Elance Blog

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Bridging the Designer-Developer Divide: How to Efficiently Build Your Next Website

Occasionally we invite clients in our marketplace to discuss issues of importance to freelancers who work on Elance. Here are some thoughts from Jessie Krieger. He is a best-selling author of Lifestyle Entrepreneur and creator of the Business In a Weekend. Learn more, and get a free copy of his book, at: www.BusinessInAWeekend.co


Over the last half decade I have hired Elancers for over 110 projects, including dozens of websites both for my own entrepreneurial pursuits, and those of my clients. Throughout those five years I have deduced a super easy way to save thousands of dollars building websites through Elance. It all revolves around a 3-step process that divides the work between designers and developers (as opposed to hiring one person or team to build the whole site).

You see, design work and development work (aka programming) are two totally different skills. Very rarely does one person posses a total fluency on both fronts. Rather, there is no shortage of incredible designers out there, just as there is no shortage of incredible developers out there. The trick is knowing how to break down your website needs into three discrete jobs. Let’s take a look:

Job #1 – Logo Design

Assuming you’re starting a new business or doing a redesign on your website, the first place to start is getting a great logo designed. Your logo encapsulates the look and feel of your business or brand and communicates what you’re all about to your customers. A great logo instantly builds credibility and immediately informs new visitors to your site how you can help them and what your value proposition is. And perhaps most importantly, a great logo embodies your brand’s design aesthetics can act as the “seed” from which your website design grows.

A great logo consists of a suggestive illustration, your business or brand’s name, and an informative tagline.

Here are some examples of logos I’ve had designed on Elance. Each one cost less than $100 to design including multiple initial design ideas and many rounds of revisions.

Takeaway: To start building your next great website, start by posting a Logo Design job on Elance and describe the look and feel you’re going for as well as provide some references to other logos whose style you like.

Job #2 – Homepage & Inner Page Template Design

Now that you’ve got a great looking logo, it’s time to put it to work! For your second job post a job titled something like “Homepage and Inner Page Design Template Needed for _________ Business” where you simply fill in what industry your business is in.

The specifics of this job should include two deliverables; a homepage design and a template for how the inner pages should look. When you post this job make sure to mention that you have a logo to share with the designer that they can use as a basis for the look and feel of the homepage and inner page. The inner page template simply describes the structure and layout that all pages inside your website will be based on.

The logic here is that by starting with a logo, you’ve defined the key graphical sensibilities that your website will be based on. Then by limiting your second job to just two designs, you keep costs under control and take advantage of what designers are great at – DESIGNING! This step in the process can cost as little as $200-$350, depending upon your requirements.

Takeaway: Provide the homepage and inner page design team with your logo and give them references to other sites you like, pointing out specific elements you like there (i.e., I love the menu bar on ABC.com and I love the right-hand sidebar on XYZ.com)

Job #3 – Technical Integration Specialist

Now it’s time to take these great designs and turn them into a fully functioning website. For this job you are hiring a programmer to take the designs you now have and do whatever coding work is necessary to get them published live on your domain.

This job is all about handing off the designs from Job #2, tell them what functionality you want such as a shopping cart and/or email capture forms and telling the developer/s to “take it across the finish line”. You want the final deliverable for this job to be your website published on your domain as a fully functioning website.

By splitting up the website development process into these three discrete steps you stand to save thousands of dollars as compared to the more traditional approach of hiring a team to “build your website”. Once again, this step in the process may only cost $200-$350 -- depending upon what you need.

Takeaway: Have designers deliver your homepage and inner page designs in HTML/CSS format, then hire a programmer to integrate all the functionality you need and publish the finished site live on your domain.

In conclusion: By separating the design process from the programming aspect of building websites you stand to save hundreds, or even thousands of dollars building your next website or launching your next online business. Bridge the designer-developer divide let Elancers focus on what they are best at, just like you’re focusing on what you’re best at by hiring great talent on Elance!

About the Author:

Jesse Krieger is the best selling author of Lifestyle Entrepreneur and creator of the Business In a Weekend.

5 + 1 Questions With Elance Staffer, Jen Yee.

1. What’s your job here at Elance?


I’m on the Design team. My job is to make our platform beautiful, delightful and as easy to interact with as possible. I work with Product Managers to make new features aesthetically awesome, while constantly improving our existing features with the Engineering team.

2. What do you like most about working at Elance?


Hands down, the people! I seriously love working at Elance and am close with so many people in all of the different departments. We have such a wide breadth of intelligent and passionate people, it sometimes amazes me that I’ve been here for two and a half years and have developed these amazing relationships.

3. How do you Work Differently?


There are actually lots of ways that Elance lets me Work Differently, and some ways are more obvious than others.

  • There’s the obvious ‘Work Online Wednesdays’, where I get to stay home and attend meetings dressed in my pajamas and with Roo on my lap (my puppy).       
  • I get to surround my space with all of my favorite knick knacks – including my Nyan Cat plushes, video game and movie figurines, and Star Wars everything. I brought in my life size Darth Vader for a show and tell once, and it was so well liked that the CEO told me I could leave it here in the office! Now it’s forever watching over the Product Team.
  • Every Thursday the company gets together at 4:30 for some drinks and games (and at times, drinking games!).
  • I’m not confined to just my laptop. Nope. I have two additional hi-res monitors, a mouse for my right hand, a magic trackpad for my left, and a bamboo tablet if I’m feeling frisky. Basically, Elance generously gives me everything I need and more to be extremely creative and equally productive.


4. What songs are now on heavy rotation as you’re working-away?


In the morning, I listen to KNBR 680AM Sport Radio. During this time I’m in total concentration mode, churning away through my emails and getting Engineers and Product Managers what they need to finish their projects for the day. After lunch, I get into more of a creative mood and happily design away while tapping my feet to songs like Shiver Shiver by Walk the Moon, Haunted Heart by Little Hurricane, and Somebody by Jukebox The Ghost.

5. When you’re not working, what do you enjoy doing?


I love going to see movies on Saturday mornings, taking my puppy to the dog park, and going on mini adventures that end up with miles of walking.

6. (Bonus question!) OK, ask yourself anything. No subject is off the table.

My question: What is something we don’t know about you?


I met Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett)!!! I attended the Celebration IV Star Wars Convention in Los Angeles and he ended up autographing his picture with “Boba Fett <3’s Jingle Fett” (which was my World of Warcraft character’s name). Besides this stellar encounter, I learned the unwritten rules for dressing up like a bounty hunter, how to build a droid on a budget, and was awarded third place in their Star Wars tattoo contest. This experience definitely ranks among my top ten and I can’t wait to go again.


A Holiday Message “Yule” Love.

Thanks to Elancers everywhere for a wonderful 2013, and wishing you an amazing 2014. Here’s a short video that says it all.


Happy Holidays,

The Elance Team

Merger Update: We’re Listening. We’re Absorbing. We’re Grateful.

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.Gary and Fabio at Elance and oDesk Merger

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.




Elance and oDesk to Join Forces

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.

Be Part Of Our $100,000+ Big Idea Competition.

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?

If so enter our Big Idea Competition and compete for $110,000 in prizes, plus a chance to pitch your startup idea to a top venture capitalist! See contest details.

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 by Tuesday, 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 is Tuesday, 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.

Advice From An Elancer (Volume 16)

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.

Question #1:

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)


Question #2:

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.


Question #3:

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.

7 Top Mistakes That Cost Freelancers Work On Elance.

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.


5 Strategies for Startups to Reduce Expenses and Save More Money.

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.

What other ways can startups save money?

Elance City Manager To Compete In Summit For Positive Social Change, Attend Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony.

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: