A huge thanks to one and all who participated in Thursday’s Ignition Pitch Night in San Francisco.
The event was a tremendous success and tons of fun for everyone in attendance – from the nine deserving entrepreneurs who presented, to our esteemed panel of judges and a raucous crowd of onlookers.
If you’re not familiar with Elance’s series of Ignition Pitch Nights, they’re wildly entertaining evenings where aspiring startups each get five minutes at the microphone to pitch their business ideas. Elance provides the first beer for everyone who registers to attend, plus awards $3,000 in Elance credits to the businesses with the most-promising ideas. They can use the prizes to take their startups to the next level with everything from web programmers and graphic designers to writers or whatever.
Last night’s Ignition Pitch Night was at WeWork co-working spacing in the South of Market neighborhood of San Francisco. Here is a quick rundown of the winners:
First Place (winner of $1,500 in Elance credits):
WiifMe: A mobile app that turns car buying on its head, making dealers sharpen their pencils to earn your business.
Second Place (winner of $1,000 in Elance credits):
Strangelings by Flying Monkey: A genetics-themed game, allowing players to create their own “Strangeling” animals using in-game breeding.
Third Place (winner of $500 in Elance credits):
Flickflyer: By bringing simpler video embedding to online shopping, the end is near for horrible pictures of items for sale.
Impressive, eh? And those where just the top three winners, as the judges agreed the competition was close and that any of the top finalists could have walked away with the top prize. The judges were particularly impressed with the quality and variety of thinking of the group, ranging from Roadcase (an app designed to help musicians and bands organize their schedules, travel dates, gigs, etc.), Chariot (a ridesharing app designed with a more social twist in mind while also allowing for further distance driving), and Simply Celebrate (a business designed to bring out the best memories and emotions in book form for special milestone moments) to Skills2Trade (a way to barter and exchange your skills – including anything from baking to legal work) and Carenga (an app designed to improve usability and bring great music to those with medical conditions).
Again, our thanks to everyone who helped make the evening so dynamic and fun. Check back here on the blog for details on upcoming Ignition Pitch Nights in your neck of the woods. You can also stay abreast of Elance happenings on our Facebook page.
Occasionally we invite professionals to wax poetic about issues of importance to the Elance community. Here are some thoughts from Per Jonsson, Co-Founder and CEO of Jumpstarter.
Note: Jumpstarter is offering an exclusive offer to the first 100 Elance fans who respond to their special promotion – get access to Jumpstarter today by using the invite code: ELANCE100 (register at http://jumpstarter.io/register. You can setup and install your favorite framework in less than a second, literally.
At Jumpstarter we asked ourselves: What is it that developers really want? We of course had our own ideas, but the only way to know for sure was by stepping away from our laptops to talk to fellow coders — and lots of them. After speaking with hundreds of developers there is one desire we kept hearing over and over: the one thing they crave is to be in a productive state of mind, absorbed in code, with zero distractions. They want to be in the Zone. In that amazing state of mind where things just work.
Being in the Zone is a lovely feeling. Time flies by. You feel in control. You’re creative and able to focus on a single challenge almost effortlessly. You get plenty of things done without even realizing how much you’ve accomplished. And you feel good about it. Actually, you feel great about it. It’s a wonderful place to be.
That feeling is also known as a state of mind called flow which is a part of positive psychology. Many researchers have been investigating the flow state and there are some things they all agree on. One of them is that to be able to find flow you have to clear away all distractions in your work environment.
Unfortunately, working as a freelance developer is not always like this. Customers ask questions. Emails drop in. Issues get re-prioritized. Bookkeeping and business planning gets in your way. Lunch breaks occur. Meetings interrupt. Facebook beckons. And, as developers we also have to do an awful lot of context switching. We all work with local environments, version handling systems, frameworks and assets, deployment services and live hosting. And all that switching creates distractions, and lost productivity.
At Jumpstarter we saw a vision in this and created a one-click-install product which reduces the context switching and improves developer’s chance of getting into flow. But there are also other things you can do yourself. We would love to take the opportunity to share some simple, yet challenging, tips and tricks on how you can code with flow.
