15 Ways Elance Serves as Your Secret Weaponelance_rupa | Oct 29, 2008
Tough economic times call for tough decisions when thinking about hiring full-time employees. Many small business owners don’t have the resources to hire full-time employees and even during boom times – they may decide against committing the resources.
Elancers are your secret weapon to get critical work done without the hassle and expense of hiring full- or part-time staff. Here are 15 ways that you can use Elance as your secret weapon.
You can hire an elancer to:
1. Build your brand through social networking
Social Networking Applications can drive visitors to your main website and promote your products or services to the global community. Websites such as Facebook, MySpace, Digg, and StumbleUpon can be effective marketing avenues for your business if you implement the right applications and tools. Not only can an Elancer develop the tools you need, but you can also hire an Elancer to participate on social networking sites by commenting, creating posts, and interacting on forums so that your brand is visible to as wide an audience as possible.
2. Write copy for sales and marketing materials
Is your sales copy clear and concise? Does it instantly grab a reader’s attention? Are you getting the best return from your brochure, letter, landing page, or catalog expenses? Sure, you know your products or services inside-out – but can you put that knowledge to paper? Sales are critical in any economic environment, but especially when times are tough and competition is heavy. Let an expert create sales materials that effectively engage potential customers with a clear call to action.
3. Follow up with customers
Current customers are your best customers: They not only know the quality of your service or product first-hand, but you’ve also started to build rapport. Grow that business relationship with effective follow-up: E-mails, phone calls, thank you notes, newsletters, invitations to special events…. Follow up quickly if there are problems or concerns, too. A phone call or email that resolves a problem can help maintain even the shakiest customer relationship – but only if you make that contact.
4. Staff your Help Desk
You may think a help desk is only useful for customers, but you can create an internal help desk as well. Hire a knowledgeable remote provider who can help you and your employees with information about applications like word processing, spreadsheets, databases, website maintenance, and blogs.
So now, when you or your employees need help, they can simply call a number and a skilled provider can help them work through problems with a variety of software or even hardware applications. As another option, you can provide reference materials and guides to an elancer who can help customers with problems or concerns, and refer only the most difficult issues to you.
5. Plan your next event
Think back to your last customer or company event. Sure, it was successful… but did it run as smoothly as it could have? Did the stress of putting together the event distract you from more critical functions? Event planning is both a science and an art – let a professional put their experience to work for you. Event planners set up the venue, work with vendors and caterers, set up displays and multimedia tools, and can even greet guests and serve as an unofficial host – so you can focus on connecting with your guests instead of making sure you don’t run out of appetizers.
If you’re willing to devote the resources to having the event, why not make it as fun – and effective – as possible?
6. Redesign your website or blog
What’s fresh today is stale tomorrow – and that includes your website. Advances in technology – and just as important, changes in how people interact with and access online content – can rapidly make your website seem outdated. You probably don’t need a major overhaul, but just a few small changes and enhancements can make all the difference.
Potential changes aren’t limited to design or graphics. Consider improving your usability design, developing new forms or applications, developing a widget, or even setting up a customized Facebook page.
7. Manage your bookkeeping
Many small businesses elance bookkeeping functions so they can focus on their core business. You may be able to handle the job yourself while your company is small, but as you grow, you’ll find the task to be more and more overwhelming. A skilled provider will make sure you stay on top of your financial situation and can streamline your administrative functions. Web-based tools make it easy to handle bookkeeping remotely, yet still allow you to have 24/7 access to your records and reports.
8. Keep the cash flowing
You did the work – but have you been paid? In tough economic times it’s even more important that you receive what you’re due – and in a timely fashion.
If you’re like most people, collecting on overdue invoices is one of your least favorite tasks. Contacting clients who are behind on bills or invoices is stressful and, if you handle the conversation poorly, can lead to hard feelings or even lost clients. Don’t stress over a having an emotionally-charged confrontation. Elance your collections process.
Good collections agents are great negotiators and may be able to find creative solutions to a customer’s problems. Find an elancer to take care of your collections and get your cash flowing without the stress.
9. Schedule appointments
If you depend on client bookings, you probably check your voice and e-mail obsessively – after all, who can afford to miss a request for an appointment? Don’t play phone tag with customers trying to nail down a time that works for both of you. A virtual assistant can answer queries, manage conflicts, and maintain an up-to-date, real-time schedule so you can focus on “delivery,” not “setup.”
But why stop there? You can also take appointments online. According to a survey by HourTown, an online booking service, 79% of U.S. customers say they want to book appointments on the web. A skilled provider can create an online booking system that’s convenient for you and your customers and can generate follow-up emails and reminders.
10. Develop procedures and best practices
If it’s worth doing at all, then it’s worth doing right – so make sure your staff knows the right way to perform their duties. If you’ve found the quickest way to perform a task, make sure your employees are just as efficient as you are. A skilled provider can develop manuals, instruction sheets, or even posters and displays.
Consider developing manuals or product guides instead of answering the same questions over and over again. Provide clear, easy to understand, print or web-based information your customers can benefit from – in that case, the phone not ringing will be a good thing.
11. Know your business and your customers by developing a custom database
A database can be a great asset to your business - if it’s set up correctly. A good database will effectively manage your data and generate real-time reports that provide you with insights and key performance metrics about your business. A database expert can help you determine the type of database you need for your current and future business needs and ensure that your data is correctly captured and organized.
Collecting data is only worthwhile if you can use that data. Think of it this way: Elance projects, user profiles, project archives, and account information are all stored in databases; virtually all the functions on Elance are database-driven. What can a database do for you?
12. Get the word out
Public relations can be one of the most quick and effective ways of making your business known. Unlike advertising, a good PR campaign can reach thousands of prospective customers for no cost!
Public relations providers can help you formulate your media strategy, write effective press releases, distribute your releases to journalists, and arrange and even prepare you for media interviews.
13. Build your business identity
Clean, professional, consistent, and memorable logos and marketing collateral help keep you in the forefront of your customers’ minds - and also may be the first – and hopefully not last – impression you make on a potential customer. Make sure your business identity makes you stand out.
Remember that creating a consistent identity requires that all of your print and media collateral share a common look and feel. Don’t forget about folders and pamphlets, PowerPoint presentations, and even proposals, contracts, and invoices. A great corporate identity reflects the quality, service, and standards that are the hallmarks of your business, so make sure your corporate identity truly enhances your professional image.
14. Drive online traffic
Where do customers find you? Increasingly, it’s online, but search engine algorithms are refined and changed constantly. If you don’t have the budget to advertise online, a skilled search engine optimization provider who stays on top of cutting-edge techniques and tools can help your site gain – and keep – high natural rankings.
And if you do have an advertising budget, keep in mind search engine marketing is also a highly-specialized skill. Skilled providers can develop and place banner ads, manage your pay-per-click programs, and suggest and implement other online advertising methods.
15. Take care of the details
What if you’re not sure you need to hire someone to take on a specific project, but you are sure that there are lots of little things that keep you from doing what’s really important? A virtual assistant can take responsibility for almost any business or personal task, whether it’s office support, website maintenance and updates, answering e-mails and phone calls and even ordering supplies.
If it needs to get done, a virtual assistant can do it for you. Hire a provider on a task-specific basis or for a specific number of hours per week or month, and free up your time to focus on running and growing your business.