One CEO’s Journey From Freelancer To Video Production House Owner

Occasionally we invite freelancers from our platform to discuss issues of importance to others who work in our marketplace. Here are some thoughts from Osama Khabab, CEO and Creative Director of MotionCue – a producer of video and motion graphics.

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Whenever I tell someone that I have studied electrical engineering in a four year study program, the first thing that everyone asks is how come you are running a video production house?

Motion graphics was something that I grew interested in when watching brilliantly crafted videos online. After working on experimental projects for a year or so I decided to try my luck working as a freelancer. With some early success in freelancing I decided that I should pursue my passion and convert this hobby into my full time job.

One misconception that I bought down very early in my career was that Elance was only targeted towards clients that had low budget work or for individuals that don’t have full time job. But for me this presented an opportunity to create a video production house where today I now employ full time motion graphic artists and collaborate with the biggest brands of the world.

So how did it happen?

First thing that I focused was on honing my animation skills. You really need to be good to be selected by clients on Elance. I have learnt that the most important thing is to be the best at what you do. Being excellent at a skill that may not be the most trending is much better than being average at the most wanted skills/jobs out there.

So I started to take less work compared to other freelancers and tried to offer top-notch quality to my clients.  Through this measure not only was I able to earn more, as I was able to create business relationships with my clients that valued my hard work and dedication to quality.

Shift towards freelance work.

Working for the past six years, I have observed how big brands are moving towards working with online freelancers. This allowed me the opportunity to work with global market leaders through Elance.  One reason due to which I was able to work for them was my relationships with clients. Through word of mouth I was recommended to clients that ranged from global brands to startups needing mind blowing animated videos.

Build On Your Success At Upwork With Our New Online Course

Upwork has already proven to be a rewarding marketplace for freelancers, and you too can start taking advantage of the marketplace and new opportunities with both new clients and ones you’ve worked with before on Elance.

We’re committed to making the transition as easy as possible for our Elancers as we wind down the Elance platform. In addition to live webinars and rich community discussions, we created an online course that you can take at your own pace. The course is broken down into quick 5-10 minute modules where you can learn everything from copying over your reputation to building a strong profile on Upwork.  

Take the modules in order, or choose the ones that are most relevant to you:

Module 1: Welcome

(5 minutes) The keys to a smooth transition from Elance to Upwork.

Module 2: Moving to Upwork

(10 minutes) Seven steps to copy your account and reputation on Upwork.  

Module 3: What’s New on Upwork

(5 minutes) Upwork’s investments in increasing the quality of jobs available and improving tools boost your productivity.

Module 4: Best Practices for a Strong Profile

(10 minutes) How top freelancers on Upwork attract high-quality clients.

Module 5: Finding Projects & Clients

(5 minutes) Target your search and set up automatic updates through your Job Feed.

Module 6: Submitting Proposals

(5 minutes) Impress clients and win high-quality jobs with a clear, concise proposal.

Module 7: Managing Communications

(5 minutes) Leverage Upwork’s tools to communicate and collaborate with your online team.

Module 8: Getting Paid

(5 minutes) Get safe and secure payments for your great work.

Module 9: Your Reputation on Upwork

(5 minutes) Win repeat engagements and higher-quality jobs with a strong reputation on Upwork.

Thanks, we hope you enjoy these quick courses. The team looks forward to seeing you on Upwork, and to helping you accelerate your success.

Progress Continues In Creating A Single, Amazing Platform

 

As we shared last month, the team will now begin winding down the Elance platform and inviting freelancers and clients alike to join the Upwork community.

 

New clients and freelancers looking to sign up on Elance are now being redirected to the Upwork registration page. This is another major milestone in our process of building one single, unified platform that dramatically improves how freelancers and businesses work together online.

 

The next step will be to limit customers’ ability to post new jobs on Elance, which should happen in late September of this year. Note that if you’re working on a job already open on Elance, you will be able to continue working on that project through early 2016.*

 

To keep people informed, and to help make for a smooth transition to Upwork, we’ll also be updating the Elance homepage to reflect changes.

 

Your success is our number one goal.

 

We can’t stress enough how important the Elance community is to our entire team. Our aim is to make the transition to Upwork as easy and rewarding as possible.

 

In fact, if you’re a freelancer, this includes automatically honoring your current Elance fee (typically 8.75%) on Upwork, for all clients you’ve previously worked with on Elance.

 

To help expedite the transition, I encourage you to begin all new projects on Upwork – and to move existing contracts to Upwork as soon as possible. When the two communities combine, freelancers will find a much larger pool of available opportunities. This includes more clients posting more jobs -- thanks in part to new marketing efforts that for new client acquisition, are now 100% focused on the Upwork platform. An example is our new Ideas Need People campaign and video. You’ll also find that Upwork projects offer 34% higher earnings than the average project on Elance.

