Elance Blog

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3 Tips On Managing Relationships With Online Freelancers

Occasionally we invite Elance-oDesk clients to discuss issues of importance to our community. Here are more thoughts from Tobias Schelle, a Danish entrepreneur who is the Founder/CEO of 24slides.com. Check out his blog post and video below, on managing freelancers. Also check out his other posts and videos in this series, including ones on finding the perfect freelancer and on collaborating with freelancers.

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One tradeoff in working with online freelancers is that some “teamwork” benefits can become compromised. For example, when working remotely it can become challenging to establish rapport or build a more enriching relationship among team members.  Here’s a quick video, and be sure to read more below.

Ironically, being connected online can make clients and freelancers feel more disconnected – especially on a social level. To make things easier, here are three tips to help you manage freelancers online:

Tip #1: Set up a reporting system.

At 24 Slides we use a tool called 15five. It’s basically a questionnaire containing 3-4 questions sent out bi-weekly to all employees. Each team member responds and sends back their reply.

Examples of questions you can ask include: “What have you been most proud of in the past week?” or “What challenges have you faced?” While the questions can vary, frame them in a way that they can engage your freelancer while giving you clearer insights on what’s happening on the ground.

Feel free to explore other tools like 15five, but what’s crucial is setting up a similar automated process. The goal is to gain a better and more accurate picture of what’s going on.

Moreover, establishing a similar reporting tool can help you effortlessly manage more people than you would if you were all working in the same office. For instance, it takes only five minutes to read through their responses and add comments. You can then quickly move on to the next submission. Yet the overall insights and feedback you get are tremendously valuable. 

Tip #2: Set up a video conference call.

When you work with a team within the same office, it’s convenient to meet them over coffee or lunch. This allows you to engage in small talk. This kind of interaction, although described as “small”, can make a big difference in building relationships over time.

Proposal Writing 101

Here’s another post from Sarah Ratliff of Coqui Prose Content Marketing. She regularly shares her thoughts on ways to succeed on Elance.

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Caveat: There is no one single way to write a proposal. Proposal writing is a skill and one that can take weeks, months and even years to perfect. However, contrary to popular belief, it really is possible to fake it till you make it.

I am living proof!

What I am about to share is based on my experiences both as a freelancer who has written many, many proposals and as a client who has read hundreds more. I have reached a point where I can tell within the first line or two of someone’s proposal whether I want to read further or move on to the next Elancer.

My goal is obviously to help you keep your prospective clients interested long enough to get to the end of your proposal and to consider reaching out to you through the workroom.

The first step is to start looking for work, right?

You’re almost there, but first let’s go over a little housekeeping: before you take to the Elance marketplace, you need to read Elance's Terms of Service (ToS), which are their rules for conducting business on their site.

Unlike other websites’ Terms of Service (where you probably scroll to the bottom without reading them and then check the box to indicate you that did, just so you can purchase what they’re selling), if you are really serious about earning a living on Elance—and why else are you here? —You really need to read Elance’s ToS.

What could possibly happen if you just pretended to have read them?

By not following the rules of their site, you can have your account suspended and even terminated. If caught breaking any of the rules of their site, you can’t feign ignorance because in order to get to this stage, you had to indicate that you read the ToS.

Indeed I could give you the highlights, but what fun would that be? It’s not like I can also run your business for you as well, so you may as well get cracking and read those Terms of Service.

Now That We Have That Out of the Way…

At this point you’ve probably read my blog and followed my advice on how to create a winning Elance profile. You’ve got a professional photo in place and an overview you’ve rehearsed so many times you know it’s the bomb! You may have even taken a few tests and verified a few credentials. Nothing spells r-e-a-d-y like you are at this very moment. You’re jazzed and, moreover, you are unstoppable!

30 Digital Skills to Learn Before You’re 30

Elance is excited to introduce a new guest columnist to our blog: Lee Bob Black of SkilledUp. In his first article, he explores 30 digital skills to take your talent over the tipping point. In future articles, he’ll share insights about enhancing your expertise and income.

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1. Advertising skills

If a client wanted to advertise a product or service online, would you be up for the challenge? Setting up Google and Facebook accounts to place ads is difficult. Managing advertising campaigns is even more difficult. That said, if you become proficient at managing a client’s online marketing, then could become invaluable to that client.

2. Email marketing skills

Email marketing services don’t just get customers to click and buy. They can also be used to motivate people to take social and political action. While learning how to use a service such as VerticalResponse or MailChimp, also learn the basics about writing e-newsletters, such as having a compelling subject line and giving people a reward for reading.

3. Personal branding skills

If you don’t already think of yourself as a brand, maybe today’s a great day to starting doing so. Your digital presence — or absence — can mean the difference between getting — or not getting — a job.

