Elance Blog

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New User-Generated Video: Elance Escrow 101

If you’re a client or freelancer who works on fixed-price jobs in our marketplace, you’re probably well versed on Elance Escrow Protection. It’s a free offering that helps people in our community ensure that both work and payment is received as expected, without surprises.

While we explain Escrow in great detail in our Help Center, some people prefer moving pictures to further clarify how Elance Escrow Protection works. If that’s the case for you, you’ll be glad to know that a Bloomfield, New Jersey-based Elancer has created a fun animation outlining how Escrow works on our platform. Thanks to the animation team at Quality Schnallity Inc. for creating this informative video. Click below to check it out.

Increase Your Productivity By Taking a Day Off

Occasionally we invite people to discuss issues of importance to our community. Here are some thoughts from Abby Perkins of Talent Tribune.

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To maximize your productivity – and income – many freelancers work seven days a week. Sure, a number of freelancers take a "weekend" – but that might mean only working four hours on a Sunday instead of eight. But a weekend with work isn’t a true weekend, and it doesn’t provide the same benefits.   

But what if freelancers could actually boost productivity by taking some time off? A growing body of research shows that taking breaks helps to increase productivity – even though the amount of time spent working is decreased.

As the holiday season approaches, consider taking a day – or even a whole weekend – off. You just might find that it’s the key to improving your productivity and increasing your income.

The plight of the freelancer.

Freelancers face a unique plight. There are always more jobs available, so there is always additional money to be made. Since completing additional work increases our paychecks, it makes sense to always accept another gig – right?

Many freelancers follow this logic, and even those who want to take time off find themselves falling into this trap. And, while their paychecks may see a bump at first, their productivity may start to suffer in the long run as they experience stress, burnout and even exhaustion.

The key to increased productivity.

In recent years, multiple studies have shown that periods of rest – everything from short breaks to long vacations – helps to increase productivity. Below, we’ll take a look at two of them.

Elance-oDesk Is Excited To Share Our 2014 Annual Impact Report

 

 

One of the most satisfying aspects of working at Elance-oDesk is knowing that what we do here makes a difference in the lives of clients and freelancers around the world. Which is why I am thrilled to unveil our 2014 Annual Impact Report—a look at how online freelancing has transformed the way we work, leading to greater fulfillment and freedom for all.

 

When it comes down to it, this report is about you—your stories and your success. I hope you’ll take a moment to read through and feel proud to be a member of this dynamic and inspirational community.

 

Thanks to all,

Jaleh Bisharat,

Senior Vice President, Marketing

Elance-oDesk

 

Why Colleges Should Require Courses In Freelancing

Given the eye-opening results of the recently released 2015 Millennial Majority Workforce survey, it only makes sense to hear from a millennial. Here are thoughts from Elancer Jarek Ostrowski.

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When I graduated from college in 2010, I really wasn’t prepared to enter the real world.

I had all the education I needed, and all the knowledge and expertise in the degree I chose to pursue. But in the grand scheme I had no idea what my options were, other than to get a traditional job.

Sure, my college offered career services to help students. But the help was more focused on resume building, interview do’s and don'ts, and how to write a proper cover letter. Pretty much useless garbage I could have looked up myself on the Internet. There was really no other option. You left school, you made a resume and cover letter, and you applied for jobs.

But what is a new graduate supposed to do when they start applying for jobs that require at least a year of experience? How’s a student able to get that year of experience if they’re right out of school?

Like many new graduates, I struggled to gain even the slightest of traction in developing a stable career for myself. Granted I was a Health Science major, which was a questionable choice in the first place, but I’d focused a lot on technical writing and never once considered that I could potentially make it as a freelance writer. I ended up starting a t-shirt company instead, which I’ll be sure to cover in another post. But I probably should have tried writing. Who knows, I could have done pretty well for myself.

