Review of vWorker formerly known as RentACoder. I have a soft corner towards RentACoder as it was the first site where I won the first few of my freelancing work.
After a long yet healthy discussion with RentACoder officials today I got an email that really pleased me. RentACoder is now renamed as vWorker which stands for “virtual worker”
I will quote a few things which I think was much-needed changes for RentACoder
We outgrew our name (Rent a Coder) a few years ago. Back in 2001 we were just coders, but now the site includes professionals of all types including: design, writing, personal assistants, paralegals, etc.. To reflect that, we’ve changed our name to vWorker
Looking to save money and work more flexibly? We’ve introduced an entirely new method of payment called pay-for-time that lets you do both.
Sounds interesting and soon would love to give this a try.
Soon we will be rolling out a new virtualized environment (for higher reliability), site-wide IM and other features.
It would be interesting to see them.
If you still do not have an account with RentACoder vWorker, Go get it now.
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How to be vWorker Champion
I asked Ian Ippolito (CEO and founder of vWorker.com) why not have an article where we can clarify common issues that come up with the workers and I am really thankful to him and his team for this wonderful article about how to become vWorker Arbitration Champion.
Over to Ian and his team Ajay Bathija, Jim Coutu, Rafeek Kulkarni, and Tim Yates
On a recent blog posting on this site, a few workers claimed they had lost vWorker arbitrations because the site always rules against workers. In truth, many workers win arbitrations every day (such as those on this list). And some workers are even more successful. Like undefeated sports champs, these workers win each and every arbitration they initiate (click here for the list).
So what’s the difference between the constant winners and the constant losers? And how do you make sure you’re one of the “champs” in arbitration and not one of the “chumps”? Fortunately, it’s very easy, with the following tips.
Part 1 of this article talks about how the best ways to do work before the arbitration even begins. Part 2 discusses how to conduct yourself once arbitration begins.
Part 1. Pre Arbitration
80% of arbitrations are decided based on something that happened before the arbitration itself ever started. So the most important thing you can do to win an arbitration is to work professionally and competently with the employer. This might seem obvious, yet we see the same mistakes being made over and over again. Here’s how to avoid making them.
Clarify vague contract terms
- Ask questions: If you don’t understand something in the contract – Ask. Ideally, you should ask before you place a bid on the project. If a contract term is vague and you have already accepted the project, you are putting yourself at risk. That vague requirement could get clarified to be a lot of work, which you did not anticipate. Also, asking questions is a great way to show employers that you have read their requirements and want to meet their needs.
- Pros and Cons: If there are multiple possible implementations for the requirement, then inform the employer about the pros and cons of each. Don’t just pick one (such as the easiest, cheapest or the one you’re most familiar with). If you do then you take a big risk. If your choice causes problems for the employer, you will be responsible for arbitration. You may have to redo your work, or could even lose the arbitration. The employer is the one paying for the project, so make sure you give them the choice they are entitled to.
- Don’t underbid: The more you clarify the requirements, the better you can accurately estimate the time and effort the project will take. And that is the only way to accurately estimate how much to charge. Don’t get in a situation of underbidding just to win the project. Workers who do this often get demotivated because they are working for too little money, and don’t do their best. If you do this and get into arbitration, the arbitrator won’t accept it as an excuse for sloppy work or not delivering to the contract. You are responsible for estimating and bidding properly. If you have a continual problem estimating, then consider switching to pay-for-time projects so you can avoid this situation.
Explain copyright when using 3rd party or open-source materials
If you use 3rd party components of any kind (or in the case of graphics projects – third party images) it is your responsibility to explain:
- What deliverables will be 3rd party?
- What are the copyright consequences to the employer of what you intend to do
- Get the employer to agree to it (onsite).
If you do those things, you will be covered.
If you don’t, you will lose the arbitration. Why? Employers expect to own full copyright to what you produce (and the standard legal wording gives them that). If you skip doing one of the above steps, they are not getting what you promised to. Worse, perhaps they are going to resell the work. They can end up getting sued for your actions, and not even realize it.
