Elance CEO Fabio Rosati is a regular contributor to the American Express OPEN Forum, the financial giant’s online site powering small business success. Below is a recent column from Fabio discussing how companies are no longer limited by their size. See the original post here.
As the referee says before players take the field, “May the best team win.”
In the business world, however, the “best team” has traditionally been at companies with the deeper pockets, most-recognizable brand and best hiring location. Although small businesses frequently have better ideas and more inspired leadership, they’re often hamstrung by their inability to find the skilled talent needed to pull off the upset.
Fortunately, a change is afoot in today’s workforce. Growing at twice the rate of traditional employees, America’s freelancers, consultants and temps now make up to 25% of the workforce. Armed with a laptop and web connection, the 21st century workforce can connect with businesses around the corner and across the globe with a few keystrokes, lending their skills as needed.
Small businesses can take advantage of this game-changing shift to out-maneuver the big boys. Any small business can go online and instantly gain access to a much bigger talent pool - from designers to coders and app developers, creative writers and editors, researchers and social media marketers, customer service agents, data analysts and myriads of other specializations.
This new landscape is also the result of changes in lifestyle. Just a generation ago a typical employee could land a job right out of college with a large company, and reasonably expect to stay there for his or her entire career. Contrast that with this startling statistic from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: As of 2010, the average time an American worker will stay at any job has plummeted to less than four and a half years.
Embracing the new workforce is critical for any business competing for talent. It’s also a home run for businesses in remote locations or areas with a struggling local economy, as they can now find talent anywhere.
When accessing talent online, the playing field is more level: Xan Hood, Founder of the outdoor clothing company Buffalo Jackson Trading Co. is a case in point. “I started with $300 and a dream,” said Xan. He then went on to build and grow his popular outfitter company almost exclusively by hiring people online. “I was able to build my company by building an entire team virtually,” he says.
Buffalo Jackson Trading Co. is just one of thousands of small businesses now discovering how to compete better by extending their workforces online. The result is a true meritocracy when the best entrepreneur wins the race to talent, regardless of location, size or stock price.
With online work already slated to double in the next two years, here at Elance we’ve noticed an even greater rate of acceleration among women now freelancing.
Curiosity piqued, the team decided to dig deeper by conducting a poll among Elancers. The results of our global survey are impressive to say the least, as women are truly thriving in today’s online work world.
In fact, women’s online earnings are now growing almost 20% faster than men. This makes perfect sense if you’ve read Sheryl Sandberg’s best-selling book Lean In, where she notes that 43% of high-qualified women with children are leaving their full-time gigs for the flexibility of online work.
Truth be told, women are looking for more freedom and more opportunity, and freelancing is where they’re finding it. This is especially true in the technology sector, where online work is critical to closing the tech gender gap. One shining nugget found in our Elance survey is that 70% of women questioned report that online work offers more opportunities for women in technology.
Similarly, the results show that as women gain more experience working online, they naturally gravitate towards tech-based jobs. The poll reveals that as women look to overcome traditional stereotypes and work barriers, they plan to take their careers to the next level by adding new skills from website design (36%) and web programming (29%) to mobile app development (22%).
Key to helping this monumental transformation is the many educational opportunities now available to all for learning new skills. Also of note is our many Skills Tests on Elance, where our clients can see that women have the talents needed to do a great job.
The bottom line? Women working online are more optimist than ever. A case in point is Heidi Vanyo, a U.S.-based software developer from Blaine, Minnesota who responded to our survey. “After taking five years off to focus on my family, I knew reentering the tech workforce would be difficult because the sector moves at light speed,” she said. “Instead of seeking a traditional full-time job, I opted for online employment on Elance due to the flexibility it provides me as a working mom. Within a few months, I was able to build up my web development portfolio and work with a variety of businesses around the world.”
