Elance Blog

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Wakeup Call: Surprising Tips for Surviving the New Economy

As you pour that second caffeinated beverage and focus on your upcoming workday, add this article to the top of your “to-read” list.  

Jaleh Bisharat, Senior Vice President of Marketing at Elance-oDesk, pens a regular Huffington Post column about the ongoing evolution of work. This week, she looks at surviving and thriving in our new sharing-based economy.  Here’s a sample:

“Corporate loyalty is dead. A recent survey shows that nine out of ten Millennials say they expect to stay in a job for less than three years. This translates into 15-20 jobs over the course of their working lives! Now it's about employability as opposed to employment. What does that mean? The concept of static roles is fading into the past. They will be thinking, "what skills do I need?" instead of "what role will I have for the next 10 years?" And will constantly ask, "Am I at the top of my game, or is the field shifting?"

Go here to learn more about the five disruptions that are driving the talent-sharing economy, and how they’re changing the way we work and live.

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About Jaleh Bisharat, Senior Vice President of Marketing

Jaleh Bisharat, Elance-oDesk’s Senior Vice President Marketing, is a seasoned marketing executive with a history of growing startups into vibrant brands that inspire passion in their customers. Before joining Elance-oDesk, she was the Vice President of Marketing at several innovative companies including OpenTable, Jawbone, and Amazon.com, and also served on the Board of Directors at OpenTable and Homestead Technologies. Jaleh received a Bachelor of the Arts degree in Government from Harvard-Radcliffe and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

Free eBook: Your Launch Pad To World-Class Distributed Engineering Teams

Looking to win the talent war? Distributed engineering may be your ticket to success.

Which is why we’re thrilled to introduce Hire Fast & Build Things, a new eBook written by Elance-oDesk Senior VP of Engineering and Product, Stephane Kasriel. A comprehensive guide on how to find, hire and manage a top-notch team of distributed engineers, which you can download as a PDF for free or grab it to go on Kindle for just $2.99.

Step-by-step guide to distributed engineering teams.

Businesses are abuzz over distributed engineering as a way to hire world-class developers, blending teams of full-time onsite staff with freelance engineers spread out across the globe. And because Elance-oDesk was built using engineering talent from around the world, distributed engineering is baked into our corporate DNA—making this a natural subject for Stephane to write about.

Hire Fast & Build Things features a plethora of valuable information, including:

• Advantages of a distributed engineering team

• Structuring your remote team

• Building a shared infrastructure

• Examples and case studies

• Top insights and tips for instant success

The informative eBook goes into great detail on how to put your team together, gleaned from Stephane’s real-world experience building teams on Elance-oDesk. Get your free copy.

Advice From An Elancer (Volume 24)

Welcome to Advice From An Elancer—a place to find answers to your burning questions about Elance. My name is Dorothy D. and I have worked with Elance as a freelancer since April 2009. My goal is to help fellow Elancers understand how things work and how to accomplish more.

LinkedIn: Join a Group and Make Connections

Many people think LinkedIn is merely a place to rack up connections with colleagues, professionals in various fields, and, of course, friends. Beyond that, they have no real idea of what the benefits are, or what to do with their membership. Let’s talk about that, beginning with groups.

One of the most important and beneficial options on LinkedIn is groups. There are literally thousands of groups related to every business you can think of, including web programmers, developers, app developers, and more. If you search “Elance” in groups, you will find more than one entry. The Elance Professional Network is the only official group. Elance monitors this group and often assists with issues that people encounter.

The group is comprised of Elance members, including clients and freelancers. The result is intelligent conversation, advice, and a great networking tool. You will find that questions are answered with thoughtful replies and that everyone is very respectful. I personally am very active in the group and often try to offer my knowledge.

If you are looking for a new way to find out more about Elance, go to The Elance Professional Network group and ask to join. I believe you will find it very useful, and a good companion to the Elance Water Cooler.

In general, LinkedIn groups are great places to interact with others who share your professional skills and interests. I have earned jobs on Elance from my connections on LinkedIn, and have met a huge number of professionals through my connections in the Elance group!

LinkedIn has a free membership option and offers a great page for you to highlight your professional experiences. It is menu-driven and has sections to add volunteer work, certifications, and more. Once you complete your page, you will find that you can use some of the information to update your Elance profile or resume. It is very thorough. You can complete, or skip, any of the optional sections.

A few hints: Use a professional-looking image for your photo. A selfie on the beach or posing with duck lips just won’t work here. Also, join several groups and post in those that interest you. This will lead to connections with others. Definitely join in the conversations in the Elance group. Do not request to connect with people you do not know. Too many of these requests will result in complaints and suspension of accounts. If you are in a group together, it is considered appropriate to “link.”

