Danny Margulies is a copywriter and six-figure Elancer on a mission to help freelancers earn more money. Find out more at freelancetowin.com
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from earning over $100,000 on Elance in just 12 months, it’s this: You absolutely can charge (and get) what you really deserve--yes, right here on Elance.
I know from personal experience. Today I consistently charge (and get) $125 - $135 per hour, which is 9x as much as I made from my first jobs on Elance.
I’ve helped quite a few Elancers significantly raise their rates, too. Many of them had hit “brick walls” in their pricing, but addressing a few common mistakes allowed them to break through to the next level.
Let’s talk about these mistakes and how they hold us back from charging the rates we really want and deserve.
Blending in with the masses.
When the services you’re offering look just like everyone else’s, it’s natural for clients to choose the least expensive option. After all, if they’re going to get the same result regardless of which freelancer they choose, why not go with the cheapest?
The truth is, as long as there’s a person (you) providing the service, then you’re offering something unique. Part of your job is to communicate that uniqueness to clients--and then charge accordingly.
Food for thought: What are some unique things about you that clients would appreciate?
Since our beginning, Elance-oDesk has focused on matching top professionals to create great working relationships.
Today we’re excited to announce that we’ll be taking those relationships to the next level, as we expand to include online dating.
“We have the best matching technology in the world,” notes our SVP of product and engineering Stephane Kasriel. “But it became clear to our data science team that we could also leverage these algorithms for even greater social impact. Specifically, to help our community find soul mates as well as ideal work colleagues.”
However, unlike traditional online dating services that pair people using outdated and often-frivolous interests such as hobbies, pets, sports teams or other leisure pursuits, our new matching solution is focused on professional interests, careers, and what we do best: Skills. “A mutual interest in twerking or fermenting kimchi can sustain a relationship for a few months,” points out SVP of marketing Rich Pearson. “But a shared passion for WordPress or iOS development will form a lifetime bond.”
A logical evolution.
This new offering should come as no surprise to our established clientele, as we’ve long encouraged a healthy work-life balance. “Many in our community are so passionate about work, they often forget to stop and smell the roses,” adds SVP of operations Elizabeth Tse. “Now, on a single platform, people can reach professional milestones in the afternoon, and dating milestones later that same evening.”
Early reviews of our new online dating service show that the offering is warmly received by community members. This includes a handful of professionals participating in our beta program, which launched this past Valentine’s Day.
One notable success story is Berlin-based Oskar Holstein and Shobha Chowda of Mumbai, who we recently matched online. He a web designer and she a web developer, the match has been mutually rewarding. “We complete each other,” says Shobha. Adds Oskar, “Only the most sophisticated matching algorithms understand that when it comes to this crazy little thing called love, sometimes opposites attract.”
Although Oskar and Shobha haven’t yet connected in person, they continue to spend quality time in the secure online “Hangout” we provide. Like our secure online Workrooms, each Hangout features the tools and resources needed for great communication and long-lasting partnerships. This includes video chatting, translation services, and even prenuptial agreements should the relationship advance.
An equally logical evolution of our name and brand.
Although we’ll naturally continue to focus on matching professionals to create amazing working relationships, this new emphasis on online dating has also led us to do some soul searching about our name. While Elance-oDesk is technically correct, the name fails to inspire our community and address our growing emphasis and passion.
With this in mind, we’re equally thrilled to announce that we’ve officially renamed our company Elove-oDate. This new name pays tribute to our past, our future, and our ongoing commitment to connecting people who are searching for great work and great relationships.
You’ll begin to see exciting additions to the Elove-oDate platform soon. This includes new profile pages and client overviews—each expanded to list your relationship status, song you’re currently listening to, and even your favorite Work From Home Wardrobe. You’ll also find photo enhancement tools like red-eye removal, as well as the ability to send a “Happy Hour Flirt” or “Working Now? Wink” to a colleague’s inbox.
