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
Many people know me as the owner of Coquí Prose Content Marketing, but I am also a prolific client who exclusively uses Elance to hire freelancers.
Although many Elancers have hired a few other Elancers to fill the occasional needs of a client or to assist with specific projects, I work day in and day out with a team of freelancers who help meet the goals of our long-term clients.
There’s a big difference …
For every job I have with a client, I may hire five or more team members to fill the needs for that client.
With more than 1000 jobs awarded since I started hiring on Elance about four years ago (both one-off jobs and ones lasting six months or longer), I see the business of freelancing from a very unique perspective.
Okay, Let’s Get Down to Business.
Let’s start by debunking three common myths that frequently lead to lots of chest pounding, self-aggrandizing and pontification ad nauseam. These are myths I have read in online forums again and again and, sadly, a-gain.
“You shouldn’t start out with low rates because you’ll forever be branded a low-baller and no serious client will take a second look at you.”
“Competition is stiff on Elance. You need to sell yourself in your proposal.”
“Keep your earnings private until you reach $10k.”
Rates: What Matters? Your Past, Present or Future?
I’ll take you through a typical job posting of mine to give you the “bird’s eye view” of things.
I’m pretty methodical when I post jobs on Elance. I have a formula for my job descriptions. I always include the following in my descriptions, especially if I am posting a public job (which I only do if my exhaustive search for an Elancer doesn't jibe with Elance’s sometimes-interesting ranking of expertise):
Successful freelancers focus on their projects and on marketing and improving their services. Given that focus, few give much thought to government affairs.
But just as you use Google Maps or a similar app on your mobile device to guide you past highway congestion, so too should freelancers pay close attention to government obstacles that impede the rapid growth of online freelance contracting.
Last year on the Elance-oDesk blog I mentioned that 16 states and the federal government had formed a task force to make it harder for individuals to freelance doing the kind of work you find and sell on Elance-oDesk.
Those 16 states – California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New York, Utah, and Washington – are home to 39 percent of the US population, so any progress these states make will slow the expansion of freelancing. Since other states and countries are watching carefully, this may affect you wherever you live.
As an independent contractor, you have a unique opportunity to educate your representatives in state government about the booming field in which you make a living.
Most legislators know little about online-freelancing and will listen with interest to how this new work style is more advantageous for you than regular employment.
Looking through the fascinating 2014 Elance-oDesk Annual Impact Report, available here, one chart shows clearly why a single visit to meet a state legislator, either in their district office near you or in their office in the state capital, can make a big difference.
The Impact Report shows that 74 percent of freelancers are under 35 years of age – individuals who rarely talk with legislators. Since lawmakers seldom see young people, talking about freelancing opens your legislators’ eyes to voters unfamiliar to them.
Here are five secrets for representing freelancers.
Secret #1:Make it clear that you represent more than yourself. Scale is vital for effective government relations.
Describe what you do for clients, adding a fact about how many people in your district, state or occupation also freelance online. The Elance-oDesk impact report has many helpful statistics you can use.
One tradeoff in working with online freelancers is that some “teamwork” benefits can become compromised. For example, when working remotely it can become challenging to establish rapport or build a more enriching relationship among team members. Here’s a quick video, and be sure to read more below.
Ironically, being connected online can make clients and freelancers feel more disconnected – especially on a social level. To make things easier, here are three tips to help you manage freelancers online:
Tip #1: Set up a reporting system.
At 24 Slides we use a tool called 15five. It’s basically a questionnaire containing 3-4 questions sent out bi-weekly to all employees. Each team member responds and sends back their reply.
Examples of questions you can ask include: “What have you been most proud of in the past week?” or “What challenges have you faced?” While the questions can vary, frame them in a way that they can engage your freelancer while giving you clearer insights on what’s happening on the ground.
Feel free to explore other tools like 15five, but what’s crucial is setting up a similar automated process. The goal is to gain a better and more accurate picture of what’s going on.
Moreover, establishing a similar reporting tool can help you effortlessly manage more people than you would if you were all working in the same office. For instance, it takes only five minutes to read through their responses and add comments. You can then quickly move on to the next submission. Yet the overall insights and feedback you get are tremendously valuable.
