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The Problem With Being A Professional Web Developer

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I just thought I would share my views and opinions on this topic as there are some things that are really starting to annoy me.


With the amount of people using the internet dramatically increasing as the price of computer hardware drops we are starting to see many companies in the private sector trying to either create an online presence or increase their online visibility using web pages that are not only beautifully designed but also full of feature-rich dynamic content.


This has given rise to a number of software applications being released that are designed to improve the speed and performance of developing web content. Because of the creation of this software, professional developers are now able to speed up the design process while using their own libraries to develop the dynamic content. However, this freely available software has also given rise to the amount of amateur web developers out there.


Just to clarify how I classify the rankings of amateur, intermediate and professional web developers.


Amateur web developers are those whose skills and knowledge of web development are severely limited, maybe they are new to the area or just haven't bothered increasing their skill levels. These people generally do not or have not worked in the web development area before and have little to no idea of the real work that is involved.

Intermediate developers are those who have taken it upon themselves to continue learning about the different areas of web development but only work part-time/in their spare time while working other jobs. Although they are more knowledgeable about what they are doing, they are still relatively slow in their work and do not rely on their skills to support themselves and/or their families.

Professional web developers are people who have been studying web development for many years and have the highest levels of skill. They are able to complete projects much faster than the previous two and to a higher standard both visually and dynamically. A professional is proficient in both all security techniques and especially cross-browser support.

Now amateur web developers are not what bother me, I think it's great that so many people are getting in to this area. People are able to create their own personal web sites and improve their skills to becoming intermediate and possibly one day professionals. What does bother me is the amount of amateur developers out there who underbid contracts for companies in the private sector.


Some prime examples of this are outlined below. These examples are in fact REAL, the contracts were ones I had placed a bid for myself and lost due to amateur underbidding however later was either approached to take the contract away from the winning bidder or employed to work along side the winning bidder.


A small telecommunications company were looking to completely overhaul their current site. The site had practically no dynamic content and contained nothing but contact information and a list of packages available which was updated through editing the html document. The contract called for easily updated site content (including packages, special offers, news and announcements etc.), a search feature which was linked to their customer database (the phonebook basically) and several other features as well. I put in my bid for the contract at £5,000 with an estimated work time of 8 weeks. I was underbid by an amateur who put in £1,500 over 4 weeks. I was contacted around 5 months later and was asked if I was available to work on the project with the winning bidder as they had still not finished the project. I agreed and came in only to find that the site was not even half written (not including the visual aspect of the site). I told the company to get rid of the guy immediately and to stop paying him £1,500 a month. I then told them I woluld have to start again from scratch and because of the urgency of the project due to the time lost I increased my bid to £3,750 per month and estimated 8 weeks. They agreed and I undertook the project, finishing it within 4 weeks to which they were so relieved they paid me for the 8 week estimate even though it was finished in half that time. Before I recommended getting rid of the amateur we worked together for a few days and he told me that his only experience was messing around with his friends website and most of the code was modified snippets off the web. He had lost his job with some accountancy firm and saw the advert so thought he would give it a shot.

I was underbid for a contract involving a simple creation of websites for several primary schools (elementary schools for the americans out there) within the local councils area. It was a simple job, with the proper photographs and logos I put in a bid of £500 and estimated a weeks work in my spare time. The winning bid was for £100 with no time estimation. The finished interlinked websites were completed after about 2 months and although they looked ok, there really wasn't much to them at all, I found it hard to believe a html only website could take that long. Anyway the council seemed satisfied with the work and use that experience to dictate future web development needs. They had a rather extensive contract out about a year ago, designing a council website which required a large amount of dynamic content linked to several databases and tonnes of individual department information pages. The job I would have estimated to be around 14 weeks of work and personally would have bid around £8,000 for those 14 weeks. They advertised the starting bid (don't forget development bids go down) at £500 a month which I later found out was at the recommendation of the developer who took the schools contract. That developer took the contract as well, from what I understand they are still building the website after a year and have had to get a second job.

So not only are these amateurs taking away work and money from real web developers, but they are also giving the world of web development a bad name. Because they constantly underbid contracts, the private sector are beginning to think that the work isn't really that difficult. Let's face it, who considers flipping burgers to be difficult? And how much do they get paid as a result? Well it works the other way around as well. I have put in for contracts in the past that have been very reasonable offers for my skills and services, and some of the people who have put that contract out there have been in shock. Because of their experience with amateurs in the past they laugh me right out of the building then wonder why they end up with a website that needs constant maintenance and is in essence sh**.


Employers wouldn't be so naive IF there weren't so many amateurs out there trying to undersell the web development field. But because the number of amateurs applying for these jobs far outweigh the number of professional and intermediate developers combined then it really is a big issue and is putting many professionals out of business or forcing them to work other jobs. The only real hope any of them have is to be signed on as a full time member of staff with a company. If you are unable to do that then your hopes of success in the field of web development freelancing are slim to none.