Here are some other highlights of women’s responses to our survey:
• 80% are optimistic about their career growth in the technology sector
• 70% say online work elevates socioeconomic status in technology
• 65% report that the diversity of online jobs boosts their skills and status
• 65% want the intellectual challenge and diversity of tech careers
• 60% find it’s easier to find online work than full-time positions
• 60% report online work allows a better work-life balance and more family
Still more work to be done. Much of it happening online.
However, the report also shows that there is still work to be done for the gap to narrow even more. In fact the survey reveals the following factors that women feel are critical for continued progress: equal pay (66%), parent and teacher inspiration at a younger age (55%) and dispelling stereotypes about girls and math/science (49%).
Check-out the complete results of our Women in Technology survey, including some eye-catching infographics that bring the story to life. We’re excited to be a big part of the changing space in technology and a bright future for women. Even our CEO Fabio Rosati couldn’t hide his enthusiasm: “For women in tech, online work is a level playing field where merit and results rule,” he said. “Online work provides an attractive avenue to reduce gender discrimination and create professional fulfillment in ways that often are not available in traditional job markets.”
If you’ve done your homework regarding today’s evolving state of educational, you know that the world of academia is in a serious flux as of late.
Today people far-and-wide are questioning the structure and value of traditional 4-year universities, and instead closely following the emergence of online learning and Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs). This issue is naturally top-of-mind for our freelancers, particularly Millennial Elancers, as they look for viable ways to learn the top-demanded skills needed to be successful in the years to come.
To chat about the evolving state of education Elance recently hosted an insightful panel discussion at our Mountain View, California headquarters. Titled “Higher Education 2020: What Will Universities Become?”, the event was organized by Georgetown Technology Alliance and moderated by Betsy Corcoran of EdSurge. On the panel was a cross-section of academia new and old, from a distinguished Georgetown University faculty member to leaders of emerging online learning organizations including The Minerva Project, 2U and Udacity. Also on hand to absorb and offer their point of view were several Elancers, many Georgetown grads and a handful of folks from the local community interested in the future of education.
Highlights of the discussion included a nod to the fact that university costs are rising 7% annually, far outpacing general inflation (2%). Also noted repeatedly was the fact that online classes seek to level the playing field and bring opportunity to those who traditionally lack physical or economic access to universities.
However, not to be ignored, was the topic of the “pizza pub culture” – specifically the learning and mentorship that can only happen on a physical college campus. So don’t count out the brick and mortar university just yet, as they’ve played a major role in our intellectual landscape for 500 years and aren’t going anyplace soon.
While school’s still out on where “universities” will evolve to in the next few years, everyone on the panel agreed that within a few years the educational system will have a much different look and feel than today. It is also universally agreed upon that colleges will work more closely with companies to focus on ways to more-efficiently supply businesses with the leaders of tomorrow.
And if you’re looking for more-concrete details on the webinar, here is the official description:
Come join us for this webcast as we explore Windows 8 App development and the cloud computing offerings in the Windows Azure Services Platform. Microsoft Technical Evangelist Brian Hitney will demonstrate his Windows 8 app and explain the process he used to leverage Windows Azure mobile back-end services. You will learn about and have an opportunity to ask questions about the Windows 8 development process and the key benefits of using Windows Azure backend services. We provide an overview of the components and services that make up the platform and the development environment for developing and deploying cloud-based applications. The webinar is also a great opportunity for businesses and online freelancers alike to explore the prospects of online freelance jobs for Windows 8 app development for the cloud.
Now and again we like to invite freelancers and clients to this blog, asking them to discuss their real-life experiences and offer insights they’ve gleaned from online work. Today we’ve slated Toke Kruse, who will explain what he’s looking for when hiring Elancers.
My name is Toke Kruse. As the owner of several businesses, I often use Elance to find freelancers for various types of projects.
Though hundreds of freelancers have sent me proposals in response to jobs I’ve posted on Elance, there are a few key things that least 80% of them could have done differently, and ended up with a far better chance of being awarded one of my projects.
With that in mind, I wanted to give you some advice on how to optimize your proposals – three simple but important actions that will increase your rate of job awards. As the CEO of Billy’s Billing, a provider of accounting software for freelancers and small businesses, these are points I always look for when choosing a freelancer.
