Elance Blog

Best Practices For Avoiding Drama on Elance

Here’s another post from Sarah Ratliff’s team at Coqui Content Marketing. She and her freelancers regularly share their thoughts on ways to succeed on Elance. 

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Drama happens. As much as most people try to avoid it, sometimes it’s just inevitable. Fewer things can cause more stress than when things go awry with a client whose project you’re working on. In the five years since I have been an Elancer, I have seen many flock to the Water Cooler when things didn’t go as planned.

One minute things are rolling along nicely. Milestones are delivered on time, client expresses happiness and the job continues to run smoothly. Suddenly out of nowhere—as Elancers describe things from their perspective—stuff just hits the fan.

Client is upset; he wants to cancel the job or file a dispute, claiming something went wrong somewhere. Elancer is befuddled; she contacts customer service, and for some the advice offered is enough to proceed—one way or another. For others, the response isn’t satisfactory and they wind up seeking advice in the Water Cooler.

By and large most drama on Elance can be avoided. By following seven easy steps, you can manage to work with clients completely drama-free. Interestingly, I find that one, two and in some cases all these easy steps are ignored by both newbies and even veterans on the platform.

1. Learn to Read Between the Lines

When looking for jobs in the open marketplace or responding to invite-only jobs, it’s a good idea to get into the habit of reading between the lines.

Because most freelancers—newbies and veterans alike—read job descriptions, say to themselves, “Yeah Baby! This job was made for me!” and then start writing their proposals, they neglect to heed the obvious warning signs/red flags that are right there in the job description.

Writing job descriptions (JDs) isn’t something all clients know how to do. I have been on the client side of things for over four years, and it’s because I have been a freelancer longer that I have become good at determining a good JD from a bad one.

3 Tips For Landing Your First Freelance Gig On Elance

Danny Margulies is a copywriter and six-figure Elancer on a mission to help freelancers earn more money. Find out more at freelancetowin.com

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Trying to score your first job on Elance can be tricky. We’ve all been there!

The good news is that once you’re over this initial hurdle, things get much easier.

Still, when you’re a total newbie, it can be daunting to compete with Elancers who already have an established track record.

Even though it seems like you’re David squaring off against Goliath, it’s okay because there are advantages to being David.

You just need to know how to use them. What follows is a practical guide for doing that when you’re brand new to Elance.

1. Go after small jobs (or even tiny ones)

One way to even the playing field when you’re new is to look for jobs that are under the radar of most top Elancers.

As someone with an extensive Elance track record, my existing clients (plus job invites from new ones) keep me busy enough that I simply don’t have time to look at the smaller jobs anymore. And I know many established Elancers who are in the same boat.

But when I was just starting out, small jobs offered me a great way to land my first gigs, make some money, and get some positive client reviews under my belt -- setting the stage for more success to come.

2. Send the right samples

While many freelancers are concerned about having a “complete” portfolio, the truth is that clients are more interested in how relevant your samples are.

In fact, it’s often more powerful to have just one single sample of high quality work -- if that sample is highly relevant to what the client actually needs.

Instead of thinking about your portfolio in terms of quantity, send clients 1-3 pieces that show them you can do the type of work they need. Doing so will give you a better chance of grabbing their attention than a portfolio that’s 10x as large.

(Still working on your portfolio? For the complete step-by-step approach I used to create my first samples, check out this blog post.)

3. Respond to clients with lightning speed

Once a client receives a bunch of proposals for their job, they often make a “shortlist” of candidates, and start sending messages to those people to feel out which one is the best fit.

This is yet another area where “David” can easily beat “Goliath.” Since the busiest Elancers are likely to take a while to respond back, you can outshine your competitors by getting back to clients very quickly -- the quicker the better.

Some people think that replying this fast makes you appear desperate, but when you’re just starting out, you need every advantage you can get.

And guess what? Clients love it when you respond to them quickly, because it shows them that you’re a responsive and reliable professional.