We hope you’ll enjoy these added online dating features, and that you’re as excited as we are about this new option for making truly meaningful connections. As summarized by CEO Fabio Rosati: “Now, regardless of whether you’re searching for a work partner or a life partner, we can help. And that’s our passion here at Elove-oDate.”
Editor’s note: Yes, a quick peek at your calendar confirms that today is April Fools’ Day, and that this blog post is in jest. 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!
Here’s another post from Sarah Ratliff’s team at Coqui Content Marketing. She and her freelancers regularly share their thoughts on ways to succeed on Elance. This post comes from noted wordsmith Marsha Buchanan.
Jamaica is open for business, but I think it will take us a little while longer to realize the gold mine at our fingertips. Sure, it’s sweet to be ranked on the Forbes list as the top Caribbean country and the third overall in Latin America for doing business, but that’s not what this is about. More Jamaicans need to capitalize on the opportunities available and connect the dots to pursue online freelancing as a means to financial empowerment.
With a brutal economic climate and a high unemployment rate, there is no way we Jamaicans can afford to sit and twiddle our thumbs, for dreams must be realized, bills must be paid and we must get on with the business of making a living. In light of this fact, some Jamaican entrepreneurs are choosing to take their businesses online and monetize their skills. The thing is that while the Forbes list has good news for foreign investors who might be interested in doing business in Jamaica, Jamaican entrepreneurs have to face their own set of challenges. Just check the statistics on the Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) survey done by Balcostics Limited.
These numbers indicate the hardship of a regular Joe or Jane trying to run a business in Jamaica. If you have your heart set on building a profitable business the traditional way, prepare yourself for a mammoth task. This has been one of the biggest reasons young professionals are seeking to run leaner and smarter businesses by getting into online freelancing. This is where I do a happy dance and thank the heavens for online freelancing sites like Elance, but the reality is there are thousands who have no clue Elance even exists, let alone what it is. I suppose because of my own knowledge of the various freelancing sites and the opportunities to be had, I just took it for granted that most Jamaicans knew too. This expectation was especially because of what happened in 2009.
Back in 2009, Jamaica’s Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) sector outlined as one of its main objectives the intent to create a strong ICT framework that will see Jamaica established as a regional investment center for ICT companies and reliant service industries. Of course, they recognized that before that could be done they would have to partner with a country or organization that had experience with this. So in 2012, the World Bank teamed up with the Jamaican Government and the ICT sector to spearhead Digital Jam 2.0, which has been the most important event that launched Jamaica into the virtual world of work.
Here is sage advice from Remisha Hasnain, who has been happily working on Elance for over 5 years – often with her son at her side.
Have you ever felt that motherhood has brought your career to a dead end? The set of skills you once possessed, are now left unnoticed? Your lifestyle after the baby has limited you to constant diaper changes, cooking, cleaning and well catching up on the much-needed sleep?
Well if so, then you are not alone. Being a mom of a two-year-old boy (read: utterly notorious boy), I have learnt that the stress of excessive baby work is one essential part of motherhood. It not only makes you realize your strengths, but also helps you strive to achieve your goals. However this also requires a bit of extra effort, which you may regret now, but are going to appreciate in the long run. Trust me! All you need is patience, time management and most importantly the will to achieve your set goals.
Mentioned below are a few guidelines, on how you can manage to keep your sanity intact, while working and handling your baby all together.
As much as we think things are going to remain the same, except one addition of a family member, they don’t. With the arrival of your cute little bundle of joy, your priorities, work load and lifestyle start to change simultaneously.
To begin with, as per experience, home based businesses or freelance jobs are a much better call for mothers. As they give you the freedom to choose the place and time, that fit you best. However that doesn’t mean they require any less effort when compared to office jobs. The key to a successful career along with bringing up a baby with utmost affection, is time management, focus on the goal and promise to never over burden yourself.
Occasionally we invite people to discuss issues of importance to our community. Here are some thoughts from Adam Rossi, an Elance client and owner of Elvaria.
The freelance economy and 3D printers have converged to dramatically lower the time and cost associated with creating a new prototype. Recently, I was shocked at just how effective this combination has become.
