Troubles in Finding Freelancers

So for a long time now, I have been looking to grow my list of people I can trust to pass work onto. I have had some successes, but mostly failures. The problems seem to partly stem from my limited budget, but also being too trusting.

I troll forums looking for people with the talents I need, and when I contract jobs out to them, I try to make everything as fair as possible when it comes to paying a certain percentage up front, or paying before I receive the files. This has always been a mistake.

Once people get paid, they lose interest.

I will give you an example. A few months back, I decided I was going to build the biggest web application I have ever thought of. I commissioned a person I know through the web only to do the work. He has always been great before on smaller projects, and was giving me a quote that seemed feasible and reasonable.

The payment schedule would be split up, because it was a multi-month job. After seeing and hearing about his progress, I sent the first payment to him. After he received the payment, I haven’t really heard from him since. I got an e-mail a month ago filled with excuses, but no real information on what was going on related to my project.

Another month passed, and still no updates. So today, I have had to e-mail him asking him if he is still interested. If he isn’t and I don’t get my money’s worth of work, the amount I paid him is enough to warrant some form of legal action. What a scary though!

Before I had paid him money, he seemed to be working well. He had shown me a non-functional mockup of the administration panel, and had showed excitement at getting the database schema set up in such a way that the site should work well, and not have too many growing pains when we filled it with insane amounts of data.

It really made me sad to see the whole project fall apart. Despite his professionalism at the start, his interest quickly disappeared, leaving me in the lurch.

I have had the same problem finding competent and trustworthy bloggers, designers, and all sorts of programmers. The money I made isn’t enough to allow for losses related to projects people just “decide” to drop after taking a payment. Not only does it make me angry, but I end up having to do certain things on my own to make up for their disappearance, thus costing me time on other work I could be doing.

Is it just my bad luck, or have others had the same issues? How do you find good, trustworthy freelancers without breaking the bank?

4 thoughts on “Troubles in Finding Freelancers

  1. Tom Beaton

    This is an interesting topic. It is well known that the freelancer world is full of some of the most talented people out there yet at the same time, a load of time wasters looking for easy money. How do you vet someone? I think finding someone online is good for smaller projects and odd jobs. Small design jobs, little bits of code, writers/bloggers. In these situations you can just pay them once the job is done.

    Bigger projects I think still require more contact. Maybe even a face to face. You need ways of checking up on them. Also once you have decided to work together – very clear and concise guidelines on what work will be done by a specific date for a specific amount of money.

    Did you get references? Hiring someone online should be no different from hiring someone offline. References and a portfolio are a must.

  2. David

    Tom – I usually start them on smaller things to test them before moving up to larger projects. If I have issues with them on the smaller stuff, they never see the bigger stuff, and I look for someone else.

    I haven’t ever gotten references before, and that is a great tip, though I don’t know about you, but I’ve used “semi-bogus” references before to secure a job. You know, that friend that is willing to say he was your supervisor at Company-X, even if he was only your co-worker… I doubt I could trust a reference if the person is untrustworthy.

  3. Deb Ng

    I think you just haven’t found the right people yet. The freelance world is filled with flakes for sure, but it’s also filled with people who are dedicated and responsible. I’ve worked with both kinds.

    References do help. Most freelancers request a good faith deposit, but if you’re not comfortable with that, you’ll also find workers willing to wait until the job is done for payment – sometimes that’s motivation enough.

    It might also be the forums you’re trolling. Don’t laugh, but Craigslist is a great place to find serious workers – but do look at resumes and ask for references to weed out the flakes.

  4. JamieO

    Why stand at the airport for 3 hours only to find out your plane was delayed 2 hours at take-off due to mechanical failures. Scheduling regular status meetings – akin to phoning ahead to find out departure / arrival times – will give you a better indication if things are going south sooner.

    Add a requirement to the contract that states you have access to all source (.psd, database or code) while it is being developed. If the developer bails, atleast you have 1/2 a project that someone else could takeover. This isn’t a glorious solution obviously.

    While the traditional option would be to ask for a quote that has estimated hours / activity (database, architecture, design, etc) and/or work on a hourly rate, you could turn this concept on its head and come up with a ‘pay-for-performance’ model based on the initial quote if the developer is agreeable to it. Assign dollar values to each core requirement which the developer earns only after it has been tested / approved by yourself. You’d need to seed a little upfront money for database and architecture work, but it backend loads the contract based on delivery which is good for the customer.

    Above all else, make sure you have a signed legally binding agreement, which makes the disaster scenarios you are currently facing that much more manageable if you have to go through small claims court – if dealing with amounts less than $10,000. I have had to use it on one occasion to get money I was owed and it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought. It took approximately 3 weeks when all was said and done. has all the forms and links to answer questions.

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