Finding freelance jobs: 6 sites for talented techies

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About the service

RentACoder is an online marketplace that connects buyers to coders. All projects are protected by escrowing and arbitration.

How it works

Buyers post an average of 250-300 new projects on the site every day, ranging from software development, to Web sites, to writing, to logo design. Sellers (coders) post questions and bids on the project and then the buyer selects the seller they want to award the project to. The buyer puts the funds into escrow to guarantee that they are "good" for the payment. When the work is completed, the buyer releases funds from the escrow account to the seller. If the seller completes the work but the buyer withholds the funds, an arbitrator will step in, test the software if necessary, and release the funds to the seller.

at a glance


In-demand skills

In programming projects the most in-demand skills are PHP, Apache, ASP.NET, VB.NET, and C#

Earning potential

Generic student level programming can go as low as $10/hour, while highly specialized professional programming (such as .NET) can go as high as $40/hour.

By the numbers

  • 115,000+ buyers
  • 247,000+ coders
  • 8,000+ projects/month

Barrier to entry

There are optional requirements (such as completing certification tests or placing a deposit to guarantee completion) that increase the odds of winning a project, but they are not required to participate. In addition, there are no monthly fees to bid.

Words of wisdom

William Murphy started working with RentACoder in December 2008, following his return to the U.S. After creating the basic profile and getting started with the bidding process, William quickly discovered he had a lot to learn. He offers these tips to avoid his "uphill struggle."

1. Before getting started, clearly define your marketable skills and work experience. Outline your preferred project methodology and write a professional code of ethics. If you have a portfolio, or the ability to develop one, this is a huge plus.

2. Create a professional profile on RentACoder. Promote only the skills and experience you defined as marketable. Avoid fluffing or padding your profile. Keep in mind that you are selling a service and strong customer focus and work ethic are an absolute must.

3. Expert Ratings! This is the best way to prove your technical ability to potential buyers. Seriously, if you have mastery of programming languages or other skills, these exam ratings will help demonstrate proficiency. Expert ratings are viewable for all buyers on your profile.

4. Create basic templates for submitting bids, bid follow ups, Thank Yous for accepting bids, and ongoing communication. It takes a lot of time and effort to win new bids and complete project work. A consistent and professional approach to project communication is key. Buyers do recognize this and appreciate the effort.

5. Be consistent with the bidding process. Establish a minimum number of bids to submit each day and follow through. Bid only on projects for which you are qualified and know you can complete. Keep on top of the bidding process. For any bids that remain open for an extended period of time, send a follow up message and possibly tip the winning balance in your favor.

6. You won the bid! Congratulations. Now it's time to get started with the work. If you submitted your bid with a clearly defined scope of work, deliverables and timeline, you are well ahead of the game. Simply follow through with your project plan and complete the work.

7. Maintain constant communication with the buyer. This is the buyer's project and they want to be involved with the process. Success or failure will largely be determined by your ability to communicate effectively with buyers.

8. I want to note this here, although it's really a no-brainer. Always backup your work. Before starting any project, archive all of the relevant data. Invariably, something will go wrong and you will want to have a backup plan handy.

9. Lastly, there are plenty of reference materials and resources on the RentACoder site to help get new coders started. Always strive for improvement and remain committed to providing the highest quality level of service.

Average gig

The seller works offsite from anywhere in the world they have an internet connection and delivers the work over the Web. The average time is 10 days, but projects vary widely from 24 hours to 10-12 months.

Michael Leonguerrero's most interesting project was the first one he landed back in 2003 -- and it was definitely not the average gig. "Put simply," says Michael, "I had to add a function [to an existing program] so that the client could use a USB game pad to control the existing program's interface. What made the project both challenging and unique was that I didn't have the hardware to run the program that needed the game pad feature modification, so I had to code the changes and send the code over to the client so that they could test it out; basically, I had to code blindfolded. There was no instant bug fix cycle, as I had to wait for the client to run any code fixes just to see if I was on the right track. It was a wonderful feeling when the project was successfully completed; I felt like I grew as a programmer."

William Murphy also stresses RentACoder's effect on his professional growth: "All of my projects, large and small, have offered various elements of challenge. More than anything, I enjoy working with the latest available ecommerce technology. The current buzz is all about Magento and I have managed to build an impressive portfolio using this product over the last five months."

The ideal candidate

RentACoder is equally suited to a part-time and full-time freelance coders. Leonguerrero notes that he has met several clients on RAC that provide him with steady work.

Next up:

Also in this series: Elance | TopCoder | CrossLoop | RentACoder | | LivePerson

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