The best way to get started is to create your LinkedIn profile (if you don’t have one already) and join the Elance group. You will find the group welcoming, the information useful, and the conversation interesting. Join us and say hello.

Safeguarding for a better workplace

 

Dear Elance Community,

 

About a year ago I introduced myself to talk about some of the programs the Trust and Safety Team was developing. Our charter is to continuously improve and maintain a safe and trusted workplace. Over the coming months I will be reaching out to share updates that will help our community continue to grow and thrive.

 

I’m writing to let you know that this week we will begin closing the accounts of a small number of community members with a history of consistently poor performance, and will initiate the review of additional accounts. Careful consideration went into the decision to take action against these active members' accounts. We evaluated the entire work history of freelancers who had multiple contracts that resulted in client concerns, poor feedback and disputes. While we recognize that satisfying all clients all the time is not realistic, consistently poor performers weaken the reputation and growth potential of our entire community.Jeff Chen photo

Ultimately, we feel these actions will benefit the vast majority and maximize opportunities for the many great members of our professional community. Freelancers who continue to deliver good client experiences and follow the Elance Code of Conduct will not be impacted. For freelancers in the affected groups, please know that we did not make this decision lightly. Notifications will be sent via email and you can find more information here.

We understand that no process is perfect, including this one, and always welcome your feedback on how we can improve.

Thank you for helping us build a trusted workplace. Please stay tuned for more updates from my team.

Best,

Jeff


 

Fishing For Great Clients? Why Freelancing Makes More Sense Than SEO

Occasionally we invite entrepreneurs to discuss issues of importance to our community. Here are some thoughts from Matt Keener, author of the book, Executive in Sweatpants: A Handbook for Launching Your Work from Home Career.

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As a highly talented solopreneur with awesome skills, you shouldn’t waste time and money on SEO (Search Engine Optimization).

There, I said it. As someone who spends his day helping businesses achieve better rankings on search engines, this may come as a surprise to you.

Sure, being #1 on Google can help you yield huge rewards. But do you know how to get there? If so, do you have the resources needed to capitalize on the situation?

There’s a better way to find clients: Online marketplaces such as Elance and oDesk. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at lead generation from SEO vs. online marketplaces.

The problem with SEO for solopreneurs

Getting your business found on Google, Bing, and Yahoo! isn’t an easy process. In fact, it’s extremely challenging in today’s tech-driven business environment.

There are many factors that contribute to appearing in search results, including the need for a high-performance website (quick load time, mobile-friendly design, well-written code), tons of original, useful content (blog posts, videos, guides), backlinks from high-visibility websites, and continuous optimization (indexing analysis, keyword tracking, SEO testing) from your webmaster. In addition, many experts believe that your website’s age contributes to where you appear in the search results. Older and more proven domains typically get preference over newer ones.

As you might imagine, it takes a significant investment in time and money to do all of this the right way. If you’re just getting started as a self-marketer, you’ll probably have more time to invest than money. And if you’re not an expert in SEO, you’ll have to become one to be found online.

For example, let’s imagine you’re a mobile app developer. If your strategy is to attract clients via SEO, here are the minimum steps you’d have to follow to have a chance:

·       Acquire a web domain

·       Decide on your preferred content management system (WordPress, Joomla, etc.)

·       Purchase a web template (or have one designed from scratch)

·       Research keywords to find out what clients search for when looking for graphic designers

·       Plan out and write your web page content (on-page content, meta information, URLs)

·       Purchase stock photos to make your site interesting

·       Create a portfolio to show past examples

·       Take your site live

·       Submit your site to Google and Bing webmaster accounts

·       Install Google Analytics to track traffic trends

·       Plan and commit to a blogging strategy (content is what attracts new prospects)

·       Continuously optimize the performance of your website

·       Monitor traffic and keywords for new SEO opportunities

Is that how you want to spend your time? Probably not. The goal is to win clients, not win an award for online marketing prowess.

A better solution: Online workplaces such as Elance-oDesk

Freelance marketplaces streamline the client-winning process. Instead of wasting time trying to attract people to your own website, you can instantly connect with hundreds of prospects actively seeking professionals like yourself. Whether you use Elance or oDesk, you can be up-and-running in a few hours or less. In a nutshell, here’s what you need to do:

Raising Startup Funds? Here’s Food For Thought

Occasionally we invite clients to discuss issues of importance to those who work with freelancers on Elance-oDesk. Here are some additional thoughts from Nicholas Wright. He frequently hires freelancers and is one of the founders of AppInstruct, an online course that teaches people how to make an app utilizing the Elance-oDesk platforms.

