Congratulations to the 7 regional winners of our Big Idea Startup Competition. Now it’s your turn to vote for the 8th Finalist. Here’s how it works:
Check out quick 2-minute video pitches from our 5 remaining Wildcard Semifinalist, then vote for your favorite Big Idea. One winner advances to our February 6 Finals, competing for $10,000 in Elance credits (plus a meeting with a top VC).
You can cast your ballot once per day through February 4, so vote now. Also spread the word by using hashtag: #bigidea
The judges have spoken. Meet your other 7 regional Finalists.
With 800+ amazing entries, narrowing the field was no small task. But after a preliminary round, and heated live competitions at events around the globe yesterday, our 7 distinguished panels of judges selected the best-of-the-best:
Assists brands looking to distribute their content through mobile and social messaging.
Be sure to follow the Finals competition via social media (and use the hashtag: #bigidea) on February 6, as we’ll share up-to-the-minute details through online channels.
Thanks to everyone who competed yesterday.
The regional Semifinals were inspiring, and the Elance team couldn’t be more impressed by the startups who presented. Your Big Ideas are sure to have an impact soon. So good luck to one and all. Ditto for those who threw their hat in the ring for the first round. Well done.
Startup fever is spreading worldwide, fast, as our Big Idea Competition is now underway. The global Semifinals are in full-swing around the world, with U.S. events happening tonight.
While we’ve run out of room for folks to watch today’s competition live (thanks to everyone who reserved a seat at one of our 7 locations tonight), we will keep the conversation going in real-time through our specially-created social media page.
Here’s where you can follow the Big Idea Contest, pitch-by-pitch and surprise-by-surprise, as our regional judges narrow the field all day and night on January 30:
You can join the conversation as well, using the hashtag: #bigidea
Don’t forget that from now through February 4, you can also vote online for our Wildcard winner. Help us choose the final spot to compete for $10,000 in Elance credits and a meeting with top venture capitalists.
Elance is thrilled to team up with the global payment solution Payoneer, co-sponsoring free and informative sessions for freelancers around the world. Elance is excited to be joining forces with Payoneer for these events. They’re now making the payment process easier and more cost efficient in 200+ countries, offering a full-range of flexible payout options for freelancers.
Sure to be both entertaining and invaluable, the events include free training sessions, introductions to Elance and Payoneer, success stories, panel discussions with local guest speakers and a wonderful opportunity to network with the teams and fellow entrepreneurs.
There will also be drawings for Apple iPad Minis, plus free refreshments.
Yup, we’ll bring food and beverages too, as well as other prizes. Plus at each event, Elance will be honoring top-performing freelancers from that region. So don’t miss the boat. Register below for an event near you and take your career to the next level:
Welcome to Advice from an Elancer – a place to ask your Elance questions (through Elance’s LinkedIn page) and get them answered as thoroughly and personally as possible. My name is Dorothy D. and I have worked with Elance as a freelancer since April 2009. I have always tried to help other Elancers understand how things work and how to accomplish more. In Advice From An Elancer I will address as many questions as I can each week. In some cases, questions have been edited for clarity.
If you end up in a dispute, is it always worth seeing it through to the end?
Advice from an Elancer:
Even if you are right and have the documentation to prove it, sometimes it just isn’t worth it. It is sad to say, but if you have been attempting to resolve it on your own already, the 2-business day “Member Resolution” period won’t really change anything with an unreasonable person. It is certainly possible that, with an Elance facilitator, you will be able to work through the problem. Whether you proceed to arbitration is really, for me, a money issue. Arbitration requires payment. I strongly suggest reviewing the cost of arbitration against the amount of money at stake. Is it worth the cost or will you end up with LESS than you started or only slightly ahead – with quite a bit of time invested. If you are having issues, start a dispute, but monitor how much money, time, and effort are going into it.
Is it ethical for a client to ask for an NDA after a job is completed?
Advice from an Elancer:
An NDA, or non-disclosure agreement, is a contract that states that the freelancer will not receive any byline or credit for the job – basically, it is ghostwriting. It is usually asked for at the beginning of a job, but if a client doesn’t mention it, I ask. I want to know if my work will be credited. If you were counting on using it in your portfolio but the client has asked you to sign an NDA before releasing funds, at least ask for a reference on LinkedIn or a review to use on your website.
