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?