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Determinants of client
satisfaction in web development
projects from freelance
Naveed Ul Haq and Ammar Aftab Raja
Received 12 February 2017
Revised 12 August 2017
Accepted 13 September 2017
University of Management and Technology, Lahore, Pakistan
Department of Finance, University of Management and Technology, Lahore,
Muhammad Faisal Sajjad
University of Management and Technology, Lahore, Pakistan
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to identify the major factors of client satisfaction (CS) that are critical
for web development projects in freelance marketplaces. This quantitative study is done from the point of
view of the web development services clients. Five major dimensions were proposed as determinants of CS
from the literature review: ease of use, user interface, information, security and privacy.
Design/methodology/approach – A web-based survey methodology is used as the main data collection
instrument. Statistical techniques such as confirmatory factor analysis and multiple linear regressions are
used to analyze 162 responses of questionnaires.
Findings – The findings suggest that all factors do influence CS. In terms of strength, security had the
highest level of impact on CS, so it is the strongest determinant among all factors. After security, ease of use
and information are considered as strong determinants. So, this study concludes that the five major
determinates do affect CS in web development projects from freelance marketplaces.
Research limitations/implications – This research is limited only to the top freelance marketplaces, such
as Upwork, Freelancer, Fiverr, Guru, Envato Studio, etc. The sample size is relatively small and this study is
focused on web development projects only. Moreover, this research is focused only on the characteristics or
attributes of the projects final outcome, i.e. website.
Practical implications – This study attempts to identify the important factors that have a relation with CS,
thus giving freelancers an indication of what to look for when working on any web development project
posted by any client in a freelance marketplace. Understanding the determinants of CS will also help
Pakistani information technology freelancers involved in web development projects and services to increase
their project performance, improve their CS rate and increment client following.
Originality/value – This presents the first study on the determinants of CS in web development projects
from freelance marketplaces.
Keywords Client satisfaction, Freelance marketplaces, IT programming, Web development projects
Paper type Research paper
Freelancers are self-employed individuals. Freelancers are a hybrid of employees and
entrepreneurs. They are employees because they are hired by large companies to work on a
specific project for a specific period of time. On the other hand, they also work as
entrepreneurs for their own rewards without any organizational security or assistance
(Born and Witteloostuijn, 2013). Due to the increased growth of the internet and the spread
of globalization, people are now opting for self-employment or freelancing. Freelancing has
become very popular among the people due to the independence, opportunities and
businesses they provide including zero transport expense and easy to earn good money at
home. Freelance marketplaces provide a colorful variety of freelancers and employers from
International Journal of Managing
Projects in Business
Vol. 11 No. 3, 2018
© Emerald Publishing Limited
different countries. The freelance industry is a fast-growing popular industry in Pakistan.
According to a report from the International Data Group, about 40 percent of Pakistanis
have joined freelancing because of the unemployment issues in Pakistan. Pakistan ranked
third in the highest rate users in Freelancer.com, while Pakistan ranked and fifth in oDesk.
com with approximately 250,000 registered users on each site (Raza, 2014). In 2014, Pakistan
ranked ninth in the top freelancer countries in Elance-oDesk with a growth rate of
10-25 percent (Elance-oDesk’s, 2014). Pakistani freelancers are offering different solutions to
local and international clients for different businesses and services.
In the freelance marketplaces, different types of projects are posted related to different
fields, skills and professions. Such fields include journalism, publishing, photography,
writing, computer programming, graphic designing, website design and development, etc.
The “information technology (IT) and programming” section is one of the most important
fields in the freelancing world. IT and programming involves the designing and developing
of different IT systems and applications. It is one of the leading businesses in the world as it
provides different software applications for high efficiency, high speed and ease in
performing a range of different tasks. Different desktop-based and web-based applications
and systems are designed and developed for specific client, organization or general public.
In the Freelance world, freelancers work on different IT and programming projects for
clients. The IT and programming sect is one of the popular categories in freelance
marketplaces. In total, 37 percent of the jobs posted in Elance are of IT and programming,
while 40 percent of the tech skills are in demand globally (Elance-oDesk’s, 2014). Freelancing
have become very popular among software developers due to the independence,
opportunities and business they provide to developers, zero transport expense and easy to
earn good money at home. Software firms and IT agencies have also diverted their attention
toward these freelance platforms because of the potential market and huge business scope
over there. Freelance marketplaces provide a colorful variety of developers and employers
from different countries. Developers and software firms can grab projects from different
clients from the internet around the globe.
Different types of IT and programming projects are posted by the clients on freelance
marketplaces. One popular development area is the web development field. Web
development projects focus on the design and development of websites and web-based
applications. Websites and web applications are getting significant for all businesses
because they are one of the most powerful marketing tools on the web and help any
business to grow. Most people nowadays go online and search products, services and
companies before they make an acquisition or even just can learn about your organization
and business. Nowadays, the number of websites is increasing day by day rapidly due to the
importance of the internet. That is why web development is well liked among the freelancers
since besides developing a website, they also help their clients increasing product
knowledge, maintaining communication with online customers, selling products or services,
generating leads for the business, and increasing the popularity of your company.