My company, Elvaria, manufactures soft-serve ice cream and frozen yogurt machines. We frequently refine and improve the components of our machines based on customer feedback and our product roadmap. A number of the components that we use are custom manufactured based on our specifications.
The Traditional Process of Prototyping
1. Create a CAD drawing of the new part using in-house engineering or bring in a contract engineer.
2. Send the CAD drawing out to one or more rapid prototyping companies for a quote.
3. Select a vendor and wait for the part.
4. Test the part. Make refinements to the design and CAD drawing.
5. Repeat until the design is optimized.
6. Send the final drawings and specifications out for manufacture.
This usually took a few months.
A new approach.
A few weeks ago we decided to try the “new economy” approach to redesigning an agitator for one of our machines. The agitator is a magnetic mixing blade that spins in the hoppers of our ice cream machines, keeping the liquid product well mixed and preventing product separation. It’s driven by a motor located underneath the hopper and spins by magnetic force. Think of a large version of the spinning magnetic mixer you used in chemistry class.
Here’s another post from Sarah Ratliff of Coqui Content Marketing. She regularly shares her thoughts on ways to succeed on Elance.
“Back in the day” when someone referred to himself or herself as a freelancer, it was assumed that prior to freelancing he or she had performed the same work in a corporate setting. The words “freelancer” and “consultant” were often used interchangeably and were synonymous with one another.
In those days, nobody would even consider freelancing without having had many years of relevant experience—preferably preceded by a couple of degrees that gave any prospective client the peace of mind that he or she was hiring a seasoned professional.
That Was Then and This Is Now.
Today freelancing is synonymous with working online, meaning just another avenue to make money. Although freelancers still enjoy the same freedoms they always have, thanks to the Internet and bidding sites like Elance and oDesk, access can be had by any and all—regardless of prior experience and/or education.
Estimates suggest that by the year 2020 more than one-quarter of the world and one-half of the population of the U.S. will be freelancing.
And unlike the days of yore, Gen Xers who switched careers in midlife and Millennials who never worked a day in the corporate world are leading the pack. Indeed nearly half my team has never seen the inside of a cubicle—except in movies or on TV. The other half left their careers behind to pursue their dreams.
What would make someone without a shred of “real world” experience feel he or she is qualified to write, design, code, edit, translate, become an administrative assistant, etc.? My guess is it’s the same chutzpah that pushes someone who spent several years in corporate America to decide to switch careers or start their own businesses.
The only difference is that in the case of the latter, you’ll probably find people who were encouraged by their parents to enter a particular field out of practicality or because it purportedly guaranteed a solid career.
Many of us feel we were sold a bunch of snake oil. We lived each day with dissatisfaction, disappointment and the feeling that we’d wasted too many years of our lives in a dead-end job. Regardless whether some had challenges reaching the glass ceiling while others shattered it, if it’s not what we wanted to do, any success achieved is almost moot.
Unable to relive those years over, for many of us in this position, all we can do is reinvent ourselves later in life.
By contrast, Millennials aren’t bothering with all that regret and reinvention. They’re unapologetically making their mark in the world—on their own terms. And thanks to sites like Elance and oDesk, it’s never been easier.
Five years isn’t that far off, and if one quarter of the world’s population will be relying on the Internet to get their work, clearly this is no longer something reserved for a select few.
The point of this blog isn’t to suggest that the old way of freelancing is no longer relevant. Quite the contrary—it absolutely is. The point is that with the broad reach of the Internet and the shift from working in a brick & mortar setting to working online, there’s room for everyone—be they highly experienced or learning on the job.
As Bob Dylan sang, “Times They Are A-Changing!”
Changing the Face of Freelancing.
To illustrate this point, I have asked three of Elance’s top writers to share their stories about their road to freelancing.
Three years into my four-year music degree, it was obvious I was never going to be a musician or a composer, nor would I teach. One night, after a couple of bottles of as good a red wine as our student loans could stretch to, my history undergraduate friend and I decided that we would use our degrees after all. To write books. Biographies, to be precise (using her historical research techniques), about rock musicians (that’s my bit). The next morning we checked in with each other. Were we still serious? Yes. Hung-over, but serious.
