Which bid on a freelance project is most likely to be picked?

If you are placing a bid on a project on a freelance job site such as oDesk, Elance, or freelancer, what bid number do you think would get the most bids? The first bid, the third bid, or the last bid?

If you said the last bid, you would be correct. According to research done by Yu Wu of Stanford University, Hang Ung of Ecole Polytechnique, and Christina Aperjis of HP Labs, the last bid is the most likely bid to be picked. All other bid numbers were chosen with the same frequency.

The researchers believed that the reason that the last bid was chosen more was due to “sunk cost fallacy” reasoning. What this means is that the employer selects the last bid to justify the time spent waiting, even though the last bid should not be held in higher regard than the other bids.

After thinking about the situation, I think that there may be two additional reasons that the last bid is chosen.

Reason number one:

When people say “It’s always in the last place you look.” Of course it is. Why the f#%@ would you keep looking after you’ve found it?
- George Carlin

Once an employer got a good bid, they would select the bidder and stop the bidding process which would prevent additional bids from being placed.

Reason number two:

Careful bidders. A bidder on a fixed price project needs as much information on the project in order to determine a good price. A bidder like this is likely to contact the employer earlier in the process with questions, while the other bidders are placing bids. As they get more information, they are able to place an accurate (but late) bid, but in the process, they also build a relationship with the perspective employer.

The research paper is available here:



11 free or cheap tools for employers and freelancers that make working together easier

Do you need to work with other people across the internet? Are you on a budget? Do you like free things? Here are 11 free or cheap tools that will make working together on freelance projects easier.

11. Freedcamp – Need a project management application, but can’t afford BaseCamp? Freedcamp is a free alternative with project templates that can get you up and running right away.

10. Evernote – Evernote is a digital note taking and organizational tool. Selected items can be shared across the internet.

9. Google Drive – The home of Google Docs. A data storage and web based office suite. It allows real time collaboration.

8. Dropbox – An easy way to share files across multiple platforms.

7. 7 Zip – Need to zip your files so that you can send them to other people? Here’s a free utility for Windows.

6. Skitch – Take screenshots and edit them with this easy to use tool. From the folks who make Evernote.

5. Jing – Take screenshots and record screencasts. Free for both Mac and PC.

4. DiffMerge – Compare differences between two files and merge changes with this handy tool.

3. TeamViewer – Remote control and online meeting software.

2. Notepad++ – One of the best source code editors available. Free for Windows.

1. Skype – The easiest and most popular way to chat, video chat, send text messages, call cheaply across the world, and a whole lot more.

Did we forget any? Let us know!

Project works in the freelancer’s system, but not the employer’s. How do you fix it?

This issue comes up frequently in arbitrations regarding websites. Typically, the freelancer has done the work on their own server, but when they transfer the work to the employer’s environment, it doesn’t work. Usually by the time the project comes in for arbitration, it’s too late to fix it because both parties hate each other and no longer want to work together. Before it gets to this stage, there are a few things on both the freelancer’s and employer’s side that can be done in order to prevent this type of problem.

Both Parties

  • Use a screen sharing service like www.teamviewer.com so that both of you can see the issues at the same time.


  • Make sure that double check that the employer’s environment and your development environment is compatible before beginning work.
  • Many times, these issues are a result of incompatible versions (such as PHP version 4 versus 5), settings, or directory structure.


  • Take a screenshot of the problem, there’s many free way to do this, including Alt+PrintScreen in Windows.
  • Take a movie of the problem. Again, there are freeware programs that will do this.
  • Make sure you are giving good feedback – make sure that you indicate the browser that you are using, the exact error message, and the steps that you took that caused it.


I want to hire a freelancer for a long term contract, but I’ve never worked with them before. What should I do?

There is a couple of methods that you can use to help determine if a freelancer is the right choice for a project.

If you want to hire them for an hourly project, you can use the the tools that the freelance job sites have to monitor them. Most have webcam software to view the contractor and/or software that takes a picture of their screen so that you can monitor what they are working on. You can use this software to monitor the worker for the first couple of weeks to determine if they are working on your project and also see if they know their work.

Another method is to setup a small fixed price project to see if they can complete the work. If they can, then you can move on to more complicated projects.

Hourly, Fixed Price, or Contest? What’s the best way to hire freelance contractors?

There are pros and cons for each project type. The best type really depends on several factors such as the project length and the type of project (software, graphics, marketing, etc.) Pros and cons are listed below.



  • Very flexible, a good idea if the project is not thought out at the beginning.
  • Most freelance job sites like oDesk, Elance, and Freelancer have software that lets you monitor the contractor’s progress.
  • Better for long term projects


  • As an employer, you are never sure what the final cost might be.
  • It requires monitoring of the contractor to make sure that they are not wasting time (and therefore money)
  • A worker could work a long time on a project and you could find out at the very end that it is incompatible with your system. The worker would still be paid.

Fixed Price


  • You know what the final cost will be
  • Great for small projects


  • Inflexible. If changes need to be made to the project, then changes need to be made to the contract.
  • More upfront work is required to make sure that you put all the details into the contract



  • Great for getting a variety of responses for graphics projects


  • Can be more expensive than hiring a single worker
  • Not appropriate for all project types

Who wins more in arbitration, the employer or the contractor?

Generally speaking, the employer wins more. This sounds bad for the contractors, but unfortunately the contractor has a greater burden of proof. If a project goes in for 100% testing, the employer has only to prove that the bug exists and the fixing it was part of the contract. The contractor has much more to prove – they have to show that the project works without error.

This isn’t to say that contractors never win, this is far from the case. Employers have to give the steps to re-create the error and show that they had informed the worker about the problem.