Sweet and Sour(ce)

17
Feb
2012

I feel a little sad when I neglect my blog, I have to admit. But the amount of work I have had over the past couple of months has been staggering. And knowing how up and down the work of a freelancer is, I am loathe to say no to any particular project. At some point however, I will have to. I have a project coming up that I decided to take as an experiment. Because I don’t really have the time to do the entire thing myself, I will do the design and technical architecture, and then have it built to my spec by a programmer I will hire over the internet. This is the first time I have done this type of thing, and there are all sorts of practical, ethical and emotional questions swirling about my head, for example:

Personal growth – Part of the reason I like being so “hands on” with everything is that I learn more by doing than by directing other people to do, and I generally find it to be more satisfying. I don’t like the idea of being removed or remote from my work product.

Risk – This is somewhat new territory, and a big part of the success of this project will depend on some factors outside of my control, ie a remote programmer. What if something goes wrong and he screws up the project in some way? What if our interaction at a distance does? What if I am left holding the bag and having to recover from something that is on a tight schedule?

Exploitation – There are multiple things about hiring someone in this way that beg the question, “Is this exploitation?”.  If I hire a programmer in India because I can get a good one for $20/hr, is it wrong? Should I hire a programmer in the US at $60/hr with lower (or the same) skill instead? What is the difference? Especially when that $20 there actually goes a lot further than $60 here? Is this a question of loyalty, and to whom? Myself, my country, my planet, my profession, or something else? What about markup? I went to the trouble to find and hire said programmer, am I to recharge my client exactly what I am paying, or a little bit more? And if so, what is just?

Cost and Quality – Hiring someone in this way will actually reduce the total cost to the client, because I am not charging my full rate for anything but the hours I actually work. The quality of what is produced may be better, or it may be worse that what I would make alone.

I don’t think there are necessarily “right” answers to the questions above, but they are the ones that are preoccupying me. I will of course make some decisions in the next few days and time will tell if I have made the correct ones. And really, this is just one small project, not the end of the world. That said, it does represent a distinct change in the direction of my work life.  As such, I must consider carefully if this is the path I want to walk on.