Outsourcing Website Design – Part 1
Anyone that knows me knows that I’m not a big fan of outsourcing to imbalanced economies. I think it takes away high-tech jobs when the playing field isn’t level – and with the new “global” economy, the balance is far from being fair. I feel that there needs to be some throttling to the drain versus letting the flood gates wide open. But seeing that it is the way that it is, I decided to put my money where my mouth is.
For your information, this test is conducted on my own project and coming out of my own pocket. I am not taking any of my client’s work and sending it overseas. The risk and burden is completely on me.
For a few years now, I’ve considered taking my main website, LunarStudio and have it converted over to a WordPress site. LunarStudio actually predates most blogging/content management systems. It’s one of the first sites that was perfectly centered without the use of Flash – I know it was an unusual design at the time because I had to design it myself with no code to reference. Over the years, it has climbed high up on the search engine rankings and the format has been copied repeatedly. I’ve been hesitant to redesign the site because it is ranked so highly. In theory, the new WordPress site would like identical to the way it currently looks. I’d benefit from the WordPress conversion due to easier access to additional plugins such as metrics, forms, etc. The biggest benefit would be in my ability to update the website with newer work. As of now, it’s a labor-intensive manual process of resizing my images to several sizes, creating two separate thumbnails, watermarking, copying code, pasting, entering keywords, linking to other images, saving, then uploading. To be frank, it’s a royal pain in the ass. I would rather be able to just simply upload and not have to think about it.
Now, I could code the new template myself, but it would probably take a few days in order to do things right. There’s a lot of things which happen “under the hood” since it is mostly gallery and little text. This would have to be preserved. Also, I’m not too familiar with WordPress galleries and how that whole structure works. I’m sure I could figure it out, but that would take some additional time.
A few days ago, I started looking online for any easy suggestions as to how to convert a site over to WordPress as well as some pre-existing galleries for reference. At the top of the results were some links from a website called freelancer.com. I saw that another person had asked if anyone could perform a conversion for him, and I noted that the rates were extremely low. People were bidding in the $50-$200 range.One “freelancer” had over 150 10-star ratings and was willing to do this guy’s work for $75. I couldn’t help but think, “glad I’m not in website design…” The fact is that no one in the United States can compete with rates that low for a few days worth of work.
I couldn’t help but think, “well I can waste three days of my time or make it somebody else’s problem.” I’ve had a rather busy month of work and simply needed a break.
Now, I don’t feel bad about giving somebody that job overseas. The last I checked, the average salary pre-global economic meltdown in India was $3.50/hour US. Multiply that by eight hours and that gives you $28/day or $84 for three days. Keep in mind that a loaf of bread over there probably costs 15 cents compared to $2.50 here. In some other countries, $100 is more than some people make in entire month. My point is that money is relative to the cost of living depending on where you live. They may be doing pretty well for themselves all things considered.
So I signed up for freelancer.com and decided to give it a test. I added $150 to the account and posted the job. It read:
Hi. I need parts of my static website, www.lunarstudio.com converted over to a WordPress template. I know WordPress fairly well, but I do not have the time to do this myself.
The pages which needed to become a template are the following:
You can probably use Flexi Pages Widget (unless you have a better suggestion) for the left-side Navbar, even a basic online template creator for the overall page structure, and a gallery plugin for the gallery page. Lightbox Plus is to be used for the lightbox.
I’d like it to be simple to use, clean, and retain all of my underlying SEO structure. I should be able to easily reuse these pages and insert my own information later. SEO is important!
Thank you and good luck bidding!
Enter The Freelancer – 1st Day
I immediately received a reply from an individual in Pakistan regarding my project. He had close to 65 10-star ratings and the reviews were nothing short of stellar. I figured, “what could possibly go wrong, especially for that kind of money?” I confirmed him and he added me to messenger.
Within the first few minutes of us connecting, I was barraged with a two hour question and answer session.
I told him in the very beginning that it was fairly simple – “take website. Make website WordPress.”
But for whatever reason, that simple concept seemed to get lost in translation.I wondered why he even took the job as I thought I was pretty clear in the job description.
Questions aside, I was anxious to get moving along on this. I set up a dummy website with a WordPress install that he could work on. I gave him author status, an email address, and FTP access.
On top of all that, he suddenly insisted on having access to the database which made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. Now, if you know WordPress, there’s absolutely no reason why you need access to the database unless you are coding a plugin by hand. I wasn’t asking him to do that. I figured, “well, maybe he knows something that I don’t.”
So while I’m setting up all his access rights, he keeps on writing – asking me if I had things set up for him yet. Now he’s starting to get on my nerves.
Then he asks, “can you send me the money now?”
I replied, “what?!?”
“This is our first time working – I want to make sure you will pay.”
“Okay, let me check. Okay, I have it. I’m going to bed now. Talk to you tomorrow – I look forward to working with you.”
For $140 and considering that he had all those ratings, I didn’t want to sit there and argue with him. He already killed enough time, so I looked into freelancer.com a little closer and noticed that there was an escrow option.
I asked, “are you fine with me putting it into escrow?”
“Yes, that’s fine. Did you send me that information?”
“Yes I sent the access information to your email.”
And he hops offline.
Exit The Freelancer – 2nd Day
On the second day, I wake up, pour myself a cup of coffee, and hop on my computer to check emails. My computer automatically logs me on to messenger.
My new Pakistani friend starts to write immediately.
“Charles, I misquoted you. This is a lot more work than I expected.”
“If you can, perhaps you can put more money in my account. Of course this is not a requirement.”
A sinking feeling starts to come about.
I answer with silence and now I’m starting to get a little peeved.
A few minutes later he writes again, “I need access to your main lunarstudio website.”
Now I’m beginning to realize this guy is simply incompetent. I write back, “what?!? Why the heck do you need that? Just open up a browser, right-click and save as. No, you’re not getting access to my main website. No one does.”
“Okay okay okay.”
A couple of minutes later, he writes – “Okay – check your wordpress website. I have completed a page.”
I’m thinking, well he’s fast. I hop onto the blog which I set up for him to work on and it’s the default WordPress installation theme. The only thing he changed was to stick one of my pictures into the body. So I’m starting to think, well it’s probably a browser cache issue. So I start cleaning out my cache but nothing is changing. So I write him:
“It doesn’t look anything like my website!”
“Oh Charles, you told me not to worry about design.”
“I said, the design has already been created by me – all you needed to do is copy it…”
So I hop back on Freelancer.com and now I’m dead set on canceling this moron. I notice that the money I put into escrow has disappeared. Meanwhile, I’m trying to figure out how and where the cancel button is.
He writes, “are you there?”
“Yeah – I’m here. I’m trying to figure out how to cancel you.”
“Okay okay okay. That is fine.”
“Where the hell is my money by the way? You took it out?!?”
“Yes but I can refund you right away. It’s done.”
On to Round Two
Fortunately, he did manage to refund me. While I haven’t posted all of our chat, I think he got the hint that I wasn’t going to play games with him. If he didn’t, I was going to trash his reviews. So the money is back in the account and I figured I’d give it another shot – this time I was going to carefully look through people’s portfolios and wait a few days before selecting someone.
Judging by my first day’s experience, working with this guy has been nothing short of a nightmare. Sure, he speaks some english. I can’t imagine working with someone that knows half as much. I don’t how much of it was actually miscommunication, how much of it was stupidity, and how much of it was him trying to scam. Asking for access to my database – that still has me puzzled. I did lock him into one container but as soon as I canceled, I removed all of his permissions. Was he trying to hijack my website to hold it ransom or did he simply get in over his head? I just don’t see how this guy could have 65 10-star ratings.