 

Thanks, and we look forward to seeing you soon on Upwork. For more details on the move to a single platform, visit our Upwork FAQ.

 

Best Regards,

The Upwork Team

 

* Elance Private Talent Cloud customers will find the site open and fully operational through mid 2016.

 

3 Simple Ways For Freelancers To Improve Their Sales Skills

Here are some thoughts for freelancers, from Al Davidson -- founder of Strategic Sales & Marketing.

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Freelancers and solo consultants don’t often think of themselves as “sales people” but the truth is, in addition to having solid skills in your professional craft, you also need to be able to sell your services and keep building relationships with clients to establish a solid base of ongoing business opportunities. Unfortunately, many freelancers never get any formal training in how to sell. Especially if you’ve never worked in sales before – if you’ve always had a corporate job where your work was part of a larger process where you might never have been responsible for managing customer relationships or closing deals – being a successful “freelance sales person” can be a bit of an adjustment.

Here are a few tips for how to improve your sales skills on Upwork and in “real life” outside of the Internet:

1. First engage, then sell.

When you post a bid on an Upwork project or send an email to a new client prospect, are you trying too hard to close the deal right away with the very first contact? This is a common mistake: freelancers often throw in everything but the kitchen sink into their first proposal, resulting in information overload for the client, and often, wasted effort for the freelancer.

Instead of launching into a 1,000 word epic about why you’re the right freelancer for the project, start by introducing yourself and responding to a few key points from the client’s project description to show that you actually read it and are paying attention and are eager to help address the client’s key challenges.

Elance to Upwork: Tips for a Successful (and Profitable) Switch

Danny Margulies is a six-figure Elancer (and now Upwork fan!) on a mission to help freelancers earn more money. You can get his best hacks for increasing your online freelance income (free) here.

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As an avid Elancer since July of 2012, I recently decided to “copy over” my Elance profile to Upwork as well.

This was an easy decision for me, since Upwork offers the opportunity to connect with even more great clients—music to the ears of any freelancer. Today, I’m happy to report that my experience in transitioning to Upwork has been a great one! With the timeline to wind down Elance just published, I’d like to share a few tips that’ll help you make your switch seamless, fun, and profitable, too.

1. Be flexible.

Change can seem scary, but it’s also exciting!

Sure, Upwork is a more advanced technological platform that can take a bit of getting used to for us Elancers. You can choose to see this as an inconvenience, or a profitable new adventure.

I like to compare it to the feeling I got when I first traded in my old “flip-phone” for an iPhone a few years back: Playing around with it and discovering all the cool new features was half the fun.

2. Your profile -- don't change a thing!

Technology evolves quickly, but client's needs stay the same.

That awesome Elance profile you put time and effort into writing and polishing will work great here on Upwork, too. I was a little unsure of this when I first copied over my profile, but within a few days I was already getting high-quality invites from great clients without making any significant changes.*

Here’s one example of a great freelancing opportunity. Note that it’s addressed to me, and written by someone who’s looking specifically for my expertise.

So if your profile has been working for you over at Elance, my recommendation is to “let it ride,” since chances are it will do a great job winning over clients here on Upwork, too.

*Pro-tip: I did naturally remove the word “Elance,” which appears in my Elance profile. If it’s in yours as well, then of course you’ll want to do the same.

3. Looking for work? Get the advantage with push notifications.

One great thing about Upwork is that you can get push notifications directly to your mobile device whenever a client invites you to apply for a job or sends you a message in response to one of your applications.

This gives you a huge advantage; since online hiring tends to move at an accelerated pace, being “in the right place at the right time” can make all the difference. By being able to respond to clients quicker and easier, you can significantly increase your chances of succeeding.

Enabling push notifications is a snap. Just open up the Upwork mobile app, and set your Work Status to “Right Away” as follows:

4. Don't get hung up on the details.

The most important thing I want to get across to all of my fellow Elancers is that the fundamental process of online freelancing is totally unchanged.

Yes, Upwork has its own unique look and feel that may take some getting used to. And sometimes there are a few questions we’re required to answer in order to be considered for a particular job. I’m sure there are many other surface-level differences as well.

But in the grand scheme of things, these are details that may come and go over time. Our job is still to find projects that interest us, make personal connections with clients, properly demonstrate our skills and abilities, and do excellent work. And even for the most diehard Elancers among us, Upwork is a great place to do just that. 