1. Clear goals and limitations
Decide up front what you what to achieve, specify a direction and a clear goal. Also decide on what technique to use to get there - and stick to it.
Pick ONE thing to focus on and put your best effort in it. No multitasking. It won’t make you more productive and it will absolutely not get you into the Zone. Let’s repeat this: focus on ONE thing only.
3. Switch off your self-criticism
Be kind to yourself. You can do this! As soon as you start observing yourself and your work from a judging point of view you will lose your flow.
4. Clear away distractions
It takes time to get into the Zone and each time something interrupts, you will have to start over. Research shows it takes about twenty minutes to get back into flow when someone interrupts you while doing a mildly advanced task. When someone interrupts you coding, it takes much longer. Even hours. And you know it. The level of frustration you feel is a sign of that. So beware of Twitter storms, pinging emails and Facebook feeds.
5. Instant feedback
Design your task so that it will give you instant feedback. You will have to see a result of what you’re doing to be able to stay in the Zone. One way to do this is to split the task into smaller subtasks. That way you can check things off, and get into a productive flow state.
Most importantly: Make sure that the task you are working on is challenging enough.
All flow experts agree that the task can’t be boringly easy or too hard if you want to get into flow. It has to be hard enough to claim your full concentration but you also have to be convinced that you can pull it off. If not, find a way to adjust the level of challenge. And do it consciously.
Jumpstarter is a new way for developers to work that combines development environments, framework installs, deployment and live hosting into one single product. They also help developers code with flow. And remember, there’s an exclusive offer for first 100 Elance readers – get access to Jumpstarter today by using the invite code: ELANCE100. You can register at: http://jumpstarter.io/register
When we’re on the road attending events (or hosting meetups here in our Mountain View headquarters), entrepreneurs often ask the Elance team for advice on how to grow their startups. While we love offering guidance to those we meet, unfortunately we can’t speak first hand to all of you. However, our Startup Toolkit is a great resource for similar tips and insights. Visit the site at every stage of your development and you’ll find plenty of valuable information, such as the article below.
While we all love to applaud great ideas, the simple fact is that most startups are successful not because their idea is so off-the-charts incredible. Instead, what makes startups a success is how they execute the idea.
There may be others in your space already doing what your startup intends to do. No problem. As long as you’re breaking new ground on how to bring the idea to life, you’re well on the way to having a prosperous business.
So whether you’re the first to market or the first to first to give the market something new to cheer about, here are 15 questions to ask yourself, insuring that your startup idea is bullet-proof.
1. Are you totally passionate about the idea?
2. Is your idea simple and easy to explain to others?
3. Is your idea truly a problem solver?
4. Is there a huge number of people who have this problem?
5. Is the general market ready to move in this direction?
6. Can you deliver something unique that your competition isn’t yet offering?
7. Is your idea defendable, once others see its value?
8. Is there a way to get your idea to market quickly, letting you “perfect” it down the road?
9. Are your customers easy to identify and single out?
10. Do you have a sure-fire way to inform potential customers about your idea?
12. Is there a proven revenue stream for executing your idea?
13. Will you have access to funds to keep moving from step to step?
14. Is this idea worth putting in 15 hour days to work on, 7 days a week?
15. Are you open to pivoting, tweaking your idea when needed?
Those are a lot of questions, eh? But successful startups need to cover all the bases, and if your idea is bullet-proof then you’ll answer “yes” to most of these questions if not all. Then the only thing that’s stopping you from success is starting your startup, so get busy and build your business now before someone else does.
If you’re proud to be a freelancer, and you want to proclaim your independence and share your passion with others, look no further than our bold new infographic:
Inspired by the best-selling book The Rise of the Naked Economy(see article), this eye-catching work of art succinctly sums up what the book so eloquently explains: Freelancers are here to stay. It illustrates why there’s tremendous momentum behind today’s freelance economy, and why freelancers are thrilled to be a part of this revolution.
The poster brings to life the many elements of freelancer’s lives and careers that are being positively impacted. As Ryan Coonerty and Jeremy Neuner’s book explains, this includes advancing people’s careers and increasing their overall happiness. Not to mention making the world a better place.
