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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
Here’s a quick announcement from our Partnerships Marketing Manager, Aleksandra Sasha Markova.
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. Simplyenter the Global Virtual Hackathon and do your magic from wherever you are.
You’ll compete online for $18,000 in cash prizes from organizerKoding. 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. Soregister today and get ready to impress the judges and the world with your coding talents, no matter where you hack from.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Workforcereportto see how work is changing and what you can do to gain a competitive advantage.
About Jaleh Bisharat, Elance-oDesk 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.
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.
As a reminder, I’ll be dropping in from time to time to discuss behaviors or policies that benefit or impact the community. One of the first on my list is something we call, “Jobs without Payment.” This is essentially when a freelancer is hired by a client but no payments are made and money never exchanges hands.
A high percentage of underperforming Elance freelancers have numerous Jobs without Payment in their work history. And many of the freelancers on the list for review and account closures this year fell into this category.
These jobs damage the reputation of the community and we consider them to be a “red flag” in a freelancer’s profile. Getting paid and receiving Final Feedback is critical to building a reputation and work history here on Elance (clients can’t leave Final Feedback on Jobs without Payment). Because of this, we want to prevent Jobs without Payment, and to help you do so as well.
We’ve dug into many cases of Jobs without Payment and we find the root cause is often a simple matter of unmet expectations. Clients are unclear in their job requirements and the job scope ends up being different or unachievable. Or freelancers may overextend themselves by taking the job and over-scheduling their time, or by finding they don’t have the skills and experience required to complete the project.
So what can we do about these jobs?
Both Elance and you, our valued freelancers, can help.
On our end we’re doing our best to properly account for such jobs in a freelancer’s work history. First, for those rare, unavoidable situations when moving forward with a job just isn’t possible (the client changes his/her mind on the project or unforeseen events occur), you’ll find that one or two Jobs without Payment will not negatively impact your reputation. Additionally, when we see a Job without Payment pop up on a freelancer’s account and we find that it relates to a client with a lot of these job results or a history of poor feedback, we won’t record the lack of payment as a negative signal on a freelancer’s review.
For your part, it’s critical to only apply to and accept jobs you’re confident you can complete with success. Once accepted, carefully set and agree upon expectations with your client.
Ask questions. Make sure to discuss project deadlines, work deliverables and communication plans in your proposal/application and interview. Document these decisions carefully in your project’s Terms & Milestones.
Set clear expectations. Through detailed discussions about deadlines, communication styles and deliverable requests, you may uncover any mismatch in cost, skills or time that if not updated will lead to a poor outcome for the contract.
Interview your clients. Avoid difficult projects by ensuring the client is a) direct and reasonable in their expectations, and b) willing to clarify any open questions you might have before accepting a job. Also, only begin work on jobs where funding is in place. We can’t help recover funds that were never available in the first place.
I’m sure there are additional tips that could be of value for avoiding Jobs without Payment and I would welcome and appreciate suggestions from members of the community. My hope is that together, through our Trust efforts in the marketplace and freelancer and client education, we can make Jobs without Payment a thing of the past.
Whether you’re a savvy startup or high-flying freelancer, there’s a plethora of great reasons to strike out on your own.
But if there is one knock to being an entrepreneur or solopreneur, it’s that life can get a touch lonely. Working from your home office day after day, week after week (gazing at that same Bob Marley poster on the wall), can drive you a wee bit wacky.
Working in isolation can also leave you ripe for distractions. As hard as you try to stay focused, that sporting match on TV or trip to the farmer’s market can quickly derail your productivity. Not to mention, the college buddy crashing on the sofa, looking for a partner for that zombie flick afternoon matinee.
This is exactly why Elance-oDesk loves coworking. And it’s why we’re partnering with top coworking spaces around the globe to bring you exclusive discounts.
In every corner of the world, from San Francisco and London to Melbourne and Dhaka, we’re now teaming up with a growing number of coworking spaces to offer you special savings. These discounts range from free passes (giving you a feel for the ambiance of a place) to as much as 50% savings on monthly or annual memberships (offers vary by location). Check out the specific deals here.