I wasn’t prepared, and neither are most millennials and especially college graduates who leave the blissful ideology of campus life and enter the workforce for the first time. I was so focused on what my professors were telling me and so focused on not letting my $100,000 of student debt go to waste, that I was blind and naive to think there were no other options. 

There are colleges who offer freelancing courses, but most are coupled with your typical freelance careers like journalism and graphic design. Every college has the responsibility to offer their students a second option when it comes to their chosen major, and that second option should be freelancing. Think of it as sort of like a backup if things don't go as planned (and most of the time they don't).

Colleges insist on being proud and assuming they provide the best foundation for their students when they're there. Yet when the person leaves, the student realizes it was just a facade and figure out the foundation was actually compacted dust painted to look like industrial grade concrete.

If colleges required a freelancing course, like many require public speaking courses, students would at least become familiar with a second option. They could spend a semester helping students establish a reputation on a freelancing site, offering a service of the student’s choice. By doing this, students may even find they finally make up their mind on what they want to do for a major. I started as a psych major, another flavorless choice. It was more like a placeholder and I didn’t really know what I wanted to do until I was a junior. Even then I still wasn't sure.

Requiring a freelancing course and allowing the students to pick a freelancing genre based on their own interest, may help them find what they were looking for in a major after all. You never know. The sure thing though, is the valuable real world skills one would learn when freelancing in school.

Students could learn valuable skills, like how to sell yourself, how to develop a solid portfolio, and how to handle clients – all of which are important in any line of work.

Maybe because colleges are more focused on collecting tuition than actually building a structurally sound foundation for their students, they may not consider freelancing courses. But they should. Everybody wins, really. The student now has a second option if things initially don't work out, plus they learn valuable people skills when working with clients. They earn money, develop a couple years of experience, and the college looks good for offering such courses.

If you’re in college right now, you need to start freelancing. Period. You need a backup plan, and freelancing is a backup plan that's not only viable, but it's something that could potentially turn into your plan A. Choose whatever field you want, learn about it, do it, and make money.

I wish I’d read an article like this when I was in school. Maybe I wouldn’t have been forced to work at that car wash or struggle to find a job out of the gate. It’s hard to think about anything other than parties and homework when you’re in school, I know. But on a lazy Sunday morning before the game, at least check it out. See if you can make it work, and maybe you’ll earn a little bit of money to get your career and life off to a great start.

About the Author:

Jarek Ostrowski is a fulltime freelance graphic designer and loyal Elancer. He runs a blog at www.thefreelanceeffect.com, which is where freelancers share stories, network with one another, and offer advice through real world experiences. Jarek is also authoring The Freelance Effect, a book that discusses the rise of the freelancer over a 20-year span, featuring stories from freelancers on how they got started and why they'll never go back to the 9 to 5.  Follow Jarek on twitter @freelanceeffect for more of his posts and updates from his blog.

Photo courtesy of opensource.com

Benefits Challenged? Announcing Open Enrollment For Our U.S. Freelancers

It’s a real challenge today finding great benefits at an affordable price. Especially for U.S. freelancers, who unfortunately can’t tap into bulk packages of corporate America.

That’s why Elance-oDesk is excited to further expand our partnership with Freelancers Union – the nation’s largest labor institution representing 250,000+ independent workers. Today we’re teaming with the organization to announce their open enrollment for benefits, including:

• Health insurance

• Dental insurance

• 401(k) plans

• Liability insurance

• Disability insurance

• Term life insurance

Check out their educational resource on what freelancers need to know about getting benefits. Also search their National Benefits Platform to see exactly what’s available in your city.

Benefits curated specifically for freelancers.

Freelancers Union has formed exclusive partnerships with benefits providers, negotiating flexible, low-cost benefits honed towards independent workers. These programs are easy to enroll in (there’s no eligibility requirements) plus there’s no “joining fee.” And because Freelancers Union is a non-profit organization, all income collected from benefits are reinvested in advocacy, education and services for freelancers.

