost of living after Manhattan, and 
getting paid the lowest wages on Earth. That's a problem! Your client 
cares not that you live in the Bay Area.

I agree with the caveat against fixed-price bids. These are VERY 
dangerous in programming. It's one thing to ask a construction 
contractor for a fixed-price bid on building a deck. There are not many 
unknowns there. In programming, once you have negotiated a fixed price, 
the client has a huge incentive to make endless change orders. Naturally 
you can refuse to take them, asking for an hourly rate on each one. But 
since a fixed-price bid usually means you get paid little or nothing 
until the job is done, if client is unsatisfied with your negotiating 
stance, he will probably not pay you at all. And generally forget the 
courts; they are so complicated, take so long, and are so advantageous 
to the side with more money and patience that any contract you sign is 
almost meaningless anyway. I have major experience here I assure you! So 
be wary of any contract longer than a month or two which won't pay you 
until completion. Of course, you could always arrange to meet under a 
bridge, you bringing your software, client bringing his money, and both 
taking no more than three armed guards.... I'm sure you've seen that 
movie too!

If you take tiny jobs, like write an ascii-to-integer converter kind of 
thing, you will spend far more time looking for work, negotiating, phone 
calls, etc., than you will spend actually doing work. Since you will 
often not be willing to take the Bangalore-level wage that will be 
offered, you will not get or take most jobs. Look instead for 
longer-term contracts. Try to find something where you have unusual 
skills or abilities. If the job is to download a LAMP suite and get it 
running, writing 100 lines of glue code in the process, you're competing 
against every kid on the planet, because almost everybody can do that. 
It's not really even software engineering. If on the other hand you know 
how to optimize MySQL queries better than Joe the Plumber... oops I 
meant Programmer, you have a better chance.

My two cents!  - Rod L.

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