For fans of Blondie, it’ll be of vague interest that we chose Debbie Harry as our first target. There must have been a little magic dust in that red wine, because when we bravely—stupidly—wrote first to our preferred publisher, and then to Ms. Harry herself, with zero experience in anything but sheer audacity, we received responses from both. The upshot of that fateful exchange is that we can say we’ve had the pleasure of attending a rock icon’s birthday party and we ultimately scored a publishing deal. Our first small book was published during my fourth year at university. Within the space of six weeks I graduated, married and was called on my honeymoon by my friend with the news that we had a contract for our first biography.
Elance invited Kristen Gramigna of BluePay to discuss working on the Elance platform.
The barriers to entry for Internet marketing are very low. Businesses can create marketable websites and blogs for several hundred dollars, and can participate in social media without spending a dime. Other popular Internet marketing techniques such as SEO, PPC advertising and email marketing can often be conducted effectively on modest budgets.
On the Internet, every business can play — and not only is the playing field level, it’s THE field. Thanks to smartphones and generations of Americans who grew up with the Internet, often their favorite place to do business, is on the Web.
If every freelancer can use the Internet, why do relatively few succeed? This article will explore a few of the most important reasons.
It All Starts with the Website
No matter how charming you are on social media, or how clever you are at SEO, sooner or later, prospects will come to your website and decide if they want to engage with you. If your website presents clear and compelling value, establishes your credibility and competence, and offers persuasive reasons to take the next step in the business relationship — you stand an excellent chance of making the right impression and gaining a new client.
Furthermore, an effective freelance website must be built to be marketed; in other words, it must be SEO-friendly, integrate with Google Analytics, and enabled to track conversions. If your site is only a “billboard” site that gives you no ability to increase organic search engine visibility or know where your sales inquiries came from, your online marketing will be ineffective.
Avoid the Social Media Time Suck
A second huge Internet trap for freelancers is spending an inordinate amount of unproductive time on social media. This trap is very enticing. On social media, a freelancer can chat with peers, vent frustration in a safe place, and gorge on a steady diet of fascinating articles. It’s a safe haven in what is often a difficult if not hostile business environment.
If you’re an entrepreneur and you’re on the road a lot, here is some great advice from Anders Hasselstron of Startuptravels. These tips provide a simple overview for your next trip as an entrepreneur.
1. Plan ahead.
Obviously, you already knew this. However, there is a big difference between knowing and doing. By planning your trip carefully, you will provide yourself with a much-needed overview. And you will also make it easy to juggle more balls in the air, and be able to move meetings around easier and adapt to certain unforeseen scenarios. This also means you will have a backup of all the important files that you might need through out your travels.
Where to start? First, have a look at different city guides and make sure you understand what are the “do’s and must-see’s” in that specific city or area. Startuptravels provide city guides for entrepreneurs and what they should be doing.
Even though your time is precious, be sure to visit the local universities and their campuses. Not only is this a great way to meet young business professionals and entrepreneurs, it is also a place to relax and get inspiration. Make sure to check the different university websites for upcoming events, and attend a few of those if possible. Students are some of the most open-minded people you will come across and this may also be a good place to receive honest and genuine feedback from people who are not your friends nor family.
3. Sightseeing? Yeah, obviously!
Don’t be stubborn – make sure to do something else besides networking and meetings. Sightseeing is a great way to get your daily break from a very busy schedule. And remember that a majority of other people travelling in this area will be doing the same – so hey, it is actually another way of meeting new people and networking. If your schedule allows it, walk around these areas and places (don’t just jump on a tour bus).
4. Stay healthy – You need your energy!
Live healthy while on the road. Make sure to exercise properly and eat healthy. A large amount of your energy will be used when pitching your ideas to people you have recently met, and this takes a lot of energy. Ensure that you have a few energy bars in your bag – they may come in handy. Of course you also need to enjoy the local cuisine, but be sure to do so with a healthy attitude. Travelling as an entrepreneur can get difficult and exhausting, so make sure that you have the energy that is need to leave a great impression. Bring your A-game!