To find out more about how I earned over $100,000 on Elance in just 12 months, grab my top 5 Elance hacks for free here.

foam finger photo courtesy of Rick Bradley

A New Chapter, a New Leader: Stephane Kasriel

Dear Elance community,

A few weeks ago, I wrote about upcoming initiatives and announced a new era of innovation for our company with the goal of becoming the premier online workplace for professionals. Today, I write to share the news of a leadership transition at Elance-oDesk. I have identified a talented leader, Stephane Kasriel—who knows our business, loves what we do, and cares about our community—to be my successor as chief executive officer.

As many of you know, I have led our company for more than a decade. While the ideal length of a CEO’s tenure is up for debate (see this article and this one), all companies benefit from renewal and the occasional self-disruption. I love this team and the job so much that I would never want to leave, yet I have been thinking about succession plans since before the merger of Elance and oDesk.

In Stephane, I see both business vision and technological brilliance: he is an exceptional leader who is passionate about our mission and has the respect of the entire team. As SVP Engineering and Product, Stephane has driven many of the innovations we will soon unveil. He has achieved them by leading a global team of 300 product managers, designers, and engineers—many of whom are members of our amazing freelance community. From this role, Stephane understands first hand not only our technology, but also how to best work with professionals around the world.

Before joining us, Stephane held executive roles at PayPal as Global Head of PayPal Consumer Products, Global Head of Mobile Business Development, and Managing Director of PayPal France. He also founded and co-founded multiple companies, holds 15 web-related patents and has an MBA from INSEAD, an MS in Computer Science from Stanford, and a BS from Ecole Polytechnique in France. I could not be more confident in Stephane’s ability to lead us. For more information see our press release here.

You may be asking, “Why now?” Our company is at its strongest. We have a clear strategy and the resources to execute, including an exceptional team, great customers, and premier investors. Elance-oDesk is a company with an important mission: to provide a workplace for the world. We are the future of work. Our potential for impact and growth is huge—we still have 99% of the market opportunity ahead of us.

We have been working on some very exciting stuff, and there will be more specifics on our company’s next chapter coming within a few weeks. I wanted Stephane to own our new chapter from its first page. I take great pride in handing the reins to someone as passionate about our community as I am. Stephane has the brains, heart, and compass to make this next chapter a monumental one for you. But most importantly, Stephane is committed to creating a better future for work.

My number one priority now is to campaign for Stephane’s and your success. I am looking forward to assuming the role of board member, shareholder, and user. There will not be any substitute for the experience of working here with you and I am humbled to have served such a diverse, talented, and special community. On behalf of the 300 employees and more than 500 freelancers who make up the Elance-oDesk team, thank you for being my inspiration.

With great respect and appreciation,

Fabio

A Guide To Pricing Tech Projects Across Europe

Occasionally we ask Elance clients and freelancers to discuss their experiences working online. Here’s a quick case study from the team at Yalantis.

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Price is such an obscure aspect when it comes to development services. The answer to the question “how much does it cost to develop an app or a website?” is as relative as Einstein's theory, even if we limit its scope to the European market.

Presumably, development services in Switzerland are more expensive than in Romania, while in Denmark and in Norway the costs are thought to be pretty similar. The post-soviet world, is considered, among other things, to be the perfect destination for software development outsourcing, since prices are reasonable and quality of services is better than in many other outsourcing destinations.

Instead of dwelling on assumptions, though, let’s try to test these hypotheses with real data. The following research was done with the purpose of helping those looking for development services in Europe come to well-grounded conclusions.

Introduction

Our research is premised on the tacit assumption that the cost of service is directly related to its quality.

We based our observations on the following suggestions:

·      A low-priced service is unlikely to result in high quality deliverables. 

·      The average price in a given market corresponds to a level of quality deemed sufficient by purchasers. In the case of software development, though, a product owner may be left with the feeling that ‘it could have been done better’.

·      A price “above average” is what a product owner should be looking for, since higher rates generally indicate higher quality.

·      Very high prices are simply not affordable for many.

Another issue we’d like to raise is the degree by which the quality of a delivery can be estimated prior to it’s being made. To paraphrase the old parable about the three stonecutters, one IT developer can write code, another one can make a website or an app, and the third one can actually make a successful product.

Which of those software developers do you want to cooperate with?

We did this research to show how price, one of the most important criteria used by companies to select development resources, is distributed across European countries. 