If you’re not familiar with Freelancers Union, the organization itself is free to join too. They offer many additional and exclusive discounts, plus an online community of fellow freelancers ready to exchange ideas and help your build your network and find work.

Attend a benefits webinar on Wednesday November 19.

The Freelancers Union team will host a free webinar this Wednesday, outlining benefit options and answering your questions. RSVP to attend and discover how Elance-oDesk and Freelancers Union are partnering to build a better future for freelancers.

5 Tips For Small Businesses Looking To Hire Developers

In the near future, you're going to see every small business start with a website. When it happens there’s going to be even greater demand for developers then there is now. And as you probably know, experienced web developers are already difficult to find.

To hire a developer, you’ll need a clear vision of your business. And because you'll be hiring someone to build a new online home for your business, don't treat that person any differently than you would someone building your physical business.

Fortunately, Elance is home to hundreds of thousands of developers and programmers, so it won't be hard to find the right person. Here’s how:

1. Ask yourself the right questions.

It's essential to hire the right person the first time. Start by looking at these factors when reviewing your freelancers:

·       How long have they been a developer?

·       What are their past projects?

·       Do they look like legitimate developers?

·       Are they available for a quick video call?

They may not seem like very big questions at first, but they're surely going to reveal a lot about the developers and their work.

2. Ask your candidate the right questions.

Developers are people, just like everyone else. And truth to be told, being a developer is very difficult if you have a difficult client. Part of the problem is that clients themselves don't understand what development is, and so in turn they expect the world. That, my friends, is not how it happens.

Now, for the questions to avoid:

The Hack Is On! Join In The World’s First Exclusively Virtual Hackathon

 

Here’s a quick announcement from our Partnerships Marketing Manager, Aleksandra Sasha Markova.

 

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Elance-oDesk is excited to co-sponsor a fun and dynamic new hackathon that knows no boundaries. Literally.

 

For the first time ever be part of an exclusively virtual big time hack -- whether you’re in a high tech hub or a beachside hot tub. Simply enter the Global Virtual Hackathon and do your magic from wherever you are.

 

You’ll compete online for $18,000 in cash prizes from organizer Koding. Plus the top Elance-oDesk team will earn an additional $2,500, with other sponsors offering more prizes too. It’s also a great opportunity to show off your skills and make your mark in the global community of developers.

 

Enter as a team, or as an individual programmer or developer.

 

Sign up now as the application deadline is November 21 (the hack itself is December 6-7), and the competition is limited to 1,000 teams.

 

Each team will consist of up to five coders and/or developers. If you’re a talented individual looking for a team to hook-up with, you can easily connect through the hackathon’s website. Your specific hack will focus on one of several available themes (which will be announced soon), but think timely topics such as global finance, climate change, education, healthcare, travel and such.

 

Elance-oDesk is thrilled to help usher in distributed engineering.

 

The Global Virtual Hackathon is another example of how work is moving online. We’re proud to support our community of developers, and to be a major force in bringing work to talented people wherever they are.

 

We’re also proud that oDesk Co-Founder Odysseas Tsatalos will be a hackathon judge, joining reps from Fortune 100 and innovative tech companies, as well as noted investors and journalists.

 

Hackathon organizers report that over 4,000 programmers and developers from around the globe have already signed-up for the event. So register today and get ready to impress the judges and the world with your coding talents, no matter where you hack from.

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Aleksandra Sasha Markova, Elance-oDesk Partnerships Marketing Manager

 

As Partnerships Marketing Manager, Sasha develops industry partnerships and marketing plans that introduce more businesses and freelancers to the benefits of online work. Prior to joining Elance-oDesk Aleksandra co-founded Blackbox, a seed stage accelerator focused on helping non-U.S. startups. Originally from Russia, she now lives in the Bay Area. Follow Sasha @Lady1337.