The best way to deal with these situations is to make certain that things are worked out BEFORE you start the job. Ask questions. Lots of them – until you are clear on the job.
How does the Elance Level System work and how can I increase my level?
Advice from an Elancer:
The Level, Point, and Ranking system is based on an algorithm known only by Elance. It takes into account: Service Delivery, Client Relationships, and Marketing. It will vary wildly, depending on what you are working on and shouldn’t be your primary concern. Provide your clients with high quality work and you will find yourself with repeat jobs and invitations, which will boost your level.
That’s enough for today. If you have questions or want to follow the conversation of other Elancers, visit the Discussion page of our LinkedIn page.
2014 is shaping up to be a banner year for online work, and particularly for businesses that hire talent in the cloud. If last year’s trends are any indicator, the future looks exceedingly bright. In 2013, over 1.1 million new freelancers and 441,000 new businesses joined the Elance community (a hearty welcome from our team to each and every one of you). The growth in our marketplace has been dramatic and continues to accelerate, driving a 50% year-over-year increase in freelancer earnings.
As we look beyond the numbers, it’s clear that businesses are now getting work done in an entirely new way. In fact, an exciting new future of work is emerging. Based on what we saw happening on Elance in 2013, these are our 4 predictions for online work in 2014:
1. Freelancers will command double-digit wage increases—Freelancers are enjoying higher earnings due in part to increasing demand for specialized talent. In December 2013, the average hourly rate on Elance for a U.S. based freelancer rose to $27. Increased demand for both Creative and STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) skills drove hourly rates up 10 percent last year and are predicted to fuel similar increases in 2014.
2. Freelance technology professionals will become part of every company’s team — IT and Programming continue to be the highest-growth online staffing categories, representing nearly 40% percent of hiring last year. In 2014 more businesses will turn to online work marketplaces to find software programmers, application developers, system administrators and data scientists. In 2013, the demand for networking and security professionals increased over 400 percent, enterprise software developers 100 percent, and mobile app developers 50 percent compared to the same period last year.
3. Your next MVP may be a freelancer—More businesses are adopting a hybrid staffing model, comprised of both full-time employees and a trusted extended workforce of freelancers. In the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, the number of companies hiring across multiple skill categories increased over 30 percent, with German companies increasing 69 percent.
4. Online hiring will be local—Even when hiring online, 2013 data shows that many businesses prefer to hire local talent when possible. The demand for talent that is both local and online talent will continue to grow in 2014.
In addition to the annual Global Online Employment Report, Elance just released our regular monthly U.S. Employment Report for December 2013. Both are derived from hiring and payment data and measure several key indicators, including the number of new jobs created, the number of people looking for work and local data on hiring and wage growth on Elance.
Each report reveals exciting news for the Elance community, as expressed by Elance CEO Fabio Rosati. “With millions of talented freelancers working online, more businesses are meeting their staffing needs online,” Fabio said. “Until recently, a team of Elancers was the secret weapon for entrepreneurs and startups, but in 2013 we saw a noticeable shift in the labor market with many large companies building extended workforces online to engage talent they don't have in-house.”
One amazing thing about being an Elancer is that you don’t have to be “in the business” to move into a lucrative new business arena. Our marketplace truly allows anyone, anywhere, to do almost anything. If you have an idea, you can bring it to life almost instantly on Elance.
A case in point is Elancer Marina Zdobnova of Southern California. Originally hailing from Sochi, Russia, she noticed that as the Winter Games approached there were little or no travel books on this beautiful area. As one of our Los Angeles area Elance Mobilizers, Marina knew full-and-well that you needn’t be a major player in the publishing industry to create just such a book. You simply need Elancers.
Hence, with no book writing experience, she quickly assembled a team of Elancers and created the definitive guide: My Olympic Sochi: Travel Guide (also available on iTunes and Google Play, as well as Amazon). It details places to visit in the area (including the top 25 adventures), plus Sochi’s rich history, climate, food, people and more.
