Saturday, August 26, 2006

Peer pressure for the win.

I finally gave into peer pressure and applied for an oDesk membership. Assuming I'm in, I'll probably work part-time at first and test the waters too--wait, what's that?

"Peer pressure," you say, "what kind of peer pressure could that be?"

The pressure from indecisive clients, my friend. Most of the clients I work with on RentACoder are great: they respond quickly to questions, clarify any vague statements in their specifications, and are in general quite pleasant to communicate with. But -- according to my plucked-from-the-air statistics -- about 1 in 5 that I've worked with mean well, but that's it. In a fixed-bid system like RAC, I've taken to just calculating the hours required for a job and then submitting a bid for either workHours * 20, or for a really difficult job, workHours * 25. I make a tidy profit, deliver work to spec, and we both go home happy, right?

Most of the time.

Occasionally I stumble across a client who just eats into my profit margin like you would not believe. If expensive/profit pie-charts were made out of sweet apple pie these motherfuckers would just be eating me out of house and home. LET ME TELL YOU, SIR: IT IS NOT A DELICIOUS APPLE PIE THAT YOU NIBBLE ON. IT IS MY NEW XBOX360 YOU ARE EATING, SIR. IT IS A NINTENDO WII YOU, SIR, ARE DEPRIVING ME OF.

*coughs into fist* Anyway.

First, they decide that they want to up and alter a big chunk of the spec with what they consider "small changes" but end with me spending extra hours behind the scenes accommodating the new functionality and burying the old functionality. And then -- I shit you not -- changes their mind again and decide that they want some of the old functionality remaining. Thank someone for Subversion.

Then they decide that they've got to have a feature now-now-now in a rush and it has to be #1 priority to the detriment of the other projects (which languish for awhile and finish 2 weeks beyond schedule).

Eventually my hourly rate tanks and hovers around $15/hr -- at which point I put my foot down. They either have to cough up the money for the extras or they can deal with it as is. Of course, it always works out in the end -- with a little pressure they realize that they've overstepped their bounds and agree to pay for enhancements, or pay extra out of pocket if they need something in a serious rush (and by serious, I mean me working over the weekend). I usually charge double my rate if I have to work on the weekend due to lack of foresight by the client.

It's times like these that I think, "I really wouldn't have a problem with this if I was using a real hourly-rate system." They could fuck up the specifications all they wanted, and I could just plod along happily. After all, it is coming out of their pocket. What do I care that they've got a short attention span and like to change directions at the drop of a hat? I'd still get paid, right?

Recently, that kind of thinking has made oDesk a lot more interesting to me. I understand that it will be a drop in maximum profits, in theory, since the .NET providers working at the site are charging dirt-cheap rates. Some as low as $10/hr; most averaging $14/hr dollars, but I went with $17/hr for my application. There's a small number of providers on the site -- 3kish, last I read -- and most of them seem pretty qualified to be there. However, if RAC's competition numbers are anything to believe, I'm no chopped liver either.

Sorry, I just like the competition. Did I mention the exquisite glee I get when I crawl past someone on RAC'S top-coder competition?

Anyway, the way I see it, if I get into oDesk and land some solid jobs, it means on RAC I can side-step any clients that might be *really* annoying. This way I can afford to be more selective with what jobs I take and who I communicate with on RAC and not have to worry too much about the ramifications.

One really weird thing about an oDesk application: they recommend you download their sample coversheet and fill it in with all your information.

It's a Microsoft Word document file. So... dubbya tee f? I notice that they support Linux development with their oDesk Team Software, so why are they distributing the sample resume in .doc? I don't know about anyone else, but Abiword can't even open the document, and can display most of it, but all the page-spaces are just wrong and it comes out looking like crap. I pretty much mutilated my CVS (based off the sample download) and gave up after about 10 minutes of trying to make OO.Org export it Microsoft Word without completely destroying the format.

The most ironic part of the experience, of course, was that I had to download anything. Have you seen the oDesk website? I have. It's a slick piece of work.

So why do I even have to download their CVS template? Why do I have to upload my own resume' at all? Instead of all this fuss and extra work they should have, in my opinion, created a web-form based on the template, and let people fill that out instead. Hell, using a system like that they could even swap out templates using something fancy like XLS to transform the data. It would make for a lot more uniform profiles and let clients get to the most relevant information quickly.

Yeah, that's the coder in me talking.

Crap, ranted too long. Totally forgot what else I was going to write about.



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Joe said...

I read your other RAC vs. oDesk posts as well all the comments to the first post. What I see is missing in the comparison between the two is the difference between entrepreneurship and "employeeship". Yes, it's tough to deal with customers who change their specs and try to get more out of a deal than what you think they bargained for, but that's risks of being an entrepreneur (and with experience they can either avoid or control these risks). OTOH, oDesk's model is more for people who like to be employees: they can prove they're doing the work, so they get paid. In this case, the one who's taking the risks is the customer/buyer: he/she has to cough up per hour even if the results aren't exactly what they wanted. Hence the need for the intrusive controls (and the lower per hour rates).

Bet's On said...

Thanks for the feedback, Joe.

I've been chugging along at oDesk for awhile now, and from my vantage point I don't see much of a difference in the way projects are handled between the two services.

I'm still providing a service -- delivering the product they want -- except that with oDesk I'm providing that service in hourly increments, which is the way I prefer it.

But, really, in the end all I'm out for is to make money so I can fund my ludicrous hobbies, so what pays the bills, pays the bills, and oDesk has the potential to pay the bills with a lot more spending money left over.

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Daisy said...

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