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Instant Staff for Your Website

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
important content.

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!)

Scottie Claiborne
Post Comment

 bj said:
A few freelancers have been burned by Scriptlance. Scriptlance has in more than one case not released escrow after project was completed and signed off by the project initiator. I would be very careful dealing with Scriptlance.

Google this, I’m sure you’ll find instances of complaints on blogs and messageboards, you don’t need to take my word for it. has a pretty good system in place.
 Mary Walilko said:
Your article was very timely for me. After working too many hours through the entire summer and missing most of it, I am ready to hire anyone anywhere who can design and update web sites! The idea of gettting more done with less money sounds very tempting. I have heard a lot of good things about as well, where friends have found freelance accountants, copywriters, legal help, illustrators, engineers, etc. (I am affiliated with but I sure plan on looking for someone there tomorrow).
 James Foreman said:
Great article and I have used elance as well as other online services in the past.

Though it is a great service be aware also that many of the the people you hire on elance and scriptlance are inexpensive (or cheap) because they live in another country. I once had a logo created and did not realize they were from czechoslovakia. They did not understand the name of the company in which the logo was to be made, though they did do a great job.

Also, I believe that hiring local people has the same effect as buying local produce to support the small farmer. Lets not just hire these people because we want it at a low price, but because we want the best possible result. If we look locally and branch out from there I believe we are in support of our own economy, people and Country in a time when it is of utmost importance.
 Barb S. said:
I just read this article in High Rankings #177 and thought I’d check out Scottie’s site to see
what backend programs are on her site and was dismayed to see that the login script was
a 404 “not found” on the site (I didn’t see any backend scripts, other than
PHP at — that doesn’t give me a lot of confidence
in hiring from Scriplance. As someone who needs lots of backend assistance, I was really
hoping this would be the magic bullet.
 Jill said:
Hi Barb,

Actually, Scottie has quite a few sites that she works on and has her programmers work on. I don’t believe that the one in her signature (Successful-Sites) was one of them, however. Many of the ones she’s doing now are still in progress from what I understand.

Hope this helps!

 Scottie said:

You would be assuming too much to jump to the conclusion that I’ve invested resources in my own services site! The poor old Right Click site hasn’t had an update in years. But that’s because I don’t earn my income from selling services anymore.

Nothing is a magic bullet. It still takes communication and judgement and work. But if you are looking for programmers and want a wide range to choose from, I’ve found the auction sites to be excellent.

Anyone who already has great local programmers or designers probably wouldn’t read this article with much interest as their needs are already met- I have been unable to find anyone locally that was as accessible and qualified as the programmers I’ve hired using Scriptlance. What I like about the auction process is being able to find someone who can do the work RIGHT NOW.

I’ve worked with programmers in Russia, Romania, India and Poland- I think it’s great!

It’s not perfect though… you are still dealing with people who are anything but perfect. I’ve had a few projects cancelled when the programmer just never finished them. So, I’ve lost some time but to date, I’ve never lost any fees.
 Malcolm said:
James Foreman said “many of the the people you hire on elance and scriptlance are inexpensive … because they live in another country. I once had a logo created and did not realize they were from czechoslovakia… though they did do a great job.”

So where’s the problem?

“Also, I believe that hiring local people has the same effect as buying local produce to support the small farmer. Lets not just hire these people because we want it at a low price, but because we want the best possible result. “

But you just said the Czechs were great! If two programmers are great why not go for the least expensive, and who cares what country they come from?

“If we look locally and branch out from there I believe we are in support of our own economy, people and Country in a time when it is of utmost importance.”

On the internet the world is our country.

What’s wrong with giving the Czech economy a boost, or helping Europeans? As a European I often buy products and services from the USA, but would probably stop doing so if narrow minded prorectionism took hold there.