As you may have already heard, yesterday we announced that we’re merging with oDesk.
Your response to this news has been overwhelming, proving once again what a passionate and articulate audience our Elance community is. We expect nothing less from you. Thanks.
After reading your many emails and comments posted to the Elance blog, Twitter and our Facebook page, it’s safe to say there was a strong outpouring of emotion. The reactions ranged from utter shock to those wondering why we hadn’t joined forces years ago. We also received lots of congratulations, as well as many comments from Elancers who were confused by the merger.
With that point in mind we want to take this opportunity to clarify and reiterate our commitment to you, and discuss some of your concerns.
1. It’s business as usual on Elance.
There have been no modifications to the Elance site or to our marketplace. We understand how hard you’ve worked to build your reputation on Elance, and that effort will not be in vain.
2. The cost structure of Elance isn’t changing.
We have no plans to alter fees, membership prices or other costs associated with using Elance. Period.
3. Elance and oDesk are not becoming a single site.
You’ll also notice that Elance and oDesk are still maintaining (and will continue to maintain) separate websites and separate businesses. First of all, the merger is not expected to be approved by regulatory agencies for at least three months, during which time we’re still two distinct companies. Even after the approval, our two marketplaces will remain separate – so you’ll also continue to login into the Elance website just as you always have. Naturally your accounts and profile records will not be impacted either.
For more information about our merger see the FAQs.
Now that we’ve cleared up a few pressing issues, we want to share some of the positive feedback we’re getting. Here are some quotes from the media:
“Combined, ODesk and Elance should be stronger and better positioned to invest in the next-gen technology solutions and to drag the staffing industry out of the stone age.” PandoDaily
“Elance and oDesk merge to accelerate innovation in the freelance community.” The Next Web
Elancers are speaking out too, through social media. Here are some thoughts:
“Great Idea!! Seems a great attempt to achieve synergy by joining hands rather than wasting resources in hostile rivalry. Sharing expertise will enable the enhancement of product and services at each portal and will give a better user experiences to freelancers and clients plus bottom lines of each platform will get favourable affect by achievement of economy of scale.” Sohail-Sarwar-ACCA
“I think it’s a brilliant IDEA... I totally support it and I think together these companies can and will build the best online work experience.” Danish Jalbani
Bottom line: We’re joining forces with oDesk to make you more successful.
Similar to yesterday and tomorrow, right now Elance is working hard to find new ways to make it easier for great businesses to easily access the best freelancers. That’s never going to change. With this merger we’ll simply increase our resources to drive and improve online work, including these and other benefits:
Significant investments in technology. This includes tools for more effective online hiring, seamless virtual collaboration, improved mobile accessibility and job skills development.
Higher quality results for all customers. Combining our engineering and data science expertise will deliver quality improvements including better-matched freelancers for clients and superior job recommendations for freelancers.
Thanks again for sharing your thoughts, and we’ll keep you posted on how this news is taking online work to the next level. Have a great holiday.
We have big news to share. We’re joining forces with oDesk. Today we’re announcing that we signed an agreement to merge with oDesk.
What does it mean for you?
Not much. The new company will continue to serve our freelancer and client communities on two separate platforms at elance.com and odesk.com.
Why are we merging?
To put it simply, we believe we’ll be better together. Even though Elance and oDesk serve different communities and in some ways have been rivals over the years, when we got to know each other, we found that the two companies share a common vision and many of the same values. We believe that by working together, we can innovate faster and deliver more opportunities for our clients and our freelance communities.
What can you expect?
Significant investments in technology. This includes tools for more effective hiring, seamless online collaboration, improved mobile accessibility and skills development.
Higher quality results for all customers. With deeper expertise in data science, clients and freelancers will benefit from improved personalization of the user experience.
Participation in how we evolve. Please join us in crafting the future together. Please share your likes, dislikes, suggestions and comments by emailing our CEO, Fabio Rosati, at Fabio.Rosati (at) elance.com. We’ll share what you’ve taught us in an upcoming blog post and our plans to incorporate your feedback.
Got an amazing new idea for your startup, or brilliant thoughts on a fresh new market to expand into? Or perhaps if you’re an established business, an awesome notion on how to grow your existing business?