We chose Elance as the most suitable platform for retrieving and comparing the hourly rates of individual freelancers offering IT services around Europe. For this survey, we considered only the countries with at least 200 representatives in the category ‘IT & Programming’ and divided these countries into regions.

1.   Post-Soviet states

The region we call “post-Soviet” includes five states – Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, Armenia, and Moldova, and contains 15,250 individuals and 2,328 companies, registered on Elance. This is the largest IT market in Europe.

Ukraine alone has the second largest number of IT specialists in Europe after the United Kingdom. The country is home to 9,272 freelancers, or 16% of the total European developer population.

Why is this information so important?

While making this report we came to a conclusion that the more developers there are in a particular country or region, the better the value for money of the service found there. This can be explained by the economic concept of emulative consumption, or the struggle to possess and outdo your neighbor.

One of our first observations about the post-Soviet region is that prices are distributed unevenly across the constituent countries. The chart below shows how exactly the pricing landscape specific to how a particular country looks.

We can see that the most popular price for IT services in post-Soviet countries is in the $20/hour range, whereas the highest cost, over $100, is charged by only 0.3% of the respondents. Russia is the only country in the region with more than 1% of companies and individuals (2,2%) charging $51-$100 per hour of work. At the same time, a vast majority of the region’s representatives, about 90%, charge $30/hour or less per hour of work.

How to embrace your entrepreneurial spirit

Occasionally we invite people to discuss issues of importance to our community. Here are some thoughts from Amiad Soto, CEO and co-founder of Guesty.

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Some things in life (and work) can’t be absorbed in school or taught in the office. They cultivate over time and become part of our existence. In the business world, this is what we call the development of the entrepreneurial spirit.

It ripens in individuals who have a true passion for creating something from scratch and they are willing to do anything to achieve those goals. You don’t need to own a million-dollar business to exhibit qualities of having an entrepreneurial spirit. It’s that special ‘je ne sais quoi’ that you exhibit everyday and how you tackle your life and career.

What is an entrepreneurial spirit?

As Forbes adequately puts it, “Entrepreneurial spirit is a mindset. It's an attitude and approach to thinking that actively seeks out change, rather than waiting to adapt to change. It's a mindset that embraces critical questioning, innovation, service and continuous improvement.”

A word so common on our tongues, but do we know what it actually means? If we had to delve deep into the roots of what exactly is entrepreneurial spirit, a starting point would be the definition of an entrepreneur, it’s French for “risk-taker”. Today the term connotes leadership, initiative and innovation in business. One’s “spirit” is built on self-motivation, inner drive and the dire need to pursue a passion. By nature, entrepreneurs are creative, original and are daredevils. It takes discipline and strong communication skills as well as characteristics such as optimism, belief in one’s self and courage.

Why do we need it?

The million Dollar question is why do we need entrepreneurial spirit? If you guessed, “to create new businesses and to motivate others, especially if you’re leading a team,” then you're halfway there.

Earn What You’re Worth By Fixing These 3 Mistakes

Danny Margulies is a copywriter and six-figure Elancer on a mission to help freelancers earn more money. Find out more at freelancetowin.com

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If there’s one thing I’ve learned from earning over $100,000 on Elance in just 12 months, it’s this: You absolutely can charge (and get) what you really deserve--yes, right here on Elance.

I know from personal experience. Today I consistently charge (and get) $125 - $135 per hour, which is 9x as much as I made from my first jobs on Elance.

I’ve helped quite a few Elancers significantly raise their rates, too. Many of them had hit “brick walls” in their pricing, but addressing a few common mistakes allowed them to break through to the next level.

Let’s talk about these mistakes and how they hold us back from charging the rates we really want and deserve.

Blending in with the masses.

When the services you’re offering look just like everyone else’s, it’s natural for clients to choose the least expensive option. After all, if they’re going to get the same result regardless of which freelancer they choose, why not go with the cheapest?

The truth is, as long as there’s a person (you) providing the service, then you’re offering something unique. Part of your job is to communicate that uniqueness to clients--and then charge accordingly.

Food for thought: What are some unique things about you that clients would appreciate?

Announcing Our New Name, New Shift To Online Dating

 

Since our beginning, Elance-oDesk has focused on matching top professionals to create great working relationships.