Tip #2: Set up a video conference call.
When you work with a team within the same office, it’s convenient to meet them over coffee or lunch. This allows you to engage in small talk. This kind of interaction, although described as “small”, can make a big difference in building relationships over time.
Caveat: There is no one single way to write a proposal. Proposal writing is a skill and one that can take weeks, months and even years to perfect. However, contrary to popular belief, it really is possible to fake it till you make it.
I am living proof!
What I am about to share is based on my experiences both as a freelancer who has written many, many proposals and as a client who has read hundreds more. I have reached a point where I can tell within the first line or two of someone’s proposal whether I want to read further or move on to the next Elancer.
My goal is obviously to help you keep your prospective clients interested long enough to get to the end of your proposal and to consider reaching out to you through the workroom.
The first step is to start looking for work, right?
You’re almost there, but first let’s go over a little housekeeping: before you take to the Elance marketplace, you need to read Elance's Terms of Service (ToS), which are their rules for conducting business on their site.
Unlike other websites’ Terms of Service (where you probably scroll to the bottom without reading them and then check the box to indicate you that did, just so you can purchase what they’re selling), if you are really serious about earning a living on Elance—and why else are you here? —You really need to read Elance’s ToS.
What could possibly happen if you just pretended to have read them?
By not following the rules of their site, you can have your account suspended and even terminated. If caught breaking any of the rules of their site, you can’t feign ignorance because in order to get to this stage, you had to indicate that you read the ToS.
Indeed I could give you the highlights, but what fun would that be? It’s not like I can also run your business for you as well, so you may as well get cracking and read those Terms of Service.
Now That We Have That Out of the Way…
At this point you’ve probably read my blog and followed my advice on how to create a winning Elance profile. You’ve got a professional photo in place and an overview you’ve rehearsed so many times you know it’s the bomb! You may have even taken a few tests and verified a few credentials. Nothing spells r-e-a-d-y like you are at this very moment. You’re jazzed and, moreover, you are unstoppable!
Elance is excited to introduce a new guest columnist to our blog: Lee Bob Black of SkilledUp. In his first article, he explores 30 digital skills to take your talent over the tipping point. In future articles, he’ll share insights about enhancing your expertise and income.
1. Advertising skills
If a client wanted to advertise a product or service online, would you be up for the challenge? Setting up Google and Facebook accounts to place ads is difficult. Managing advertising campaigns is even more difficult. That said, if you become proficient at managing a client’s online marketing, then could become invaluable to that client.
2. Email marketing skills
Email marketing services don’t just get customers to click and buy. They can also be used to motivate people to take social and political action. While learning how to use a service such as VerticalResponse or MailChimp, also learn the basics about writing e-newsletters, such as having a compelling subject line and giving people a reward for reading.
3. Personal branding skills
If you don’t already think of yourself as a brand, maybe today’s a great day to starting doing so. Your digital presence — or absence — can mean the difference between getting — or not getting — a job.
4. Digital publishing skills
Do you have a collection of essays or photos that you think would be better in a book than, say, a website or a blog? If so, consider looking into e-book self-publishing and distribution services.
5. User experience (UX) and user interface (UI) skills
If you can have a meaningful conversation with a UX or UI designer, you’ll be one step ahead of most of your colleagues and competitors. To start with, consider learning about the basics, such as general ways to improve the usability of a product.
As we wrap up 2014, Elance-oDesk has released a year-end data report – the 2014 Global Online Work Report. It reveals insights ranging from hot skills to today’s state of online work, and is geared towards helping freelancers and businesses plan for an even more successful year ahead.
Feel free to dig deeper, but here are five eye-opening takeaways:
1. Steep gains in Customer Service. The fastest growing position (by freelancer earnings, worldwide) is Customer Service, up 92% for the year.
2. Steady ascent of Mobile. The fastest growing work category by freelancer earnings is Mobile (up 43% globally for the year … including 76% in the U.S.).
3. QA Testing hits new highs. Worldwide, QA Testing is the hottest job based on total projects posted (up 147% for the year).
