Mention “outsourcing” to a programmer and you may as well be uttering profanity. The word suggests all the evils that have befallen the Information Technology sector since the Internet bubble burst a few years ago. We’ve been endlessly regaled with tragic tales of American companies who have closed up shop for many of their I.T. positions, only to “offshore” those same jobs to programmers overseas working for less pay than their American counterparts. A brain drain is taking place in the once highly secure computer programming profession.
Rather than cursing the darkness, however, I found myself recently lighting a candle (or making the problem worse, depending on your perspective). You see, just over six months ago, I joined the outsourcing revolution. I am therefore writing this article partly as a confession, my own personal “mea culpa” of complicity.
No, I haven’t put myself up on the auction block to work for Indian rupees.
What I did was stumble upon several “reverse auction” web sites for outsourcing talent. If you haven’t heard of them, they go by the name of Elance.com (the largest site to date) or Guru.com. Both of these sites give companies an opportunity to outsource their projects to freelance workers like programmers, graphic artists and writers. Freelancers from all over the world compete for open bid requests, offering to do these contract jobs for a fixed price.
I happened upon a site called Rentacoder. Unlike the two sites mentioned above, Rentacoder didn’t require a subscription fee. Their take was a straightforward commission out of each project cost. Within minutes I posted my resume and profile. Then I had a choice to make. Which projects to bid on? In addition to programming projects, they also listed writing jobs as well. I decided to bid on some of the writing jobs first, just to see how it went, and because I had always wanted to do some freelance writing on the side.
Within my first week, I won a bid to write a document on Policies and Procedures. I completed that assignment, got paid, and then won another bid—a series of articles on stock market investing. Very soon I was addicted. I kept doing more writing…a technical white paper…web site content…economics articles…sales letters…a chapter in a novel…on and on. My payments were electronically transferred to my bank account, in New Economy style.
This addiction has grown into a decent part-time income for the past six months. I’ve worked for clients as far away as Australia and Turkey, in addition to clients in the East and West coasts in the United States. I became fixated with how easy it was to do business this way over the Internet, where the whole world became my market. Then I got hold of a book called Free Agent Nation, by a fellow named Daniel Pink. It was about how “teleworkers” such as myself are transforming America by doing business this new-fangled way, working for “gigs” instead of permanent commitments to one employer. I was part of another Big Thing.
Don’t misunderstand, I haven’t quit my day job just yet.
Am I getting rich?
Hardly. I make a few hundred extra dollars a month, and yes, I do get competition from workers in India. But now I am competing with them. The winning bid, in this case, doesn’t always go to the lowest bidder. Writers from America have an edge in this arena. Some buyers of writing services prefer native English speakers.
As I said, however, there are programming jobs posted on most of these sites too. Can programmers from the United States make a living strictly off these sites? Probably not. But programmers who choose to freelance can use these sites to supplement their income while contracting through normal staffing channels. They might make some meaningful connections in the process.
So there it is. I got it off my chest.
“My name is Nader Ghali, and I joined the outsourcing revolution.”
I feel much better. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go make some more bids.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nader Ghali is a computer programmer living in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he writes on a variety of issues. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. A sample of his writing portfolio can be seen at http://www.topwrite.net.