Today we’re excited to announce that we’ll be taking those relationships to the next level, as we expand to include online dating.

 

“We have the best matching technology in the world,” notes our SVP of product and engineering Stephane Kasriel. “But it became clear to our data science team that we could also leverage these algorithms for even greater social impact. Specifically, to help our community find soul mates as well as ideal work colleagues.”

 

However, unlike traditional online dating services that pair people using outdated and often-frivolous interests such as hobbies, pets, sports teams or other leisure pursuits, our new matching solution is focused on professional interests, careers, and what we do best: Skills. “A mutual interest in twerking or fermenting kimchi can sustain a relationship for a few months,” points out SVP of marketing Rich Pearson. “But a shared passion for WordPress or iOS development will form a lifetime bond.”

 

A logical evolution.

 

This new offering should come as no surprise to our established clientele, as we’ve long encouraged a healthy work-life balance. “Many in our community are so passionate about work, they often forget to stop and smell the roses,” adds SVP of operations Elizabeth Tse. “Now, on a single platform, people can reach professional milestones in the afternoon, and dating milestones later that same evening.”

 

Early reviews of our new online dating service show that the offering is warmly received by community members. This includes a handful of professionals participating in our beta program, which launched this past Valentine’s Day.

 

One notable success story is Berlin-based Oskar Holstein and Shobha Chowda of Mumbai, who we recently matched online. He a web designer and she a web developer, the match has been mutually rewarding. “We complete each other,” says Shobha. Adds Oskar, “Only the most sophisticated matching algorithms understand that when it comes to this crazy little thing called love, sometimes opposites attract.”

 

Although Oskar and Shobha haven’t yet connected in person, they continue to spend quality time in the secure online “Hangout” we provide. Like our secure online Workrooms, each Hangout features the tools and resources needed for great communication and long-lasting partnerships. This includes video chatting, translation services, and even prenuptial agreements should the relationship advance.

 

An equally logical evolution of our name and brand.

 

Although we’ll naturally continue to focus on matching professionals to create amazing working relationships, this new emphasis on online dating has also led us to do some soul searching about our name. While Elance-oDesk is technically correct, the name fails to inspire our community and address our growing emphasis and passion.

 

With this in mind, we’re equally thrilled to announce that we’ve officially renamed our company Elove-oDate. This new name pays tribute to our past, our future, and our ongoing commitment to connecting people who are searching for great work and great relationships.   

 

You’ll begin to see exciting additions to the Elove-oDate platform soon. This includes new profile pages and client overviews—each expanded to list your relationship status, song you’re currently listening to, and even your favorite Work From Home Wardrobe. You’ll also find photo enhancement tools like red-eye removal, as well as the ability to send a “Happy Hour Flirt” or “Working Now? Wink” to a colleague’s inbox.

 

We hope you’ll enjoy these added online dating features, and that you’re as excited as we are about this new option for making truly meaningful connections. As summarized by CEO Fabio Rosati: “Now, regardless of whether you’re searching for a work partner or a life partner, we can help. And that’s our passion here at Elove-oDate.”

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Editor’s note: Yes, a quick peek at your calendar confirms that today is April Fools’ Day, and that this blog post is in jest. In case you’re not familiar with April Fools’ Day, it’s a kinda-sorta holiday in many countries, where folks celebrate by playing practical jokes and hoaxes on each other. We couldn’t resist!

 

Trends in Freelancing: Spotlight on Jamaica

Here’s another post from Sarah Ratliff’s team at Coqui Content Marketing. She and her freelancers regularly share their thoughts on ways to succeed on Elance. This post comes from noted wordsmith Marsha Buchanan.

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Jamaica is open for business, but I think it will take us a little while longer to realize the gold mine at our fingertips. Sure, it’s sweet to be ranked on the Forbes list as the top Caribbean country and the third overall in Latin America for doing business, but that’s not what this is about. More Jamaicans need to capitalize on the opportunities available and connect the dots to pursue online freelancing as a means to financial empowerment.

