This post is not about my experience as freelancer, although I do freelance now and then. This post is about my experience consulting companies about their web projects and seeing what they got from freelancers and smallish companies. Here are some of the main problems:

  1. Quality of website. Some of freelancers do not write top notch code, quite often they assemble website from what they have, and then write FAST. This has implications to the quality. You pay hourly rates for maintaining/updating code usually, so the quality is important.
  2. Maintaining costs.  Freelancer will do best paying jobs first, that is larger projects. They can’t scale.  Small projects or maintenance tasks are quite unimportant for them, so they might get postponed endlessly. I know more than one case that proves this. We had one guy with freelancer background that just copied website and changed field queried in the code when implementing second language. Sure, that’s fast, but we have to maintain 2 versions of site.
  3. You might buy things they have no rights to sell. Many freelancers work in software companies, and some of them use code belonging to company in their freelance activities. That’s illegal, although hard to prove. Now problem would arise if you have to switch to that company or someone notices that your site runs on proprietary framework you haven’t paid for (officially).  So do not be happy when they say that they would purchase this framework for lots of money in company. Just ask them if they sell it legally.
  4. You should check the rights on design as well, especially if photos are used. Model/famous people photos might be proprietary.  Even large companies fall for that.


I would still recommend considering freelancers in many cases, but do not fall in some of the pitfalls. Here some tips.

  1. You should control DNS and hosting, not them. If they require “special” setup only they can provide, switch to other developer. That is not reliable. This is true for working with companies as well.
  2. You are responsible for backups as well. You will thank for this when they accidently drop important database table or delete crucial php script.
  3. Sign an agreement. Fat chance that you will be able to do so with freelancer, but you should try. His signature is at least some guarantee of good intentions; also it will cover schedule and terms of payments. And this is important for both sides.
  4. Ask them if you will be able to edit all the files yourself later on. If not, go to next developers. Some of the “companies” encode their code. This is not a nice practice as you pay for code anyways. You do not want to be forced working with any company for lifetime of the project.
  5. Google some when they tell you what they develop your website in. Do not trust people that work with exotic frameworks/cms/languages.  I would even recommend picking couple of frameworks for your companies yourself and then sticking to them for a while. This would reduce costs when you need to maintain the code.  I know at least one company that works with framework in Python no one else uses in town (doubt anyone uses even Python in here). Their clients have to look for long if they want to switch. Luckily for them, they are good enough in their specialty, so I can still recommend them to clients.
  6. You should ask if something is not clear. Always.

Any other tips? Issues? Ideas ?

Giedrius Majauskas

I am a internet company owner and project manager living at Lithuania. I am interested in computer security, health and technology topics.

1 Comment

John Ralston · January 2, 2011 at 2:37 pm

Advising people to choose freelancers for any reason is impractical for any serious business. As a full-time agency we are available during business hours, we have a studio to meet with clients, a land line phone, and we train companies to operate their own sites so they don’t have to contact us when they need to add or edit. I learned by listening to complaints while I was a freelancer, and became successful with the larger businesses by eliminating every complaint point.

Most freelancers have full-time jobs which makes you a minimal priority. Companies can do better, and should.

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