<p><a href='https://www.elance.com/q/blog/new-infographic-your-manifesto-freelancer-revolution-show-world'><img src='https://www.elance.com/q/sites/default/files/page_images/blog/opportunity.png' alt='I Am The Freelance Economy' width='600' border='0' /></a></p>
Feel free to print out a copy for your office (or if you don’t have an office, fold it up in your laptop bag to rally around when you need inspiration). And pass the infographic on to others who now freelance or are thinking about joining the online work revolution. We hope you enjoy!
Welcome to Advice From An Elancer – a place to ask your Elance questions (through Elance’s LinkedIn page) and get them answered as thoroughly and personally as possible. My name is Dorothy D. and I have worked with Elance as a freelancer since April 2009. I have always tried to help other Elancers understand how things work and how to accomplish more. In Advice From An Elancer I will address as many questions as I can each week. In some cases, questions have been edited for clarity. …………………………………………………………………………………………
A “personnel manager” recently posted in the Elance Professional Network on LinkedIn that there is a “secret cover letter recipe” for amazing results. It says it is free.
Advice from an Elancer:
I looked at the site indicated in this spam post. There is no secret. The video is 20 minutes long and is a hard sell. It keeps watchers engaged with the promise of revealing a “secret sentence” at the end. I left the video running as I checked out www.ripoffreport.com ‘s report as well as other reviews. The software costs somewhere between $20-50 depending on what you read. I gave up on the video drivel after 8 minutes. The bottom line is that there is no secret. You need your cover letter, in Elance’s case a proposal, and a résumé, in this case a profile, to get jobs. Period. No magic. No secret formula.
What’s with the changes in the basic Elance plan? I don’t get it.
Advice from an Elancer:
Elance has made several changes recently. Honestly, I’m surprised there wasn’t more of a differentiator between (free) Basic and ($10) Individual before now. Those willing to pay will get more for their membership, just like any site offering a service.
The big changes include appearing higher in search rank, the ability to view the range of bids from other freelancers, and being able to feature samples in proposals. Are these features worth paying for a plan? This is a decision every freelancer should make for themselves. A ten dollar investment to use extra features and have more Connect opportunities is worth it for me. It’s a tax write-off. Is it worth it to you?
Why do some clients list jobs that exclude freelancers from certain parts of the world?
Advice from an Elancer:
Often, jobs are posted with the need for specific geographic knowledge and the client wants to find someone who knows the area. Some clients have had less than ideal job performance from freelancers from an area, so they are unfairly biased towards it based on a limited sample. If the client is keeping you from bidding because of your location, do you really want to work for that person? Look for the clients who are interested in your skills, not where you live.
That’s enough for today. If you have questions or want to follow the conversation of other Elancers, visit the Discussion page of our LinkedIn page.
The Elance team had an awesome time at TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2013.
It was wonderful to meet so many of the great entrepreneurs out there who are creating the businesses of the future (there were over 1,000 attendees at Disrupt). It’s also great to run elbows with so many Elancers who stopped by during the show to say hello and share their stories. It was truly inspiring to see the impact of Elance.
Another highlight of the show for Elance was sponsoring/helping out/doling out swag and goodies at the weekend’s world-famous Hackathon competition … zzzzz … (yes some of the team did get a wee-bit sleep deprived as festivities went into the wee hours of the morning). But it was amazing to be part of the excitement as over 250 teams from all over the known world converged on San Francisco to take part in the Hackathon. Check out a quick video we put together, spotlighting the Hackathon.
We’re proud to say that during the Hackathon many-a-team tapped into the talents of Elancers (who similarly were from all over the world). These hackers were looking for a helping hand on anything from web development and web programming to writing and graphic design.
Needless to say, our talented Elancers were well received and had a big impact on bringing team’s ideas to life.
During the competition we were also pleased to award $1,000 Elance credits to five Hackathon teams who caught our eye with their great ideas and exceptional use of Elancers. Here are the prize winners:
YourNewBuddy - A superfast, geo-location-based way to find exercise partners.
Fashion Sugar – An app that allows you to see which fashion trends are rising in popularity with direct links to retailers to purchase.
