I find this is a question that comes up very quickly to business owners looking to hire a developer/freelancer. Why would you hire a developer from North America when you can outsource to someone in India or China? I briefly touched upon this in a previous post about things you should know about freelancing, and I will explain this a bit more in detail based on my experiences.
For starters, let’s say you’re in San Francisco and your work hours are 9~5. There is a 12.5 hour difference between you and your developer if you were to outsource. This is ignoring the fact that many freelance workers can work obscure hours, including myself. However, more often than not, you will find that nearly all of your communication with an outsourced developer will be via asynchronous communication, which can be extremely problematic when tackling projects of higher complexity. It also means that any urgent issues will take at least 24 hours to resolve (if you’re asleep and your SaaS comes back online, it’s not completely the same as you seeing it come online and getting a chance to make sure everything is in order).
Before I continue, I’d like to point out that I have worked with freelancers in India and China both directly (hired by myself), and indirectly (hired by my clients). Not everyone is aware that there are significant cultural differences between North America and India. One of the most notable ones I like to use as an example is that developers in India tend to be “yes (wo)men”.
Working as a consultant, I’m used to providing suggestions and identifying bottlenecks in businesses. It’s part of the job. I command the rates I do because these clients have seen the results I’ve delivered, understand I very much care about their business, and want them to be as successful as possible.
They have problems or goals for their business and they want me to use my skills and experience to tackle those problems. Since they are paying for my time and trust that I will help make them successful, my opinions and suggestions are taken seriously. They may not always agree with these suggestions, but that’s good because it moves us forward and allows us to further test and analyze these ideas, quantitatively.
However, being used to this kind of process makes things very different in other areas of my life. I regularly visit developer communities online to see what’s going on and seek out interesting questions people have. And after all this time, I’ve found most of the people who go online looking for “suggestions/advice” really aren’t looking for suggestions.
I’ve noticed that being a freelancer generally brings a lot of interest among friends, family, and acquaintances. There are a couple questions that I’ve been asked so frequently that I’ve decided to answer them in a blog post. Whether you are someone who has lots of experience in your field and want to break into freelancing, or if you or someone you know is looking to begin freelancing to start a career with little experience, I hope some of the things I’ve learned will help you.
“Where do you find clients (or how do I start finding my first clients)?”
The majority of my clients come from referrals. Previous clients usually have connections who are in similar fields of work, or are starting new businesses. If their experience with you has been good, they will not hesitate to refer you. This is why establishing a good relationship with my clients has been a big focus in my work.
If you are just starting out and do not have previous clients to work as referrals, start by letting people know you are looking for freelance work. I generally do not like taking close friends/family as clients, but these are the people most willing to vouch for you as a person and a professional if you do not have existing clients. Continue reading