Exploring the Major Drawbacks of Offshore Freelancing

The Problems of Offshore Freelancing

Offshore freelancing to Third World countries is now a very common practice and sites such as elance.com, odesk.com, and guru.com would advocate this. Though freelancing frequently achieves the desired objective, there are often difficulties in this method of working and outsourcing.

Poor Infrastructure/Hardware

Freelancers from Third World countries are often hindered by poor infrastructure and hardware. Power outages, unstable internet connectivity, and slow and outdated PCs often cripple the productivity of freelancers working remotely from home.

The infrastructure and hardware available to an individual will vary from freelancer to freelancer. Working remotely, interacting, collaborating and communicating with a freelancer with limited resources from a Third World country will, however, significantly impact project deadlines and levels of efficiency.

Freelancers have a reputation for being unprofessional

Freelancers work thousands of miles away from the client, unsupervised from home, often with multiple clients, and on short-term low-budget projects. A client thus has very little control or authority over an offshore freelancer. Hence, a freelancer is unlikely to be held accountable for their conduct and quality of their work.

Clients who have worked with offshore freelancers often complain about missed deadlines, unavailability, poor quality or incomplete work being returned to the client. These problems leave the client frustrated. Even freelancers are also known to become frustrated if there is a lengthy project or if the client is demanding more work than was initially agreed upon. Since there is no overseeing third party to mediate between the client and the freelancers, the working relationship often breaks down to point where the client does not get their project completed and the freelancer does not get paid.


Freelancers work with numerous clients simultaneously and this often leads to freelancers prioritizing their work, based on their largest contracts. Subsequently, a client may feel that his project is being rushed and not being given the attention it deserves.

Furthermore, there is no security or contract in place to ensure a freelancer won’t leave a project midway should a better opportunity arises. This can leave clients stranded with no final end product.

Intellectual Property/ Data theft

There is no legally enforceable contract or any other measures that can protect intellectual property and data theft when working with a freelancer.

Project time and cost estimations

Should the initially agreed upon project estimations (cost, time, scope, quality, etc.) not be met, either party may very quickly become displeased. Freelancers often complain that clients expect them to go beyond the ambit of the initially agreed tasks and thus are justified in demanding a higher fee. Clients often become discontented because project deadlines are missed, the quality of work is below par or the freelancer is demanding more fees.

Freelancing is unrealistic in this respect; it is often unfeasible to be accurate over time and cost considerations at the outset of projects. This becomes a problem as it can make both parties irritated, and cause a breakdown in the working relationship between the two.

Time zone/collaboration

It is likely that an offshore freelancer will be working in a different time zone as compared to the client. Often, the client and freelancer need to discuss project details and if communication is difficult, it can hinder the progress of the project.

Similarly if you want to collaborate with a freelancer, this again depends upon time zone factors (and whether the freelancer has the necessary hardware to make this happen).

50% payment upfront

Standard procedure when freelancing is to make a 50 percent payment upfront. This is a reasonable and understandable request, yet there is undoubtedly an element of risk on the party which is outsourcing.

Freelancing is impractical in the long-term

Clients often get sucked into the trap of hiring freelancers on a long-term basis. This is an easy but often fatal move. Freelancing is designed and intended for short-term projects/contractual positions. If you outsource with the intention of hiring a freelancer to work for you like an actual employee, it is possible for things to break down somewhere down the line. The management, setup, and structure are simply not in place to productively work with a freelancer for a long time. More importantly, there is no accountability because the freelancer is working thousands of miles away. Working purely on trust is an unwise move when it comes to business. The detrimental repercussions could well outweigh any of the benefits achieved by outsourcing with a freelancer.

Corrupted feedback reviews

It is widely known that offshore freelancers, who have highly reputed accounts by way of numerous favorable client feedback reviews, often sell their accounts to other freelancers. A client can, therefore, never be completely assured of who they are contracting with and the authentic skill levels or experience of the freelancer they are hiring.

Dummy freelancers

Dummy freelancers significantly reduce the effectiveness of using freelancing sites. Often clients post dummy projects with the intention of simply getting cost estimations. The same is equally true of freelancers bidding on projects, i.e., freelancers testing the waters, so to speak, just so that they learn and better understand their freelancing field. In turn, this reduces the efficiency of freelancing sites and can prove to be needlessly trying and time-consuming for those who are genuinely looking for a freelancer or a project.