Many self-employed people use freelancer bidding websites such as Fiverr, Freelancer, Guru, PeoplePerHour, Upwork, etc., to find work. 20% of these freelancers are very successful and win 80% of the projects they bid on. Some of the 20% no longer need to freelance. These freelancers use their well-earned reputation to bid on projects and employ people to do the work for them.

In 2011, one freelancer in India earned almost $1m a year creating websites at $65 a time by employing designers to do the work for him.

Of course website design, IT, graphic design and other similar projects can be outsourced to any country. Arguably, dollar for dollar, India, China and Far East countries produce some of the best freelance web designers in the world.

Arguably, dollar for dollar, India, China and Far East countries produce some of the best freelance web designers in the world.

How does this relate to a freelancer in architecture and construction?

Worldwide, architecture and construction may seem the same, especially when looking at commercial, retail and multi-storey residential buildings. There are, however, differences, often considerable differences, between legislation in different countries. And herein lies the problem.

The ability of freelancers from one country to design buildings and produce wonderful 3D renders and animations is beyond doubt. What about their ability to design a building which complies with another countries legislation?

Inappropriate design by a freelancer

A buyer, let’s call them Mr & Mrs Smith, place a new house project on a bidding website. They tell the freelancers they want something modern with large areas of glass. Mr & Mrs Smith receive lots of bids from designers ranging from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. Still cheap compared with using an architect or architectural technologist from around the corner. The appointed freelancer goes away and designs a wonderful, airy, modern house with lots of glazing. Mr & Mrs Smith have 3D renders and walk-throughs to show off to their friends and families. A bargain!

Mr & Mrs Smith, however, have never commissioned a new house before. nobody told them planning permission is required until a friend explains the rules to them. A new house in the UK without planning permission and building regulations approval is against the rules.

At the planning office, Mr & Mrs Smith are told, “No, not a chance. This is a conservation area, we can only permit the development of a brick building with timber windows, cottage style.”

Who’s to blame: the client, the freelancer or the bidding website?

The freelancer? No, of course not. He or she was briefed by Mr & Mrs Smith and fulfilled the brief.

Mr & Mrs Smith? Perhaps. In their naivety, they thought they were doing the right thing.

The freelancer website?

The freelancer websites would claim the responsibility lies with the buyer to properly brief the freelancer based on the buyers’ local laws.

Caveat Emptor!

Mr & Mrs Smith are a few thousand dollars out of pocket with no redress other than to give bad feedback to the freelancer, despite the fault not lying with the designer.

Legal action against the freelancer bidding websites?

At a recent event in Manchester, hosted by a bidding website, I raised the issue with the website representatives.

Freelancer bidding websites brought to justice?

Photo: JIS Photographer

In the  United States, only state registered architects are allowed to submit a building permit. I explained, an American buyer using a freelance architect based in the UK would need to employ a state registered architect to submit the drawings. This would incur additional cost and even mean a complete redesign.

The design by the UK architects could be wholly inappropriate for the site and the buyer would have nothing to show for the $$$ spent.

The website people were decent and personable. Whilst they represented the company well, it was clear they didn’t have a clue what I was talking about. Why would they? They were all young and had probably never commissioned architectural services in their lives.

I think if bidding websites are not careful, they could have angry buyers taking legal action against the website. It is in their interests to display a proper warning. This will let buyers know a local freelancer is more appropriate for designing their dream home, before the dream becoming a nightmare.



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