Street | Stile – The first social fashion app on the Google Glass platform, with search by voice and integrated sharing options from Glass.
Twine – (aka "Twitter Command Line,") Gives your tweets superpowers through third party APIs using command-line style syntax.
SnapShop – A maintenance-free, hassle-free online store in one click, with an integration to find freelancers to help customize your brand new site!
So congratulations to the top hackers, and to everyone else who played a role in pulling off such a fun and inspiring event. We can’t wait to attend our next hackathon. And if you’re a freelancer who wants to be considered for work when hackathons happen, or a budding startup looking for help during a hackathon, look no further than our Elance Hackathon Group. The group is the fast track to success for anyone who’s looking to excel at hackathons near and far. Check it out.
Occasionally we invite professionals to wax poetic about issues of importance to the Elance community. Here are some thoughts from Amanda Gray, a big Elance fan and writer at deskmag.com. Today she’s discussing a fun co-working opportunity off the coast of Spain.
These days, being your own boss is easier than ever. There are now countless online portals offering freelancers, start-ups and entrepreneurs the chance to connect, find jobs and build a strong digital network. Elance, one of the leading freelance portals has grown substantially since its launch in 1999, now boasting 2.5 million registered freelance professionals.
Yet, with so many jobs popping up by the day, when will there be time to take a break? Freelancers are known for working around the clock, their work hours melting into their free time, eventually blurring the line between deadlines and leisure.
If only you could finish up your work and simply walk outside to a beautiful seaside view. Well, now you can.
Along the coast of Gran Canaria, you will find a freelancing paradise: The Surf Office.
Built on a foundation of a passion for surfing and the need to get work done, Michal Kostal and his co-founder can offer you the most productive holiday you can take.
The Surf Office is fairly priced, with a fixed price of 300 Euro per week. The fee comprises accommodation and workspace. Surfing lessons for beginner or surf board rentals for experienced surfers can be arranged based on request.
“We would like to achieve a balance for people who are coming from a coworking environment, and also for those employees who are simply feeling burnt-out, ” Kostal recently told Deskmag, the Berlin based magazine dedicated to the coworking movement.
A pop-up coworking paradise is perfect for Elance users, since it gives them a chance to relax, but also to interact with likeminded people, who could be potential business partners while you’re on the island or even in the future.
So pack your bags and get to the beachside to send out some proposals for projects and ride a few waves. Gran Canaria is a touristic destination, but the capital city (Las Palmas de Gran Canaria) is quieter, since most of the tourists are on the other part of the island. There is also the chance to enjoy the laid back vibrant nightlife when you really need to have a night out.
“Our project is perfect for individual freelancers or startup groups who are looking to work on a project for a certain period of time,” explained Kostal. And what better way to gain inspiration then is combining the philosophy of coworking with a unique environment.
Answer: I manage the Global Payments group at Elance. I handle the processing of inbound and outbound payments across multiple platforms and in multiple currencies. In addition, I work diligently to reduce overall fraud risk.
2. What do you like most about working at Elance?
Answer: I’ve worked at Elance for 13 years and have to say I love seeing how Elance has grown as a company and had a positive impact on so many users worldwide. I’ve also formed some very close friendships with my colleagues that are priceless!
3. How do you Work Differently?
Answer: I prefer to work in the office, but appreciate that I have the flexibility to work from home when my children are sick or have a day off school.
4. What songs are now on heavy rotation as you’re working-away?
Answer: Music keeps me sane! A random shuffle on my IPod came up with these ten:
Lantern by Motorama
Manda una Senal by Maná
Bad Love by White Lies
Terror! By The Rakes
From What I Once Was – Neverending White Lights
Heart and Soul by Joy Division
Royals by Lorde
I Call Your Name - Switch
Ride by Lana Del Rey
In Silence by Catpeople
5. When you’re not working, what do you enjoy doing?
Answer: As a mother of two active children, I spend most of my weekends on a soccer field watching their games. I do not play soccer, but I am on a co-ed dodgeball team and enjoy obstacle/mud runs. I unwind by hiking, reading dystopian novels and spending time with my husband and friends (usually over food).
6. (Bonus question!) OK, ask yourself anything. No subject is off the table.