1. What’s one surprising thing that most people wouldn’t believe about Sochi?
There was a time when Sochi was full of swamps and considered the worst exile place in Russia, worse than Siberia, due to malaria. Since then swamps were dried, malaria was eradicated, and subtropical trees were planted all over the city’s coast.
2. What’s the best restaurant in Sochi, and the best food to try while in town?
I'm a big fan of Old Bazaar Restaurant on Nesebrskaya Street, 4, close to Sochi Sea Port. They specialize in traditional Russian and Caucasian cuisines, try their famous khachapuri ‘lodochka’, a boat shaped bread, and borscht, a soup made from beets. While in Sochi, try chanakhi, a stew of lamb in a clay pot with vegetables, while vegetarians may enjoy lobio, a dish of dark red kidney beans cooked with herbs.
3. Do you have any great tips on using Elancers?
Always be respectful with Elancers. Since people are from different cultures, some things may get lost in translation, so it is important to acknowledge your Elancer’s work and say thank you first, but also indicate what needs to be corrected or modified in a professional manner. Feeling appreciated, Elancers will also treat you with respect and will do even more for you in return.
4. Can you tell us a little more about yourself?
Sure, my name is Marina Zdobnova and I was born in Sochi and attended Sochi School #16. I graduated from Sochi State University and Babson College, Wellesley, Massachusetts. I now live in Santa Monica, California and for sure am going to Sochi for the 22nd Winter Olympic Games in February 2014. Check out my blog and a video about my book.
Elance was excited to chat with Derek Sivers, author of the popular new entrepreneur’s guide Asia 2014. It’s the go-to guide for anyone looking to streamline entry into today’s lucrative Asian countries, from China and India to Japan and Korea. It’s available as one single eBook covering 16 Asian nations, or in individual eBooks by country. Here are some highlights from our discussion.
1. What’s the single-most important thing an entrepreneur should know before entering the Asian market?
Answer: You can't just assume that your great American idea is going to be a great idea anywhere.
There's almost no e-commerce in high-tech Singapore because shopping is a very social group activity that people do with friends in malls. To suggest that someone should shop while online at home is like suggesting that they should also drink at home, alone, so that they don't need to go out to bars anymore.
Even some core concepts - like "Do It Yourself" - have negative instead of positive connotations here. In most cultures in Asia, you show your status by *not* doing something yourself - by having someone do it for you. So many of these businesses and apps that help you cut out the middleman and do things yourself are not as welcome here.
2. What’s the most surprising thing you learned about doing business in Asia in general, and in any one country in particular?
Answer: You think that because everyone uses English as the common language of business that we are all speaking the same language. But take a word like "quality".
In America, "quality" means it works. It's well-built and it will last.
But in Korea, "quality" means it is brand new. Don't try to sell something as timeless.
In Japan, "quality" means it has no defects. It's perfect in every way.
And in China, "quality" means it gives status. Doesn't need to be perfect or even well-built. If it raises the owner's status, it's quality.
You can see how if you're pitching your services or product in these places, the cultural context changes everything.
3. All things considered, what Asian country is the easiest to get started in? And which is the most difficult?
Answer: Singapore is the easiest, by far. The whole country and government is optimized for business. It was basically founded for that sole purpose.
Myanmar is the hardest. It was closed to business until just a couple years ago. It's slowly opening, but the opposite of optimized.
4. Should a startup entering Asia take a different approach than a more established business?
Answer: In America, for example, it's often cool to be the small cool underdog. Think Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream, acting like they're much smaller than they are.
In Asia, it's probably best to act as big and professional as you can.
5. Looking at a crystal ball, what business changes do you foresee happening in Asian in the next year? Five years? Twenty years?
Next one year or five years? Everything is generally growing, but who knows what flood or election might throw things askew here or there.
Next twenty years? Imagine what'll happen when the billions of people across Asia are all living at the same middle-class quality of life that Europeans or Americans are now. Amazing.
6. What online freelance skills did you tap into during the project?
Answer: Elance is my everything!
I needed to hire 48 business researchers from these 16 countries. I found them all on Elance.
The researchers sent me audio files for over a hundred recorded interviews with experts. I found all my transcribers on Elance.
I needed 16 writers - one per book - to turn all that raw research into well-written essays. Elance saved the day.
