I have been looking at RentACoder, Freelancer and eLance from last few years but I always hesitated to register at these site. Hesitation includes little worry too. These questions fill me:

(1) Is there a legal contract between the bidder and the coder? Just in case my delivery date extends, what happens?

(2) After delivery, payment reach without trouble or not.

(3) In case the customer didn't find the project useful, then? Probably he might say that it is not useful to me and you return money. He might copy the source code and return another copy to me.

(4) What are further recommendations? How should I start?


(1) Is there a legal contract between the bidder and the coder? Just in case my delivery date extends, what happens?

Yes and no. For RentACoder.com you have to comply to the project's conditions that are in most case standards. Standard stuff such as intellectual property that you must give away to the company your work for. Obvious things like that.

(2) After delivery, payment reach without trouble or not.

RentACoder.com has an escrow service that limit the troubles. The company that post a bid request pay in advance. But you don't receive the money yet. If you don't provide the work as requested, the company can decide not accept your work. Then there is an arbitration service you can initiate where an arbitrator evaluate the situation and decide what to do. In most case, the process and decision is fair.

(3) In case the customer didn't find the project useful, then? Probably he might say that it is not useful to me and you return money. He might copy the source code and return another copy to me.

It's a risk yes, and very few do it. The arbitration service is pretty fair and will limit those behavior.

(4) What are further recommendations? How should I start?

Create an account, and start to bid on projects.

Give what customers want.

I have managed hundred of projects on the platforms you mention. Here is how I work, and I think that most people do the same.

I discard 9 or 10 bids from user with less than 15 ratings and if the average rating is less than 95%. I then filter on bid price. Sometimes, when I read a nice cover letter from a lower bid, I can decide to go with him. Sometimes in parallel with a higher bid (assign the same project to two different bidders).

I discard every bid with no personal cover letter. I've observed that no cover letter means in most time that he didn't read the requirements. It will leads you to failure.

I generally don't care of the location of the bidder. However, I require a good knowledge of English.

When you get a project, do your best to satisfy the customer. Don't start any new project until the previous one is done. Target high quality. If the customer is not satisfied, negotiate a refund.

You WILL face bad behavior and customers that will take advantage of you. But only at the beginning. As you gain high ratings, you will be able to bid higher and that problem will be less frequent.

To summarize:

  • Bid lower than others bidders to increase your chances to get projects assigned. Explain why you bid lower
  • Customer that take lower bids are the most difficult, so you will need to work harder than usual
  • Always write a personalized cover letter that shows you know what the customer wants
  • Don't hesitate to negotiate full refund if you think the customer is not happy
  • Work on one project at a time. Or two maximum if communication with the customer is slow
  • At the end of each project, add your success in your portfolio
  • Thanks for the nice answer. Your 4th answer is not sufficient. Just in case I develop apps. in VS2010 Express Edition but without Reporting in it, how to deliver? I don't have Professional edition. – RPK Oct 28 '10 at 7:30
  • I added more details. You helped me recycle an answer I put on OnStartups (another SO like question/answer website) – user2567 Oct 28 '10 at 7:40
  • I would add to start with small projects too. For one reason, while you will be getting paid little, you will have a smaller scope to endure if it turns out to be a difficult customer. Another reason is that putting together a decent bid proposal is itself a lot of work, and there is no reason to put that much work into something when you'll likely not get the job anyway for lack of ratings. A small task doesn't need so much. – Jeremy Oct 28 '10 at 12:55

As with anything, you need to use common sense. The odds are somewhat stacked in favour of the buyer, but if you work with buyers that have a higher reputation, then you'll usually be fine. If the buyer has never awarded a job before, you need to be careful that the job they're posting is reasonable and they're not asking you to re-write Facebook for < $500 or something silly like that.

You also need to remember that you're generally competing with teams of people in developing countries who will be happy working for 1/10 the rate you would expect. The regular buyers will have come to expect those rates and if your bids are significantly higher, your bids will be discarded out of hand.

Having said that, these websites can be a good way to get your name out there on a couple of projects. But don't expect to be able to make a living exclusively from them...

  • 2
    Yes, I stopped submitting bids because I couldn't compete with the rates of many people elsewhere in the world. Quite a few of those people were very good programmers too and had great ratings. Its hard to compete with that. Some customers will pay more for someone who is easy to communicate with and works in their timezone but that seems the exception rather than the rule. Also these sites are plagued with low-ball bids from people who don't even seem to understand the project and lots of projects get reposted after one or more failures to deliver. Customers never stop going for the low-bid. – Jeremy Oct 28 '10 at 13:16

Just to expand on a few things previously contributed:

If a worker doesn't complete a project by an agreed upon deadline, the project's employer doesn't have to pay for it. A project's deadline is part of a contract that must be complied with. In my experience, employers willingly extend a deadline when they see favorable progress. So as long as you put forth a good, honest effort within a reasonable amount of time, a 3-5 day deadline extension (or whatever's required) is typically honored.

Should an employer not find a project useful and refuse to pay for it, you can take the matter up with the site's arbitration service and have an arbitrator decide whether or not the project complies with the project's contract. A project that complies with its contract warrants payment, and Rentacoder (now vWorker) will release the project's funds to the worker whether the employer agrees with that decision or not. That's one of the benefits of freelancing through Rentacoder. The site's staff actually takes the time to verify a contract has been honored (some other sites don't bother). It's not a risk at all and neither the worker or employer are favored as a result.

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