So that’s why doing the above is important. It’s also why you can lose your account if you don’t do it.
Let’s say you want to use open source libraries. So you inform the employer: “I am using the 123 graphics library, which uses the GNU Lesser General Public License. I’ve included a copy of the license.txt file in case you have questions. Please let me know if this is acceptable.” If you do this, you are covered on all three steps and fully protected.
However, if you just say “I am using the 123 graphics library” or “I am using open source”, there will be many employers who don’t realize that this action has legal/copyright implications. You are the one selling the product and are responsible for informing them of this. So make sure to follow all three steps to fairly inform them, as well as to protect yourself.
Handling employer requests for additional work
If an employer asks for additional work that is not in the contract, you have several choices:
- Accept the additional work: You can do it for free, or ask for more money. Remember that when you agree to implement something for free, you have amended the contract. That new thing is now a part of it, and you must complete it. And if the deadline comes and you haven’t delivered it, then you are just as responsible for it, as if it were a paid item that you missed. So don’t agree with something for free, unless you really intend to finish it on time.
- Decline the additional work: Inform the employer politely that this is additional work and you would need either additional time and/or additional money to complete this task. If the employer won’t accept it, then vWorker will step in on your behalf to clarify the scope of the contract. Place the project into arbitration for “contract clarification” and we will help determine if it is or not.
- Do nothing: This isn’t a good choice, but unfortunately, some people do this. If you are not going to do it, then say it explicitly on site. If you ignore it, your silence may come across to a competent person as implicitly accepting it. And if so, it will become part of the contract and you will be responsible for it. For example, let’s say your project is to design a logo and no mention is made of where to put the log. While you are working, the employer says, “Oh, I need you to need to place the logo on all my web pages too, because I don’t know how”. If you just respond with “Everything is going great and I’ll let you know when everything is done”, then a competent person would believe you were implicitly accepting the new term. You then become responsible for it. To avoid this, make sure you explicitly reject anything that you disagree with it.
Manage your deadlines properly
When the employer stops you from meeting a deadline: If you are waiting on the employer for an answer to a question and the deadline is approaching, notify the employer that they are preventing you from completing the work (and what they need to do to correct this). If you do this, you are covered and not responsible for the deadline. But if you don’t do this, then you become the one at fault for the missed deadline”¦not the employer. Always give the employer a reasonable amount of time to respond to your requests.
Upload, upload, upload the deliverables: As a good customer service habit, you should be uploading the deliverables regularly to the vWorker site regularly (at least once a week). But you absolutely MUST upload 100% of them to the site before each deadline/milestone.
We cannot emphasize this strongly enough! If you don’t upload work, then you have no proof that you delivered to the contract. We can’t let you upload later, because a cheating worker could use the extra time to do additional work. So you will lose the arbitration.
We send out numerous informational messages about this and alerts as well, and yet still see this problem over and over again. Don’t make a dumb mistake that unnecessarily costs you money. Upload your deliverables.
Non-uploadables: Please note that if you work directly on your employer’s server, that does not mean you can skip uploading to the vWorker site. A cheating worker might miss a deadline and then use the extra time in the arbitration to fix something on the employer’s server that was broken before. So even if you work direct”¦upload to vWorker too. Otherwise, you will lose arbitration unnecessarily.
If you are doing something (such as a server configuration) where there are no deliverables, then tell the employer to switch it to pay-for-time instead (where we take screenshots of what you are doing and you don’t have to prove delivery to get paid).
Respond Promptly to employer questions and provide status updates
Communicating with the employer can really prevent a lot of bad situations. For example: Let’s say you know you are going to miss the deadline for a personal reason. If you tell the employer 4 weeks in advance, this gives them plenty of notice. They have time to adjust the expectations of their customers and many are willing to work around the issue and extend the deadline. However, if you say nothing (or wait until the last minute to tell them), they are going to be caught in a bind. Most are not likely to give you an extension.
Part 2. In Arbitration
In the second part of this article, we will discuss how to handle the remaining 20% of situations that happen during the arbitration.