5. Socialize your ideas to as many as possible.
Share your ideas to people. Not only at specific meet-ups, or with other young entrepreneurs, but with many others as well. In general, it is a good way to figure out how good of an idea you actually have. Most ideas should be easy to understand, and this is good place for you to receive feedback that you might not receive from a young business professional or an adviser at an incubator. Then simplify your idea and ask for some feedback. At the end of the day, you must be able to understand and create value to whoever is listening. As mentioned earlier, local universities and people you meet during sightseeing may be equally as good as the entrepreneurs you come across at meetings or events.
Occasionally we invite people to discuss issues of importance to those who work on Elance-oDesk. Here are some thoughts from Cameron Johnson, a small business consultant and social media expert.
Recent reports on the trends in consumer purchasing reveal that 78% of consumers are not loyal to any particular brand. With the increase in product reviews and mobile comparison shopping people are now often able to find good quality at a competitive price regardless of brand. This shift in consumer spending is requiring businesses to rethink their growth strategies in order to be competitive in this evolving marketplace.
The Mobile Economy.
A number of elements have led to this changing landscape of brand loyalty. Two key factors in this change are the increasing popularity of mobile devices, and a languishing economy. Today’s mobile technologies allow consumers to shop simultaneously online and in store. A shopper browsing the aisles of a local shop can check local inventories, prices, coupons, review online competition, and quickly sum up their purchasing options. The unprecedented ease of comparison shopping has contributed to consumers lowering the importance of brand in their decisions.
The fallout from America’s long term economic challenges have motivated people and businesses to reconsider their buying patterns. Although the decision process has remained the same, the emphasis placed on stages 2 and 3—information search and alternative evaluation—have expanded and drastically changed the results away from brand loyalty. Agile price comparison coupled with social reviews of products have given consumers confidence in choosing an off brand product.
Businesses Need Fast Turnaround.
The growing shift away from brand loyalty is changing the way companies have to think about the markets they serve. They must provide quality options at more competitive prices. As a result, it is becoming crucial that companies be able to quickly adjust to consumer preferences, which in turn increases competition and accelerates release of new products entering the marketplace.
From time to time Sarah will answer Elancers’ questions rather than write a blog. If you have a question related to freelancing—and in particular, to Elancing—please feel free to visit the Sarah's Corner page of her website.
Taxes Don’t Have to Be the Bane of Your Existence.
Because it’s that time of year when taxes are on the minds of U.S. taxpayers, the first two questions are related to withholdings and retirement, and they come from Cathy H.
Question number 1: “How much should Elancers set aside to pay their annual and/or quarterly taxes? Does this number change if they are single/married/divorced/head of household?”
Question number 2: “How much should Elancers set aside for their retirement? What do you recommend Elancers invest in to have some retirement? IRAs? Others?”
Here to answer these questions is fellow Elancer Claude Campbell, CPA, MBA and FCCA of Campbell Andrew LLC. Campbell Andrew LLC provides accounting advisory and tax services to individuals and small businesses, including not-for-profit organizations, Estates and Trusts. They provide a comprehensive payroll solution along with complete bookkeeping, accounting and tax services. To learn more about their services, please visit their website.
Answer number 1: “The US income tax system is a pay-as-you-earn system. For individuals who are employed, this is achieved through periodic tax withholding by the employer, who remits the taxes to the IRS and the State, typically at each pay date.
Self-employed individuals such as Elancers are required to make—at a minimum—quarterly estimated tax payments to satisfy this requirement. Two key factors in determining the amount of such estimated payments are the level of income and filing status.
Let’s assume for a moment that you earn $50,000 as an Elancer, which is your entire income for the year, and your filing status is Single, with no dependents, and you will take the standard deduction. Your federal tax liability would be approximately $12,113, or 24 percent of your income, which includes self-employment taxes (which is the payroll tax equivalent), of approximately $7,000.