Guru - Bidding, Client Interaction and Project Award Policies and Mechanisms
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Much of the interaction between clients and contractors is done using the private messaging feature built into the site. This is a fairly typical message system similar to the ones you’ve probably used on many other message boards or e-commerce sites.
Guru deserves a lot of credit for its open policy with respect to off-site communication. Some of its competitors are down-right paranoid about off-site interaction, prohibiting it and policing that prohibition so severely that it borders on the insulting. It’s nice to see a site that disallows off-site payments but doesn’t impose draconian restrictions on off-site communication in an attempt to safeguard its transaction fees.
In fact, Guru actually goes beyond other sites by sharing a contractor’s off-site contact information when a proposal is placed. This means you can actually be contacted directly by a client, off-site, even before a project is awarded. This can be a bit disconcerting for new users who aren’t aware of this policy. (Contractors do have the option of hiding off-site contact information.)
Guru does not have its own instant messaging system.
The client reviews proposals, asks questions of contractors if necessary, and selects one to award the project to. Guru’s help system provides some direction in this process, including tips on how to best choose a provider that meets the needs of the project.
After a project is awarded, the contractor is sent a project award notification. The contractor has to respond to this by accepting or declining the project award. Of course, most of the time the contractor will accept and the project will then move on to the next phase.
This is where the Guru project process starts to bog down in arguably unnecessary complexity.
After the contractor accepts the project award, the contractor then is responsible for defining a project agreement to govern the project. This document is basically the contract that will govern the project; it specifies the deal that the contractor and client have made. A complete project agreement lays out what work will be done, when it will be completed, what the pay will be, and how problem situations will be resolved. Guru provides a pretty detailed list of exactly what should go into a project agreement, and also has a template that contractors and clients can use as a basis for their own project.
Theoretically, every project should be governed by a detailed agreement of this sort; just ask your lawyer what he or she thinks about doing business without a contract! But in practice, most contractors and clients do not want to spend a lot of time on formal project contracts for smaller amounts of work. It is simply not practical to expect a contractor and client to each spend one or two hours negotiating a contract for a project that’s worth $100. As a result, many projects are done with no agreement, yet they still have to go through the process of specifying that no contract agreement will be used. Guru also doesn’t seem to have a default agreement that governs contracts in these cases.
The contractor and client are also required to define milestones, including delivery dates for intermediate and final products, and the timing of deliverables and payment. Again here, this is a useful and important feature for larger projects, but an unnecessarily cumbersome and confusing extra step for smaller ones that don’t use milestones. I can remember being very confused about what I was supposed to do with this the first time I was awarded a small project.
Finally, if SafePay Escrow is being used, another extra step is required to request the funding of escrow before the project begins. Guru really should consider integrating this into the milestone process, or use some other method to remove this added stage.
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