Home – New Forums Tech talk Outsourcing to IT freelancers

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  • #987570
    MarketinginMelbourne
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    Hi everyone. I’d love some feedback from some small businesses out there.
    I’m doing some market research for a client in the area of online freelance outsourcing in Australia. (I’m a marketing consultant).

    So my question is, if you had a need for some IT assistance (i.e. website development, mobile app development, IT support, etc..), how would you go about finding that expert? Would you prefer to use an agency, referral or would you be happy to post your job on a website like this or freelancer.com.au or odesk.com or elance.com where you can find loads of freelancers to do your work?

    What would be your main reservation about using freelancers?

    Thanks

    #1163376
    Greg_M
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    I think it would largely depend on your level of experience/exposure to the skills your looking for.

    For hardcore IT support (in house stuff) I’d look locally for a physical presence that had good referrals. If a referral/freelance site turned up in search, I’d probably check it out.

    I’d also look on here. My experience of dealing with people from the forum has always been a positive business experience.

    Being a fairly regular user, you tend to get a feel for how the person behind the “post” operates and contributes. That has so far flowed on to business transactions I’ve had with members.

    If I wasn’t a regular reader, I doubt I’d use it as a source (apart from getting sucked in to the occasional ad).

    For development, my approach is different. I’m happy to source locally for fixed price or contra’s … hourly rate stuff I tend to baulk, and have used Elance in the past, usually the skills are there but cheaper. I don’t go for cheap per se, communication issues outsourcing is a big one, dollars aren’t everything.

    I think engaging web development via freelancing is like walking on quicksand, unless you actually know what you’re doing (how to scope it properly, and supervise the result).

    For every post on here about saving money using freelancers, there’d be a heap more complaining about what a bottomless pit it turned into, regardless of where they were sourced.

    Hope that info’s a little useful.

    #1163377
    SentinelInfoSec
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    When you outsource anything via an agency you have an intermediary that can gather your requirements and pass the job on to the person who is the best fit for your needs. Directly contracting to a freelancer requires more effort on your part to research the skills and work history of a the candidate contractors. That’s the theory anyway.

    As with anything, it pays to understand enough of the task you’re outsourcing yourself so as to be an informed customer – i.e. to know what questions to ask and be able to fully understand the answers. Any outsourcing is a risk if you don’t, but a good agency can at least partially mitigate that risk if outsourcing an unfamiliar task.

    Cheers,

    Michael

    #1163378
    chuey
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    hi guys

    a few tips from my learnings (painful learnings at that). i used getacoder for a job and used a bunch of indian contractors

    didnt use a middle man and i wish i had

    what i did well

    • i had a very detailed scope which crossed all my t and dodtted my i
    • i had very well defined milestone payments
    • i used an escrow function, saved me getting screwed

    what i didnt do well

    • firstly, i hand held the contractor, they were punching pretty rubbishy work out and asking me to test it. my biggest learning was that the developer should test for functionality and hand it over when its complete (or they think its complete)
    • i didnt get backups of their work after each milestone payment

    the end product, the developer realised they had horribly underquoted and did not have the skillset for the job, i issued them one milestone payement and left the second milestone is permanent limbo as they did not complete the job

    by no means a relfection on all indian contractors, but found the mob very painful

    #1163379
    arrowwise
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    A very serious consideration with outsourcing offshore is 100% protecting the security, privacy and integrity of your data and client information. Very few could provide such a guarantee, and if they could it wouldn’t be too iron clad.

    #1163380
    Beany
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    As an IT freelancer and solopreneur myself, I get to see both ends of the stick as it were.

    I have had a go at trying to find work and get work completed on sites like freelancer and odesk.

    The competition on these sites can be quite fierce, if your job happens to get some attention and you suddenly have a bidding war for your work, you will struggle to eventually pick from the hundreds of applicants.

    How do you find the one gem in there, that is a hard worked? Good communicator? Can deliver on what they commit to?

    Personally I think personal networks and referrals are the way to go.

    You expect a level of professionalism and trust, where better to find that than your own network of friends and collegues, people who have already worked with that freelancer.

