Friday, September 17, 2010

Armenian Freelance Web Developers in the International Market

Edging the integration path of Armenian freelance web developers into the World Web Market.

A web developer is a person who creates web applications and designs them. Thus, there are two main types of developers: programmers and designers (though in some cases one person may do the both jobs). A freelancer is a person, who is self-employed, may have a mobile workplace, and usually works a short period of time for each of the employers. “The term “Freelancer” was first used by Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) in Ivanhoe to describe a “medieval mercenary warrior” or “free-lance” (indicating that the lance is not sworn to any lord's services, not that the lance is available free of charge)” (freelancer, Today the number of freelance web developers is dramatically rising in Armenia, which has certain reasons. If you take a look at the Armenian universities, you will see that we have around 200 graduate web professionals each year. Check the listing of companies providing web services in Spyur Business Directory and you will find around 140 studios. Suppose each of these studios have 10 employees on average. The simple mathematical calculation will show that we have around 1400 employed web professionals in Armenia (which is the sum of the number of graduate students in 7 years). Consequently, the demands of local web market is more than satisfied. What should the rest of the talented web developers do? Many of them prefer to switch to freelancing, and the perfect target for this is the market of developed countries.
A similar situation, but of different scope is observed in India. According to India Demographics (2008), it now appears that Indian nation has the capability to graduate over 500,000 engineers annually, a big part of which turns into freelancers. In addition, Indians have clearly represented their freelance force in the net, which plays an important role in outsourcing business.
With the current trend of developments in Armenia, it is very possible that we will also win outsourcing income in future.

This paper will be helpful for apprentice freelancers, who will be able to find here steps of project management, paths of project searches, team creation ways and pricing strategies.

Chapter 1: Plan of Actions
“Freelancers have it hard”
(Jeff Gardner, 2009). In comparison with an employee at an office, a freelancer should additionally be a manager and accountant.
As a manager, a freelancer should split the work into milestones, define deadlines for them, and take care of the time and effort put in the work.
As an accountant, a freelancer has to learn creating invoices and payments.
An active freelancer doesn't need only skills, he needs clients. Consequently, to be an attractive choice for a client, a freelancer has to gradually sharpen skills in Web technologies, programming languages, graphic editors, animation technologies and rules of web PR and optimization. Additionally, he should be hard-working, meet deadlines and keep up with the latest developments in Web.
According to Dmitry Fadeyev's (2009) approach AIDA (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action) a freelancer needs to work also on public for success in business. It is beneficial for a freelancer to spread his name and work on self-identification in business world. For this, he has to register in professional networks, establish a blog and generally work on his online appearance. PR techniques are useful for self-branding. Keeping in mind, that the future benefits are highly dependent on the initial investments, freelancer should also advertise his services in Facebook and Google (the noted websites are extra-convenient in terms of choosing a perfect audience), visit developers workshops abroad and collect useful contacts. The mentioned actions are good, but for better results a freelancer needs to turn into more dynamic rhythm: and make direct searches for projects.

Chapter 2: Search for Projects
A search for projects, is first of all a search for clients. The clever freelancers work on both: attract clients and search for a perfect client-base. In his interview an experienced freelance designer John Muijen (2003) states that he gets new clients by gradually increasing his network and by word of mouth.

So, one method of winning a new project, is referral from previous clients. First of all, this means, that a freelancer should be interested on the impression his work quality makes on the majority of his clients.
Moreover, it would be even more profitable, to contact the potential clientèle, introduce the best way and offer services. This last advice, however, requires a developer to be slightly prudent, not to look like tedious and desperate freelancer, who will agree to work for any project.
Another useful thing is to meet and keep in touch with other web developers. This kind of socialization keeps the freelancer updated and skills sharp. Additionally, the developer community refers projects to his members.
Some of the offered projects, however, can be no-motivating. The best solution in this case is simply looking for new opportunities. Freelancer is free to decide, and that is the main advantage. So, the opportunities may be different: projects can be small and interesting, no-motivating as mentioned before, and sometimes big and attractive. The next chapter will discuss how to deal with bigger projects, that require a labor force.

