Where To Get Clients, Part One: RentACoder

In the recently posted article about freelance I didn't mention how to find clients. The answer is simple: communication, communication and communication again. Keep in touch with you past clients, ex-co-workers, ex-classmates, make friends in professional community, etc. My ex-co-worker Ivan from an open source project which was never finished, gave me a link to a freelance which brought me where I am now. You see? You never know who could help you. Never lose contacts.

But what if you're completely new to freelance work and noone can recoomend you or have aby work for you? Then you go Google and find a bunch of sites which make money from connecting software buyer and software coders to each other, register, post a resume and start browsing through the list of open projects. When you find a project that interests you, you try to assure the buyer, you're the perfect man for that work, and if you succeed you start working.

I started from a local Russian/Ukrainian service called Weblancer. No need to place a link here, as it isn't interesting for anyone been a very bad service. I list it here just as an example of what a service of your choice should never be.
It looked cool with a lightweight design. All the text were readable, but it had ads placed in two or three places. Not the banner of other project of the same company, but a usual paid ad. I was young and unexperienced, so it didn't bug me, I didn't think about why do a company need to place advertisement for $200/mo if make money from coder-buyer interface.
Well, yes, I was lucky enough to get there when it was still possible to find a work me. I finished a couple quick'n'dirty projects and had been paid directly by the buyer. Yes! That site didn't force people to communicate and send money through it. It was just an option. An if you chosen to pay through site, the commission was 10% and there were no safe escrow mechanism: both buyers and coders were unprotected.
Pretty soon, the site added a lot of paid features for coders (like seeing other coders' bids, clients' contact info, placing image into CV) and buyers (don't know which exactly). And I still didn't understand what that means: they couldn't get any revenue from primary functionality.
I left Weblancer later, where two or three people appeared there: they took most of the projects, and then started new with the same objectives and, in their turn hired real coders for a half price. Or even 1/3. Maybe even less, I didn't really knew what does development cost.

After leaving that site I haven't any freelance work for 6 months (and had to do boooring data entry work in dental clinic) until Ivan invited me to RentACoder. Compared to previous site, it was Heaven.

It features safe escrow system: the funds are transferred to RAC when buyer chooses coder for a project, and they only (or the part of therm) released when the project (or the part of it) is finished. If the project is canceled or the coder failed to deliver the work, the funds are returned to the buyer.

There are a lot of coders and buyers. Of course, more coders means harder concurrention, but you're good enough, aren't you? And more coders – more bad coders. Actually, my success is built on other coder's unprofessionalism: we both placed a bid, he won, but failed, and the buyer inveted me again. I succeed. I still work with that guy (Hi, Leif! I know, you're reading me through loonstart), he's great.

Payments are sent twice a month, and there were 4 ways to get your payment: check (by courier mail or by plain mail – first is fast and reliable, second is slower but cheap), wire bank-to-bank transfer, PayPal and Western Union.

Arbitrations. If something's gone wrong and coder or buyer violated contract, they can self-mediate the conflict or ask RAC person for arbitration. I never had to use it, but Ivan says, the process is pretty clear for both sides.

When the work is done or failed, both coder and buyer are encouraged to rate each other and write a couple lines of review. Most people leave ratings and a few neglect reviews. You will get “A great coder”, “Not everything went clear, but we worked it out”, “Accept his bids!”, «A++", etc frequently, because you're good enough for that.

The commission is 15% (or $3, whatever is more), and the buyer can add funds to his account from credit card or PayPal.

What RentACoder lacks is more pay options for coders: I would really appreciate e-gold or something like ePassporte. For that I rate it 9 of 10 points.

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Category: work Words: freelance, freelance sites, review, rentacoder




I do some freelance work too from time to time. I've got my connections as you said mostly from other old relations or clients. Regarding rentacoder, I can say that I visit it from time to time but it seems there's never a serious project I would apply to. Mostly it's homework for students or writing or translation work or web design. Mostly priced not above 100$. Of course I do not browse the whole collection of bid requests, but for me rentacoder doesn't seem to be a source for really serious coding work. I just (recommend to) rely on my (your) existing connections. Nice articles though about freelancing, your first one really got me thinking about my coding-habits. In fact why am I writing here I should be working... however :)



15.04.2007 // 03:46 [ Link ]

Reply from author


As for me, most projects on rentacoder are between $100 and $300, and the other large group of bid requests is really under $100 which is usually kind of homework or quick fix/software install. These projects are usually the most profitable: you can make $30-$100 for a half-hour instead of working during a week for $200–300 :)

The projects between $300 and $1000 appear (in php/MySQL category) about twice or thrice a week, and real large projects usually come up 1–2 times/month. That's normal, I suggest, people usually try to give a big work to a person they already know rather than to some stranger in any website.

Regards, Alexei

16.04.2007 // 11:44 [ Link ]



I'm freelancer myself and I can only agree to your opinion. However there's one more way to get customers: posting your resume to online forums. This option has worked for me more than once, and this is perfect way to get new contacts.

Of course, there is chance of getting screwed up by somebody, but if you're starting with small projects, this chance is acceptable.

15.04.2007 // 17:35 [ Link ]

Reply from author

Well, probably. Russian online communities are pretty conservative, and it's hard for a new person to get something there. I've once found a client that way and was screwed up, like you said. It was my first freelance experience, may be even when I was in school, so I didn't try to freelance for some time after that.

And now I mostly rely on my existing connections.

16.04.2007 // 11:36 [ Link ]


Actually I'm from post-USSR country- Latvia.

May be I'm just lucky but I have already found two customers for me which I fully trust (and have met them IRL after the job was done).

Всего доброго, Reinis ;)

16.04.2007 // 22:21 [ Link ]

Reply from author

Thanks for assuring me, unicode is OK in my blog :) There're problems with UTF-8 in emails, though... Anyway, I've got this blog in Russian (well... it's a bid abandoned right now, but I'll manage to update it soon), too, and Russian comments are welcome there :)

Well, it may be my bad luck or a good luck of yours, I don't really know. There are few online people I know in “so-called reality”. Especially preferring to work with western clients. Few people in Russia would pay me even $5/hr for distant work.

16.04.2007 // 22:36 [ Link ]


Well my russian language is pretty weak, as I'm only 18 years old and I'm a student at middle school. I can read russian very well but my speaking skills are awful. Not to mention my writing skills :D

But if we return to original topic, in my opinion freelancing is a great way to earn some money to spend on ehm.. personal purposes. If you know what I mean ;)

Regards, Reinis

16.04.2007 // 22:50 [ Link ]

Comment Deleted

Reply from author


I'm there already, and I'll review it once I get any results from there.

16.04.2007 // 11:45 [ Link ]