    So try using linkedin, flyingsolo and word of mouth, these can get you a lot further than you can imagine.

    You might not know a good software developer, but hop onto linkedin, chat to an old collegue, and suddenly the connections are being made.

    Of course once all of that is said, take time to vet that new contact. Start with something small to build trust, and test there reliability before commiting to long term engagements.

    #1163381
    TehCamel
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    as a freelancer, I’ve had very little benefit from freelancer or guru. I found that the winning bids were often stupidly low and there’s no way I could compete on prices like that ($8.00 an hour etc)

    the other side of that is, I’ve seen projects listed with unrealisticly low expectations.
    Things like “Install a server and set up my network for $150.00” with no actual defined scope or outline of what they want.

    For a proper server installation in a greenfields site, I’d expect there to be at least 8 hours worth of work in understanding what the client needs, identifying the most suitable solution and designing & documenting how it will all work, including timelines and risk management. that’s before the actual work commences.

    #1163382
    PerfectNotes-Kathy
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    Hi,

    As with the last couple of replies, I’ve been on both sides of this fence.

    A company I worked for outsourced some development that we did not have the skills for inhouse to an overseas business, via something like odesk (not sure exactly which site, but one like that). English was not the first language of the developers, which led to many issues with understanding of the requirements – let alone adding the fact that we were talking technical requirements which added a lot more complication. Ultimately, the software was not completed as needed and there was a lot of frustration and a heap of wasted time on trying to resolve the issues.

    In our business, I do contract development work (among other things). From that point of view, an educated customer is a blessing – they have a general idea of what they want, as well as what they need, and know enough to not need as much hand holding – which leads to a shorter development cycle, with less nasty surprises all round.

    HTH,
    Kathy

    #1163383
    JohnTranter
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    You have to be careful, many of my current clients have come to me after being badly stung after outsourcing through ODesk, even if they used an Australian based project manager. Or worse, were unaware that the company they were using in Australia was outsourcing the work overseas.
    I’m not saying all overseas contractors are rubbish, just that the calibre on ODesk and Freelancer.com seems to be really bad.

    When I first went solo, I had a look at getting work from ODesk, Freelancer.com etc. but I got tired of reading through the “I want a Facebook clone, prepared to pay up to $150” jobs that those sites are littered with.
    I initially figured there might be some code that people were using so they didn’t have to pay too much in fees to ODesk/Freelancer, .e.g the real price is actually 50 times the amount shown, but in the end it just seems that some people are prepared to work for $5/hr and deliver rubbish.

    If you are keen to hire someone from overseas on a permanent basis, then there are companies that specialise in getting good quality people. e.g. http://www.flatplanet.com.au/ These guys have an office in the Philippines where their outsourced professionals work from.

    #1163384
    Hatching_It
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    Let’s face it, freelancers overseas are great. They allow us to get inconvenient/expensive jobs done to an ‘ok’ level of competency cheaply, and usually whilst we sleep.

    The problem comes when you’re trying to get a service done that you know very little about. This is a recipe for disaster.

    You can get truly awesome work done by freelancers, but you need to be able to write a BRD (Business Requirement Document) and manage the project, otherwise you’ll likely receive something that is sub quality and will probably just end up costing you more money when you have to do it properly.

    There are many agencies in Australia that do this for you. They’re the ‘front’ and usually have degrees in design or development and are a 1 or 2 person team that then have a trusted source overseas that handles the main part of the work.

    I’ve seen some companies that do this really really well, and then some that have done it really really badly (oh man, I had a HORRIBLE experience with one who ended up being taken to court in a big class action..)

    So, my advice is to find someone who is local to you and will write you a solid BRD and manage their team overseas. Don’t go straight to Elance as someone who doesn’t fully understand web design/development/seo etc – you’l get burned.

    FWIW: I run a small design/development/seo/marketing business with my partner and we *sometimes* outsource a bit of development work to a partner in China that we trust. The quality of our work doesn’t drop, it just helps us deliver a better end product than what most can afford.