We discussed how to work professionally and competent with your employer. Once you’ve done that, you’re usually in very good shape to win your arbitration. However, there are still some important things you need to do to make sure you don’t “blow it”. By following the below tips, you can make sure you an arbitration “champion” and not an arbitration “chump”.
Upload all work files at the start
Upload 100% immediately: As described in part 1: You need to upload 100% of your deliverables onsite before the deadline/milestone arrives.However, let’s say there was no deadline”¦or it has not arrived yet. How do you protect yourself in arbitration in that case? In that situation, you need to upload 100% of your deliverables to date to the site once you start the arbitration (or get a notification of it).
We send out an email reminder telling people to do this, but many people ignore it. That’s a big mistake. If we need to look at the deliverables, you will lose the arbitration. Again it’s a simple thing to do. So just do it!
Upload it all: Make sure you upload everything needed to verify you met the contract. If you are working on graphics projects, the source files need to be uploaded as well.
You may be very upset at the other party when the arbitration starts. That’s normal and okay. But it’s not acceptable to express that upset by insulting the other party or threatening them (or do this to your arbitrator). Doing this is the fastest way to lose your arbitration. You will also probably forfeit your entire account. Would you want to be verbally abused by someone else? Of course not. No one wants to talk with someone who can’t behave professionally. So don’t be that person.
Some people think they can get around this rule by disguising insults as an opinion. For example, they might say “In my opinion, the other party is the lowest kind of liar in existence”. This is not fooling anyone. Expressing this kind of opinion is a fast way to lose the arbitration. So don’t do it.
Provide accurate information
Lying in arbitration
You would think this wouldn’t need explaining. But unfortunately, some people think that the best way to win is by lying in arbitration. If you tell a lie, you are just delaying the inevitable. If you say “I did the work” and you didn’t, we are going to test it and find out that you didn’t. Then instead of getting a 3 rating, you’ll receive a -3 for failing to test and have a great chance of forfeiting your account.
Everyone makes mistakes. If you messed up, just be gracious and admit it. Not only is this the right thing to do, but you make it easier on yourself. Lying only makes it harder on yourself.
Answer the flaw list accurately
If the project goes for 100% completion testing, the employer will be filling out a flaw list. You will be given a list of possible responses to each one. For example, you might have a choice of Yes, it is a cosmetic flaw or No, you will not see this flaw in the deliverables.Choose the most appropriate option from the flawlist wizard.
This seems obvious to most people. However, there are some workers who always choose Other (none of the above apply)so they can write the text response that comes with it. Perhaps they feel they are so persuasive, it will better improve their chances. Regardless”¦picking the wrong choice just so you can write a text about it, shows that you cannot follow instructions (which is already a strike against you). It will also cause you more work because the arbitration will then make you do it all over again correctly and choose the correct answers. It also delays the arbitration unnecessarily and doing so more than once can result in forfeiture for that.
So answer it accurately
Answer direct questions with direct answers
If the arbitrator asks you a “yes” or “no” question like is “Is the work 100% complete as per the contract, or not” then respond with “Yes” or “No”. If you have to respond with Responding with “Yes, but”¦” or “Yes, except”¦.” forces the arbitrator to assume what you are trying to say.
Respond in a timely manner
Employers and workers are given three business days to respond to questions. If responses are not received in that time, you are given a one-time, three-day exception. If another response does not come within the 3 business day deadline, you will forfeit the arbitration. To respond on time to avoid an unnecessary loss.
Don’t continue to argue after you’ve already lost the point.
Continuing to argue, not following arbitrator instructions and other inappropriate behavior may result in being forfeited from the arbitration. Sometimes it can be difficult to keep your emotions in check. When that happens, just ask yourself, “Would I do or say this if the person were a co-worker and standing right in front of me”? If the answer is “no” then you should think twice about it.
Update September 27, 2011: Comments are closed for everyone. Yes, I know there would have been last say by many but this is all I could do stop the argument. It is not leading to anything fruitful or to a solution. This is my personal blog after all and in my opinion, Ian Ippolito (Owner of vWorker) stood this long to clarify things speaks for itself.
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