Finally, 16 editors to edit the 16 books. Again, Elance, Elance, Elance. I love it. (Editor’s note: Blush)
7. Do you have any tips for others, on how to best use Elancers?
Answer: The biggest lesson learned this year was to make weekly milestones part of the job description.
Last year (for the 2013 Edition ) I hired researchers to answer 200 questions by some date, two months in the future. They all seemed great, at first, but when it got close to the deadline, many had hardly begun the work. Of course those people flaked and disappeared, and that work never got done.
This year I made it clear that instead of defining the project as "200 answers in 8 weeks" they had to agree to "25 answers per week for 8 weeks - preferably 5 per day, 5 days a week". Huge difference!
Now if someone didn't get me at least 20 answers by that first week, I fired them by the end of that week. (After much communication, and many warnings, of course.) This was better for all of us, actually. It gave me time to hire someone else in that place, who now had to do 200 answers in 7 weeks. And it let the worker go off and do something else, since this clearly wasn't a good fit for them. It saves so much anguish and guilt.
I highly recommend taking this approach for anything you're working on. Break it into weekly deliverables, and make it clear that the job definition is to meet those weekly goals. If the weekly goals aren't met, they've forfeited the job. Of course make sure this is agreed upon, up-front, before hiring. They really have to state it back to you that they completely agree to working this way. It's very unusual to require this, so you really can't assume it's understood.
8. At 4,500 pages (Editor’s note: 3 times longer than Tolstoy’s War and Peace), Asia 2014 was a massive undertaking. What inspired you to create this massive and insightful series?
Answer: Each of the 16 books has the same 200 questions asked of each country. So I always planned that someday I'd have a way to look at it per-question, comparing each country's answer to that question.
It was hardly any extra work to get my database to output the 200 questions and answers in this alternate format, showing each country's answer after one question. But when I saw that the final PDF was 4,445 pages long, I had to laugh out loud. It seems so ridiculous, but really it's just another PDF/ePub/Mobi file, still the same file size as any average e-book, since I don't have any pictures.
I love that it would be out of the question if in paper form, but as an e-book, why not?
It's definitely the most thorough guide ever made to comparing countries for business.
9. What’s next? Any plans for upcoming projects?
Answer: When starting the first edition in 2013, I had to acknowledge that the first year they'd be pretty bad, the second year they'd be pretty good, the third year they'd be really good, and hopefully by the fourth and fifth year they'll be great or even amazing.
This is the second year, now. They're pretty good. I’ll keep making them better.
About Derek Sivers:
Derek Sivers created CD Baby in 1998, which became the largest seller of independent music online (with $100M in sales for 150,000 musicians). In 2008 Derek sold CD Baby for $22 million and moved to Singapore to start his new company. He is “Entrepreneur In Residence” at INSEAD Business School. In 2011, he published a book which shot to #1 on all of its Amazon categories. He is a frequent speaker at the TED Conference, with over 5 million views of his talks, and 275,000 Twitter followers. More about Derek at sivers.org
If you’re working the 9-to-5 while also working on your own startup, you’re not alone. It’s estimated that over 7 million Americans hold more than one job – looking to earn more money and put their full skills to use (read: doing what they really want to do in life). Fortunately best-selling author Kimberly Palmer has some sage advice on things to avoid when starting a startup on the side:
1. Waiting until you’re “ready” to launch.
Many successful entrepreneurs begin their startups almost by accident; a friend asked them for a favor, and suddenly they were in the floral business, running a social marketing consultancy, or creating the next computer security solution. Instead of first building a Facebook page or stocking up on inventory, they said “yes” to the opportunity in front of them, and their side-gigs grew from there.
2. Letting the first failure stop your progress.
Almost all established entrepreneurs experienced some kind of setback early on, and many still experience occasional failures: a pitch gets rejected, a client gives negative feedback, or a new digital product flops. “But they keep going,” Palmer stresses, “because they know that one rejection doesn’t mean their contributions are worthless. Instead, they take it as proof that they are trying something new and taking risks, some of which are bound to fail.”