My question: What is your favorite time of year?
Answer: Fall! I love seeing the changes in the trees, feeling the crisp air and of course, Halloween.
After hundreds of photos were submitted, and thousands of votes were cast, we’re excited to announce the winners of our “Freedom Through Freelance” Photo Contest. The top 3 entries were selected by popular vote, after our esteemed panel of judges narrowed the field to our top 25 Finalists.
Elancers from around the globe entered inspiring photos showing the sense of liberation they feel from online work at Elance. It was an amazing outpouring of emotion, and we want to personally thank everyone who participated by entering a photo, voting, “Like”ing photos or just spreading the word. You’re the reason the Elance community is so vibrant and invigorating.
Now … to the winners.
Our congratulations (and a $1,000 prize) goes to First Place winner Munzur Morshed Romel of Bangladesh. Titled “Ultimate Option,” his photo with a warm and inviting smile struck a chord with many a voter. We couldn’t agree more that Munzur’s confidence and cheerfulness is the epitome of working on Elance. Well done, Munzur.
Our Second Place winner (who earned a $500 prize) is Philippines-based Maricel Taguilaso. Her entry “Freedom is the ultimate luxury” expresses the relaxed and tranquil world of working for yourself, at your own pace. Our Third Place winner (earning $250) is Hiroshi San Lorenzo of the Philippines. His “Freedom is the oxygen of the soul” entry communicates the sense of liberation and endless possibilities from freelancing.
Our remaining 22 Finalists will each receive $25 gift certificates from Amazon.com. See all the winning photographs and get inspired by the freedom through freelancing.
Missed your chance to participate? No worries, tell us your story now.
Even though the photo contest has ended and the prizes have been awarded, you can still share your story with the world. Whether you’re a freelancer or client, the Elance community loves hearing why you love working online. To share your experiences (and possible earn valuable exposure on our site), visit Elance’s Inspiration Center and submit your story.
Welcome to Advice From An Elancer – a place to ask your Elance questions (through Elance’s LinkedIn page) and get them answered as thoroughly and personally as possible. My name is Dorothy D. and I have worked with Elance as a freelancer since April 2009. I have always tried to help other Elancers understand how things work and how to accomplish more. In Advice From An Elancer I will address as many questions as I can each week. In some cases, questions have been edited for clarity.
Are freelancers allowed to communicate via Skype before a job is awarded?
Advice from an Elancer:
As long as the client has opened up communication through Elance by starting a conversation in the workroom, Skype is allowed. Remember, all communication must be documented in the workroom in case of later disputes and/or for reference. In other words, no matter how you communicate, summarize the communication in the workroom. (Thanks Jo Murphy for clarifying this at a webinar.)
How do you bid on a job listing like this (9 people bid on it!): I want you to write 3 books for me they will probably be on different topics the eBooks are going to go through a plagiarism checker after the work is complete to see if the content is original.
Advice from an Elancer:
Well, you don’t bid on a job like that. There are definite problems with the listing. First of all, without knowing the topics, you don’t know if there will be research involved or if you will be completely out of your league with a legal, medical, or technical topic you have NO background for. Secondly, there is no information regarding the expected length of the eBooks. How can you bid without knowing how much content you will be providing? Thirdly, will you be expected to provide a cover, a table of contents, royalty free images?
For a job like this, you either have to pay a connect to ask for clarification or just move on. You don’t know what you are getting into.
I noticed a huge drop in my points and rankings and levels with the new Elance algorithm. What is going on?
Advice from an Elancer:
I’m hearing this a lot. I’m feeling it as well. I dropped more than 60 points and my rank sank like a stone in a well – more than 2,500 spaces down. I don’t even want to talk level. The funniest thing is that all of my statistics percentages appear to have gone up.
Apparently we are now being benchmarked with freelancers in similar levels and categories. We are also being evaluated on “repeat clients” and “earnings percentage”. Quite honestly, the secret equation that calculates this is above my pay grade.
Do I like the new ratings system? Well, I’m keeping my head down and working as hard as I can. And no, I don’t like the way it makes me look. I still think individuals and companies should be separate because a company can certainly out-earn an individual and all of that figures into the metric.