Hiring: Part-Time/Freelance System Administrator


Since 2008, chinaSMACK has evolved from one person’s personal project into one of the most popular blogs about modern Chinese internet culture and trends. Today, chinaSMACK is a small group of mostly volunteers managing a website that averages 1 million visits, 2.8 million pageviews per month, and continues to grow. This growth places continuously increasing demands upon our technical resources. We’re now looking for a Part-Time/Freelance System Administrator or two to join our team to meet these demands.


  1. Troubleshoot website downtime & accessibility issues: Your primary and immediate role is to investigate and fix problems such as persistent downtime or intermittent inaccessibility when they appear. Typically, if you don’t notice that our website is down before our editor does and we can’t resolve it ourselves, you’ll receive an email or a call asking for your assistance. In general, we expect you to acknowledge and respond to these requests within 24-hours and ideally as soon as absolutely possible. The more responsive you are and quicker you can resolve these sort of problems, the more we’ll love you. Love comes with benefits.
  2. Scaling our high-traffic website for future growth: Your secondary and more long-term role is to familiarize yourself with our setup, analyze our existing needs, and anticipate the future to propose how we can improve things through optimization or additional technical resources. You’ll then be relied upon to execute such proposals as they relate to your capabilities.


  1. Trustworthy: In addition to basic professional ethics, please understand that you will be working with Chinese nationals living in China who face certain risks for their involvement in chinaSMACK. While we generally avoid the politically sensitive to focus on social matters, we can never predict what may happen. You absolutely must be sensitive to and respectful of this, and exercise appropriate discretion.
  2. Excellent communication skills: You must be able to communicate effectively with members of our team who are not as knowledgeable about technical matter as you are but will be affected by what you do. Our team is diverse, with diverse language and technical competency. You’ll need to understand how to communicate with our hosting provider, our designer/developer, and our editor. Each of them have different competencies and familiarity with English technical vocabulary. You’ll need patience, and a knack for communicating the right information in the right way to each of these parties. You should be an all-around friendly and pleasant person to work with.
  3. Expertise with WordPress on nginx: Our website is simple, a WordPress installation on a VPS. Having it run smoothly and reliably with our traffic is more complicated. Our editor and designer/developer can handle most things within WordPress but we need you to help us manage and troubleshoot everything that supports WordPress.  Mainly, this means our nginx web server, MySQL, and all the other software or components to make it do everything we need it to do. We don’t need you to design WordPress themes or plugins, we need you to know how WordPress best works on nginx.
  4. Experience scaling high-traffic websites: There are a lot of experienced system administrators but not a lot experienced with scaling high traffic websites, so we ideally want someone who has first-hand experience with scaling issues. You should not only know how to work with nginx, MySQL, PHP, and specifically WordPress, you should also have experience optimizing how they all work together so everything runs smoothly on the least amount of technical resources necessary. In addition to optimization, you should also know how to prepare our setup to handle not only long-term growth in traffic but also short-term traffic spikes.
  5. Available for part-time/freelance work: If you have the above qualifications, we’d like to maintain a long-term working relationship with you as we would prefer someone who is already familiar with our situation, setup, and their own past actions. It’s better than always finding someone new who needs to get up to speed. However, we’re not yet at the size where we need a full-time dedicated System Administrator. There just isn’t that much work and we couldn’t afford you either. Maybe in the future, but not yet now. For your primary role, we need someone who can quickly respond to downtime or urgent server problems and get things fixed. We understand that if you have a normal day-job, you may only be able to do work for us in your free time. We do expect you to be generally available on a daily basis. For your secondary role, we need someone who can package work proposals that tell us what work you’d like to do and what it means for us.

Terms of Employment:

  1. You can be an individual or a team of professionals/firm. It doesn’t matter, as long as you qualify.
  2. Unless you want to volunteer your time and services because you want to support us in some way, we’re open to a variety of ways to compensate you for your work. For example, we can compensate you according to a fixed hourly rate, different fees per specific task, a fixed monthly retainer, or maybe free advertising for you or your company? It is hard for us to anticipate when you will be needed and how much work needs to be done when you are. Sometimes downtime issues or system administration tasks are simple and require just minutes, whereas other times they may be more complicated and take hours to investigate, diagnose, and resolve. If you’re to make large-scale optimizations or overhauls, those are more like ad hoc projects. Sometimes one month could be full of recurring problems. Other times, an entire month can go by without a single issue. Tell us what would be the fairest compensation arrangement for you to work with us.
  3. Since this is part-time/freelance work, we understand that you may have other commitments, including sleep, especially if you are an individual. Of course, we do hope that your situation is flexible and thus allows you to be responsive to our needs when we need them but we do understand that you may be in a different time zone and will not always be immediately available. That’s fine, members of our group hail from time zones all around the world. It would be best however if you are someone who regularly checks their email and is available for phone calls (though we won’t call you in the middle of the night, unless you allow us to).

If this sounds like you, please contact us immediately. Tell us as much about yourself and why you’d like to work with us. Don’t forget to tell us how you would like to be compensated for your work as well. If we need your CV and it isn’t already available online somewhere, we will email you back and ask you for it.


Written by chinaSMACK

Welcome to chinaSMACK. This is an archive of announcement posts and other posts without a specific author.