4. Digital publishing skills

Do you have a collection of essays or photos that you think would be better in a book than, say, a website or a blog? If so, consider looking into e-book self-publishing and distribution services.

5. User experience (UX) and user interface (UI) skills

If you can have a meaningful conversation with a UX or UI designer, you’ll be one step ahead of most of your colleagues and competitors. To start with, consider learning about the basics, such as general ways to improve the usability of a product.

5 Takeaways From Our Year-End Data Report

As we wrap up 2014, Elance-oDesk has released a year-end data report – the 2014 Global Online Work Report. It reveals insights ranging from hot skills to today’s state of online work, and is geared towards helping freelancers and businesses plan for an even more successful year ahead.

Feel free to dig deeper, but here are five eye-opening takeaways:

1. Steep gains in Customer Service. The fastest growing position (by freelancer earnings, worldwide) is Customer Service, up 92% for the year.

2. Steady ascent of Mobile. The fastest growing work category by freelancer earnings is Mobile (up 43% globally for the year … including 76% in the U.S.).

3. QA Testing hits new highs. Worldwide, QA Testing is the hottest job based on total projects posted (up 147% for the year).

4. Swift rules stateside. In the U.S., Swift-based jobs are the hottest – based on total jobs posted (up 150% for the year).

5. Freelancer earnings escalate dramatically. Global earnings continue to rise, as professionals approach the $1 billion mark in 2014 earnings (helping add up to a grand total of over $3.2 billion earned on Elance-oDesk all time).

You’ll find many more nuggets of valuable information in our 2014 Global Online Work Report and the accompanying 2014 U.S. Online Work Report. Check them out for work insights that can help you plan for, and take advantage of, emerging trends. 

10 Things I Wish I Knew When I Got Started On Elance

Occasionally we invite people to discuss issues of importance to our community. Here are some thoughts from Elancer Tim Goggin of recessionRebirth.

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In the two-plus years I’ve been working on Elance, I’m proud to say I’ve earned almost $320,000, completed 391 jobs and have an overall 4.9 rating.

This process wasn’t easy by any stretch and required a ton of hard work. I also failed regularly.

Sometimes, I wish I could go back to April 2012 (when I started on Elance in earnest) and save myself some stress, frustration and doubt.

I’ve boiled down what I wish I knew when I started to 10 crucial lessons. Lessons that are the difference between the right path on Elance and dead ends.  And that’s what this blog post is all about.  I’m sharing these lessons so perhaps it can help you be more successful on Elance.

Lesson #1: Stay Humble

I can be arrogant. It’s not my best trait and it’s something I struggle with. It became a problem when I started bidding regularly.

I’d get so frustrated and deflated as bid after bid were awarded to freelancers that seemed (to me at the time) inexperienced or unqualified. And it was made worse by my insistence on keeping my rates the same as my non-Elance clients. When encountering a bid request that was below my ideal rate, I just wouldn’t bid or I’d keep my rate the same even though it was way higher than the max bid.

This didn’t go well. For weeks, I barely got any jobs. And my frustration reached a pinnacle. Humility finally hit me and …

… I changed the way I thought about bidding. My goal was to get as many good clients as possible as quickly as possible. Not to cling to some ideals.

How? I lowered my rates. I bid on small jobs I wouldn’t consider in the “outside” world. And magically, I started getting more and more clients. As you might expect, some clients were great. Some not so much, who expected champagne on a beer budget. My goal was to get as many great reviews as possible. Which brings me to ...

Lesson #2: “It’s The Feedback, Stupid”

What people are looking for is social proof. That’s why your feedback on Elance is probably the most important selling point on your profile. Part of the problem you have when starting out is that you’re a blank slate.

It doesn’t matter that you have 30 full-time clients (outside of Elance) who love you and tell everyone they know about you. You’re untested on Elance and clients rightly don’t want to be the first person to work with you and have a bad experience. And that’s really the issue – in general, people are more concerned about losing than winning. While there may be a huge upside to hiring you, they can only see the fact that it might go horribly wrong.

How To Create a Winning Elance Profile

Here’s another post from Sarah Ratliff of Coqui Prose Content Marketing. She regularly shares her thoughts on ways to succeed on Elance.

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Whether you’re new to Elance, or you’ve been here awhile and trying to get a foothold, my goal with this blog is to help you create a great profile so that you can market yourself to the thousands of clients who post jobs in the marketplace.

If you’re anything like most freelancers I know, you’re probably caught somewhere between feeling brazen and utterly confused about what to write in your profile. If it makes you feel better, I know several successful Elancers who struggle with this very thing.