#1: Provide a great presentation of yourself, your skills and your success.
You know better than anyone what you’re capable of, and all about the great work you’ve done in the past. Don’t keep it a secret! Present yourself well and honestly, highlighting your strengths and showcasing relevant examples of your work:
Make sure your profile is well written – that means good grammar, perfect spelling and well-constructed sentences and paragraphs. It also means a tone and “flavor” that will appeal to the sort of client you prefer to work with. That might be bright and friendly, or it might be more conservative and businesslike – it’s up to you.
Include a good photo, and highlight your past experience and other qualifications as a proven provider. If you’re new to Elance, say so. There are a lot of clients willing to give newcomers a try.
Your profile should also include examples of your best work (even if it wasn’t done through Elance), and feedback showing how satisfied clients have been with what you’ve provided. No client is likely to hire a provider who doesn’t have any good references and work samples.
Build up a portfolio showing the different types of work you do, and be sure to attach relevant samples when bidding on a job.
As time goes on, be sure to keep your profile up to date, too. Add new samples of great work, new feedback from enthusiastic clients, new qualifications and so on.
#2: Offer the perfect product and a clear pricing policy.
It’s vital to your success that you offer and provide an outstanding product. I know this isn’t shocking news, but still it needs to be said – and kept foremost in your mind on every project you undertake.
The people who are consistently the most successful – in any field – are those who make it a point always to provide more than what the customer or client expects. A better product, a faster delivery, more prompt, courteous and clear communication – there are all sorts of ways you can exceed expectations. And it’s just good business to do it.
Next, it’s important to have a sensible, fair and clearly stated pricing policy. Make sure your customers or clients know, right from the start, exactly what your products and services will cost them. A clear, firm agreement on price before a project begins will save everyone involved headaches and upset later on.
When stating your pricing policy, be sure to mention factors behind your pricing that are important to the client or customer: the superb quality of your work, your speedy and reliable delivery, your flexibility and willingness to work with the client to ensure the product is exactly what’s needed, and so on.
I won’t try to go into all the ins and outs of pricing here. The subject is worth a whole article (or two or three) all by itself. And fortunately there’s plenty of good information and advice available. To put it very briefly, though:
You don’t want to overcharge, so that the customer feels he or she won’t receive fair value for the price, and look for someone who will charge less.
You don’t want to undercharge, either – that’s not being fair to yourself, and can end up driving you out of business.
By the way, as you may already have learned, there are some people posting jobs on Elance who are ONLY interested in getting the lowest price possible. And there are plenty of providers who, for whatever reason, will charge ridiculously low prices. Unfortunately for the clients who hire them, their product quality and service are often ridiculously low, too. So don’t compromise and offer prices way below what your work is worth. There are plenty of clients who appreciate great quality and are willing to pay a fair price for it.
#3: Be certain of what your client needs, wants and expects.
Before making a bid on a project, it can be very helpful to communicate with the prospective client, to clarify what he or she needs. Elance has provided ways for you to do this. (If you’re not sure how, check their “Help” section.)
In sending such a communication, introduce yourself briefly, tell the client that you’re interested in the project, and ask for information or clarifications you need in order to make a fair bid. A good client (one you’re likely to be happy to work for) will appreciate your questions and the professionalism they indicate.
Be sure to be very clear and concise. If your potential client is anything like me, they’ll be receiving a flurry of proposals and bids – and they don’t have time to be reading long Harry Potter stories.
Whether you’re asking questions about a project, or making a direct proposal, it’s very helpful if you include samples of past work that are similar to the project in question. In some cases you might even supply a small sample of what you would do on that specific project. I don’t mean you should do a part of the project for free – no way. But a small sample of how you would approach the task can demonstrate that you really DO understand what’s needed, and that you CAN provide it. (It can also open the door to helpful clarification of the client’s needs. Either way, you both win.)
