Here are some thoughts for freelancers, from Al Davidson -- founder of Strategic Sales & Marketing.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here’s another article from Lee Bob Black of SkilledUp. Also check out SkilledUp on LinkedIn.
#1: Look inward first
This year’s PayScale Compensation Best Practices Report hits home how difficult it is to keep top talent. It found that between 50 percent and 70 percent of employers in the following industries have concerns with staff retention:
· Information, media and telecommunications
· Professional, scientific and technical services
· Finance and insurance
Since 2009, the number of companies that consider retention a “main concern” has grown steadily.
A key ingredient to retaining top talent is simple: don’t overlook them. When a new position opens up, successful human resource managers make a habit of first looking to existing employees. Only after confirming a position can’t be filled internally do they focus on external candidate recruitment.
Preferring to promote from within helps create companies that people don’t want to quit. It also links with how successful HR managers realize that retaining top talent isn’t just about writing bigger checks.
Not every HR problem must to be solved quick-smart. Sometimes it’s helpful to just lend an ear. Open yourself up to your staff. Give them space to talk about what irks them.
Keep in mind some of the benefits of giving someone your full attention:
· Listening to people precedes understanding them
· Listening is the best way to learn about people’s problems
Here’s another article from Lee Bob Black of SkilledUp. In this one, he links profitability with being a finisher and a specialist, and with valuing being on time. Be sure to check out his previous “Fearless Freelancing” articles about digital skills and justifying charging higher rates. Also check out SkilledUp on LinkedIn.
Have you read Elance’s guide to earning more money? It’s chock full of practical tips to help you score work (have a sterling profile, complete skills tests, read your client’s feedback, etc.). That said, after you’ve found your freelancing feet, it’s time to really boost your income. Here are some time-tested behaviors of freelancers who have turned their businesses into wealth generating machines.
1. They finish 100% of the job.
Highly profitable freelancers are finishers. They don’t do most of the work. They acknowledge that often the last 5% of a project is the hardest — and then finish every last task.
On the other hand, sub-par freelancers do nearly all of the work, and then wonder why their job history is filled with “Jobs without Payment.”
Bottom line: Start strong and end strong. Don’t be one of those freelancers who is enthusiastic in the beginning and then disappears in the final stages when the going gets tough.
A joke to put this habit into perspective: What’s the hardest part about running a marathon? The last mile.
Tip: Consider experimenting with over-delivering. If a client asks you to research ten prospective clients, maybe find her fifteen.
One more tip: Read Ben Matthews’s post about great habits you should do to finish a freelance job on a high, some of which include providing a project summary, getting a client testimonial, and saying thank you.
2. They know thier niche.
Highly profitable freelancers are specialized. A solvent writer might be able to write about anything under the sun, but will most likely list specific competencies on her profile, such as legal writing. A financially well-off user experience (UX) designer might be able to rejigger the layout of any website, but will most likely list specific UX skills on his profile, such as wireframing and prototyping skills.
Many forecasters have predicted 2015 as the year of the freelancer, with a recent study estimating that 53 million Americans are currently working freelance. The same study has tipped that 50% of the American workforce will be made up of freelancers by 2020. A large portion of that workforce will be digital nomads and those figures only refer to American trends. Looking back ten years, this is a huge contrast, considering that in 1995 it was an employee powered workforce with full and part time in-house staff making up 93% of the labour provision.
Globally the life of a digital nomadhas become not only a more attractive lifestyle choice, but for many a more practical one. Digital nomads allow themselves choice of work location by leveraging technology to facilitate their activities. This lifestyle for many is more productive and cost effective, and at the same time provides a greater work/life balance.
The Internet of course was the precursor for this shift in work behaviors. Although there was a slow build up to Wi-Fi through the late 1980’s and most of the 1990’s, by 1999 it had been standardized and brought to market by Apple, who released the first laptop with a Wi-Fi slo. Suddenly the ability to be connected made the need to be in a traditional office environment less vital. Global Internet access along with more efficient and inexpensive equipment has opened up the possibilities for freelancers who have been able to redesign their lives without the restrictions of a place they need to be from 9 to 5.