Butterfly photo courtesy of Paul Reynolds

Welcoming Elance to the Upwork Community

Today we continue on the path towards creating a unified community. As we wind down Elance and projects move to Upwork, here are some thoughts from CEO Stephane Kasriel.

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After months of planning, we now begin the process of winding down Elance and migrating this important community over to join our new Upwork platform. Our goal is to create one unified and cohesive community. 

We’ve mentioned this upcoming transition before, but today we’re announcing specific details (see the timeline below) along with important updates to ease your move. The transition will happen gradually over the next several months, and Upwork has a plan in place to make it as seamless as possible.

First, however, I want to personally express that I make this announcement with mixed emotion. Like you, many of us have had a long and happy history with Elance. At the same time, I’m excited that our entire team can now focus completely on improving a single online workplace.

The importance of the Elance community.

As I shared previously, with Upwork we’re building upon a strong foundation that began with Elance and oDesk. I’m excited for you to be a part of Upwork as we continue to grow the number of online opportunities for freelancers. I appreciate your great work and hope you’ll experience even more success and see better innovation on Upwork.

What can you expect as we transition Elance to Upwork?

Freelancers and Companies on Elance: You’ll have the option of copying your profile and reputation over to Upwork. If you haven’t yet received your invitation, a personalized invite will be sent to you for this migration. This includes all active members of Elance who are in good standing.

Fees on Upwork: For any new contract started on Upwork, if you’ve worked with that client or freelancer previously on Elance, you’ll be charged at the same rate you were on Elance. Learn more about the Upwork service fee.

Connecting with new and existing clients: By bringing your existing credentials and reputation over to Upwork, we’re making it easy for Elance and Upwork clients to find you.

Clients working on Elance: We’ll make it easy to continue working with your current freelancers from Elance—you can find and rehire them from your My Jobs page on Upwork. We’ll also provide you with new possibilities as you take advantage of new Upwork features like our real-time collaboration tool and mobile apps to explore new talent available on Upwork.

Here are additional notes, timelines, and links to more information:

When will you need to join Upwork? We’ll be redirecting new Elance freelancer and client signups to Upwork in August. Starting in September, we’ll begin to limit the ability to post new jobs on Elance. The Elance site will remain open for you to continue working on your existing contracts through early 2016. When you see an opportunity to close an existing contract, please begin your next contract on Upwork.

What if I haven’t received my invitation to Upwork yet? Invitations to join Upwork are still being sent. Don’t be concerned if you haven’t yet received one. It should arrive before September 1, and if you miss the email, your invitation will be available via your My Jobs page on Elance.

How can I learn more? We’ll give you additional details as we get closer to key dates. In the meantime you can learn more about our plan for Elance, plus how to migrate to Upwork, here.

I know that with anything new there can be some apprehension. But by working together in unison, we can build one unified Upwork community that delivers more innovation and fuels more work opportunities. As always, our ultimate goal remains to make you as successful as possible.

Best Regards,

Stephane Kasriel

CEO Upwork

Are You Charging Enough?

Danny Margulies is a copywriter and six-figure Elancer on a mission to help freelancers earn more money. Get his top 5 Elance hacks for earning on Elance free of charge here.

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I don’t know about you, but as someone who writes for a living, math has never been my favorite subject.

Yet in order to earn a healthy freelancing income, I have no choice but to pull out my trusty old calculator every once in a while and crunch some numbers.

I’m not talking about advanced calculus here -- just some basic math goes a long way when you’re planning your freelance career.

For starters, let’s say you wanted to earn $50,000 per year.

Let’s work backwards.

Okay, so all we need to do now is divide that ($50,000) by the number of working hours in a year, and that’s how much we should charge, right?

Not so fast.

Not all of those hours are going to be billable. In other words, we won’t get paid for every hour we work (more on this in a second).

So how many billable hours per week should we plan for?

A good rule of thumb for most full time freelancers is to aim for 20 hours of billable work per week.

In reality, full time freelancers will likely work more than that, but you need to account for time spent doing things like bookkeeping, proposals, interviewing potential clients, and of course the occasional dry spell.

You’ll also need to take at least a couple of weeks off each year, to rest and recharge your batteries.

So this leaves us with [20 billable hours per week] x [50 weeks] = 1,000 billable hours to work with.

As you can see, even though we might well work a “full” 40 hour work week, it’s better to plan conservatively, and estimate 20 hours in which we’ll actually be earning our income.

Being overly optimistic can come back to haunt you if things don’t go exactly according to plan, so it’s best to err on the side of caution.

The next step is to calculate your hourly rate: $50,000 / [1,000 billable hours] = $50 per hour.

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