I agree with you Preston. I never really expect a client to have technical knowledge because that's what they're hiring me for.
When clients don't have a clear idea of what they want, they need to hire a consultant, and not a developer. Or like you said, be ready and willing to pay for the time before getting a solid estimate. Scope creep happens frequently with development work and the client usually tries to blame the developer. Some clients are so ill-prepared that they end up in bad situations, and hire the wrong person for the job that just ends up screwing them over. This does have a negative impact because they go into the next hire all pissed off with less money and spaghetti code that's essentially worthless to them.
There's also the problem that they want estimates for everything that realistically should take days or weeks of discussion just to itemize and crystalize their needs. They want an estimate based on next-to-nothing descriptions and they want freelancers to give accurate estimates. Personally, I don't want to spend more than a couple of hours writing up an estimate and a proposal for a job that I may not end up getting.
At the same time, this should never be a situation that even the most ill-prepared client should run into. The problem is that there are too many freelancers that will throw out bids in the hopes that they will be hired. Then after weeks of dragging their feet and producing junk; the client wants to end the relationship and find someone more talented to take over. The talented person doesn't want to fix the garbage that was produced by a team of unskilled laborers.
It's just a giant mess all around. Both clients and freelancers take part in the situations. Upwork is designed to allow these situations to happen over and over again. The solution should start with demanding both freelancers and clients be more prepared for what's happening.
Take WriterAccess as an example. If you haven't used them before then you should take a look. They don't just have an open system like Upwork. Each of their writers are vetted multiple times over. Their clients are guided and the whole experience is great. If you are unprepared to hire, then you are given more guidance and you are even assigned an account manager to help you every step of the way.
hear hear on the coding disaster, Daniel!
My frustration is "re-training" customers. They think that they can rattle off an idea and then someone goes and codes it. Doesn't work like that. I have to explain that businesses hire BAs and PMs specifically for gathering requirements and getting everyone on the same page. Requirements are nailed down, business signs off on it, and coders go do their thing. When things change, it's a change in scope and costs more and deadline is pushed forward. That's the way it works. You can't just keep changing specs and not expect delays and extra costs, but that's what customers think when they work with a poor dev who doesn't know the biz!
Fortunately, you can kinda vet the client a bit by their reaction to being candid and guiding them. If they argue, avoid. If they work with you, you might be able to work with them.
Most projects are a complete waste of time and money for the client when they go with the cheap guy. And funny enough I charge fewer hours at a higher rate where the cheap guys say it will cost 2-3x making it actually cost more for the client. They see "$10/hour" and think they are getting a bargain when really they would save time by just throwing the money in a fire and hiring someone else.
This is a very good topic. I think lack of skills, experience or even the mindset to do freelancing harms all of us. I helped one of my clients hire help awhile back by going through the freelancers who had applied. I was amazed at how many really had no skills that were applying, or worse yet who said they had the skills and when hired to do the job had no skills whatsoever.
The thing that I saw happen more then anything is not only the lack of skills, but the mindset to do freelance work. I have seen a lot of excuses for missing work, not showing up or just plain not getting things done. My child was sick, my dog was sick, my computer for the 10th time this week was not working, My Internet was down.
I think a lot of people do not have what it takes to do freelance work. One of the biggest things I have seen is no initiative. That they cannot do something without someone holding their hand. I would go into a story about someone once telling me it was my job to help him and how I got upset that I was doing the same job they were so how was it my job. Or the comment of you expect me to find answers reading all of that? LOL.. and my reply was yes, I do...
But I think it hurts everyone, I believe if you don't have skills, or you want someone to hold your hand and can't figure out how to do something on your own you need to go back to a to a regular job where they will hold your hand and tell you what to do.
It is frustrating and I want to say to someone of them please don't waste everyone's time, but I don't as we were all new and maybe just maybe they will figure out what they are doing.
I mean there are simple jobs out there available, but even data entry you need to know how to use Excel or Google and you need to be able to follow directions and I have seen some who can't do that.
I agree Suzanne!
I edited my post after I re-read it and it sounded really harsh. Some of the questions we get in the forum make me shudder in disbelief. There's a reason why they aren't finding jobs because it would be a miracle if they did.
Perhaps I am being harsh, but I believe it is not harsh it is reality. Not everyone has the initiative to work on a schedule and do a job without someone telling them how to do it nor does everyone have skills. I have seen a few jobs where Preston did get a bit cranky (and Preston, no I am not condemning you actually stating I understand) where they were someone had just finished high school had kids at home and their profiles read that they had children and wanted to stay home with nothing else in their profile. No skills, no certifications, no experience but thought they could get some one to train them.
Clients hire someone because they don't have the skills, they certainly do not want to spend the time training someone. Although this is not always true as I have a client that trained me for some things I didn't do, but that was after I was hired for something else. I also learn things very quickly and had a good understanding of what the job entailed so it was not like going in with absolutely no skills.
I understand all jobs there is a learning curve, but thinking you can go in with absolutely no skills just doesn't cut it.
I was saying that my original post sounded harsh. I just thought people would be offended by my honest opinion. I was basically saying that some people think that they have skills, but that they actually don't. It would be like saying they are an editor or a writer, when they have spelling and grammar in their profile overview. Just because they have Word and Excel, and can copy paste, doesn't mean that they could call it a skill.
To me, a skill is something that is honed to a certain degree.
I have hired graphics designers in the past who would save logos in a lossy .jpg format. Saving in the appropriate format is pretty much graphics design 101.
I totally agree with what Daniel is saying.
What confounds me, when I scroll through the job postings, are the number of freelancers who apply for certain jobs, yet, when you take a look at their profiles, none of the skills needed for the job are listed there. A writer doth not a programmer make, for instance.
Where I HAVE branched out, it has been instances where clients have specifically asked me whether I was able to do work that might not relate to the original job I have done for them. Where I have felt confident, I have accepted, or told them I am willing to try, and that if it does not work, no payment would be done and we would part amicably. Where I have been asked whether I could do something and I knew it was not something I could do, or be good at, I have said so. Being honest does not necessarily equate with losing clients. I believe, for the most part, a client would appreciate you being candid about your skills, and would come back to you for more of what you can do WELL.
I agree, I have seen customer service reps that should know the very basics, of how to ask for a name, phone number, email and account name, but they can't get that right. Now most people know when they are answering the phone for someone else those are basic skills, but I have seen in brick and mortar jobs as well as freelance jobs they can't take the basic information let alone ask appropriate questions to find out what the issue is. A customer doesn't always know what the issue is, that is the reason they call support.
It is sad that someone states they have skills when they really don't. It hurts the clients, but also hurts the freelancers who are professionals and actually have skills.