Client satisfaction (CS) is the outcome given by the client on the basis of a business
performance, end product, final outcome or service. CS determines whether their
expectations were achieved or not. Delivering high-quality service is the key in order to
survive today’s competitive environment. CS has a positive impact on an organization’s
profitability, loyalty of brand, repeat purchases and spread of positive word of mouth
(Angelova and Zekiri, 2011). CS is considered the most important metric and measurement
standard to measure the quality of your work. High CS shows that the project has met all
objectives and achieved success. Even for a freelancer, it is necessary to satisfy his or her
clients in order to increase client following. But, multiple factors or determinants can play
important roles in CS measure. So, it is vital to recognize those factors in order to raise CS of
This study will find the factors or determinants affecting CS regarding web development
projects in freelance marketplaces. This study will focus on freelance clients who hire
freelancers for the development of web development projects. It will be interesting to find out
the major factors influencing our freelance clients regarding their web development projects.
Freelancing is a new trend in which self-employed individuals or freelancers get hired by
clients for different projects. The freelance industry is a booming and aspiring field in the
world because the industry is worth billions of dollars. Different projects are posted by clients
on freelance marketplaces. One of the most popular IT projects posted is of web development
projects in which different websites and web applications are developed for the clients.
For any freelancer, it is necessary to work toward a successful project. CS reflects the quality
of the project work and the performance of the freelancer. So, it is important to understand
how CS is affected and what factors affect CS measure. Such factors can help a freelancer
improve his project performance, customer loyalty and success rate. So, in this study,
determinants of CS will be studied in web development projects from freelance marketplaces.
To fulfill the objectives, the research question can be expressed as:
RQ1. Which factors influence CS regarding web development projects in freelance
To answer the research question, a web-based survey methodology will be used where a
self-completion questionnaire will be used to gather data on each tested element. The main
objectives of this study are to:
find and collect potential factors which affect CS from the literature;
conduct online survey to get feedback from respondents in freelance marketplaces; and
use statistical analysis to calculate the significance of each factor and its effect on CS.
The next section contains the literature review of CS, its theories, importance, the freelance
industry, its significance and freelance statistics in Pakistan. It also includes the existing
studies conducted regarding customer satisfaction in website e-service quality studies
in order to select those candidate factors that may have an influence on the satisfaction
in freelance marketplaces projects. Satisfaction factors of web development projects on
freelance marketplaces will also be identified and a framework of candidate factors will be
established for further testing. Thereafter, it presents the research design, proposed
research model, the web-based survey methodology, sample size and the target audience.
And finally it presents the findings of this research which include the conclusion,
contribution, limitations and future implications of this study.
2. Literature review
A freelancer is a person who is self-employed and is not dedicated to any long-term
company. Freelance workers normally work independently and use online freelance
websites (E-marketplaces) and other online sources to grab client projects and work on
them. Freelancers are considered employees because they are hired by large companies to
work on a specific project for a specific period of time. They are also considered as
entrepreneurs because they work without any organizational agreement or security.
That is why freelancers are considered as a hybrid of employee and entrepreneur
(Born and Witteloostuijn, 2013). Freelance employment offers many advantages including
flexible time schedule, dynamic job planning, tax deductions and a sense of independence
(Kazi et al., 2014).
The word “Freelance” first appeared in a historical novel called “Ivanhoe” written by Sir
Walter Scott. The novel was published in 1820 and was set in the twelfth century England.
According to the novel, the word referred to a soldier (or hired lance) who offered his
services and hit for the highest bidder. A freelancer was someone willing to propose their
special and important skills to those people who were ready to pay for them. In the 1970s,
the term “freelancer” was referred as a “Boundary less Worker” at the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology. This term was given because of the freelancer having no
boundaries in getting jobs (Kazi et al., 2014). In the early 1900s, freelancers were skilled
professionals offering their services in order to strengthen the local businesses
and organizations. Freelancers would use different methods such as referring classified
advertisements, cold calling potential clients, sending out direct mail campaigns to clients
and attending industrial exhibitions or events in order to increase their client base and
following. Most freelancers worked solely in their local area. Freelancing was a business
restricted to the freelancer’s local geographical location and community. This was the
process of freelancing up until the beginning of the internet age (Postolovski, 2014).
