Offshore outsourcing

Perils of working with Freelancers

By Mainak Biswas November 23, 2006 - 694 views

Before I go on to explain the risks that are involved in working with freelancers, let me first talk about the reasons why people choose to work with them in the first place.

Lowest Cost
In comparison to working with the structured organizations, freelancers may charge lower fees for doing the same work. Moreover, most freelancers work through bidding portals like and the price wars works out in your favor.

Working with a Specialist
Freelancers work in their specialized area on which they have knowledge and experience. This generates a sense of working with a specialist.

A freelancer will bid on your project only when they are ready to take up additional work. This means they are ready to start immediately and you can start seeing progress from the next day of awarding the contract.

Greater control
Another factor that comes into the mind is that freelancers are individual which is reassuring to know specially if you are scared of contracts and hierarchy.

So, where is the risk? Let me explain:

Project Matters!
Working with a freelancer is suited on projects that require only one set of skill that the freelancer can has and can provide. However, a typical project often requires different skill-sets for example designing database, writing codes, designing interfaces, testing etc. Thus, even if you freelancer scores high on one of these areas, he will score low on all other. Eventually, the average quality of output turns out to be low. Thus, if you have anything more a simple script written or a layout to be done, working with a freelancer is not such a good idea!

No Project Management
You know what I mean if you have ever asked any freelancer to give a project plan. The project quotes that they offer are often just “best guesses” of how much they want to make for the estimated duration of the project. If you do not have much experience in managing software projects then you are in for a ride as they take you through tech mumbo-jumbo.

Questionable Quality
A freelancer is not guided by a company policy for code standardization nor do they have access to time-tested code libraries that software organizations build over time. Thus, don’t be surprised if you find out that the code is poorly written and totally undocumented.

Alright! They are available now but, what about next time?
Even though the freelancer is available “right now“ to start the work but that does not mean that they are going to be available for the next time you need them. 

No backup for Uncertainties
What if the freelancer gets hit by the bus or falls sick when you have an important deadline to meet? Nothing! You will be standing alone, out there in the cold and you will not be able to do anything about it. The freelancer is a single person who is in control and there is nothing you can do about it. If they want to take a holiday in between the project – good luck!

No Infrastructure
Typically a freelancer working from his bedroom and has computer with maybe a UPS and a printer. The worst part is that your project resides on this PC which is also used by his four-year-old for playing games. What happens when this PC crashes? No points for answering that!

No Organization
A six-man month project will exactly take six-man months for a freelancer to complete. Since they are working alone they cannot work on two tasks simultaneously. There is also no hierarchy and you cannot escalate any issues if you run into trouble with the guy. 

No Contractual Bindings
An organization can enter an enforceable business contract with you to which they are legally bound.  You cannot enter into a legal contract with a freelancer. Even if you get something signed, it’s of very little value. 

It does not make any business sense unless you have a very small job that needs to be done cheap or one that you can do without!

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