September 13, 2006
What's Your Time Worth?
I approach my work with a frugal mindset: Why pay other people to do what I
can do myself? With that thinking, I've struggled for years with minor
programming and modifying scripts not because I really enjoy it, but because
it just doesn't make sense to pay others for what I can do myself. Right?
My thrifty nature rebelled at the idea of paying for things I could do
myself. until I realized that paying others can be a bargain. By hiring
others to do things that they have experience with, they can complete these
projects more quickly and with fewer mistakes. This allows me to do more
brainstorming and creative tasks.
The breakthrough happened after a frustrating week where I moved one of my
oldest and largest sites. and in the process broke half a dozen critical
scripts. I slogged through the process of checking them all out, staying up
late and getting more panicked as the site continued to return errors.
Something that should have been simple was screwed up. a mod rewrite wasn't
functioning correctly, leading to "page not found" errors for my most
In desperation, I started searching the 'Net for answers, and as usual
Google didn't let me down. I found a project on Scriptlance that was
similar to my issue and had been solved for $10. $10?? I was losing more
than that every day on my broken site.
Services Auction Sites
Scriptlance and Elance are auction sites for services. I'd always shied
away from them because the thought of working with someone I had no clue
about was frightening and seemed just. wrong somehow. How would I know if
the work was done correctly? What if they took my money and never did the
It was a lot of needless worry. Just like the merchandise auction sites
most people are familiar with, these freelance auctions have a feedback
feature. The value of a programmer is directly tied to their feedback so
they are careful to deliver great service in order to get that #10 rating.
The higher their feedback score, the more they can charge for their
The money part is easy as well; Scriptlance uses an escrow account system
where they hold the money on behalf of you and the programmer until you both
agree the job has been completed. If there's a dispute, the money is
returned to your account.
A Staff of My Own
I posted my project to fix the mod rewrite and within minutes, I had several
bids to choose from. I reviewed the feedback and comments of each
programmer, and then selected one who had bid $10 to fix the problem. (For
the first project, the $5 project fee was waived!)
The programmer and I traded a few emails and within 30 minutes my site was
running flawlessly. I was thrilled! Hours of frustration evaporated as I
realized the possibilities in having experienced programmers at my beck and
I posted projects for 3 other issues that had sidetracked my progress and by
the end of the week I had a new site design, new features for one of my
directories, and a custom application from scratch. I spent significantly
less than I thought I would have to and got great quality work.
Tips for a Smooth Project
I've since used Scriptlance for quite a few projects and while most have
gone well, a few have stalled or gone completely bad. Some tips for using a
services auction site:
* The more complex your project, the more specific your project outline must
be. The more details you add, the better potential programmers will
understand what you want and do it correctly the first time.
* Look at past projects by your candidate. If the programmer you are
considering has offered you a great price and has great feedback, don't stop
researching yet. See if they've actually done projects similar to yours.
For example, if you want a Dreamweaver template, make sure they've done
Dreamweaver templates before. If you are looking to create an entire
application, check to see if they've created complicated scripts from the
ground up before. If time is not an issue, you can take a chance on a
developing programmer, but if you can't afford to be the "learning curve"
project, pick someone with more experience.
* New programmers offer bargain prices. For small projects, consider
choosing a newbie. They are usually motivated to do a good job and eager to
make a good impression to get that all-important feedback. On the other
hand, they have nothing to lose and can flake out on you without finishing.
* Never pay in advance. If a programmer won't accept an escrow payment and
won't allow you to pay most of the fee AFTER the job is complete, pick
someone else, no matter how great his or her feedback is.
* If you find a great designer or programmer, keep using them! Once you've
built a level of trust with a professional, it's easy to hand them new jobs
with the expectation that they will be done correctly.
* Don't drop the ball. When working on a project, stay in touch with your
programmer and ask for progress reports.
* Test, test, test! It's exciting to see a project working, but take the
time to thoroughly check the work and make sure everything is working as
promised before you release the escrow and post your glowing praise.
* Be prepared to pay more for experienced programmers. Don't skimp when it
comes to mission-critical projects.
Development Time Reduced
While there is a certain satisfaction in doing it yourself, there's even
more satisfaction in completing a project and launching it. The next time
you hit a dead end with programming, copywriting, designing, or other
professional services, give the online-services auctions a try! If you
aren't interested in any of the bidders, you can simply cancel the project.
Get those great ideas off the shelf, dust them off, and start putting them
into production! You'll be amazed at how much you can accomplish with a
staff of many at your fingertips.
(Disclaimer: This is my affiliate link -- you can feed my Scriptlance habit
by using this link if you decide to post a project. At $5 credit per
referral, I don't recommend them for the money. It's just a great service!)