4. Swift rules stateside. In the U.S., Swift-based jobs are the hottest – based on total jobs posted (up 150% for the year).
5. Freelancer earnings escalate dramatically. Global earnings continue to rise, as professionals approach the $1 billion mark in 2014 earnings (helping add up to a grand total of over $3.2 billion earned on Elance-oDesk all time).
Occasionally we invite people to discuss issues of importance to our community. Here are some thoughts from Elancer Tim Goggin of recessionRebirth.
In the two-plus years I’ve been working on Elance, I’m proud to say I’ve earned almost $320,000, completed 391 jobs and have an overall 4.9 rating.
This process wasn’t easy by any stretch and required a ton of hard work. I also failed regularly.
Sometimes, I wish I could go back to April 2012 (when I started on Elance in earnest) and save myself some stress, frustration and doubt.
I’ve boiled down what I wish I knew when I started to 10 crucial lessons. Lessons that are the difference between the right path on Elance and dead ends. And that’s what this blog post is all about. I’m sharing these lessons so perhaps it can help you be more successful on Elance.
Lesson #1: Stay Humble
I can be arrogant. It’s not my best trait and it’s something I struggle with. It became a problem when I started bidding regularly.
I’d get so frustrated and deflated as bid after bid were awarded to freelancers that seemed (to me at the time) inexperienced or unqualified. And it was made worse by my insistence on keeping my rates the same as my non-Elance clients. When encountering a bid request that was below my ideal rate, I just wouldn’t bid or I’d keep my rate the same even though it was way higher than the max bid.
This didn’t go well. For weeks, I barely got any jobs. And my frustration reached a pinnacle. Humility finally hit me and …
… I changed the way I thought about bidding. My goal was to get as many good clients as possible as quickly as possible. Not to cling to some ideals.
How? I lowered my rates. I bid on small jobs I wouldn’t consider in the “outside” world. And magically, I started getting more and more clients. As you might expect, some clients were great. Some not so much, who expected champagne on a beer budget. My goal was to get as many great reviews as possible. Which brings me to ...
Lesson #2: “It’s The Feedback, Stupid”
What people are looking for is social proof. That’s why your feedback on Elance is probably the most important selling point on your profile. Part of the problem you have when starting out is that you’re a blank slate.
It doesn’t matter that you have 30 full-time clients (outside of Elance) who love you and tell everyone they know about you. You’re untested on Elance and clients rightly don’t want to be the first person to work with you and have a bad experience. And that’s really the issue – in general, people are more concerned about losing than winning. While there may be a huge upside to hiring you, they can only see the fact that it might go horribly wrong.
Whether you’re new to Elance, or you’ve been here awhile and trying to get a foothold, my goal with this blog is to help you create a great profile so that you can market yourself to the thousands of clients who post jobs in the marketplace.
If you’re anything like most freelancers I know, you’re probably caught somewhere between feeling brazen and utterly confused about what to write in your profile. If it makes you feel better, I know several successful Elancers who struggle with this very thing.
Like writing a great proposal (which I will cover in the next blog), it may take some practice to get your profile working for you—meaning you get targeted invitations sent to you by prospective clients.
Before you type a single word, stop for a moment and think about how you can—in 1000 characters (not words) or fewer—allow your profile to stand out from the thousands of others in your category and to market yourself when you’re not there to speak for yourself.
To Brag Or Not To Brag.
I have written, rewritten and tweaked our company profile many times. Ultimately I come back to the same “theme,” if you will. Why? Because I have to put myself in a prospective clients’ shoes to know what they are looking for in a freelancer.
Fortunately I am also a client, so my advice about what to say in your profile comes from being both an Elancer and a client who has visited probably thousands of profiles over the last four years.
I need to make this clear: this is my experience and how I go about hiring freelancers. Other clients may value different things than I do.
I have certain criteria when I hire freelancers to join my team or to fill a one-time need. I have what I feel is a fool-proof method of, as the expression goes, “separating the wheat from the chaff,” which essentially means moving on from whom I believe won’t be a good fit and moving toward those who stand out from the masses.