Elance Blog

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Home Office Tax Deductions For U.S. Freelancers

Once again it’s nearing the April 15th deadline for filing taxes in America.

While many U.S.-based Elancers know about tax benefits available to the happily self-employed, it’s possible that a large number of those new to freelancing may be unaware of allowable deductions.

This is especially true now that more and more 9-to-5 staffers are making the switch to freelance work (welcome).

Note that for freelancers in other countries, this may not apply directly to you now. But keep these principles in mind if applicable, and at the appropriate time. Naturally all freelancers should consult your own tax advisor before making decisions.

If you are paying U.S. taxes, however, you’ll find a plethora of valuable information on the Internal Revenue Service website. One such page discusses the home office deduction. A few topics covered include:

Requirements for claiming a home-office deduction

• How using your home for office storage differs from working and meeting clients there

• How to determine the amount you can claim on your taxes

• Which forms to use when making home office deductions

Of course your home office is but one of the many possible tax deductions available. While we can’t begin to explain them all in detail here, hopefully this is a good starting point for your own research. Another good tip is to contact fellow Elancers who are tax experts. You know as well as anyone how many great resources are available to us all on Elance. Good luck on those taxes.

Update On Last Week’s Denial-Of-Service Attack

Elance is now up-and-running following a series of denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks which occurred Monday through Wednesday of last week. These attacks prevented some users from accessing our website and caused intermittent issues that interfered with normal site functionality.

We know that Elance is a marketplace you’ve come to trust and rely upon, and we have invested in new technology to help thwart future attacks.

During the attack, your personal information was safe at all times and no data was compromised. You can learn more about DDoS attacks here.

Please accept our sincere apologies for any inconveniences you may have experienced.  During the outage we sent an email to all recently-active clients and freelancers. The note explained the situation and asked for people’s consideration regarding delays in communication and work delivery.

We hope your jobs are now running normally. If you are still experiencing issues, please report them here. If you have any difficulty accessing our site in the future, you can always check for real-time updates on Twitter (@Elance) and Facebook. Thanks again for your support and understanding.

Top 5 Considerations Before Hiring a Freelancer

Occasionally we invite Elancers to discuss issues of importance to businesses who use our online work marketplace.  Here are some thoughts from Emma Siemasko, who uses Elancers regularly and has just published a new online publication, JUMP: The Ultimate Guide To Starting And Growing Your Business. It's about taking that great idea of yours from concept to fruition – as she did with her most-recent publication, thanks to the help of Elancers.


You’ve got a big project coming up and you’re going to need some extra help … but your payroll doesn’t have the wiggle room for a new employee. So, what’s a business owner to do?

For many projects, a freelancer is a great solution. At my company, we have a network of freelancers we turn to for writing projects, illustrations, radio ads, and more.

There are no long commitments, no need to pay health and retirement benefits, and since a freelancer won’t be on your payroll indefinitely, this type of hire might allow you to budget more for the project than you’d otherwise be able to bankroll.

But you still have to do your homework. Keep these points in mind when vetting the freelance pool.

Portfolios Matter

Any freelancer worth his or her salt should have a portfolio. A great portfolio will open a window into your freelancer’s world. It displays his work, sure – but it should also display his personality.

Some questions to ask yourself when evaluating a portfolio:

  • Does the work show creative, outside-of-the-box thinking?
  • Is the portfolio correctly formatted and easy to navigate?
  • Does the candidate stand out from the crowd in any positive way?
  • Does the candidate’s personality seem to jive with your company’s brand?

If you like a candidate’s portfolio, add to it by giving her a small assignment to use as a sample. This will help you gauge how well that person understands your brand’s style, audience and goals.

Getting through the portfolios of several dozen freelancers might take some time, but it’s crucial to finding just the right fit for the job.

Check References

The portfolios are a start. Now that you’ve got a short list of potential candidates, it’s time to begin making calls or checking ratings and reviews.

The portfolio should contain references. Always check references and read online ratings.

Congrats To Elancers Who Helped Fuel StartupBus

StartupBus North America 2014 is now in our rear view mirror, and needless to say it was a gas (as well as another exciting and inspiring journey). Here’s a quick video recap of the action-packed competition that followed the 72-hour StartupBus journey:

Next order of business: Congratulations to contest winner SmartHost.