I hope what I’ve said here will help you to stand out from the crowd, land more projects and increase your earnings as a freelancer. I look forward to seeing you here on Elance!
If you’re on the fence about breaking off and starting your own business, here are some thoughts from Alastair Cameron, Founder of Startacus.net. Alastair guest writes for us now and again, and today’s topic is why today is an opportune time to start your new business.
What’s to lose?
Irrespective of whether you are currently unemployed or in employment, the chances are that because you are reading this article, you are at least a little interested in starting a business, or have at least a good idea that you think could make a good business. Unfortunately I went through the process of redundancy and unemployment before I considered doing something about one of my ‘ideas’, though in hindsight that was very much time lost. Perhaps redundancy was the catalyst to spur me on, however you don’t have to be unemployed or facing job uncertainty to want to work for yourself. Many entrepreneurs work part time on their ideas; weekends, evenings, lunch breaks, whenever they can. So don’t feel that being employed is a barrier to starting a business - see it as an opportunity to at least work on your idea, make plans and formulate your business model - whilst you at least have the security of a wage and a solid job behind you.
If you are unemployed - well, like I was, the benefit of the benefits system isn’t really all that appealing and in reality what have you got to lose by at least developing your business idea? You have the potential to create a career and job opportunities for others in the process. You may be surprised to find that there are significant funding and government opportunities (depending on where you live) to take your idea forward if it has real merit.
If you get to the stage of starting a business and have the finances to support employing additional staff, then perhaps now is the best time to recruit them. Whether that be employing a contract staff member or finding a freelancer to complete a specific project, the recession, as tough as it has been, has created a flexible and available workforce. Starting a business when there is less available talent and low unemployment means that you may find it harder to find the skills you need to take your business forward.
Lack of Competition
Stands to reason, but many people would be deterred by starting businesses during a recession - the tightening of the belt and purse strings attitude can also apply to a mentality that it would be unwise to start a business in a recession. A good business idea is, however, a good business idea - irrespective of when it is launched. Microsoft, Burger King, Hyatt Corp, Jim Henson Co., to name but a few, all reportedly launched during recessions, and they have all gone on to do pretty well (hopefully Startacus can continue that trend!) Also, if your competition is either closing down around you, or not even opening up at all, then the chances are that you have at least the opportunity to make a go of it and with less competition on your doorstep too.
The World’s Your Oyster
Startacus is not a massively funded platform, nor does it have a millionaire backer or a team of 20 paid writers behind the scenes. What it does have is a passion and belief that as a business we will succeed, that our brand is strong and that we will become a big player in our marketplace. The good news is that social media and the power of the internet to make an impression, means that our business benefits from how well we ‘perform’ online. Everyone, irrespective of location, budget and staff numbers has the opportunity to create brand awareness, brand visibility and a reputation via the likes of Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. You should take advantage of this and realize that the contacts that you can make are global, not local - even if your makeshift office is in your house and your office is often your laptop, or mobile phone! This can also translate into the staff that you employ or the projects that you commission; no longer does your workforce have to meet you face to face. The world can be your oyster.
Alastair Cameron is the Founder of Startacus.net, an online platform seeking to inspire, inform, and motivate self-starters, innovators, startups & creatives to connect, collaborate & bring ideas to life.
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.
There are so many, I don’t know where to start! Check out the “Work Differently Photo Contest” for some of the answers. I think many Freelancers would agree that it is the most flexible way to work. You make your own hours, work on projects that you choose to work on, and have more freedom than a traditional workplace. Many Clients are turning to Freelancers in this economy because they don’t have the overhead costs associated with hiring a full or part-time employee (benefits, sick days, etc.) so this is a great time to be a Freelancer!
Please suggest ideas for winning more projects.
When I submit my proposal on client's project and I get average 3-4 projects awarded per month. Why not 10 - 15 projects per month? I have 6 years of Elance experience and good feedback.
