I want to hire an 'outsourced' freelancer for my project - this is: a freelancer from an underdeveloped country who can work for much lower rates.

Of course I see many websites for finding such freelancers. However they never offer me the option to directly contact them - all payments and time tracking must be done through those websites.

I'd be more inclined to set my own tracking methodology, and to pay directly to the freelancer. The reason is that I'm a software developer looking for another software developer, so I would know how to track progress accurately (unlike the average outsourcing user - typically non-technical folks).

Would that be a good idea?

  • Are outsourced freelancers typically willing to work directly with the client?
  • What do I risk by paying directly to the freelancer?
  • Any other possible risks / drawbacks...?
  • thats why I prefer to ask for my payment only after i finish the job completely.. Yes Risk is always there ..but one from either side has to start trusting ,,right :)
    – Amar Singh
    Jan 19, 2016 at 8:46

5 Answers 5


Is it a good idea? Yes. Are there cons in working directly? Yes.

When you work over freelancer websites, you can see what other clients said about the contractor, the money you load is guaranteed e.g. you can complain and get your money back if a contractor is not doing the job. Even contractors are more serious as they know that you can ruin their rating if they do bad job. And you pay the fee for that.

When you work directly, you pay much less, but most clients complain that a contractor either did a bad job or he left the project. Contractors complain that client did not pay them.

I once tried getting help via Linkedin from India trying to get "better expertise for less money", however the guy I interviewed appeared to be more expensive. IMHO I would always opt for freelancer website. If the guy you hire is so good (Hint: 1 of 20 or 30 will be "so good"), you can always offer him salary or some arrangement to work off those websites.

PS. I have asked such help 30+ times, and I still use freelancer websites. Can you guess why? ;)

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    It appeared to be more expensive simply because the chaf that you see in odesk drives the price down. I do not even try to be there. Jan 25, 2016 at 0:16

the trust works both ways. Freelancers prefer to use the sites because they have some kind of recourse if the client doesn't pay. For example, client payments are escrowed up front so the service provider knows the money is there.

Additionally, if you are working across international borders, there might be hiccups with you paying directly. From my own experience, I live in the US and I was working for someone in Canada. They paid me via bank check and I could not find a local bank that would take the check! (we resolved the issue with Paypal, but the process took months)

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    Had the same issue with Canadian checks. You just have to be adamant with the teller. Most tellers aren't trained in foreign checks unless they are in very large metropolises. US banks will take the checks. They just don't scan through their "slide-it-through-this-brainless-system-and-you're-done". They have to manually enter it and it does take a bit longer for them to clear. I had to "train" my bank on accepting Canadian "cheques". :)
    – Scott
    Jan 24, 2016 at 23:31

First off, if you meet the freelancer on one of those sites, you are probably obligated to work with them through that site. For example, if you meet an overseas developer through Upwork, you have to hire and pay him through Upwork, or pay a huge penalty that is by definition higher than the cut they take from the payments you give him. Obviously they don't let you contact the freelancer directly without going through them, otherwise how would they make their money?

I'd be more inclined to set my own tracking methodology, and to pay directly to the freelancer. The reason is that I'm a software developer looking for another software developer, so I would know how to track progress accurately (unlike the average outsourcing user - typically non-technical folks).

This makes absolutely no sense. First off, you think there aren't any technical people working at these freelancing sites that get tons of business from software development? For one thing, who is building and maintaining their system then?

If the freelancing website has hourly tracking, they will either allow the freelancer to enter their hours manually, offer an automatic tracking/screen recording utility, or both. For example, Upwork a desktop application that logs time while it is active and screenshots your desktop at random intervals to "prove you are working". It also tracks the frequency of mouse and keyboard clicks. This is completely automated and there are no "non-technical" folks having any kind of say in those hours. Nobody has the ability to say how many hours the freelancer worked except the freelancer (and the tracking utility, if used).