 

Photo courtesy of @matylda

 

 

4 Tools For Making Online Collaboration Easier

Occasionally we invite Elance-oDesk clients to discuss issues of importance to our community. Here are thoughts from Tobias Schelle, a Danish entrepreneur who is the Founder/CEO of 24slides.com. Check out his blog post below and video below on collaboration, or his other video in his series on finding the perfect freelancer.

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Love all the advantages of doing business online? Yet find it challenging to efficiently collaborate with the freelancers you work with?

You’re not alone. Taking your business online has certainly made it faster for you to communicate and get work done, but it also presents certain obstacles. This is especially true when working with various people – from diverse backgrounds or time zones – who are simultaneously working on multiple tasks.

Fortunately you also have online tools at your disposal. Checkout this video for suggestions on how to better collaborate, or keep reading below, to learn about four of my favorite tools:

1. Redpen

This is a visual feedback tool used for collaboration, primarily between you and your visual artists like graphic designers. With Redpen you can upload any picture, then provide comments on it. Because of this quick and easy tool, you eliminate the need to discuss an image at great length. This reduces unnecessary communication, through email and other less-productive channels.

2. Screenflow

Screenflow is a screencast tool for Mac users. As a screen recording software, Screenflow records your screen and voice, including through your webcam if you like. This is highly useful for giving instructions or feedback. It likewise captures non-verbal cues, like tone of voice and facial expressions or gestures. This makes it a more effective alternative to email, and eliminates possible misunderstandings. Another advantage is its flexibility. Screenflow doesn’t limit you to a specific time zone. As you may know, for real-time communication, some online messaging, chat or video conferencing call providers require all people involved to be within the same time zone.

3 Ps – Proposal Secrets Your Clients Can’t Resist

I love freelancers on Elance. Many are experts in their fields, who routinely deliver top-quality work, even on short notice.

Having a list of strong freelancers you can count on is a fantastic resource. It gives you the power of a highly specialized work force at a cost that’s far, far less than employing such a force full-time. That’s why one of many reasons why I use freelancers in my own accounting software company, Billy’s Billing.

When I need special resources beyond what I’ve got in-house, I typically turn to Elance. In reviewing proposals I receive from Elancers, I very often encounter people who are missing out on great opportunities, simply because they aren’t selling themselves well.

Their proposals lack some important elements that could win them my business. With this post, I want to reach out and help deserving people, so they can land more projects and earn more money. Not just from me, but from any other client on Elance-oDesk.

Let’s get started so you can bring in more customers. At the end I also have some bonus advice for you, on a subject near and dear to any freelancer’s heart: Pricing.

First: Three questions and three rules.

First, in writing your proposal, ask yourself the following three questions:

1.     How can I get this client to trust me?  

2.     What problem does the client want solved, and how will I solve it?

3.     What is a fair price for solving the problem?

Each connects to a good rule of thumb for proposal writing. We’ll get to the rules themselves in a moment.

P #1: “P”rofiles and Proposal—Build Client Trust.

We naturally want to do business with people we trust. When trust is absent or iffy, we take our business elsewhere. So getting your potential client to trust you is crucial to landing any project. Keld Jensen, an Assistant Professor at Thunderbird University, goes into this in detail in his book The Trust Factor: “Trust is in fact the keystone of successful commercial transactions.”

Your provider profile on Elance is crucial to creating client trust. How does your profile measure up? Take time to review it. Look it over carefully from the viewpoint of a prospective client who knows nothing about you. Review it against these questions (again, from the client’s viewpoint):

·       What do past clients have to say about this provider? Was the work good? Was it great? How about the service? Communication? Were deadlines met? Were there any problems? Were they resolved?

·       Is there any evidence of this provider’s competence? Does the provider just talk about past products, or are there plenty of good examples of his or her work? Are there any examples of projects similar to mine?

·       Is there a picture of this provider? Including a photo in your profile reassures the client he or she will be dealing with a real person. People like doing business with people—not with machines or faceless, generalized companies.