It’s sure to be fun and festive as you rub elbows with fellow entrepreneurs and prove that you have the best and biggest ideas on this or any other planet. Open to all registered Elancers, here’s how the global competition works:
1. Tell us your Big Idea.
Just enter the contest byTuesday, January 7, 2014, sharing with us what you would do with $2,500 in Elance credits good towards freelancers. You’ll also choose one of 7 regional competitions to enter (or if no location is nearby, choose our Worldwide Wildcard option). On January 9 we’ll then pick 40 Semifinalists – 5 from each of the 8 regions.
2. Semifinalists earn $2,500 in Elance credits.
If you’re chosen as one of our 40 Semifinalists (yeah!) you’ll receive $2,500 in Elance credits to bring your big idea to life. You’ll then have until January 30 to build-out your idea and make it a reality … with the help of talented Elancers, of course.
3. Pitch your idea at our regional completion.
On Thursday, January 30 all Semifinalists will gather in their chosen regional cities, going head-to-head with other Semifinalists from that region (those entering the Worldwide Wildcard option will compete against others online). Semifinalists will each present their built-out big ideas to local judges, who will then choose a Finalist from each region (8 total Finalists). There will also be prizes from local partners!
4. Step into the shark tank of our Grand Finale pitch!
Our 8 Finalists will then meet online Thursday, February 6 to pitch their ideas to our esteemed panel of judges. One Grand Prize winner will be selected, receiving an additional $10,000 in Elance credits as well as the opportunity to pitch their business to leading VCs. Woo-hoo!
So don’t miss out, as the deadline for entry isTuesday,January 7, 2014. Enter here to show the world that your ideas are big. As in really, really BIG.
Remember, you don’t have to enter the competition to take part in the fun, as you can also watch the festivities as they unfold live in a city near you (or online). And yes, as well as the pitches there will be guest speakers, presentations and other activities sure to keep you entertained and in touch with others who love a good startup competition. Check back here soon for more details on watching events online or attending a Big Idea Competition in person. Or as always go to the Elance Facebook page for updates.
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.
Can milestones be added to hourly jobs?
Advice from an Elancer:
Yes. In the Terms & Milestones section, scroll down to the Advanced Options. Milestones may be added, but without interim payments attached. A description of the milestone, notes regarding the job, i.e. what will be completed, what is expected, notes about number of changes or edits allowed, and more can be written here. Delivery date for the milestone is also noted. (See below)
Do you think it is hard to compete against low cost freelancers?
Advice from an Elancer:
This question was asked by a freelancer in Writing & Translation who had not been able to win a job bidding against some freelancers willing to bid $1 for 500 words. There was a comment regarding lowball bids from countries other than the US. Well, here’s the scoop: There are lowball bidders from all countries, including the US.
Is it difficult to compete? It all depends on the job. Is the client looking for cheap work or high quality work? These are usually mutually exclusive. Do you really WANT to work for a job that is asking for a 1000 word article for $2? I just pass on by the listing. There is no reason to even bid my fee on it. On jobs that appear to have a reasonable budget, I don’t bother looking at other freelancers’ bids. I decide what my bid will be and write my proposal, explaining what I offer for my bid.
The client will ultimately get what they pay for. Don’t frustrate yourself with lowball bidders or clients with low budgets. If your work is more valuable, skip those jobs and find one more suitable.
What online research resources do you use?
Advice from an Elancer:
Many freelancers like to keep their research sources to themselves. They prefer not to share. Obviously, resources depend on what you are doing and searching for. Most of us start with Google and work from there. The one site I will share with you is: Wikimedia Commons. You can find royalty free images there for public use. Just check the requirements for citing the work. Those in the public domain need no citation, but some have copyrights that need to be included with the image.
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.
Occasionally we invite clients to discuss issues of importance to freelancers who work on Elance. Here are some thoughts from Bjarne Viken. He frequently hires freelancers and is one of the founders of Digital Mined, a place many freelancers go to learn how to earn from clients.
As a freelancer it can be quite difficult to know why you did not get hired. What you possibly could have done different. Luckily, the mistakes most applicants make are easily understood and corrected. They generally tend to be around not understanding the hiring process and what employers are really after.
Also, simple marketing techniques to sell yourself effectively are often ignored by a lot of freelancers. Most clients are just interested in the best candidate for their job, and your job is to convince the client you are the obvious choice.
