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.
Here’s another article from Lee Bob Black ofSkilledUp. In his first article he explored 30 digital skills to take your talent over the tipping point. In this post he discusses leveraging and advancing your skillset to earn the rate you’re worth.
But what if you’re the bargain? What if someone’s buying your services at a steal?
If you’re a freelancer who exchanges your time and intelligence for money, and you think it’s time to earn more, then keep reading. In this article, we’ll explore some advice for raising your rates to what you’re worth.
To help you wrap your head around this daunting task, we’ve put together two hypothetical case studies. One is a U.S.-based freelancer who charges per hour. The other is an India-based freelancer who charges per project.
U.S.-based freelancer Jane Smith.
Elance jobs completed: 51.
Reviews received: 33.
Average rating: 4.8 out of 5 stars.
Clients who recommend Jane: 80%.
Communication with clients: 40% phone; 60% email.
Jane thinks she’s worth more than $27 per hour, the average Elance rate for U.S. freelancers in December 2013. How should Jane go about having phone conversations with her three main clients about wanting to charge $32 per hour (i.e., a $5 raise)?
India-based freelancer Raj Patel.
Elance jobs completed: 111.
Reviews received: 70.
Average rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars.
Clients who recommend Raj: 72%.
Communication with clients: 100% email.
Raj thinks he’s worth more than the $200 per project that he has charged in the past. What should he do to prepare for emailing his main clients about charging $240 per project (i.e., a $40 raise)?
Viewing your money situation in a new light.
How do the above case studies compare to you? Have you done more or fewer projects in your freelance career? How are your average ratings on Elance? Keep all this in mind when considering the following:
An important update from Fabio Rosati, CEO of Elance and oDesk, about the company vision and what it means for our community in 2015 and beyond.
Dear Elance Community,
Since the merger last year, I’ve spent every moment thinking about our amazing professional communities and the future of online work. Advancements in technology and data science are transforming how we connect, share, collaborate and learn. The freelance economy is growing exponentially — each year more businesses hire freelance professionals and more people choose freelancing as a career. We are heading towards a new online meritocracy, a connected workplace where everyone can access economic and professional opportunities.
While we already are the largest online workplace, there is a great deal more for us to do to become the world’s premier online workplace for professionals.
The work we do daily to meet the rapidly evolving needs of our community — upgrades to our platform as new technologies become available, scaled operations to better serve everyone as our community grows, and continued investments to engage more clients and top talent — is not enough. To realize our vision of becoming the premier online workplace for professionals we need to innovate at an even faster pace.
Over the next several months you will begin to see many new initiatives:
· Improvements to how clients and freelance professionals meet each other, including better matching and
· New collaboration and productivity tools for both desktop and mobile devices
· More resources to measure quality, screen jobs and help our community succeed
· Expanded customer service to provide fast, friendly and reliable support
· And so much more based on your input and a large number of R&D efforts
We are eager to bring these improvements to you. To accelerate innovation we will focus the majority of these initiatives on one of our platforms, oDesk. Members of the Elance community will be able to experience the improvements via a bridge we are developing between the two online workplaces. Within a year or two we will have a new platform where everyone will access the latest innovations at the same time.
I’ll continue to share our progress towards our vision over the coming months.
My daily thoughts remain focused on building the best possible online workplace for high quality clients and top freelance professionals. On behalf of the 300 employees and over 500 freelancers who make up the Elance-oDesk team, thank you for being our inspiration.
It’s been a journey since you registered with Elance, hasn’t it? You opened your Elance profile; you uploaded a photo and agonized over what to write in your profile. You added some portfolio samples and took some tests. You bid on and won several jobs, and I’ll bet it’s been more exhilarating than the first time Mom let you drive her car.
With a few jobs under your belt, most, if not all with excellent feedback, it feels pretty damn good, doesn’t it? Riding that wave over the last few weeks or months, you may not have been able to stop and think about the business side of things for too long. If you are anything like me, you were probably too busy working and meeting deadlines. You admit to your partner/spouse that you're in love with Elance. Forget grateful; you’re in love!
