Where to find a programmer for a one-off budget job?

Discussion in 'Web Design and Development' started by Makosuke, Mar 1, 2012.

  1. Makosuke macrumors 603

    Aug 15, 2001
    The Cool Part of CA, USA
    I've been kicking around an idea for a timeline-format anime actor database (a bit like a drastically less ambitious IMDB type thing) for a while, and have come to the simultaneous realization that it's A) a cool enough idea to try and do, and B) I don't have sufficient PHP/database skills to do it right, nor do I have the time to learn then apply them.

    Which leaves me with the prospect of hiring one or more people to build the framework it for me, and probably crowdsource the content (maybe use Amazon Mechanical Turk for something other than pagerank spam).

    Except I have absolutely no idea where to start looking for programmers for a job like this. I'm on a tight enough budget that I'm not going to be starting up a full company or anything, just hiring somebody for a one-off job, so maybe students or something is the way to go. I don't really have any idea.

    Where would y'all recommend? Good forums in which to post job openings, maybe? Also, any useful suggestions for getting something built without spending a fortune (aside from "do it yourself," of course)?

    Suggestions appreciated!
  2. rdowns macrumors Penryn


    Jul 11, 2003
  3. balamw Moderator


    Staff Member

    Aug 16, 2005
    New England
    You could post here, but only in Marketplace.

  4. jtara macrumors 65816

    Mar 23, 2009
    Here is the dilemma you face if you don't have the skills to do it yourself: you may not have the skills to specify the job, nor to evaluate the ability of the person you hire to do the job.

    If you are going to use one of the freelance sites, and especially if you will be hiring somebody from overseas who may not have good English skills, then you will have to specify what is wanted very specifically and often in very technical terms.

    I'm afraid that to get the most leverage out of those types of sites, you need to have good technical skills yourself. In fact, it helps a lot if you have much greater technical skills than those doing the work for you. In that scenario, the freelance sites can be a good way to get a job done more quickly and perhaps at lower cost than you could otherwise.

    You will have to sort through dozens of low-ball proposals that perhaps look attractive on the surface, but, in reality, you will get what you pay for. Yes, it is some help that these sites have "reputation" systems, but, ultimately, you need to be able to evaluate the result and do technical management.

    IMO, it's not really for the beginner - even a skilled programmer will face some hurdles doing this kind of oursourcing until they have learned how to do effective outsourcing. You are only introducing additional complications.

    Given that you are on a budget, I think the best thing might be to find a local student to do the job, who you can meet with in person to make sure that there is a clear understanding of what is needed, and make sure you meet often to clarify as you go along. You can expect some wrong turns, and you will need to make course corrections based on feedback, and be gracious about equally splitting the "blame". In fact, the most common problem is going to be misunderstandings due to lack of complete specification.

    It might be good to go on an hourly basis, and have the student you hire work on your premises. That way, you will learn something as well, and misunderstandings can be corrected immediately. You want to see incremental results early and often.

    It also would not be impossible to work out something where this could be a class assignment, an internship, or some kind of work-study program. However, a school would probably be a lot more interested in doing this with an established software development firm rather than an entrepeneur with no software development experience. But do keep yourself open to these sorts of opportunities, as well.
  5. Makosuke thread starter macrumors 603

    Aug 15, 2001
    The Cool Part of CA, USA
    Suggestions and input greatly appreciated.

    Jtara -- your points about properly defining the scope of work and exact requirements are certainly wise, and I understood going in that not being able to afford proper oversight was part of the bargain. I probably should have noted that I'm not a total novice, though; my day job is a control systems programmer, and while PHP isn't my language I can read and follow it well enough to make minor modifications to existing software. I'm sure you could slip poor code past me, but probably not total incompetence.

    I'll check out elance.com (the marketplace here doesn't usually have much in the way of job postings, so I hadn't really considered that), but maybe going for a local college student through Craigslist or a flyer or something is my best bet. I do live in a college town (work on campus, in fact), but the CS department isn't very big, and I guess I'm left wondering whether spirited and cheap inexperienced student labor will be more effective than disinterested and cheap foreign labor. Being able to talk in person certainly has its advantages, though.

    Any further suggestions or advice of course welcomed.

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