3. Thinking you’re earning too little to make a difference.
Many owners of startups make what seems like peanuts: $100 to $200 a month, or just a few thousand dollars a year. Over time, however, that money adds up—$3,000 a year equals around $40,000 after ten years if it’s in an account earning 5 percent interest. Plus, it represents new promise and potential in the event of a layoff. “An income of $200 a month, earned from working a few hours a week, can often be scaled up dramatically if time allows,” Palmer points out.
4. Overinvesting in start-up costs.
It’s easy to plow savings into a startup before it’s even launched: a beautiful website, a professional marketing plan, new certifications. But before investing a cent, successful entrepreneurs often look for ways to bring in revenue, while simultaneously testing the market. That might mean offering nutrition consulting services before setting up a new website, or selling an e-book through an e-commerce channel before printing paperback versions.
5. Working too hard for too little.
When startups are first starting out, they sometimes make the mistake of undercharging for their services, or setting up a business model that would require a 100-hour-a-week schedule to earn a living wage. A classic example is selling a handcrafted website design for the same price as a templated online one. “Simply charging more for products and services can signal quality to potential buyers,” Palmer observes. “Testing the market to see what it can bear, and checking out competitors’ prices, can help entrepreneurs avoid starting too low.”
For more insights from Kimberly get her new book, The Economy of You: Discover Your Inner Entrepreneur and Recession-Proof Your Life (if you need added incentive, it also includes a Foreword by Elance CEO Fabio Rosati). When she’s not writing best-selling books, Kimberly is a Senior Money Editor at U.S. News & World Reports and discusses money matter on NBC’s Today Show, CNBC, CNN and local television and radio shows across the country.
Occasionally we invite clients to discuss issues of importance to businesses and freelancers who use Elance. Here are some thoughts from Nicholas Wright. He frequently hires freelancers and is one of the founders of AppInstruct, an online Course that teaches people how to make mobile apps utilizing the Elance platform.
If you’ve never made an app before, then how should you get started? This is the very question I myself had a year ago. I answered the question by hiring the relevant domain experts, and in the process created AppInstruct’s Online Course — which teaches all us of who have an idea but have never built software before, how to create an app.
This post begins a series here on Elance’s blog, where we’ll explore both the technology and business aspects of making a mobile app. Whether you’re interested in making an app as a hobby to create additional income, to promote an existing business or as a start-up, we’ll set out the roadmap you need to get started.
The great thing about Elance’s platform is the remote network of design and programming expertise it provides, allowing you to manage the process part time from home. This enables a budding entrepreneur to validate their idea, whilst remaining secure in their day job.
So where to start?
1. Research your idea
The first thing to do, is actually write down a list of all the ideas for apps you have, even the silly ones. Then refine this list, first by opening up the App Store (for completeness you could also look in Android’s Google Play, but one is probably sufficient at this stage) and searching for apps that do similar things.
With over a million apps now in the App Store, it’s likely that you’ll discover an app at least similar to your own ideas. Whilst that can be bad news – if your idea is to build a public platform on which people can stay in touch with old friends, then, well, that’s already been done pretty successfully, by a Company that now has huge resources, so may be tough to compete against – it can also be good news, it can demonstrate a market demand for your product idea, and if you think your idea improves upon it, then it’s time to move forward.
Hey, and remember there are also exceptions – that social network called Facebook, is right now more than a little worried by a little photo sharing app started by 3 college students 2 and a half years ago – Snapchat. So much so, they offered to buy it for $3 billion in October of last year.
2. Choose a business model
It can be all too tempting to ignore this at an early stage, especially when you see companies such as Snapchat being valued at $3 billion, when they’ve not yet earned any meaningful revenues. However, to do so would be a mistake.
Snapchat has a business model, it’s just not a traditional one, in that its business model is an ‘Audience model’. That is, its plan is to build a very large audience, in the key and valuable demographic ‘teenagers’. It’s funding this, by raising increasingly large amounts of money, from Venture Capitalists who have past experience and success in supporting companies following a similar plan – yep, Facebook again, and Twitter, and companies like Pinterest.
So, you need a model too. The latest statistics from the main app stores, Apple’s App Store, and Google Play, suggest that 92% of revenues are now being generated from apps that employ a ‘freemium’ model. That is, apps that are free to download and use, but then make additional value, be it features, or virtual currency to skip game levels, available to buy via an in-app-purchase.