Advice from an Elancer:
3-4 projects per month isn’t bad, and I’m pretty sure a lot of Elancers would agree! Tips for winning jobs are to watch for jobs posted by previous clients and bid on them. If you did a good job for them in the past, they may hire you again. Look for jobs seeking long-term relationships. These don’t always work out, but it’s worth a try. Make sure your proposals are individualized and address all of the needs the client expresses in their job descriptions. Other than that, just keep up the good work!
Would providing links to your publications be considered providing contact information?
I have published a number of articles in an online publication under my own name. These articles are relevant to the service I offer and I would like to include links to the articles in my portfolio. Prospects that follow the link and also click on the live author name will land on my profile page at that publication and will be able to contact me directly.
Will including the article links be considered providing personal contact info?
Advice from an Elancer:
I did some research on this one and here is what I found. In a proposal, Freelancers should not provide contact information. This suggests an offer to work outside of the Elance System, which is prohibited if you are following a lead generated by Elance. The scenario you describe is tricky, because the publication has chosen to link to your contact information, which is good for you, but not so good for your Elance use. Using examples with your name is fine. The contact information is the problem.
You can ask the publications to link to your Elance profile; you can upload the file to your portfolio, but you lose the impact of it being published online; you can place the article in your portfolio, stating that it was published in so-and-so magazine on this date (this will also discourage plagiarizers) or use other pieces.
Once you are accepted as the Freelancer for the job, you are free to provide contact information and are reminded to record outside information in the workroom to protect both you and the Client in the case of a dispute.
Apart from portfolio, what is most important component in pursuing the client’s requirements for a job?
Advice from an Elancer:
There is one word for this: Proposal. The absolute best way to show a Client that you are the Freelancer for the job is to write a proposal that shows the Client what you can do for them in relation to the points they have indicated in their job description. Never, ever, ever (as Taylor Swift says on the radio several times per day) use the same proposal, changing a few words, for each client. Read what they need and then show them how you can give it to them.
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.
After years of attracting top businesses and freelancers from every corner of the Earth, Elance is excited to announce that we’re now branching out beyond our home planet.
“We are absolutely thrilled to sign-up the industry’s very first client from the planet Mars,” said Elance Director of Interplanetary Development, Paul E. Wog. “We nearly registered a business from Pluto last year. But once Pluto lost its official status as a “planet,” the whole deal became a violation of our Terms of Service.”
Elance’s initial client from outside Earth is Zelphan Romedus IV, a Mars-based distributor of spare parts for space exploration vehicles.
“We have a dozen new rovers landing here daily,” said Narcom Qualizxt of Zelphan Romedus IV. “It’s getting busier than Area 51 around here, and these dune-buggies are breaking down faster than the Vulcan Starfleet. They need new wheels and cup holders and stuff, and our distribution channels are light years ahead of anything on Earth. We just need to toot our own cyber-horn.”
Zelphan Romedus IV has already hired a graphic designer on Elance to create a new company logo, choosing to collaborate through crop circles in an Iowa cornfield rather than our traditional shared Workroom. “Sort of odd fellows to work with,” noted Photoshop whiz and Elancer Gaymond Clopton of Earlham, Iowa. “But they paid me $3.4 million dollars US for one logo and left me a five-star rating, so I’m not going to complain about a little green slime here and there. The dry-cleaners got most of the stains out anyway.”
Headquartered in Athabasca Valles near the red planet’s Borealis Basin, Zelphan Romedus IV also plans to hire talented web programmers and mobile app developers on Elance. “The cloud is how earthlings are communicating with each other these days, so we need to be there,” said Narcom Qualizxt. “And Elance will transport us at light speed. Actually we love Elancers here on Mars, as the thought of overpaying for slow, second-class work is alien to us.”
With online work continuing to grow at an astronomical rate, it was only a matter of time before Elance moved into this untapped extraterrestrial market. “Our solar system is rife with talented individuals and businesses looking to Work Differently,” explained Elance’s Paul E. Wog. “Neptune alone has one of the largest communities of freelancers and businesses creating computer glasses and driverless vehicles. Both of these markets are just now taking shape here on this big blue marble we call home, and Elance can help drive success.”