Like writing a great proposal (which I will cover in the next blog), it may take some practice to get your profile working for you—meaning you get targeted invitations sent to you by prospective clients.

Before you type a single word, stop for a moment and think about how you can—in 1000 characters (not words) or fewer—allow your profile to stand out from the thousands of others in your category and to market yourself when you’re not there to speak for yourself.

To Brag Or Not To Brag.

I have written, rewritten and tweaked our company profile many times. Ultimately I come back to the same “theme,” if you will. Why? Because I have to put myself in a prospective clients’ shoes to know what they are looking for in a freelancer.

Fortunately I am also a client, so my advice about what to say in your profile comes from being both an Elancer and a client who has visited probably thousands of profiles over the last four years.

I need to make this clear: this is my experience and how I go about hiring freelancers. Other clients may value different things than I do.

I have certain criteria when I hire freelancers to join my team or to fill a one-time need. I have what I feel is a fool-proof method of, as the expression goes, “separating the wheat from the chaff,” which essentially means moving on from whom I believe won’t be a good fit and moving toward those who stand out from the masses.

Here's To An Amazing 2015!

Happy New Year and thanks for making 2014 such an incredible success!

Take a look at our 2014 Annual Impact Report for a glimpse inside the impact you have on a global scale. We talked to freelancers and clients from Bangkok to San Francisco to Sydney to get their perspectives and hear how online collaboration is changing the world.

Also check out a fun and interactive Infographic here (you just roll over images to read people’s inspiring stories).

With more than 9 million registered freelancers and 3.5 million registered clients, Elance-oDesk is more than just an online workplace. Thanks to you, it’s a vibrant global community that’s changing the way the world works.

Here’s to making 2015 an even greater success together!

To share this post—and the impact of your work—with your friends, click the social media buttons above. 

Sarah Asks: Is Elance Right For You?

Elance is excited to introduce a new guest columnist to our blog: Sarah Ratliff of Coqui Prose Content Marketing. While there are many ways to find success on the Elance platform, Sarah will regularly share her many experiences with our readers.

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Whenever I meet anyone for the first time—whether it’s over the Internet or in person—the usual exchange of pleasantries (kids, dogs, cats, etc.) is predictably followed by, “So, what do you do for a living?”

“I own a content marketing agency,” I say.

And then I wait.

“What does your company write about?” they ask.

“We’re pretty versatile, but our niches are medical writing, writing about addiction (which my team and I do for the U.S.’s largest addiction treatment center) and behavioral health.”

“Sounds like things are going well for you.”

“Yes, they are, thankfully. I started out a solo freelance writer five years ago and I got busy very quickly. Today we are a 20-person team with plans to expand again this year.”  

“So you get a lot of work?” This is a very predictable and, of course, appropriate question.

“I do. I have four full-time clients, which is all I need for my team and me to keep busy. They’re repeat clients, so I no longer look for work,” I’ll say.

“How do you market yourself?” they’ll ask.

“Elance,” I’ll say, and then I wait.

“Can you really make a full-time living using Elance?” they’ll ask.

At this point I ask no one in particular, “Did I not just tell you that I have all the work I need to keep us busy and that I no longer look for new work?” But in my outside voice I say, “Yes, absolutely. I work exclusively through the Elance platform.”

“Do you think I need Elance?” they’ll ask.

“In my opinion, if you don’t have clients knocking down your door whom you’re beating off with a stick, then yes. But this is just my opinion based on my experience. I am a huge fan of Elance. I couldn’t have done as well for myself as I have without it.”

“But I’ve heard a lot of things about Elance,” they’ll share with me.

“And I am sure you’ve heard a lot of things about the Pope, and yet there are still millions of adoring fans of his all over the world,” I shoot back.

If You Are a Freelancer, Why Do You Need Elance?

All I can do is share my experience when I explain why I personally wouldn’t try to market my company without Elance.

When I decided to become a writer (having done marketing in my previous life in corporate America), I was pretty lost about how I’d go about marketing myself.

How to Win Back An Unhappy Client

Occasionally we invite people to discuss issues of importance to our community. Here are some thoughts from Hrishikesh Jobanputra.

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It’s early morning and you flipped through your laptop to have a quick glance at your emails. And suddenly, there is an email you never wanted to see. Message from a frustrated client, unhappy with your deliverable sent last night. Along with the disappointment, comes the fear of loosing the client and even a significant part of your income!

Unhappy clients can drive even the most experienced freelancer crazy. If not dealt with professionally, it could turn into a nightmare, often leading to serious impact on your revenue and credibility.

In this article, we will explore some ways you can deal with unhappy clients and win them back.

If a client is not happy with your service, there has to be a reason.