Here are some of the top mistakes I see freelancers make in their cover letters and profiles on Elance:
1. Sending generic cover letters.
90% of freelancers appear to be sending the same cover letter over and over again. It serves no purpose. As an employer, it gives me the impression that you don't care enough about my job to reply to what I asked for. It is better if you work out a routine for writing cover letters that will make clients want to hire you.
2. Not addressing everything in the brief.
Again a sign of bad communication and low level of professionalism. This is particularly bad when the brief lays out exactly what needs to be included in a cover letter. Some freelancers try to save themselves time by cutting and pasting single words from the brief into a generic cover letter. Very easy to spot and not impressive.
3. Thinking inside the brief.
Many freelancers seem to take the terms that are presented in freelance briefs for granted. On Elance, the budget options for fixed projects are often viewed as written in stone. It is OK to put in a higher bid than the given budget if you are able to argue it well, ask questions, or suggest variations to the brief. A client is willing to forget a lot if the client’s dealing with a freelancer that has clearly thought about the brief and what is needed.
4. Bad communication.
If you put in an application for a job on Elance, you should be prepared to reply within 24 hours. The faster the better. You should also be able to answer thoughtfully and clearly about what the client is asking for. If you don´t know, simply say that you will have to research that. Although clients want highly skilled staff, they don´t expect you to know everything and modesty can be a sign of integrity.
5. Incomplete profile.
When you apply on Elance, next to your cover letter is a picture and an opportunity to click on your profile to learn more about you. If you don't have a picture and lot of bits are missing, it is very likely that I will move on. The bits I will be looking at the most are your repeat percentage, portfolio, description, and any tests you have taken. In short, I want to check that you know your stuff.
6. Bad testimonials.
There are three types of bad testimonials; no feedback, polite feedback and outright negative feedback. No feedback could be an indication that the client does not want to risk getting a bad reputation by speaking their mind. Polite feedback is much the same and can be recognized by words like “good”, “OK” and by being more modest in the form. Instead you want “WOW” and “outstanding”.
7. Lacking attention to detail.
If the work you are applying to relates to language and you have spelling and grammar errors in your cover letter then you could easily strike out. The same goes with your profile. You are interpreted based on the way you present yourself. So your image should back up and be consistent with what you are trying to express.
If the list above discourages you, then just keep in mind that most freelancers lose jobs by not listening. As a client, I often go through hundreds of applications and usually 3-5 reply to what I ask for. If they are qualified, they usually get followed up on. At times, I will even ignore shortcomings in their profile if they just reply to what I ask for. This has also been confirmed by freelancers I have been in contact with through Digital Mined who have gone from no work to overload by simply listening.
Occasionally we invite our partners to discuss issues of importance to businesses who work on Elancers. Here are some thoughts from Eric Riley. He’s a small business owner and entrepreneur who is always looking to hire freelancers and make operations more efficient. He enjoys reading and writing about business marketing and finance.
The failure rate of startups (and small businesses in general) has been widely disputed over the years, but suffice it to say that the failure rate is rather high. Many of the reasons startups fail boil down to poor financial management, and in particular, the inability to save money. If you recently started your own venture, read on to learn how to cut costs and increase the likelihood of long-term success.
1. Convert Your Expertise Into Capital.
It's important to use everything at your disposal when it comes to reducing business overhead costs and your business acumen can really come in handy. If you're an accounting expert, don't contract your accounting out to a firm - take the time to do it yourself. Similarly, you could generate extra capital for your business by taking on side gigs to help other small businesses with tax preparation. If IT is your thing, offer to do some PC troubleshooting in exchange for services your business needs. To avail yourself of bartering opportunities, check out the websites BarterQuest and SwapRight.
2. Get Supplies at a Discount.
Whether you need general office supplies, such as writing utensils, printer paper, or Post-it Notes, or you need bigger items like office furniture, there are ways to find what you need for free or at a significant discount. For the bigger items, check Craigslist or Freecycle. For virtually all office supplies, sign up for the customer loyalty program at your preferred office supply retailer and look for items offered for free after a 100% cash back rewards program.
3. Fine Tune Your Marketing.
In the beginning, you may find yourself overemphasizing the importance of marketing. Advertising is essential, but it's not always a good idea to use expensive platforms to generate a buzz. Instead, start with social media marketing, and if you already have that going, expand your online efforts to new players like Google Plus and Instagram, rather than branching out to more expensive methods like billboards and radio spots. Monitor your results across different platforms to see what works, then adjust your strategy accordingly.
