A number of times in the past I’ve had ideas for software or websites that I haven’t had the time to develop. Looking at offshore development, the price seemed to be great, but I was always nervous about what the result would be. I eventually tried a virtual assistant, but had a bad experience.
Recently I had an idea for a website that would provide blog recommendations, using a collaborative filtering approach. Most people are familiar with this from Amazon recommendations or StumbleUpon. The basic idea is that users are matched to other users with similar tastes, then recommendations are made based on what these similar users liked in the past. This site has been built and is live at https://newblogfinder.com.
When I’ve tried projects like this in the past, I’ve written up a description of what I’m looking for and posted it on sites like Freelancer or guru. I would get a ton of offers, in broken English, that were too good to believe. None of them wrote anything that lead me to believe they understood what I wanted developed, let alone were capable of building it. Each would say they had experience with this sort of project.
Finally, this time I had a bid from a developer on guru who responded in a way that actually indicated he understood what I was trying to build. I had originally intended to have the website built in Drupal and wanted to deploy it on Bluehost. Tim and other bidders on the project were concerned that the shared hosting on Bluehost for Drupal would be a bad experience. Tim proposed that micro-frameworks would be more appropriate for the project and had a number of clarifying questions – which further reassured me that he was going to be able to deliver.
I accepted Tim’s bid, and put $410.01 in escrow at guru – so he would be reassured that he’d get paid. Apparently if we’d gotten into a fight, guru will adjudicate the situation and refund money or pay it out to the freelancer as is appropriate. I believe there is a 9% fee that the freelancer pays when they get their money. I suspect the amount I paid went from $400 to $410.10 due to currency fluctuations or something like that.
At the end of the process, I released payment to Tim and we left each other positive reviews.
During this process, when Tim was working hard building this site and fixing problems my wife and I closed on a house. I paid the home inspector $525 for a single morning’s work inspecting the property, and I felt that Tim worked far longer and harder at more specialized tasks than the home inspector did. In short, I felt his work was worth far more than it cost me – I was very pleased.
I’m not sure that I would have had as good an experience with the average freelancer, so I’m glad I held out until I found someone I was comfortable moving forward with. I’d definitely go to Tim first for any future projects – which I’m sure will hurt guru’s business model if people cut out from it once they’ve found someone they like to work with. In fact, I’ve already referred a friend working on a larger software project directly to him.
My recommendation for anyone thinking about offshoring software development is to start small and try to get a feel for the process and who you are working with.
Have you ever offshored software development? Have you ever worked at a bigger company that was offshoring on a larger scale? What was your experience like?