I’ve hired many people on eLance over the years. Mostly I’ve hired from india, but also vietnam, pakistan and a few in west and the UK. I’ve hired them mostly for web development work as it’s the only thing which still eludes me as a skill (ok that and volleyball). I could learn it and I do know some basic stuff, but 9/10 I get stuck on some dumb easy thing which an expert can fix in seconds, so off to eLance I go looking to hire someone.
Now here’s the problem with Elance. Ideally as someone who resides in the west (London, UK) I would like to hire someone who is in the same locale as me. This is for all kinds of reasons, from ease of communication, to being in the same timezone etc etc, the problem is, is it never usually turns out that way. Firstly devs in the west nearly always charge 3-5 times as much as their eastern counterparts, and literally the further you come from the east to the west the higher the rates are, $10-$30 per hour in India/Pakistan, $20-$40 in eastern europe and $30-$50 in western europe and the USA/Canada. And usually the guy/girl devs in India/Pakistan etc are good at what they do, just as good as their western counterparts, the only issue I’ve found in the past is the timezone issue and the communication issue, so you have to spend longer making sure everyone is on the same page.
The point of this post though is how can devs in the west compete? Recently I hired a dev in the UK to fix some issues. He agreed to do the work cheaply because he wanted to get a profile going on Elance, otherwise he would of charged more, so I get the work done cheaply and he gets his Elance profile off and running, cool. However due to the nature of this kind of work, some things can turn out to be harder to resolve i.e take longer to finish than first thought, and it’s in that situation where the issues with hiring a dev in the west arise. Because of the different levels of wages say from a dev in the UK and in India, if a western dev has to take longer to resolve an issue, he/she’s under a lot of pressure, because to compete with the devs overseas there is a squeeze on what he/she can charge. The result is just more stress all round on the project. If you’re a developer you are probably thinking “Why not just pay more then if you want a dev around where you are?” Well fine, but is the fact that the dev is in the UK/Western europe really make up for them being 3-5 times more expensive? and 2nd, if you are a dev in the west and you want to hire a dev yourself, are you going to go for the expensive option? I strongly suspect most devs wherever they are, are always going to go for the cheapest option simply because most (not all) devs are usually living on a shoestring budget so need to cut costs wherever they can.
I just don’t see how devs in the west can compete, infact I would say it’s a complete waste of time even trying, the best thing to try is to cultivate relationships with companies (and/or wealthy individuals) where you are, and hope they see the value in hiring you, other than that, move to a different part of the world?