The modern word “freelancer” started to be used in the second part of the twentieth century
for describing the self-employed journalists who provided on-demand services to numerous
press organizations. The term started to be used for other services such as graphic design,
multimedia creation and editing, advertising, marketing, etc. (Gheorghe, 2015). Freelance
marketplaces as means for conducting surveys and experiments have been documented in
some research works (Kittur et al., 2008; Horton et al., 2011; Paolacci et al., 2010;
Walter, 2013). The users on freelance marketplaces have been used as participants and
subjects and the freelance websites are ways of finding participants easily and cheaply for
scientific research. Freelancing is one of the booming and aspiring fields in the world
because the freelance industry is worth billions of dollars worldwide. A freelancer can start
an independent profitable business with a very low investment and flexibility to work
almost anywhere and at any time (Puranik, 2005). Freelancing is a great way of working
since you can work from anywhere, can choose the amount of work you desire and can
select the time you want to work. As the freelance culture is growing prominent with the
passage of time, hundreds of freelance websites have been launched offering different
freelance services. There are more than 110 freelance websites online with each website
having millions of users registered (Puranik, 2005). According to Johansson (2015), the top
freelance website are Upwork, Freelancer, Topal, Guru, Fiverr, PeoplePerHour,
Envato Studio, etc. These are discussed as follows.
Upwork (or Elance-oDesk) is the world’s largest freelance marketplace which was
founded after Elance and oDesk merged together into one platform in 2015. On Upwork,
clients upload their projects, budget and time duration. Freelancers bid on those projects
and clients interview freelancers and agencies through the Upwork platform. In the end,
clients hire and work with the most favorable freelancers for their work. Upwork offers a
real-time chat platform in order to reduce the time of finding and hiring freelancers.
After the completion of a project, Upwork collects 10 percent of the payment but no fee
is charged on posting projects. To ensure the fair billing on jobs, a time sheet application is
available that records time and screenshots during the billing process. Upwork has
approximately 9 million freelancers and 4 million clients worldwide. More than 3 million
projects are posted yearly, with a total worth of $1 billion. According to the CEO of
Elance-oDesk, Fabio Rosati, US businesses will expend around half a billion dollars in just
hiring professional freelancers in 2014 (Kazi et al., 2014). In 2014, on Elance-oDesk
(now Upwork), the total freelance earnings (cumulative) reached $3.2 billion with
$486 million on technology. In 2014, 9.7 million freelancers and 3.8 million clients were
registered serving more than 180 countries. Half of the freelancers have over six years of
work experience (Elance-oDesk’s, 2014).
Freelancer was founded in 2009 in Australia. The site allows employers (clients) to post
project work to get done. Freelancers can then bid for the projects and employers select their
desired freelancer. Employers have the freedom to employ freelancers to work on any
project from more than 850 areas such as software development, graphic designing,
engineering, sales and marketing, data entry, writing, accounting and different legal
services. Freelancer takes a 10 percent fee from the professionals after the project is
complete. Freelancer also offers around 25 regional marketplaces with local language,
customer service and currency support such as USA, UK, Canada, Australia, Pakistan,
Philippines, India and Latin America. With the passage of time, Freelancer has purchased
numerous crowd sourcing marketplaces such as GetAFreelancer.com, EUFreelance.com,
LimeExchange, Scriptlance.com, Freelancer.de Booking Center, Freelancer.co.uk,
Webmaster-talk.com, vWorker, Fantero and Escrow.com. On Freelancer, the website
claims that there are currently more than 17 million clients and freelancers from around
247 countries, states and territories and currently more than 9 million projects are posted
(these users keep increasing in the website). India, USA, Pakistan, Indonesia and Philippines
come under the category of top freelancer countries in Freelancer (Freelancer, 2015).
Guru was founded in 1998 in Pittsburgh as eMoonlighter.com. It allows clients to find
freelance workers for commissioned work. Clients can explore freelancers’ profile and
browse their previous work so they can hire with confidence. Guru offers Work Rooms
which help in creating agreements, defining milestones and tasks, communicating, and
sharing documents with team members.
Toptal was founded in 2010 at Silicon Valley. Toptal offers examined freelance software
engineers and designers to clients in need of freelance talent. Toptal conducts a screening
process in evaluating good quality freelancers from around the globe. Toptal engineers and
designers conduct interviews and practical tests according to the applicant’s expertise and
strictly accept only 3 percent of applicants. Toptal custom matches freelancers to projects
according to their specializations and client requirements. This type of process totally
contrasts with the normal bidding processes conducted in top freelance marketplaces such
as Upwork and Freelancer.
Fiverr is a global freelance marketplace offering different jobs, projects and services.
The starting fee for performing one job is $5 per job. The website is mainly used by
freelancers for offering different services to global customers. Presently, Fiverr offers more
than three million services ranging from $5 to 500. Fiverr assists the buying and selling of
“Gigs” or jobs online.
PeoplePerHour was launched in the year 2008 and since then has gained a lot of
popularity. PeoplePerHour is a recommendable platform for graphic designers, developers
and content writers to get good paying projects. PeoplePerHour allows clients to post
“hourlies” which help in promoting business between the client and freelancers. Normally,
there are fewer jobs, but the jobs are of higher quality.
Envato Studio is a part of Envato which was launched in 2013 as an online marketplace
for digital services. It was previously named as Microlancer then later became Envato
Studio in 2014. Services include logo designing, websites design and programming,
e-commerce and CMS development, business and online marketing, graphics designing,
video and animations, mobile and apps, etc. Freelancers can set upfront pricing, scope and
turnaround time for the services the ...
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