4 Reasons Millennials Are Poised To Absolutely Crush It In The Workplace

 

Below are thoughts from Jaleh Bisharat, Senior Vice President of Marketing at Elance-oDesk and Dan Schawbel, founder of Gen Y consulting firm Millennial Branding.

 

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A quick glance around confirms what you’ve probably suspected for a long time. Our workforce is getting younger and younger.

Call them what you want -- Millennials, Gen Y, or Echo Boomers -- there’s no ignoring the fact that those in their early 20’s to early 30’s are a critical part of today’s workplace. Ditto for the near future, as Bureau of Labor Statistics employment projections show that in 2015 millennials will overtake Baby Boomers and Generation Xers as the largest generation in the U.S. workforce.

New study goes a step further, outlining how work is changing and the influence of millennials.

To understand how millennials are impacting the workforce, Elance-oDesk and Millennial Branding teamed up on an in-depth study, The 2015 Millennial Majority Workforce. Surveying over 1,000 millennial workers and 200 hiring managers, the study revealed eye-opening facts. Here are a few highlights:

1. Millennials are integral to the future of business.

Not only will millennials become the largest generation in the workforce next year, they are poised to play a leading role in business for years to come. The study shows that 28% of millennials are already at management level, and two-thirds expect to be in management roles ten years from now.

Beyond power in numbers and rank, millennials possess characteristics that businesses need to be innovative -- they bring fresh ideas, adaptability, and creativity.

2. Millennials have the skills businesses seek to stay agile and innovative.

As businesses look to hire (the August U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Report shows 4.8 million job openings, the highest number in 13 years), hiring managers are shifting gears. The study found they’re prioritizing hard skills over personality when hiring as they seek STEM skills especially -- the skills in the shortest supply. From 3D printing and cloud computing to wearable technology, genetic modification and aerial mapping, millennials report possessing hot emerging skills. Hiring managers think millennials -- the first digital native generation -- are more technically adept than past generations.

3. Hiring managers are having difficulty finding and retaining millennials.

Millennials in The 2015 Millennial Majority Workforce study reveal that they want more than traditional employers now offer. Seeking more flexibility and greater control than “9 to 5” jobs give them, hiring managers are finding it increasingly difficult to hire and retain millennials for staff positions. Unlike past generations, 58% of millennials expect to stay in their job fewer than three years and more than half think corporate loyalty is outdated. This puts them in a position of power as companies seek to keep them.

4. Millennials are turning to freelance work and entrepreneurial opportunities at a record pace.

79% of millennials report that they would consider quitting their regular job to work for themselves. When discussing independent work, millennials cite several attractive characteristics of freelancing. This includes flexible work times and location independence, as well as the ability to pick and choose projects. Eight in ten millennials also said that technology is making it easier to start a business today -- another option for this highly entrepreneurial generation.

Long story short, the future looks bright for millennial workers.

Millennials are reinventing what it means to be a professional as they face rapid change being driven by a multitude of influences such as technology and the economy. They are proving to be a highly adaptable generation, however -- one that is different by necessity and teaming with ingenuity.

What we’ve shared here is just the tip of the iceberg. We invite you to check out the complete 2015 Millennial Majority Workforce report to see how work is changing and what you can do to gain a competitive advantage.

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About Jaleh Bisharat, Elance-oDesk Senior Vice President of Marketing

Jaleh Bisharat

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.

 

About Dan Schawbel, Founder and Managing Partner of Millennial Branding

Dan Schawbel is the Managing Partner of Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research and consulting firm. He is the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success and the #1 international bestselling book, Me 2.0: 4 Steps to Building Your Future. Dan is a columnist at both TIME and FORBES, and has been featured in over 1,000 media outlets, such as “The Today Show” on NBC, “Street Signs” on CNBC, “The Nightly Business Report” on PBS, “The Willis Report” on Fox Business, The Economist and Wired Magazine.

 

 

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