    #1163385
    SentinelInfoSec
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    Hatching_It, post: 189200 wrote:
    The problem comes when you’re trying to get a service done that you know very little about. This is a recipe for disaster.

    I advise people that tasks suited for outsourcing are those where you lack the time, not the skills. The skills required to be an informed customer are basically the same as those needed to do it yourself.

    If you lack the skills, you either need to learn them, or use a trusted intermediary.

    #1163386
    The Rogue Counsellor
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    As someone who is IT-allergic, who couldn’t create a BRD or anything that even looked like a brief, I would find someone I trust, to either do the job or manage it on my behalf.

    I would start by looking here.

    Like estim8, my business dealings with people from FS have been positive and I can get a feel for the person behind the post.

    An example, I’ve just found a travel agent who ‘gets’ what I’m after, which is outside the norm, here on FS. The shiny hair and sparkly teeth person at the storefront travel agency in town was sure I would like what he was recommending, even though I was saying clearly I would not. 😡

    (A little plug here for Karen McNally at McNally Travel, she’s great, and nothing is too much trouble. She knows her stuff and she’s an FS member.)

    Trust. It’s such a lot. In business as in life.

    Lee
    The Rogue Counsellor

    #1163387
    Calcul8or
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    Being an MS Excel / Access VBA programmer, a lot of my new business comes from sites like Freelancer etc, but of the hundreds of jobs they might have going in a month, I might only get one. And that’s if I try really hard and Dame Fortune happens to be smiling in my direction.

    The customers I’ve picked up from those sites have all become long term customers who keep returning, or stay in touch at the very least, as I offer free help with Excel or Access, and it’s not unusual to get an email from them asking for a formula or something.

    Like a lot of people have already mentioned, I find it impossible to compete against other programmers based in places like India, but I’m pretty sure that all of my customers appreciate the fact that I have many years of commercial experience and therefore understanding under my belt as well, which makes it easier for them since they have to explain less, and there has never been a situation where I didn’t know what they’re talking about. In fact, there have been many times that I’ve been able to make suggestions to improve on the ideas they’ve had.

    The other benefit serious domestic practitioners have is that they’re usually set up with a company or trading name, WorkCover and Professional Indemnity.

    So yeah, I cost a lot more than a 20 year old in New Delhi, but hey, I’m worth it! lol

    Programmer. Analyst. Nerd. Calcul8ors.com.au Custom Software & Collaboration
    #1163388
    Lucid Web Design
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    • Total posts: 31
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    I’m a freelancer. I’ve registered with a few of those freelance sites. I don’t bother with many of them anymore. There is fierce competition on price. Fierce to the point that it is just not tenable to even look.

    Often the prices asked are unrealistic for what they want. On one site, I saw an ad for copy writers. It was Australian based. They wanted an ABN to pay $5 for 500 words of copy. I’m no copy writer but I have a fair idea of what I’d get for that price. The ad wasn’t there 24 hours later.

    My other bugbear is the lack of information to quote on. A lot of the requirements are to say the least very loose. You could end up with a major gulf between what the client wants and what customer thinks the client wants.

    I like to spend a bit to time trying work out what client wants now and also what they want in the future.

    For me, nothing beats a well planned design brief.

    #1163389
    Craig_Longmuir
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    JohnTranter, post: 189152 wrote:
    You have to be careful, many of my current clients have come to me after being badly stung after outsourcing through ODesk, even if they used an Australian based project manager. Or worse, were unaware that the company they were using in Australia was outsourcing the work overseas.
    I’m not saying all overseas contractors are rubbish, just that the calibre on ODesk and Freelancer.com seems to be really bad.

    When I first went solo, I had a look at getting work from ODesk, Freelancer.com etc. but I got tired of reading through the “I want a Facebook clone, prepared to pay up to $150” jobs that those sites are littered with.
    I initially figured there might be some code that people were using so they didn’t have to pay too much in fees to ODesk/Freelancer, .e.g the real price is actually 50 times the amount shown, but in the end it just seems that some people are prepared to work for $5/hr and deliver rubbish.

    same same for me…fixed several $350 freelancer websites…

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