Their StartupBus pitch introduced a clever new business and app allowing you to estimate the optimum price to charge for your rental property. An example of their differentiating point is, for example, if a huge Amway conference is coming to town they calculate the law of supply & demand into your estimated rate. Pretty smart, eh?

Advice From An Elancer (Volume 19)

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.

Question #1:

In your proposal, do you refer prospective clients to your Elance profile/portfolio or upload samples, or both?

Advice from an Elancer:

Samples are an important part of any proposal. They give the client a “taste” of your abilities. I refer to my portfolio and Elance profile, but always upload samples. This saves those in a rush that extra step of wading through jobs that may not be relevant to the type of work they seek. I always ensure that my samples are related in some way to the job I am bidding for. If they want to know more, then they can go ahead and dig deeper.


Question #2:

What should I include in my portfolio?

Advice from an Elancer:

I have to admit, I have looked at several portfolios lately. Some are fantastic; some shouldn’t have been posted. Only post your best work. Just because you did it, doesn’t mean it’s your best. I’ve seen graphics with spelling errors – this reflects poorly on the freelancer. To protect yourself, only post items that have already been published online with your name attached to them. This way they cannot easily be plagiarized. If you have nothing online to show, you post a statement in your portfolio that samples will be submitted on an individual basis, based on the job at hand.

You don’t need 30 samples. Clients don’t want to wade through tons of material. Post only your best; post those that show your range of abilities.

Always use tags that are relevant and describe accurately what is in each sample. This helps the client save time. They can view only content that shows skills related to their current needs.


New Report Shows U.S. Tech Workers Are Finding More Jobs Online

A new report released last week shows that businesses around the globe are increasingly going online to hire skilled technology and engineering professionals.

The monthly report tracks hiring, as well as skill and wage data, for American freelancers. What stood out in February’s numbers was the fact that businesses are hiring U.S.-based technology experts at record pace on Elance. In fact, IT and Programming continues to be Elance’s highest-growing job category in the U.S. (accounting for 51% of total hires in the month). Compared to February of last year, there were twice as many engineering hires and 130% more paid to engineering freelancers from America.

One can infer from these numbers that businesses worldwide are looking to accelerate growth quickly, and for the best results they turn to highly-skilled U.S. freelancers who command higher wages and deliver quality work.

We regularly publish real-time wage, location and skills data in the Trends section of our website. Our goal is to publish data and reports that help create a truly transparent workplace for freelancers and the businesses that hire them.

Check out a recap of the report, or view the full report here.

Well Done Elancers! Over $1 Billion Earned on Elance.

Today we’re excited to announce another remarkable milestone for the Elance community. Freelancers have now earned over $1 billion (yes that’s with a “b”) in the Elance marketplace.

This impressive figure speaks volumes about the amazing quality of our freelancers. It’s also testament to how Elance is truly connecting the world through work. Yea! We’re delighted to help bring unprecedented opportunities to Elancers around the globe.

Online work continues to rise.

Speaking of which, what does the future hold for Elancers? If our 2013 Global Online Employment Report is any indicator, there’s no end in sight for the acceleration of online work. The demand for talented freelancers is escalating dramatically from day to day, week to week, year to year.

Well beyond a “niche” market, online freelancing is here to stay and a major force in today’s workplace. A recent Wall Street Journal video interview of Elance CEO Fabio Rosati helps exemplify the impact online work is having globally. We’re also excited to see an impressive surge in work on Elance Private Talent Clouds, as more and more large companies and enterprises hire freelancers through Elance. Having just launched in September of 2013, work on Private Talent Clouds promises to be an increasing opportunity for freelancers in the days to come.

Keep up the great work everyone. And we’ll continue making Elance the best place to work on this planet.

New Book Outlines The Future of Work

Occasionally we invite Elancers to discuss issues of importance to businesses and freelancers who use our online work marketplace.  Here are some thoughts from Bas van de Haterd, who has just published a new book, (R)evolution of Work: Social Capital in Organizations. It's about a new mentality, social change, upcoming markets, sustainability and finding meaning in our work.


