Favoring the Designer – Can we please revise the bidding system?

I finally found time to start reading John Grisham’s The Appeal wherein the antagonist, a billionaire named Carl Trudeau bid the highest at $18M for “a depressing pile of black clay with bronze rods rising into the vague outline of a young girl” titled Abused Imelda. It just got me thinking about bidding sites.

“The Lower the Better” – Really?

I have never gained a client from a bidding site like freelancer.com. I don’t remember the other similar sites I signed up for but anyway, I think freelancer.com is as they say, “the world’s largest outsourcing marketplace” where  businesses “had virtually unlimited labor at next to no cost”. Maybe I didn’t stay long enough or place enough bids. But tell me, how could I possibly ever win a bid when clients post things like:

“I need a good designer for my website who can design me the following:
1) xxx
2) yyy
3) zzz
4) aaa
5) bbb
I don’t have a big budget, so the less bid amount bidder will take the project.”
Budget: $30-$250 USD

And bidding designers respond with

“Hi. I can design this for you within a day and if you want I will provide you a sample.”
Bid: $30 in a day

I suppose I ought to feel frustrated but honestly I find it all funny. Maybe the lowest bidder doesn’t always get the job but definitely most jobs are awarded to low bids in the range for $30-$70 for logo design, for example. I bet the design process takes 30 minutes maximum. They must be really good and I wouldn’t want to compete with them.

I have a friend who is a very good physician. She was telling me about how some patients complain about her consultation fees (they are actually very charitable), but would willingly pay the same amount for a manicure or a pedicure. We had a good laugh at that. (No training or certification is needed to offer such services here.)  Like her, I would much rather charge nothing—for a worthy cause, that is—than lower my rates unreasonably.

Supply vs. Demand

Is the law of supply and demand at work here? Meaning, are there just too many “designers” as opposed to work that the price for services has to be driven down? If so, isn’t the market the least bit worried about also driving down the quality of our services?

Freelancer.com claims to have 2.4 million freelancers, most likely including those inactive like me. There are around 19,500 jobs as of this writing, almost 4,000 of which are design jobs, around 20%. I’m assuming then that at least 20% of those 2.4 million are designers. That brings me to 480,000 designers bidding for 4000 jobs! Of course my calculations are likely flawed and I certainly hope that that is not an indication of the actual market as a whole. It just makes me wonder when and how did design services get to be as susceptible as goods and merchandise to such pricing. Ironic too that prices of goods are actually going up. Do lawyers, doctors, engineers and architects irreverently lower their rates just to get a client, a patient or a contract? That’s why I find it all funny.

English Auction

Going back to Mr. Carl Trudeau, an English auction* is the kind where he got his “lousy deal”. But what has he got to do with all this? Here’s why. I have an idea. How about having an auction site that was more designer-centric?  We put up our services for hire and “award” them to the highest bidding client. We could have profiles with our portfolios and detailed design processes and other information. Of course there are defects in this scenario the main thing being attracting no clients at all because why indeed would they be interested? But I’m pretty sure clients wouldn’t get a lousy deal from this type of bidding.


Then again, I may be just dreaming up fiction, much like Mr. Grisham’s bestsellers. So I’m signing off now to go finish that book. Let me know when my fiction turns real.

*Where participants bid openly against one another, with each subsequent bid higher than the previous bid.
Auctions and Bidding by R. Preston McAfee & John McMillan

Your thoughts are always welcome.

  • March 23rd, 2011 /