Then one day you rediscover the transactions section. Yeah, you may have seen it early on, but in the beginning there wasn’t much to fixate on: One $50 job and a few $100 jobs didn't look like much compared to the vast white space below them.
Now that you’re hitting “next page” a few times to see all the transactions, it dawns on you that you’ve made a few thousand dollars. Predictably you have two reactions: “Where’s my ‘you’re number 1’ foam finger? I am one truly awesome human being!”
This is immediately followed by, “Holy crap, I made how much money and Elance took how much in service fees?”
Occasionally we ask Elance clients and freelancers to discuss their experiences working online. Here’s a quick case study from the team at Yalantis.
The Yalantis Story – A Study In Determination.
Our mobile app development company has been existing since 2008. A lot has changed since then. From two people working from home on Elance, the company grew to about 70 specialists sitting in a spacious office in the city center. In 2013 we became among the top Elance company. The staffing platform for freelancers let us find our best customers, most of whom are still loyal to us. But most importantly, it gave us invaluable experience which made us what we are.
Seven years ago mobile app development business was just emerging, following a dazzling appearance of the first iPhone in 2007. “The phone that has changed phones forever,” was the reaction of Time magazine.
Apple’s creation became the cradle for Yalantis, as developing apps for iPhone was our first professional strategy. The reason for that was not an omnipresent love for Apple, but a corny market research. Alexander Kholodov, one of Yalantis co-founders and a developer himself in the past, discovered that the demand for iPhone apps on Elance exceeds the offer by miles.
“We started with an aim to fill the empty niche existing in the iPhone apps development,” he said. “After a while we began to engage with Android and other platforms.”
Kholodov together with Yuriy Kotov, an excellent programmer, got together and set up a mobile app development company. Initially they worked from home picking up interesting projects from Elance. About six months later, Sergey Fesenko, who was also a programmer before, joined the team of co-founders.
“When I got into, we moved in an apartment, which became our first office,” said Fesenko. “We bought a couple of arm chairs and started off as a real team.”
Kholodov called the company Yalantis -- a strange word that doesn’t exist in any dictionary. It was created with the help of a random words generator from the word Yalta -- the name of a sunny resort city in Crimea (a peninsula in the south of Ukraine). As a boat called so it will float. According to phonosemantic analysis of the word Yalantis, it induces positive subliminal associations, like good, beautiful, strong, light, simple, safe, etc. This is also a unique name. You can’t explain it, it but it has look and feel, just like all our products do.
The first staff members hired by Yalantis were young specialist with little to no experience in developing mobile apps. Their knowledge of technology and level of professionalism grew considerably owing to supportive attitude of the company leaders and their own aspiration to self-development. The majority of these guys are still in the company occupying senior developer positions.
With increasing number of mobile app development projects the perspective of becoming a bigger company with different specialists, not only iOS developers, began brightening up. Here is when the team got completed with a larger administrative board, Android developers, project managers, quality assurance specialists, designers and account managers.
Now we only employ experienced team players highly enthusiastic about what they do. Our people are just as important for us as our clients and we care much about making them feel at home in Yalantis.
At some point, Kotov, one of the co-founders, understood that managing the company wasn’t for him. He left Yalantis but came back in a few years in the role of a senior iOS developer. He chose to do what he likes most -- developing great products.
When Yalantis grew larger, Kholodov and Fesenko divided their responsibilities in management. Kholodov is the CEO of the company leading sales and marketing. He also manages our own product development initiatives. Fesenko is a financial director and manages the department of human resources. He is in charge of our internal processes as well as employment and partnerships.
The world loves words, begs for fresh new words, and businesses fervently hire freelancers to write those beautifully crafted words. In fact writing is one of the most popular skill categories on Elance. Our friends at Essay Tigers are hip to this and have created an eye-catching infographic on how to make sure your successful freelancing on Elance:
How to become a successful freelance writer [Infographic] by the team at EssayTigers