Chapter 3: Temporary Team Creation
The more a freelancer is known, the bigger project offers will be. Normally, it is challenging, sometimes even impossible for a one-person-shop to manage such work alone. To handle it, a freelancer can get in touch with developers community and create a temporary web team.

In fact, freelancers are not supposed to work in a permanent group of people, as it requires stable and serial investments from the group leader. On the other hand, the work flow is always better established in permanent teams than in temporary ones. It is very probable, that temporary teams will suffer certain inconveniences not only in terms of work flow, but also the most primal intercommunication. To quickly create mobile temporary teams, that will work, it is essential priorly to create trustful relations between people. For this, developers should organize social events (like picnics, hikes, seminars etc.), where they will be able to get in touch, share experiences, find ways to co-operate more effectively and simply make friends. As soon as the relations quality satisfies the members of the group, people have to try to work on little projects together, so that they learn working with each other.
Financing issues also need to be solved before an actual team is created. This includes signing papers with the team members about a short-term employment, creating invoices and payments etc.
In fact, experts get the best projects. So, it is essentials to develop skills, learn management and accounting. The advantages of expert web developers freelancing in Armenia is earning more than they are offered at offices, at the same time charging less than in web studios.

Chapter 4: Pricing Strategies
Earning more by freelancing is an amazing opportunity and looks like a perfect option. In practice though, it is a lot more than just working on amazing projects for amazing clients from the comfort of your own home.
When turning to freelance, the developer has to set the pricing strategies clearly, because the western world is used to certainty. Here the QPR (quality-price-ratio) plays the crucial role. According to Jeff Gardner's “Quality-Price-Ratio in Web Design” (2009), the QPR, from the point of view of a client, falls into four categories:
  1. A bad website, that is expensive. Client is not interested in this offer.
  2. A bad but cheap website. Client understands, he gets what he paid for.
  3. Good website that is expensive. A great product, but has a high price.
  4. And a good website that is cheap. This is the perfect option for any client, and the QPR is the greatest.

Out of these 4 categories, a good freelancer is more likely to provide a service, that is more comparable to the last category with the highest QPR.

The pricing strategy has to consider the cost of business (viz. computer price, cost of software, technical support expenses, rent price of the office (if any), clipart usage), creativity price and the quality of the work. There is a commonly used formula for the price of a project, which is Price=Creativity Coefficient x Cost of doing business (Gardner J., 2009). However, the formula has to be flexible in special situations, for instance extra-difficult projects.

On the other hand, there is another way of pricing a project: Price=price unit x time (Gardner J., 2009). For the price unit, usually an average price for an hour is taken. Different


freelancers charge different amount of money for an hour. For example, in the UK the newbies will charge around 50 USD/hour and experts 100 USD/hour.

In the scope of our country, we have to realize that companies or clients, who are interested in freelancers and outsourcing, need a cheaper way of doing business. Which means never charge as much as other developers abroad. The most attractive ratio of outsource and insource prices for clients is 1:2. In this case, the client gets the best quality-price- ratio and freelancer still benefits.

Both of the pricing strategies have their advantages and shortcomings, although in some cases one method will work better than the other. Some freelancers refuse one of the strategies and use the other one. It's all up to the developer.

Being almost 5 years old freelance designer in Armenia, I have tried to be helpful in guiding Armenian apprentice freelancers in the integration process. Even so, none of the used sources was written for Armenia, though interviews with local freelancers also had impact on this paper. Thus, the research was preliminary de facto.
As for future, I would recommend other freelancers to make further research and come up with discussions on this topic, possible establishment and development of a freelance community.

  • Gardner J. (2009). Marketing rules and principles for freelancers.
  • Gardner J. (2009). Quality-Price-Ratio in web design (pricing design work).
  • Laidlaw G. (2003). Interview with an experienced freelancer.
  • Fadeyev D. and others (2009). Design to sell. The smashing book.
  • Thukral R. K. (2010). India demographics.
  • 2010. Freelancer.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

We dance Armenian (small stories from life)

Every Tuesday the enthusiastic hiker Apres Zohrabyan organizes "We dance Armenian" event at the Lover's park on Baghramyan street. I have attended the event twice and tried to join the dancers. That was fun, but.. Armenian dances are hard.

Photos of the day: