Renting a coder

Dan Appleman and Jeff Atwood both wrote a blog “Can You Really Rent a Coder?” about coding auctions such as  ElanceRentACoder and, which make coders bid on projects worldwide. Typically a lot of small, low-paid projects appear there and those sites have had their share of bad comments.

But they can work, just follow these rules:
– if you live in a rich country, be a buyer, not a bidder;
– subcontract parts of your projects, tell your customer, and tell them you can charge less because of this: they’ll appreciate you for it;
– subcontract technical parts only: a Russian will understand HTTP or XML, but not Dutch law;
– expect to spend a lot of time on specs and communication;
– use a few iterations to polish out parts where your specs were unclear or misinterpreted;
– test a lot and inspect the source code;
– never go for the lower bids: they’re always crap;
– build a longer relationship with coders you have good experience with, give them bonuses and follow-up projects.

4 Replies to “Renting a coder”

  1. Actually these are really good tips – have you got any for when a coder threatens to hack your web site and those of your customers if he does not win an arbitration?

    Rentacoder threatened to make me lose an arbitration automatically for complaining about this sort of threat that was being made to me (for reporting it to the arbitrator).

  2. @Buyer: No, I haven’t experienced that. I did find coders on Elance much more professional than the average coder on RAC (they have plenty of good ones too), not unsurprising since the coders on Elance have to make a financial commitment themselves before bidding. I did have a very bad experience on RAC where a company boasted on experience which they didn’t have, delivered crap and I had to rewrite everything over the Christmas holiday (see my rule on the lower bids above, I paid my learning fees)… To be fair, I’ve had good experiences with RAC as well.

  3. “There’s good and bad everywhere. But I think the cost savings outsourcing brings outweighs these “dangers.” I’ve had good experience with RentACoder. Just follow the rules — communication is everything. And if there’s a dispute, they’ll help resolve it.”

  4. My name is Rod Smith and I am facilitator with RentACoder. These are really great tips for posting projects on RAC, but I just wanted to follow up on a few of the comments.

    In response to @Buyer@’s comments, if a coder makes such threatening comments, your best bet is to place the project into arbitration, if the process has not already been initiated. The RAC arbitrator will be able to investigate any threats made by the coder, as long as the threats occurred onsite. Unfortunately, if the threats occurred offsite, there is not much RAC can do, since we cannot take offsite communication into consideration (since it is forgeable). If a coder has made such threats, they will receive a warning and possibly forfeit the arbitration.

    Please note that if a coder actually hacks your website or does anything else malicious, we would need valid proof that it was in fact the coder who did this, in order to investigate the allegation. You may provide proof such as login or change logs containing the coder’s IP address from your hosting company. Again, unfortunately if this information cannot be provided, then we will not be able to investigate the allegation. This is why we highly suggest changing your server/hosting login information as soon as a project has been placed into arbitration, or as soon as your project has been cancelled.

    Since we cannot take offsite threats or allegations that the coder has done something malicious on your website into consideration (without valid proof), we cannot allow buyers to continuously make such allegations. If they continue to do so, we will have to warn them of the possibility of forfeiting the arbitration for making allegations that cannot be confirmed or denied by RentACoder. Unfortunately, this may have been the case for @Buyer@.

    In response to Marc de Graauw’s comments:

    “…not unsurprising since the coders on Elance have to make a financial commitment themselves before bidding.” Please note that although RentACoder does not charge coders a monthly fee to work on the site (instead coders are charged a fee of 15% on each completed project), you can choose to require an Expert Guarantee on your project. This allows the coder to prove that they have the skill to complete the project and are also 100% committed to completing it on time. The process requires the coder to deposit a certain amount of money (which the two of you can negotiate) into a deposit escrow. If they fully complete the project, then they receive the deposit back. If they do not complete the project then they lose some or all of the deposit. This is the best way to find a Coder who is fully committed to your project.

    Please note that the best way to protect yourself and your project on RentACoder is to fully read any information that is given to you. The site does contain a lot of information, but it is useful and informative. Understanding your obligations as a Buyer will ensure that you get the most out of your RentACoder experience!

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