Does anyone else have problems with this, or have any views or opinions they wish to express on this matter?

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have any views or opinions they wish to express

Of course, I think that each guy has his own opinion concerning this. Including some amateurs who would like to earn some money ! :)
My opinion is that the main danger is not coming from the amateurs. Experienced company deciders know that experience costs in salary but gives rapid return on investment.
I think that the real problem is coming from experienced developers living in emerging countries. People from India, or from Poland, or even from HaĂŻti, have skills enough for doing very professional work. And they need very low salary if they stay in their country. And web designing is typically a job where you can stay anywhere in the world, you just need a fast Ethernet connection and a secured access to the final system.
So, where a UK guy needs ÂŁ3000 a month, a guy in another country could have a rather comfortable life with $1000 a month. So, he could deliver a very professional work at a very low price.

We had this kind of problems when building a house was the subject some years ago (amateurs versus professional, local professionals versus overseas professionals), and now the same mechanism applies to web design.
And this is a normal challenge. India and Poland and other countries have very good universities when theoretical work is involved, and seriously trained students come out these universities and are able to do very good jobs while they need a very small salary.
And we have a big problem. These guys are able to do our job with their local salary. But we cannot do this job for their local salary!

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Actually that is a very good point, outsourcing is common practice now a days. I lost a very good job after my entire department was moved to a complex in india. I wouldn't have minded so much but I missed out on the opportunity to go out there and train the new team, my boss decided it was in the best interest of the company if he went out there to train them instead (even though he didn't know how to do the job my team was doing).

With web development however, if you are offering visitors access to dynamic site content that would mean having to create a connection between the site and the companys database, and usually they don't like linking their database to a 3rd party somewhere on the other side of the world which is why I end up working in an office the database is already securely linked to.

When a company outsources to places like India it is usually when there is need for a team of five or more people required to justify the costs of setting up a secure connection to the site. There are large complexes in India owned by a single company and they employ people to work in the office complex and basically rent their employees and office space out to companies all over the world. Usually there is also an employee of the company renting the work force present at the complex to oversee the work being done, offer advice and guidance, but mostly it is to oversee the secure connection to the company and prevent anyone from accessing data for malicious purposes or industrial espionage.

I know someone who works for a banking group in my local area. He was employed several years ago to design some policy software for use by the groups employees. He has been very clever about it though, he knew they would keep him on afterwards to maintain the system until it has been perfected and there are no more errors or exceptions, but once the software had been perfected he knew he would be out of a job again. The company was relatively small at the time and didn't have too many clients, and the guy has been maintaining the software and manually correcting the exceptions since, but the software will never be finished because he has purposely inserted many different bugs to ensure he still has a job. The company realised what he was up to fairly recently and have brought someone else in to take a look at the code he has constructed and surprise surprise, the entire code is literally twenty times larger than it needs to be. It is pretty much impossible to work it out without his notes, and he keeps them locked away in a safe at home. So the company decided to price up how much it would cost to have a new piece of software built to replace the one he has made and came to something silly like ÂŁ2,600,000. Obviously they didn't think the costs were justified and have just let him carry on, but I couldn't believe the cost until I realised what was going on.

When it comes to database management and direct coding, it is stated in law that you must hire a business consultant per working team (In the Isle of Man anyway). Business consultants charge a fee of between ÂŁ500,000 and ÂŁ1,500,000 per annum, and with a minimum contract of 12 months. I think this is sick. On top of that you also need to employ a business analyst to actually do the hard work and write the code while the consultant just sits around not doing much, and the business analyst will cost a further ÂŁ50,000 to ÂŁ100,000 per year. Now, the pay of these people disgusts me, especially considering what they are doing is not that hard. I worked as a systems analyst and got a measly ÂŁ12,500 a year, and that is the next step down from business analyst. Anyway I'm getting off point, the fact is on the Isle of Man it is recognised that outsourcing work is going to cost jobs for people over here which is why certain job tasks have mandatory employment laws surrounding certain types of work. Unfortunately these laws are there to ensure the financial sector does not leave the Island (I think we have the 3rd largest financial sector in the world now next to Zurich and someone else) and simply leave a plaque behind on a door for tax haven purposes. These employment laws are supposed to protect people like me however as I outlined in the opening post, now my Government has helped to prevent massive outsourcing, instead it's all these amateurs who are lowering my pay grade and making my profession look bad.

I did actually try a couple of times to win the bidding at http://ww1.php-freelancers.com/ but the underbidding going on there is immense. A possible ÂŁ1,000 job will be intercepted by a little kid for ÂŁ100, who will then mess it all up, not get paid, forcing the contract holder to find someone else, who then underbids to ÂŁ200, who then messes it up, and after that happens a few times eventually the contract holder gives up and searches elsewhere.

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That was a very interesting post, I read every bit on it and I agree with you, even though I am intermediate, I have tried to get jobs on freelance.com and have failed. I don't see web development in my future like I hoped it would be.

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