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Earlier posts in this series have looked at:

How to turn your idea for a new mobile app into an working app

Exploring the concept of minimum viable product

Tips on how the start-up fundraising process works

Equity and control options

This week we’ll run through the two main methods of fundraising for your startup—shares (equity) and convertible notes (debt). We’ll also discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each method.

Shares and equity

Equity (or shares in the company) is the most common method of raising investment for a startup. It’s also likely to be a concept you are familiar with. In exchange for investing a certain amount of money, investors are issued a set number of shares at a certain value per share—such as $1 per share. 

The principal problem faced by founders and investors alike with this approach is agreeing what the company is worth—especially since the startup is yet to launch its product, much less earn any revenue. This valuation is critical, as it determines how large a piece of the company everyone (founders and investors alike) will own, once the investment is received and the shares issued. 

By way of a simple example, if the company raises $500,000 (a standard-sized pre-launch investment ‘seed’ round) at a pre-money valuation of $2 million, after the investment your investors will own 20% and the founders 80% (the seed money is added to the valuation, meaning a post-money company valuation of $2.5 million).

If the company raises $500,000 at a pre-money valuation of $4.5 million, then those same investors will only own 10% of the company post-money. Hence, they would own half the portion of the company at the lower valuation.

This means that there may be a need for a significant amount of negotiation between the founders and investors. This negotiation will consume valuable time from the founders—energy that could otherwise be focused on getting the company’s product perfected.

The other factor with equity is that upon issuing it, there will normally be significant negotiation as to who has control over the company and its decision making. While there are accepted parameters around these negotiations, the need for them often means that an equity investment might take 6-8 weeks to finalize once the investors commit to investing by signing a term sheet. In most cases, during that time period there remains a risk to the company and the founders that the investment will not be finalized and the funds not released.

Convertible notes—debt

Convertible notes differ from equity in that they are a debt instrument. That is, they don’t immediately confer on the investor a share in the company. Instead, they provide the investor with a right for the note to be converted into equity (upon the occurrence of a pre-determined event—normally the company raising a certain amount of funding by way of a share issue). Essentially, they provide a future right to a share in the company, but not immediate ownership of that share.

Advice From An Elancer (Volume 23)

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. Today’s entry is a little bit different…

Proposal Tips and Tricks for Freelancers for Whom English is a Second Language

Elance is a global marketplace with a diverse cultural identity. The primary language used is English, although for many of our Elance freelancers, English is a second language. It can be a challenge to master the intricate details of the grammar and flow of English— even for native speakers.

I have reviewed profiles for several Elance professionals in a variety of categories, from web developers to graphic designers. In several instances, the only problem was clear, grammatically correct translation of their intended message into proper English.

So, for those of you who are global, non-native English speakers, AND for those of you that speak English but still struggle with when to use a semi-colon or a comma, this is for you.

These resources are for all aspects, not just proposals. I mention proposals in the title, because they are so important to the job process. Specific to proposals, while each one should be different (depending on the job), they should each contain:

·       An introduction: Who you are and your understanding of the job

·       The body: What is that makes you best for the job? What strengths do you bring to the table?

·       Conclusion: Thank the client for reading your proposal and samples.

Now for the grammar part…

1.     Online grammar checkers don’t work. I put a run-on, unclear, senseless sentence into four online grammar checkers. They all said there were no errors. These cannot be trusted to check the accuracy of the MEANING of your sentence and the associated grammar and punctuation.

2.     If you wish to improve with online lessons: http://a4esl.org/  This site includes bilingual quizzes and has multiple activities and quizzes on the site. It’s a good place to find lessons of various levels.

3.     Quick and Dirty Tips: http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/grammar-girl Grammar Girl has free podcasts, tips, and easily searchable information online. If you are wondering whether you should use affect or effect, check her site and she’ll make it clear in a very understandable way. This is one of my go-to resources when I’m unsure of something.

4.     More Tips for Everyone: The Purdue University OWL website has grammar and writing resources for every writer. The section specific to ESL Students is: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/section/5/25/ There are also a multitude of resources for writing, writing mechanics, grammar, punctuation, and more.  I love this website.

5.     There is no substitute for a proofreader. Perhaps, in your field, writing in English is not a priority, so you don’t want to commit to lessons. You may not even want to look things up because you don’t know exactly what’s wrong with your sentence. Find a proofreader. If you know someone, great. If not, hire one on Elance for an hourly rate for an undefined period of time. They can check your proposals and any other writing you may need to do. You’ll have peace of mind that your writing is at its best.