Why make a local coworking space the center of your workday?
As mentioned above, work is changing. People around the world increasingly opt for startups and self-employment, and coworking is a great way to make the most of your workday and career. Elance-oDesk members who already cowork often mention these three benefits:
1. You’ll get energized.
At a coworking space you’ll get away from the confines of your home office, leveraging the vitality of a dynamic workspace. It’s a great way to ensure that you keep that fresh thinking going and those innovative ideas flowing.
2. You’ll collaborate.
When you network daily with like-minded entrepreneurs, you’re sure to cross-pollinate in a thriving ecosystem—all while rubbing elbows with freelancers and businesses.
3. You’ll grow.
Give yourself a huge competitive advantage as you attend valuable seminars, meetups, and other regular events. It’s your unique opportunity to draw inspiration from a growing network of colleagues.
To start tapping into the coworking energy and excitement, view coworking spaces we’re partnering with in your neck of the woods. See the exclusive offers available when you mention your Elance or oDesk user name during registration. Here are some coworking spaces currently offering discounts:
A huge fan of Elance-oDesk and our freelance customer service experts, entrepreneur Derek Sivers serves up some timely advice on growing your business by growing great relationships with your customers.
I was honestly surprised that my company, CD Baby, was such a runaway success. But I was even more surprised to find out why.
CD Baby had lots of powerful and well-funded competitors. But after a few years they were all but gone, and we dominated our niche of selling independent music. This included 150,000 musicians, 2 million music-buying customers, $139 million in revenue, and $83 million paid directly to musicians.
What was the secret to CD Baby’s success? I never did any marketing. Everyone came by word-of-mouth. But why? I honestly didn’t know.
So whenever I was out talking with my musician clients, I’d ask them. For years, I asked hundreds of clients why they chose CD Baby instead of the alternatives. Or I’d just listen as they’d rave to others nearby about why they loved it. Was it the pricing? The features? Nope. The #1 answer, by far, almost every time someone raved about the company, was this:
“You pick up the phone! I can reach a real person.”
They called and got a real person on the second ring, instead of an automated call-routing system. Or they emailed and got a surprisingly helpful personal reply, instead of an impersonal scripted FAQ response.
And that was it. Who could have guessed? That despite all efforts put into features, pricing, design, partnerships, and more, clients would choose one company over another mainly because they liked their customer service.
I structured the business to match this priority. Out of 85 team members, 28 people were customer service. Since then, many entrepreneurs and interviewers have asked for my customer service tips and tricks, but I recently realized it’s not something you can add on top, it’s really a philosophy—a mindset that has to come from the core.
I’m no expert on the subject, but I’ve learned a few things from 16 years of experience. So here are the six key mindsets that I think guide great customer service:
Mindset #1: You can afford to be generous.
The #1 most important mindset to start with, underlying everything, before engaging in communication with a customer or client, is that your business is secure.
Even if it’s not, you have to feel that it is. Money is coming your way. You are doing well. You are one of the lucky ones. Most are not so fortunate. You can afford to be generous.
All great service comes from this feeling of generosity and abundance. Think of all the examples of great service you’ve encountered. Free refills of coffee. Letting you use the toilets even if you’re not a customer. Extra milk and sugar if you need it. A rep that spends a whole hour with you to help answer all your naive questions.
Contrast it with all of the bad experiences you’ve had. Not letting you use the toilets without making a purchase. Charging an additional 50 cents for extra sauce. Salespeople who don’t give you a minute of their time because you don’t look like big money yet.
All bad service comes from a mindset of scarcity, feeling like they’ll go out of business if they don’t fiercely guard their bottom line.
They say the reason those in poverty so often stay in poverty is that short-term thinking of desperate survival doesn’t leave room to think of long-term solutions. If you really feel secure, abundant, that you have plenty to share, then this feeling of generosity will flow down into all of your interactions with customers. Share. Be nice. Give refunds. Take a little loss. You can afford it.
Of course it’s also just smart business. Losing 10 cents on extra sauce can mean winning the loyalty of a customer who will spend $1,000 with you over the next 10 years, and tell 20 friends that you’re awesome.