With a brutal economic climate and a high unemployment rate, there is no way we Jamaicans can afford to sit and twiddle our thumbs, for dreams must be realized, bills must be paid and we must get on with the business of making a living. In light of this fact, some Jamaican entrepreneurs are choosing to take their businesses online and monetize their skills. The thing is that while the Forbes list has good news for foreign investors who might be interested in doing business in Jamaica, Jamaican entrepreneurs have to face their own set of challenges. Just check the statistics on the Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) survey done by Balcostics Limited.

These numbers indicate the hardship of a regular Joe or Jane trying to run a business in Jamaica. If you have your heart set on building a profitable business the traditional way, prepare yourself for a mammoth task. This has been one of the biggest reasons young professionals are seeking to run leaner and smarter businesses by getting into online freelancing. This is where I do a happy dance and thank the heavens for online freelancing sites like Elance, but the reality is there are thousands who have no clue Elance even exists, let alone what it is. I suppose because of my own knowledge of the various freelancing sites and the opportunities to be had, I just took it for granted that most Jamaicans knew too. This expectation was especially because of what happened in 2009.

Back in 2009, Jamaica’s Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) sector outlined as one of its main objectives the intent to create a strong ICT framework that will see Jamaica established as a regional investment center for ICT companies and reliant service industries. Of course, they recognized that before that could be done they would have to partner with a country or organization that had experience with this. So in 2012, the World Bank teamed up with the Jamaican Government and the ICT sector to spearhead Digital Jam 2.0, which has been the most important event that launched Jamaica into the virtual world of work.

Has Motherhood Driven You Away From Work?

Here is sage advice from Remisha Hasnain, who has been happily working on Elance for over 5 years – often with her son at her side.

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Have you ever felt that motherhood has brought your career to a dead end? The set of skills you once possessed, are now left unnoticed? Your lifestyle after the baby has limited you to constant diaper changes, cooking, cleaning and well catching up on the much-needed sleep?

Well if so, then you are not alone. Being a mom of a two-year-old boy (read: utterly notorious boy), I have learnt that the stress of excessive baby work is one essential part of motherhood. It not only makes you realize your strengths, but also helps you strive to achieve your goals. However this also requires a bit of extra effort, which you may regret now, but are going to appreciate in the long run. Trust me! All you need is patience, time management and most importantly the will to achieve your set goals.

Mentioned below are a few guidelines, on how you can manage to keep your sanity intact, while working and handling your baby all together.

As much as we think things are going to remain the same, except one addition of a family member, they don’t. With the arrival of your cute little bundle of joy, your priorities, work load and lifestyle start to change simultaneously.

To begin with, as per experience, home based businesses or freelance jobs are a much better call for mothers. As they give you the freedom to choose the place and time, that fit you best. However that doesn’t mean they require any less effort when compared to office jobs. The key to a successful career along with bringing up a baby with utmost affection, is time management, focus on the goal and promise to never over burden yourself.

How To Go From Idea To Prototype In 1 Hour

Occasionally we invite people to discuss issues of importance to our community. Here are some thoughts from Adam Rossi, an Elance client and owner of Elvaria.

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The freelance economy and 3D printers have converged to dramatically lower the time and cost associated with creating a new prototype. Recently, I was shocked at just how effective this combination has become.

My company, Elvaria, manufactures soft-serve ice cream and frozen yogurt machines. We frequently refine and improve the components of our machines based on customer feedback and our product roadmap. A number of the components that we use are custom manufactured based on our specifications.

The Traditional Process of Prototyping

1. Create a CAD drawing of the new part using in-house engineering or bring in a contract engineer.

2. Send the CAD drawing out to one or more rapid prototyping companies for a quote.

3. Select a vendor and wait for the part.

4. Test the part. Make refinements to the design and CAD drawing.

5. Repeat until the design is optimized.

6. Send the final drawings and specifications out for manufacture.

This usually took a few months.

A new approach.

A few weeks ago we decided to try the “new economy” approach to redesigning an agitator for one of our machines. The agitator is a magnetic mixing blade that spins in the hoppers of our ice cream machines, keeping the liquid product well mixed and preventing product separation. It’s driven by a motor located underneath the hopper and spins by magnetic force. Think of a large version of the spinning magnetic mixer you used in chemistry class.

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