There is a revolution going on in the workplace. Of course, Elance users know this already. But recently mainstream media has been writing about it a lot. Oxford University, one of the most prestigious in the world, published a paper stating that 40% of all American jobs might disappear in the next 20 years or so.

This isn't really news for those following the revolution that's going on in the workspace. Many books have been published on this topic, including my own (note that Elance VP Kjetil Olsen wrote part of the preface). However, there is another, positive, side of the revolution as well.

My book, called (R)evolution of Work is now available in English. That's something pretty rare for a Dutch author. To give you some numbers, about 10% of all books published in the U.S. have a non-U.S. writer. This includes native English writers from the UK (like J.K. Rowling and Tolkien) and Australia. Translated books are rare, because most publishers don't even dare try.

Yet in this revolution in the workplace, having a book translated, is a lot more affordable and easier than it ever was. Writing about a revolution of the workplace, I of course use tools I write about in my book as well.

The cost of translating my own book was cut in half, because I used Elance.

Dutch, my native language and the language that the book was originally written in, isn't spoken much outside the Netherlands (except for a part of Belgium). Yet when I posted the translation job online I got offers from South Africa, Egypt and Morocco. All from Dutch individuals who had moved away. The editing was done by a native English speaker from the United States.

The publishing itself was done on Kindle. Amazon also offers this service, making it possible to write and publish a book without a publisher. This offers great opportunities for writers.

Part of this revolution in the workspace is the creation of opportunities. Without Elance my book would have never “left” the Netherlands. Translation and editing would have been too expensive and publishing impossible. Now it's available on Kindle for everyone to read.


Advice From An Elancer (Volume 18)

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.


Question #1:

When I've done work in the past I haven't asked clients whether I can use a portion of the work as a sample for potential new clients. I'm wondering how people go about getting/having writing/editing samples and how to ask clients whether I can use part of their job as a sample?

Advice from an Elancer:

Some projects require you sign a non-disclosure agreement, stating that you have no right to use the content in any context. In these cases, you cannot use it, period. There is no harm in asking a client whether you can use part of a job as a portfolio sample, but be prepared to hear “no”. Ghostwritten content is ghostwritten for a reason.

What you CAN do is use blog posts that you have written; any articles or content published online in your name; or create some samples of your own for your portfolio. There is nothing wrong with creating your own samples of various types of writing, just don’t provide free samples in response to job listings. These are a violation of the terms of service.


Question #2:

My profile is suspended because I had more than one account. I have talked to Elance and they have deleted all of my accounts. What can I do?

Advice from an Elancer:

It is a violation of Elance terms of service to have more than one account. In one of the many legal files, it states that each user may register for one Client account and one Freelance account. I’m not sure why you would have multiple accounts, but by submitting an Elance support ticket, you may ask for details and an investigation. The policy regarding accounts is here.


Follow Along As Startup Bus Rolls On

Startup Bus is once again in high gear, as scrappy startup teams across North America (as well as remote Elancers around the globe) motor their way towards Texas for another epic showdown.

Follow the action through Thursday, via our social media pages, as we report live from inside various Startup Buses. This includes regular updates on how a plethora of talented Elancers are helping fuel the innovation.

In fact Elancers have been a huge part of many successful Startup Buses in the past, and have been on several winning teams.

This year, Startup Buses departed Sunday from Mexico City, Kansas City, Seattle, New York City, San Francisco, Tampa Bay and Nashville. They’ll wrap up the completion in Texas on Thursday, March 6.

If you’re not familiar with Startup Bus North America, it’s a wild pitch competition. More specifically it’s where an assortment of entrepreneurs (most of whom are complete strangers to each other) pile into a bus with one thought in mind: Combine the know-how onboard (and online) to create a great company.

It’s a 3-day journey where each team buckles down to first decide their best collective idea for a company, then uses every resource available to bring that idea to life before rolling into Austin.

Hold onto your hat, as Startup Bus North America is sure to be a fast and festive journey.

Follow along and enjoy the ride! Oh, and to join in the conversation yourself, use hashtag: #startupbus