Nobody likes to be unhappy. If the client is unhappy with your service or deliverable, you need to find out the real reason behind it. In rare cases, you will find a client who is unhappy just to pressurize you for a discount or get more deliverables. Most clients are legitimate and you need to take necessary steps to win them back.

It’s not the time to prove “who is right.”

A classic mistake made by many freelancers is becoming reactive to the situation and to start defending them. Never try to do that! Remember, it’s not the time to prove who is right. It’s about what can you do to improve the situation and steer it in the right direction. It requires some leadership. And it all begins with the right communication.

Here are the steps to communicate with unhappy clients:

1. Acknowledge their concern: You don’t have to agree to everything that the client says but do say, “I understand where youre coming from.” Clients want that validation.

2. Show empathy: There is a ton of research done on the power of empathy. Seth Godin summarized empathy in a profound way with this one liner - “Why isn't this as important to you as it is to me?” All of us need empathy at some point of time. It does’t feel good to talk to someone when you know that the person doesn’t get why you’re mad, upset or disappointed. It isn’t just enough to have empathy. It’s equally important to convey that to your client by phrasing it well - “hey, sorry about that. I know how frustrating it can be...”

3. Have a deeper conversation: Most of the time, clients fail to communicate the real cause, the root of the problem. They will just tell you about the symptoms. Your job is to go a little deeper and find the root cause. Ask them to clarify and really listen carefully to what they’re saying. Keep pen and paper handy to ensure that nothing gets missed in the conversation. A good way to begin the discussion is by saying:

   “Let’s talk about how this happened and what we could have done to prevent it.”

In case it's clear that you have fallen short of delivering, you may want to say:

   “I understand that you are not happy with what’s been delivered and I would like to do my best to improve it. I will do X by Y date but before that, could you help me understand better about what you expect. We could schedule a Skype call or you can send your answers to the questions below.”

Be a solution person: Even if the client is at some fault, try to come up with something you both can improve. Try to recommend solutions and clearly define action steps, and how you will accomplish the desired results.

Say positive words: Researchers Andrew Newberg and Mark Robert Waldman, in their book “Words Can Change Your Brain”, show the power of positive words. Instead of turning hostile to unreasonable client requests, pause for a moment and instead of saying, “Sorry, I cannot do this for you”, you can say - “It’s going to be difficult, but I’ll think about it”.

When you communicate in the right spirit, it does a few things:

It shows your commitment to delivering great stuff. Clients feel better when you show a great sense of commitment.

It shows that you really care. Since you are eager to improve and become better, it leaves a lasting impression in you client’s mind. They will be more than willing to tell you know exactly what they want.

You’ll receive great feedback and immediately improve your service, so that it does not happen in the future.

Now that you understand the situation well, it’s time to step up your efforts.

If you realize that you did not deliver up to the expectations, take responsibility for it and step up your efforts to deliver on what you promised. There is no substitute for great service. Proactively communicate your new promise and deliver on it.

Stay alert with unreasonable requests.

If the client requests an unwarranted refund or discount, stand your ground. Politely explain to the client that you did the work they asked for, and you’d be happy to make any changes, but at your standard working rate.

It’s always hard to handle an unhappy client, and the best option is to avoid this from happening on first place.

Prevention is better than cure.

You can usually prevent a situation like this from happening through careful planning. You can break down your projects into small deliverables and get early feedback for each deliverable. If the nature of the project demands the end result, keep communicating your progress and getting feedback.

Good customer service isn’t always about knowing the right answers, but it’s about finding the right answer so that your customer doesn’t have to.

Finally…

Dealing with an unhappy client is part and parcel of freelancing. If you let go of your emotions and simply focus on delivering value, unhappy clients will often turn into loyal fans. You’ll not only get their admiration but also receive repeat business and referrals. 

If you have questions or you are unsure about a specific situation, feel free to comment below and I will be glad to help.

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About Author

Hrishikesh Jobanputra is a serial entrepreneur, author and a marketing expert. He regularly writes on the subjects of productivity, marketing and business growth on his website: freelancetactics.com

Pothole photo courtesy of _chrisUK

New User-Generated Video: Elance Escrow 101

If you’re a client or freelancer who works on fixed-price jobs in our marketplace, you’re probably well versed on Elance Escrow Protection. It’s a free offering that helps people in our community ensure that both work and payment is received as expected, without surprises.

While we explain Escrow in great detail in our Help Center, some people prefer moving pictures to further clarify how Elance Escrow Protection works. If that’s the case for you, you’ll be glad to know that a Bloomfield, New Jersey-based Elancer has created a fun animation outlining how Escrow works on our platform. Thanks to the animation team at Quality Schnallity Inc. for creating this informative video. Click below to check it out.

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