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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 group.

 

How Desert Hippies Can Teach You To Network Like A Pro

Occasionally we invite entrepreneurs to discuss issues of importance to our community. Here are a few thoughts on networking from Danny Schaffer, a freelance writer and marketer from South Africa. Danny was also a runner-up in our recent blog writing competition, which Elance co-sponsored alongside co-working space The Common Room. 

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Sites like Elance and oDesk have shifted the way many of us do business. By connecting clients and freelancers from all over the world, the online marketplaces spark what will often become long-term business relationships.

But relying on digital workplaces alone to grow one’s network is no longer enough. Savvy professionals know the key to building a powerful career in any field is through powerful and intentional networking.

But unless you’re some kind of socialite, networking is awkward. The word alone reeks of contrived self-promotion. 

Most of us at some point or another have tried at least one networking event. And it’s almost always the same ... mildly interesting talks swarmed by people throwing around business cards right and left.

The problem here is a lack of authenticity. People aren’t interested in each other; instead they’re dead bent on a mission to work the room, convincing strangers that they’re worth knowing.

But meeting people face-to-face, having a real conversation, is one of the greatest ways to form genuine connections with people. So how can do this in less used-car-salemanesque way?

Burning Man and the art of powerful networking

I was first introduced to the idea of gifting on a week-long trip to the desert for Afrikburn, an offshoot of the Burning Man festival in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. While hanging out in the desert for a week may or may not be your bag, there are a number of great lessons we can take away from The Burn. Burning Man was originally founded upon 10 principles, the most important of which in this context is gifting - the act of giving something to someone without expecting anything in return.

At first the concept seems a little alien, but after seeing how it works in practice and reflecting on it after the drugs have worn off, one realizes it’s the most natural way relationships are formed. Give someone something and they want to give you something back, this back-fourth quickly builds trust and sparks a friendship based on mutual benefit.

The key here is to become a giving person in every aspect of your life, always looking for ways to make people’s lives better whether or not they’re able or willing to return the favour.  

Once you’ve integrated a giving attitude into who you are, you can take the next step into a more focused and intentional approach when it comes to networking with the people who interest you.

Focus on the people that matter

Unlike the Burning Man bunch, you’re not just looking to gift yourself and your skills to everyone you meet along your merry way, rather you need to identify a group of specific people who know something you want to find out more about, and add real value to their lives in a unique way.

Death Of The Office? See Your Future Workplace In A New Infographic

No big surprise to those of us who work remotely (or with freelance teams), the folks at Intuit-U.K. have a sneaking suspicion that traditional offices are quickly becoming obsolete.

As technology advances and work/life values shift, they’re noticing that physical locations are less and less important. To spotlight this transformation, they created an enlightening Infographic outlining the evolution of the office. Check it out:

Death of The Office Infographic

Our Hiring Assistance Program: Why We're Helping First Time Hirers

There has been a lot of community discussion lately around Hiring Assistance and I want to clarify a few points.

Hiring Assistance is a program introduced to increase the number of first-time customers who hire freelancers on Elance. A complimentary service, Hiring Assistance has been offered to first-time clients on their first job to help make that first hire through one-on-one phone and email consultation, guidance on writing a good job post, and assistance in sorting proposals.

In the last few months, clients receiving Hiring Assistance have hired 25% more often on their first job than clients without this service. More importantly, first-time clients who received Hiring Assistance are much more likely to come back to Elance and hire again -- which means they were very satisfied with their first hiring experience.

These results are very meaningful, as our entire community benefits when clients expand their hiring on Elance. However, we've also learned a lot through this process and are still tweaking the program. We’ve heard a lot of feedback on how this program could be improved and I am personally working with our Hiring Assistance program leaders to examine specific areas of improvement. We are also making and will continue to make adjustments based on some of your suggestions. We will inform you of any significant changes to this program as they become available.

Finally, we should have done a better job communicating the Hiring Assistance program to our community and I regret making some of you feel in the dark. We will do better moving forward. I fully recognize that you want to be informed of our efforts and how they impact you, and take this also as a personal reminder to communicate more often with all of you.

I want to thank you, our community, for your patience and feedback. We are deeply committed to your success and, it’s no secret, depend on it. Finding ways to better serve you keeps everyone around here humble.

Sincerely, 

Fabio Rosati CEO, Elance-oDesk

*Note: You can find a full list of FAQs regarding Hiring Assistance here.

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