i'm a (pretty good?) web programmer by now, and i've amassed a bunch of skillz over my time served in the industry. i started working on perl cgi scripts in 1992 when nobody knew what the web was, let alone perl or cgi. i then moved on to java in 1995 when it arrived, and tried my hand at javascript in the first browsers that supported it. i remember creating my first site with frames and javascript rollovers back then, because the client wanted something modern and flashy. i coded a netscape server api library that accessed a database over odbc on a dec alpha running nt 3.51 when such things were cutting edge. you get the idea, i've been doing web applications for a long time now, over ten years anyway.

so, as you might have seen from the development environment posts, i'm also fluent in the latest java and java enterprise apis, and the associated libraries. things like struts, jsps, servlets, mysql/jdbc and so on. i'm even able to turn my hand to php when the need arises. what, though, can i do with this hard-won knowledge? i believe the official MBA term would be to monetize my skill set or something like that. oh, and i don't want to have to go to an office for 0900, wear a suit or interact with people on a daily basis.

the answer turns out to be freelance bit-work. i've been working from home on a web application for a friend's small business, and i thought there must be a lot of people in his situation. he wanted some custom software, but couldn't pay the tens of thousands of pounds for a full-scale j2ee solution, with oracle, weblogic, and all that kind of heavyweight server-based junk. i started looking at the rent-a-coder site to see what it was like, and found that there were plenty of likely candidates.

the other three sites that i'm registered on as a developer are: get a coder, get a freelancer and script-lance. so far, i have two projects active on rent-a-coder, and several projects that have reached the shortlist stage on get a coder. i'm not sure about the other two sites, but i'm bidding on them at the moment and will see what comes up. one problem i've noticed is that a lot of indian, chinese and eastern european developers and teams of developers use these sites. they seem to be able to put in extremely low prices, which is the benefit of offshore outsourcing, i guess, but makes it hard for me to be competitive and profitable.

anyway, i'm working on two projects right now, and the buyers seem really friendly and have been pretty clear about what they wanted, and accepted my advice about what was and wasn't possible. the sites encourage communication using their message boards/forums so that disputes and arbitration when a disagreement occurs about scope can be resolved by referring to what each party actually said. when a project starts, your IM alias is given out, and this makes simple back and forth chat easier, but i have been summarising any decisions on the site so there is a permanent record. one thing to watch out for is people trying to get their college assignments and homework done on the cheap. i worked for my degree (well, a little) and i have big problems with someone trying to submit work that they just paid someone else to do.

another type of project to avoid is the 'clone' request. this usually involves a (probably teenager) asking for a clone of amazon/ebay/myspace/insert-commercial-site-here and offering the princely sum of, say, fifty dollars. i wonder if they can even comprehend the amount of money that a company like amazon spends on their e-commerce web service? avoid! with regard to payment for real projects, the site will escrow the full bid amount from the buyer at the start. this means i am sure i'll get paid at the end (assuming i deliver an acceptable product...)

something i'd like to have clarified is the position on open source libraries. i believe that the GNU LGPL (lesser GNU public license) allows me to sell software that links to libraries with that license. also, since i provide source code for my app and unmodified binaries (which have freely downloadable source anyway) for libraries i use, i interpret the apache ASL (apache source license 2.0) as allowing me to distribute, say, jakarta commons httpclient with my application. i'd REALLY like to get this properly clarified.

the ebay sdk and api download seems to get away with distributing apache axis (the web services api, more on this and the ebay development platform some other time) and a whole load of jakarta commons libraries, so they must think it's legal, and in this case, i'm going to redistribute the ebay sdk anyway, so the licensing issues are theirs. it's a grey area though, and i need to be careful. i don't want richard stallman coming round to my house with a bunch of the FSF hired goons!

i'm really pleased with my discovery of rent-a-coder work, and i'm pretty sure it's a good way for me to make money doing something i enjoy. so far, admittedly, i haven't won any bids on the other sites so i'll just have to keep bidding, but at least i'm going to be productive. i'll update with some more information about my interactions with get a coder, get a freelance and script-lance when they happen, and also report on the outcome of my current projects when i'm finished.


spyderscripts said...

Here's a tip that works with RentACoder (RAC), but not really the other web sites since they offer open bidding.

The first 10 or so of your projects, underbid your project some 50%. Don't work for money now, work for ratings. Once you have ratings, you can increase your fees. The more ratings you have, the more projects you will recieve and the more you can charge.

That's what I had to do, eventually it paid off and I'm rated one of the top coders.

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There's a site you missed out -

Eurofreelancer.com It's the only site that ACTUALLY tracks quality control stats for it's freelancers and ranks them accordingly - meaning that freelance workers need to perform well and within price range to actually get more projects.

It also means they need to perform consistently well in order to justify fee increases. Something none of the other markets employ (or if they do, employ rather weakly).

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