Of course the ability to do the work is only half the equation, the digital revolution has meant that the way we work has also changed. The online world requires a different skillset than we were previously equipped with and progress is moving faster than our ability to meet its need. Education reform is shifting towards STEM - Science, Technology, Engineering and Math - as core subjects to meet the growing demand for skills that match the future needs of the workplace. However there is a skills gap in the current workforce that employers are scrambling to deal with. A 2014 study found jobs in computing, mathematics and engineering made up 70% of the roles employers found difficult to fill. In addition, new graduates are leaving college to find they are missing specific required skills that the workforce is demanding. Online tech boot camps such as Codecademy, CareerFoundry and General Assembly have provided a comprehensive solution in these cases by offering intensive online training in areas where skills are most required. You’ll also find great courses at Elance University. Programming jobs are the most in demand and learning to code is becoming as important as learning to read and write.
If you haven’t checked out Upwork’s Hiring Hub yet, now is a good time to visit.
The Hiring Hub is the ultimate resource for entrepreneurs, executives and freelancers -- with new articles added every week.
Learn about everything from web development and design, to marketing strategies and advice for making your app idea a reality. You’ll also find tips on how to create the perfect profile and ways to shape your success. Check it out.
Millennials (the term used to refer to those born between 1980 and the year 2000 — give or take a few years) make up more than a quarter of the global population, and are estimated to be a demographic with $200 billion in annual buying power by 2017.
However, to lure this influential group, marketers and merchants must understand that although millennials were born and raised by baby boomers, Gen X and silent generation parents, what they value, where they find information, and how they purchase differs greatly from their parents.
Here’s a look at why millennials love e-commerce:
They don’t believe advertising. Most millennials don’t recall a time when advertisers controlled messages, perception or public opinion. Having come of age in an era of the Internet and social media, traditional advertising’s influence is nearly extinct in the eyes of this demographic. Just 1 percent are swayed by it, according to an Elite Daily study.
E-commerce provides the transparency and public exchange millennials crave. With features like online customer product reviews, social media sharing, and customer forums, e-commerce gives millennials the power to research and make purchase decisions on their own terms. The Elite Daily study also revealed that 43 percent of millennials value authenticity over content when determining what they ultimately believe.
Elance makes it pretty darn easy for us freelancers to connect with potential clients. Like, ridiculously easy.
Still, in order to win business, there’s no escaping the fact that we need to reach out and make a connection with the people we hope will hire us.
Yes, we need to sell ourselves. But that doesn’t mean you “put on your selling hat” and convince the client to sign on the dotted line the way it’s done in movies like Glengarry Glen Ross.
Here are some more subtle (and effective) ways to go about it.
1. Put the client's needs first
Clients are human; telling them “all about me” isn’t likely to get them very excited.
Nor is breaking out a complicated list of working and payment terms a good way to endear yourself to a client with 20 other proposals in front of her.
What is likely to make clients want to work with you is showing them you care about helping them succeed.
You do that by talking mostly about them, their project, and their needs. Of course, you also need to talk about you, but mainly in the context of how you’ll be in the corner, helping them win.
In a crowded marketplace, it’s that personal connection that helps you cut through the clutter and earn a client’s trust quickly.
2. Balance professionalism with friendliness
Clients don’t really hire “freelancers” -- they hire people.
Unfortunately, text-based communication doesn’t do a whole lot to bring out your humanity. You need to do some extra work to come across as a “real person.”
The way I do it is by making my proposals (and post-proposal messages to clients) light and friendly, rather than being too formal. I’ll try to make a joke, pay a genuine compliment, or even put a smiley face right into a proposal if it feels right.
Yes you do want to be professional, but there’s no rule that says you can’t show clients your personality, too.
3. Don't try too hard
It’s ironic, but the harder you try to sell yourself to potential clients, the less effective your pitch is going to be. There are a few reasons for that:
● With plenty of freelancers for each client to choose from, “hard sell” tactics are totally ineffective
● Sounding too eager makes you appear desperate, a surefire recipe for making clients run from you in all directions
● Clients want to make decisions at their own pace, not ours
How do you sell yourself?
What approaches have you had success with when selling your freelance services on Elance? Let us know in the comments below, we’d love to hear from you!