Elance Blog

Elance Goes To Freelance Camp

On August 15, amidst the fires raging in Santa Cruz California, over 220 freelancers braved the smoke and the flames to attend FreelanceCamp Santa Cruz. With dusty concrete floors, unfinished drywall, and flame retardant material hanging from the ceilings, this unconventional venue fit perfectly with the informal and unassuming conference.

Elance was a proud sponsor of the event, which is dubbed an “unconference” because it is almost entirely user generated. What's an "unconference" you ask? Someone takes the lead in coordinating the event (in this case Shane Pearlman), but all topics discussed are created and voted on by the attendees. Once the topics are decided, everyone splits up, huddles in various corners, and draws upon the collective experience of each other.

I ran one session on how to win new clients in an online marketplace. Starting out online with no track-record can be tough, so we discussed ways to win those initial clients. This included great discussions on topics like bidding early to get listed on top, asking relevant questions that demonstrate expertise and engage the prospective client in a dialogue, focusing your proposal and profile in a very specific niche where you can differentiate, starting small to get some early wins and feedback, and not necessarily competing on price as less than 10% of the overall spend on Elance was initially awarded to the lowest proposal – although it may be necessary to compete more aggressively at first.

We also studied some use-cases of providers that have established such a strong online reputation with great feedback and repeat clients that they receive many of their jobs directly from clients inviting them instead of through the competitive bid process. But the start-up phase can be tough and does require that up-front investment to get established. Another strategy discussed is bringing your existing clients to Elance to start building that track record and online reputation.

I also attended sessions and listened to the issues and challenges that freelancers face in their businesses on a day-to-day basis. Topics varied as widely as the attendees themselves; from marketing your services and finding clients to pricing to managing projects effectively to collecting payment when due. Other sessions focused more specifically on leveraging social media in your business, object-oriented programming, retirement planning, and taxes. It seemed every field was represented from web development professionals, to accountants, to writers and editors, to graphic designers, and many more.

Many of the challenges that were discussed resonated very clearly with the types of things that Elance is working to address: Serving as a consistent source of new clients; establishing references; providing tools to facilitate collaboration and project management; tracking job progression and completion; helping with invoicing and getting paid. Other important issues common both on and off of Elance centered on setting appropriate client expectations up-front, how to handle scope creep, and when to bow out of a gig because the client does not fit your requirements.

There's one theme that did rise above the rest: It is a great time to be in business for yourself. While the economy lags, businesses are finding new ways to get their work done, and freelancers are directly filling that need. We’ve seen this trend very clearly on Elance – over the last 3 quarters, Elance has experienced record growth in new employers posting jobs, new freelancers joining the provider network, and Elance recently surpassing more than $200M in provider earnings.

There are a slew of upcoming camps in Washington DC, Germany, Nevada, Italy, India, and California later this year. I highly recommend attending one if you’re in the area. It’s a great opportunity to network with each other and become a better business man or woman. Or run your own!

Links:
FreelanceCamp.org
Shane & Peter
Elance Blog - Tips To Manage Your Finances As A Freelancer

Comments

This exercise not only helped freelance in US, but also created an sharing pool for other freelance around the world to self improvise one self.
Do let us know when Elance wishes to plan such event in India?

India?

Could you share more details on this one - which city? which month? wow - this is real close home!