If you're trying to come up with your own "tracking methodology", it sounds a lot like you want a fixed-price contract, which is also completely possible on most of these sites. Otherwise, you don't get to declare how many hours the freelancer worked. You can say "you're taking too long, you're fired" and you can reject manual hours, but if you want to say "I'm a developer and I know that the work you did should have taken 7 hours", then do fixed price and pay them for 7 hours.

Tracker software like that used at Upwork and formerly at Elance is about the best you can ask for. It's not going to stop someone from cheating you if they want to cheat you, but neither will any other solution short of installing some Big Brother cameras throughout their household so you can make sure they aren't watching porn on the TV while pretending to work on whatever computer they installed the tracker on.

If you do have some spyware that you rolled up to keep an eye on exactly what your freelancer is doing on their computer and you think they are too unintelligent to just goof off on a different computer (or phone or tablet or console), I don't think any of the freelancing websites will care if you come up with your own system for tracking as long as the freelancer agrees to use it.

If you just want to pay them based on their repository commits, which is completely reasonable in many situations, just set milestones and make milestone payments.

What do I risk by paying directly to the freelancer?

Losing your money and/or never seeing the product. If you pay them first, they can walk away with your money, and you can't go to anyone for help or leave them a bad review. If you don't pay them until they're done, they make excuses for 6 months and finally disappear completely, and you can't go to anyone for help or leave them a bad review.

That doesn't mean that you can't get cheated at a freelancing site, but at least there you can see the freelancer's prior work history, there are services like escrow protection, and the site can sometimes return your money to you in case of fraud.

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    I would never allow any kind of spyware in my computer, and the suggestion is pretty unfortunate, possibly illegal, and furthermore violating several privacy laws in Europe. Now that I think about it, odesk is probably violating them too. Feb 17, 2016 at 10:28
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    I'm not suggesting that anyone use spyware, but simply pointing out the flaws in vemv's logic. Of course, since he abandoned this question immediately after asking it, I'm not sure that it matters much. I don't think of Upwork's tracker as spyware; it's quite clear how it's operating, you have to turn it on manually, and it notifies you whenever it takes a screenshot. You can even delete the screenshots, if you left confidential emails (or Minesweeper) open, but it deducts 10 minutes from your auto-pay.
    – user45623
    Feb 18, 2016 at 1:43
  • Granted... Work and privacy laws are very strong here, in fact the only few laws that still are very respected. They do not allow anyone to be "spied on" when working, and also do not allow you to give up rights granted by law...Consulting (or fake consulting), is so ubiquitous I doubt odesk will off the hook if someone decides to takes this to court. I frankly found it appalling both the concept and the 3rd world rates. Feb 18, 2016 at 7:30
  • Is your boss not allowed to look over your shoulder every once in a while if you work at an office? You don't have to work at third-world rates; I work at first-world rates and have steady work year-round.
    – user45623
    Feb 18, 2016 at 19:20
  • Maybe my boss, but too many instances of cameras have been here in justice. The waters are more than tested and there are a lot of legal precedents here. But you are right, I do not have to work at 3rd world rates, that is why I have never invested in my profile in odesk. Feb 18, 2016 at 19:56

You can do this - or try to do it - but one big advantage of the freelancing sites is that you can put your project out there and get several competing bids, plus an opportunity to interview people.

I have had great results a couple superb programmers this way. But sometimes you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find a prince. Especially when you are bargain hunting and dealing with language barriers and different cultures/work ethics. So in that regard, I find it's worth the cut the networking sites take to be put in contact with so many freelancers and have the protections they provide to both sides.

Once you find a contractor through one of these sites, there is nothing to stop you from communicating with them directly. I'm sure it's "against the rules" but it would be possible to develop a relationship with someone and do a future project with them off site.

I am not tempted to do that though because the networking sites handle all the paperwork so that when I pay my taxes, I don't worry about the government questioning my deduction.

Also, You don't have to use their work tracking software. I don't require if of the freelancers I've worked with for a long time because I'm happy with their productivity and I know it would irritate me to have something "tracking" me while I work.


It's not a bad idea.

If you want to hire a freelancer from outsourced, should be probably know the freelancer's skills and other important details about them.

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