Can you really rent-a-coder?

Over the past year or two I’ve kept an eye on the various online consulting sites – Elance,, RentACoder, oDesk. I’ve actually used RentACoder once (as a buyer on a very small project) and was satisfied with the results – though I suspect I spent more time writing the spec and managing the programmers than I would if I had done the work myself.

I do think we are likely moving into a recession the likes of which our parents and grandparents talked about (shhhh… let’s not use the D word). But I also think it is a very different world – and whatever ends up happening will not be like the 1930’s. One of the big differences is, of course, the Internet.

These online consultant sites (and more that I expect will appear) are part of the difference. I expect more people (not just software developers) will find themselves taking on project based jobs as compared to employment as things get worse.

Yesterday I wrote a column introducing these four online consulting sites – if you are not familiar with them you might want to check it out.

For those who are familiar with the concept, and perhaps with one or two of them, you might be interested in my follow-up column that compares key features of all four sites.

I’d be interested in hearing of experiences you may have had (good or bad) with any of them.

12 Responses to “Can you really rent-a-coder?”

  1. Raj Chaudhuri Says:

    I have done a few projects on Rentacoder, and my experience has generally been positive. The overall framework works well. Most of the buyers I have had the pleasure of working with are nice people with genuine needs, who are not just looking at saving a buck.

    Sadly, the quality of buyers (note: not projects) seems to have gone down in the recent past. I will refrain from commenting about the quality of “coders”, as that song is played often enough.

  2. Yahya Says:

    Well Dan, I have done 50+ projects at RAC (including 20+ of repeating customers). And almost all of my projects went really well, except in a couple where I had some serious technical and timing issues, was unable to deliver and messed up ultimately.

    There are a couple of ingredients for success for coders/buyers
    – Play fair! Whether it is about budget, requirements, issues, personal problems, whatever… Never lie
    – Patience. You have to be patient, understanding, ready to go an extra mile with an smile…Looks like an ideal condition? Yes! you have to be/act ideal to compete thousands of coders around the world.


  3. Gil Megidish Says:

    I used elance, rentacoder and odesk. Quite frankly, it’s hard work and I lost more than I gained.

    First of all, I’m a perfectionist. I work hard and keep clean code. I tried delegating out the script work, stuff that others can easily do and would free my time to do more complicated work.

    They all failed, but I’m still giving it a try. I find language to be the first barrier. Then there’s the expectation (again, perfectionist.) Time is also a factor.

    Sometimes it’s just easier, cheaper and faster to get the work done yourself (AND be happy with the quality of work 🙂

    I can elaborate with examples for a great 1000 words post. I don’t think it’s suitable for a textarea comment 🙂

  4. Rent-a-slave Says:

    If even McDonald’s won’t hire you, there’s always Rentacoder. Right now, there’s somebody there wanting to get a clone of Twitter written (plus feature enhancements). His budget is $220, which isn’t even enough to get a McDonald’s employee to flip burgers for a 39-hour week.

    I’ve done a few projects on that site, and invariably you end up working your ass off until your wife leaves you and you get radiation sickness from your monitor, all for a paycheck too small to buy the groceries you ate during the project.

    The projects are all either completely impossible, or they’re mindless and repetitive, and 98% of them could be encompassed by a single library if not for the fact that if you wrote such a library, Rentacoder would make you give the copyright away to the first two-bit hack to ask you for a Web site clone…. and even if you could legally use such a library, every buyer thinks he knows more than a programmer, so they’ll reject your library because it’s written in Python, and they want the project to be done in PHP because it has a shorter name.

  5. Marc de Graauw Says:

    You can use RAC, Elance and so to your advantage, but the key tip is: if you live in a rich country, be a buyer, not a bidder.

    See for tips for buyers.

  6. Jimbo Says:

    I’ve used Rent-A-Coder mostly for modular projects (ones I can integrate into my software) when I couldn’t figure something out, or when it would take me a month while it takes someone else a day or two, or when I can’t find anyone else to do the job. Though there’s one person I’d rather use than anyone else, but my lips are sealed. 🙂

  7. Buyer Says:

    Hi Dan, I have had 70+ projects done at RAC with scores of 10/10 but I’ve got to warn you – as a buyer that if coders don’t want to let their code be tested Rentacoder seems quite happy to let them simply refuse and even threaten violence (so don’t choose anyone physically close to you) or hacking without penalty .

    I was horrified about this but rentacoder seemed to accept the coder’s statement that there is nothing illegal about issuing threats of violence over the internet and even penalised me for complaining (politely).

    Yahya suggests “”There are a couple of ingredients for success for coders/buyers” A month ago I would have agreed 100% – now I know better . . .

    Starting “- Play fair!” – I think some Rentacoder arbitrators take politeness as slimeyness and requests to have the deliverable tested as troublemaking – it might have been the case in the past that RAC admired fair play but now they want the cheapest solution to arbitration and there is no point in trying to be nice – far from it in fact.

    “- Patience.” – well, if the coder (who has failed to deliver working code) starts threatening that they are counting every minute spent and will get it back from you somehow regardless of Rentacoder you are pretty much forced to close in their favour if Rentacoder will not help.

  8. Buyer Says:

    PS: I meant threats from the coder of course not RAC – although some people would say that it serves me right for choosing a coder with a picture of what appears to be a skinhead on his web site!! My stupid refusal to pre-judge I think ;o)

  9. I'm your code bitch Says:

    ditto everything Rent-a-slave Says

    stay away from – its slavery with a twist
    you know its gonna be low paying
    and then you don’t get payed anyway

    I’m in the middle of being ripped off by some hill billy business owner buyer after slaving my ass off for a good week in every attempt to make the buyer happy so that he would “give me a good rating” and “continue to give me chicken shit payment” on all his other fantastic projects.
    Fuck that.
    F*** you selfish business owners who think its ok to have someone work for a whole week for $300 and only pay them $150.
    Don’t get suprised when you get a visit in the night from an honest guy gone bad because his honest sweat and pain can’t even put food on the table.

  10. Trent Hill Says:

    Rent-A-Coder, and the sites like it, seem to just function as tools of communication and facilitation. A lot of people will blame the tool when it is utilized in a way that is less-than-satisfactory, but that makes as much sense as blaming a hammer when Jane swings it at Bob. It isn’t the tool’s fault, it is the individual’s who is mishandling the tool.
    With any site like this one is going to encounter both satisfactory and unsatisfactory coders, but the difference is that Rent-A-Coder provides a host of security measures (like keeping money in escrow until the project is done) for both sides.

  11. Ally Alkane Says:

    RentACoder is just a tool–that is an important fact that all its users should remember. This means that the ridiculous actions of buyers who expect eBay clones for $200 should not be perceived to be the fault of RentACoder. What they provide is a tool, one which many coders and businesses find useful. While it may not be useful for your particular interests, personality, or wage level–it is useful for many.

  12. D'Wyld Says:

    Well I’m glad you are happy with Rent A Coder. We have been embroiled in an arbitration horror for weeks. The coder we hired never finished the project and although it was a “Photo Contest Script” you could not upload photos (or anything else, it simply did not work).

    RentACoder and Rafeek our arbitrator is still, after weeks trying to determine if 1. Photo uploads was part of the contract (it was on the FIRST LINE LOL) and if so 2. Is it a cosmetic or vital thing.

    Let me think…….Does a photo contest need photos? I can imagine the entries “Imagine my entry being the BEST and CUTEST BABY in the WORLD. Much much better than all the other babies in this contest. Please vote for my cute kid that you can’t see lol

    Talk about a fiasco and nightmare into hell.

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