Our man Paul E. Wog is also quick to explain that the rewarding lifestyle of online work is perfect for freelancers from all galaxies. “It doesn’t matter if you’re on a beach in the Bahamas or a Mothership in the Milky Way, all you need is a web connection to work these days. And boy do they have great Wi-Fi in deep space.”
Editor’s note: Yes, a quick peek at your wall calendar will confirm that today is April Fools’ Day, and that this blog post is in jest. Or at least it’s a few years premature? In case you’re not familiar with April Fools’ Day, it’s a kinda-sorta holiday in many countries, where folks celebrate by playing practical jokes and hoaxes on each other. We couldn’t resist.
Answer: As Director of Online Marketing, I lead all efforts to make sure clients and freelancers find us when searching the web. Another huge part of the job is to really understand who our users are and how to serve them better.
2. What do you like most about working at Elance?
Answer: I have to tell you a story first, and I'll try to keep it short. Before working at Elance I was a freelancer making a living through Elance.
I still remember the day when my fiancée quit her job at Microsoft in Seattle, sold everything she owned, and moved to Macedonia to start a family with me. On that same day, the Macedonian company I was doing online marketing and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for suddenly stopped paying everyone’s salary without any explanation. I had to do something and fast. A friend mentioned there was a site where you could work online jobs and make a decent living. I decided to not just try Elance, but to make it work for me. I figured if it can work for others then it can work for me as well.
Long story short, I got my first job and made just $50. Three months later I made the equivalent of 9 months of salary.
I still have that feeling of freedom whenever I see the word "Elance". I know that no matter where I am, I can still survive. For the first time in human history you don't have to live in a prosperous and developed country to have access to great jobs. Now you can grow your expertise and make a decent living from anywhere in the world. That's pretty powerful.
So, to answer the question, helping people and companies understand this opportunity is what I like most about working at Elance.
3. How do you Work Differently?
Answer: I work from home when I feel it's more productive, but I like being dynamic and changing my scenery every day. One good habit I’ve developed is to stay focused on what I'm doing in the moment no matter what is happening around me. In addition to that, I'm not afraid to fail and I love to learn, so I am always trying new things.
4. What songs are now on heavy rotation as you’re working-away?
Answer: Oh man this is a bit embarrassing to admit, but I find Pink Floyd drowns out any distractions at work. (Editor’s note: Nothing wrong with rockin’ The Floyd)
Freelancers and clients alike are now happily throwing search parties, celebrating the newest Elance search tool: Portfolio Samples search (beta).
Portfolio Samples search is a handy new tool allowing businesses to pin-point the best candidates by searching for specific Portfolio samples. For example, if you’re in the market for a mobile app developer for your business, just click the Portfolio Samples tab and type in: Business mobile app for the iPhone
Our search engine will comb through Elance Portfolios and serve-up the most relevant results.
Clients will quickly find concrete examples of fitting work, making it easier than ever to choose among various people.
Freelancers love Portfolio Samples search too, as it gives everyone a way to showcase their talents to those looking for that exact work experience and expertise.
To get the ball rolling we’re starting Portfolio Samples search with two categories: IT & Programming and Design & Multimedia. We’ll also be adding more categories later, so be sure to check back.
Note: If you’re a freelancer and want to make sure your Portfolio is optimized for client searches, here are some words of wisdom from the sages of search:
• Be sure to upload your latest and greatest samples to your Portfolio.
• Edit all samples (new and old), giving each a unique tag, description and title (remember, these are the search terms clients will be searching for).
• In your description, describe your role in the project as well ... be specific about what part of the project you worked on how you tackled the assignment.
• Review samples to make sure they look great (we’ve automatically created thumbnails, but you can use the simple editing tool to adjust as needed).
Pretty cool, eh?
Our new Portfolio Samples search is just another way we’re helping you Work Differently and be more successful. So check it out, play with it, find things and enjoy. Also be sure to tell us what you think. On each Portfolio Samples search results page you'll find a link for feedback.