4. Shrewdly Negotiate Vendor Contracts.
Businesses were hit hard by the recession, just like consumers. With the economic recovery still underway, you may be able to secure excellent pricing from vendors hurting for business. Negotiate prices that are as low as possible for monthly services such as communications, janitorial, and pest control.
5. Limit Full-Time Staffing.
You can't do it all, but that doesn't mean you need to immediately hire a team of employees. Staffing costs are the greatest expense of any business, so it's important to make sure you don't hire full-time team members when you have better options. If you need help, but aren't quite ready to hire employees, consider hiring freelancers for projects.
Once you start saving money, consider where you should invest the surplus. Maybe it's time to contract out more services or pay down business debt. Or maybe you want to build up cash reserves. Whatever you decide, remember that cutting costs is every bit as important as investing in your business.
The team here at HQ is enormously proud of our own Saad Hamid, Elance City Manager in Islamabad, Pakistan. He’s been invited to pitch his startup idea at a prestigious competition December 9-11 in Oslo, Norway. The summit is hosted in collaboration with the Nobel Peace Center.
Saad is one of 26 young social entrepreneurs participating in the Telenor Youth Summit – part of the gala festivities surrounding this year’s Nobel Peace Prize presentation. The summit recognizes up-and-coming millennials for their ideas using technology to bring positive social change to the world.
Chosen from over 200 submissions in his region, to earn his prestigious invitation Saad first had to pitch his idea to a panel of judges. No problem there, as his idea is brilliant: 60 Second Education.
So, what is a “60 Second Education” anyway?
Good question, and one answered succinctly by Saad himself: “My 60 Second Education project involves creating a knowledge portal where people can get insightful information on a world of subjects in a minute or less.” Which in this day and age is pretty much the average attention span (and that’s if you’re really, really interested in a topic).
As part of the summit, Saad will attend several events associated with the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony. This includes an exclusive gathering and lunch with live transmission of the Award Ceremony at the Nobel Peace Center, a preview of the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Exhibition at the Nobel Peace Center, a CNN interview of Nobel Peace Prize Laureates in Oslo City Hall, and the Nobel Peace Prize Concert (hosted by Claire Danes).
Congratulations Saad. Your forward-thinking is what makes you such a wonderful fit for the Elance Team, and why you’re also such a great asset to Elancers in Pakistan (and now around the globe!). Enjoy your trip.
Below is an infographic Saad created to pitch his winning idea to the Telenor Youth Summit judges:
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. This week, in Advice From An Elancer I will address a situation I am currently dealing with. Hopefully we can all learn from the mistakes I made!
A client I had worked for before contacted me via the old job workroom about doing another job for him. This was not an ideal situation, so I told him I would consider it. He contacted me again via Skype and I turned him down. I could not produce what he needed for his budget. I felt good about keeping to my standards as far as pricing because I knew that he was somewhat difficult to work with.
A few weeks later, he came back to me on Skype, begging me to take a job – a simple proofreading and revising to conversational English job. He sent me a sample of what he wanted done; I did a little (to ensure I knew what he wanted); he approved of what I sent back and we worked out the job. This nightmare has been going on since August.
It turns out that I completed the job based on the wrong content – provided by him. He paid me $100 for the inconvenience, but then gave me an entirely new document to work with. I completed the edits (it was a business plan) and produced some concise web copy. He has since asked for four rewrites.
I have made countless errors in dealing with this client. Why? Because the first time we worked together, he claimed to not understand the star rating system and that this time he knew my work and would surely not make the mistake of giving me less stars than I deserved. Now the stars are hanging over my head and they feel more like anvils. He said, “Please do not treat this as the only job from me. I have another one coming up and based on the work as I told you earlier I will give you 5 stars. Please make sure the job is done perfectly.”
I have now done three jobs for less than the price that I should have charged for the first one. I feel captive because he has mentioned the rating more than once, to which I have responded that I will provide 5 star work. I don’t want a rating I did not earn. Anyway, I’ve made my own bed by continuing on with this farce.
Never work for this client again. I had a bad feeling and should have gone with my gut.
Make sure I really want to accept any changes to terms as the job changes. This particular client is difficult to reason with, but most will understand that if the scope changes, the price changes.
Do not allow clients to bully me into doing more than I agreed to. “Scope creep” is a real problem.
