What are Brute Truths About Freelance Work

Should you be honest about the quality of your predecessors' work?

While other answers cover many concerns, I think a very important argument comes into play here ...

You have been hired by an employer to do multiple tasks. In the end, the employer asks about it. "Hey @enguenrrawns, what do you think of our codebase?" Well, you really only have three options how to respond to that ...

  • Honestly tell them it's a kludge and really needs some TLC
  • Lie and tell them it's A'Okay
  • Dodge the question with something like "It's not my job to answer" or pass the question on to the other developer.

When the employer asks, it means one of two things: either A, they are very proud of their code base and fortunately are not aware of their clutter, or B, there are already open concerns and they are looking for an outside opinion.

Either way, honesty is probably best for you ...

I will answer from the perspective of the person hiring you ...

Dodge the question

Okay, I asked you a question and you ran me around. This does not make me feel like I can trust you to make decisions for yourself, but rather that you are simply passing the question on to my subordinate. I asked you, I must have had a reason to ask you. This means that both of you prevented me from getting an honest answer and that I considered coming to you with this type of question and that depending on your policies, you may be crossed off my list of future work.

Lay it down

So I asked you what you think Either I think I have the code you see at NASA, or I already think I might have quality issues.

Either way, you're telling me the code is fine. At some point it turns out that my code is crap, and when it does, your credibility goes out the window. That means I will not hire you again, nor will I recommend you to any of my colleagues. If we use a service like Upwork it can also result in a poor rating that could cost you future business.


Okay, so I asked you for your opinion, either I think my code rocks or I suspect it is crap.

When I think it's rocking and you sit down and leave, "Hey buddy, I'm sorry to bring bad news, but this code is in rough shape." Then guide me through the concerns and what they mean to me as a company ... I may not like the news, but if I have someone, take a look at it and give me their opinion and it will fit your own, which you are just confirming have your expertise on my current developer, and depending on what my current developer has fed me, I could fire them and hire them, or if someone asks me about a developer they can count on me to give them your information.

Now let's say I already think there might be problems, but I don't really know the scope of those problems. I also have concerns that I can't trust my current developer to be honest with me here, which is why I'm asking you. You are setting the law here and telling me in the nicest possible way that my code is nightmares. I'm shocked I knew something was wrong but I never thought it was that bad. Now I know that my current developer is doing me a disservice (his problem is not yours) and that you are competent enough to see the demons and their likely consequences for me. I'll reconfirm your assessment, and once that's done you'll be on my A-list of trusted developers. I could try to hire you, or at least share your information, if someone asks me if I know someone to count on.

Final remark

While chances are you end up in politics you'd rather not be a part of, when I hire / sign someone I'm not looking for a code monkey to turn a feature off and tell me that I am great (although that's nice) I want someone with a brain willing to warn me of things that might bite me later or if you see a place that will improve my earnings, reduce my overhead, etc. , tell me! If you are the appropriate person to get these things done when the time comes I will likely go to you first.

I'm hiring you to help me make more money, either through higher income or lower expenses. If you can achieve this beyond my expectations, then you have made yourself a more valuable asset to me.


Some interesting points there. As far as I understand your answer, the best option in almost all situations is to be honest: you cannot lose credibility, make you appear "more reliable" and more trustworthy.


Yes, and as a freelancer, your credibility makes or breaks you. If people don't trust you, you won't get jobs. If people trust you, they're more likely to hire you for a cheaper stranger. (Experience and credibility are therefore usually the way to go up in terms of the quality of the contracts.)