This is not to say the paid download is dead. Apple announced customers spent $1billion in the App Store in December, so that’s $80 million on paid apps. For example, Simago’s Year Walk game has made over $500,000 since it was launched in February last year, with 200,000 copies having been downloaded. That’s a nice little earner.
3. Identify the correct platform
When you’ve chosen your preferred idea, and selected a business model for it, then you should decide on which platform you’ll launch it.
There’s no one size fits all here. Your choices are:
Build a native app, that is one optimized to work on Apple, Android, Windows Phone or Blackberry devices;
Build a hybrid app, that is one that utilizes HTML5, or an existing platform, such as Appcelerator, to then work across the different native platforms. Unfortunately, the technology isn’t good enough as yet for the user’s experience to match that of a native app;
Build a responsive website - the app is an internet site, found through the browser of people’s mobile devices (as opposed to sitting behind its own icon on their device’s screen). It differs from a traditional website, in that the site is designed to be as easy to use on a small mobile screen, as a traditional desktop.
We’ll explore the factors you should consider in choosing a platform in more depth in a future post.
In our next post, we’ll discuss the methodology of lean startups and our own thoughts on ‘minimum viable products’.
About the author:
Nicholas Wright is a co-founder and CEO of AppInstruct. Nic is actively involved in the start-up space, mentoring other founders with mobile, fundraising and legal advice. Nic’s favorite app is WhatsApp, which allows him to remain in contact with family in America and England.
Thanks to the 800+ startups and small businesses who entered our Elance Big idea Competition. The submissions were incredible, and narrowing the field was next to impossible for our judges. But after much discussion and deliberation we’ve now selected the 40 Semifinalists who’ll advance to the next round.
Without further ado, here are the 40 Semifinalists!
New York City:
Francine W., Airsafe Carryon
Aaron R., Hunger Construction
Bruce K., Metis LLC
Rasheid S., Smarter Vote
Sean O., TextPride
Jacques A., Commogri, Inc.
Anthony N., Liven It Up Events
Colin B., Pronto Plate
Dominic B., savvo digital sommelier solutions
Andrea F., Hive Network
Nicu L., Ironzilla
Grace W., Kiko Labs
Jack Y., Reputology
Evelyn H., Roonga, Inc.
Chris P., Cally
Gordon M., Cirro Labs Ltd
Gary M., eCommWeb Limited
Nidhima K., MyBeautyCompare
Leke B., SignTech Paperless Solutions
Mads E., Ateo
Carlos G., Discue
Nicolai L., DIVE.in
Mikael T., Labster
David D., M-PAYG
Mathieu S., Cipasso
Sergiej R., CleanAgents
Bas K., Glean
Luca M., GruvIt
Polina M., umoli UG (haftungsbeschränkt)
George O., Blueteq
Claire D., Buzz Movie Makers
Nathan G., Servomate
Simon W., SwyftPay
Luke E., Yohkoe
Yu A., Explorer Junior
Ivan R., Hook
Alexei C., Newzmate, Inc.
Lawrence Y., Purifyy
Reto L., Testing Time
Congratulations to those moving on and thanks again to everyone who threw their hat in the ring. You knocked our socks off.
Next steps for competitors (and for you).
If you love watching a heated contest, circle Thursday, January 30th on your calendar. That’s when Elance and our local partners will host live events at seven cities around the globe (there will also be a “wildcard” contest for those unable to personally attend one of our competitions, where you can help choose the winning Finalist … stay tuned for details).
Each live event will feature five local Semifinalists battling it out, pitching their ideas. But only one startup will advance to the Finals from each region! Plus there will also be speakers, prizes (from us and from local sponsors), refreshments, networking and a good time had by one and all. Each region’s Finalist will also win an Apple iPad from Elance, further sweetening the pot. Here’s where to register to attend your local event:
Between now and January 30th our 40 Semifinalists will be using their $2,500 in Elance credits they earned to build-out their Big Ideas. Which means each pitch will be meaty and complete – with real examples of what’s possible with a great idea and the savvy to hire online freelancers. It’s sure to be exciting, as each region will select one winner who will advance to the February 6 online final.
Congrats to all our Semifinalists! Use the links above to register, and we’ll see you at a local competition near you later this month.