Do not allow clients to threaten me with a bad rating. This is very hard to do – especially when you know you have done your best and that it is good work.
Trust yourself. Do your best; check out your client before accepting a job; listen to your gut; and don’t end up with an anvil star over your head like me.
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.
Thursday is yet another blooming enormous day for entrepreneurs in the United Kingdom, as the sovereign state has wisely decreed November 21st National Freelancers Day.
All day (and into the wee hours of the night, we suspect?) National Freelancers Day Festivities are happening around the region. This includes a major event hosted by the UK’s Professional Contractors Group (PCG) – an organization strong in championing freelance work in the area. They’ll be hosting their Main Event in London with a panel discussion including many A-list speakers, such as former Birmingham City Football Club Managing Director Karren Brady and local radio host Nick Ferrari. The discussion is happening at the London Symphony Orchestra’s historic concert venue, LSO St. Luke’s.
If you’re in London drop by the National Freelancers Day Main Event as the fun gets started at 18.15 pm. Elance’s own Country Manager UK Hayley Conick will also be on hand at the event. If you can’t be there Hayley will also be tweeting during the event, so join the conversation with #NFD2013. You can also follow PCG’s live feed.
While those of us in the Elance community are already well aware of the many benefits of the freelance life, folks in the UK are getting onboard at a record pace as well. It’s estimated that there are some 1.7 million freelancers in the UK alone, contributing in the neighborhood of £95bn to the world economy this year. This helps to explain why freelancing is more than worthy of a National Day, if not a National Week or even Month. Check out these comments about National Freelancers Day and entrepreneurism, gathered from UK heavy-weights ranging from Prime Minister David Cameron to Mayor of London Boris Johnson. Also here’s a recent article in The Telegraph on the surge in freelancing in general, and National Freelancers Day in particular.
Naturally there are lots of other fun and valuable activities happening across the UK on National Freelancers Day, including at co-working spaces, home offices, coffee shops, pubs and wherever freelancers work. Have a great day and enjoy your independence. This day is yours.
Just switch on the old 50” flatscreen HDTV, or drop by the local mall, and you’ll see that the holiday season is just around the corner. Actually no -- it’s here in full force, like a howling blizzard. And for most businesses this means two things: Stress levels go up, Up, UP and productivity goes DOWN, Down, down. Not a good combination for you or your business.
As year-end deadlines loom, you and your team are unfortunately facing an increasing number of distractions. This includes everything from holiday parties and Cyber Monday shopping deals ($400 for a 55” flatscreen HDTV!) to inclement weather and runny noses. Gesundheit!
But if you plan correctly, the holidays don’t have to be nerve-wracking and fruitless. In fact it’s your opportunity to gain ground as your competition spins their wheels (sometimes literally) in the holiday slowdown. Here’s some food for thought on how to make it a joyful and prosperous holiday season.
1. Despite the c-c-c-cold air, don’t forget to breathe.
Yes it’s going to be hectic, bordering on frantic. You have so much left to accomplish and so little time – all the more reason to relax and stay positive. Take a quick 15 minute break now and again to clear your mind. Heck, even reward yourself with some fruitcake or a cup of eggnog.
2. Jot down your holiday Wish List, and stick to it.
Setting goals is paramount to a successful holiday season. Decide what really needs to be accomplished and focus on that handful of projects. Whether it’s sprucing up the website or bringing added cheer to your mobile app, keep your eye on the prize. Don’t spread yourself too thin and get left out in the cold.
3. Give yourself a holiday bonus: Do what you love doing.
Do you remember why you got into this line of work in the first place? Think back, and recall what it is you love about your career. Then do that job and little else from now through the end of the year. If you love writing code, write code. If marketing is your bag, market. Let others tackle the rest. Focus on the fun.
4. Bake something amazing for the holidays.
Now that you’re focusing, it’s time to move ahead with that awesome idea that’s been baking in your head for who knows how long. Delegate the day-to-day operations to others and concentrate on that game-changing idea that will take your business to the next level. Shine like the North Star and amaze the world!
5. Hire talented elves with really specialized skills.
Try as you might, you can’t do it all by yourself. Fortunately, a world of skilled helpers are ready to lend a hand. Post your job and hire freelancers ready to tackle your important end-of-year projects. You’ll be glad to know that people outside your snow globe are able to work at a moment’s notice (yes, even on major holidays).