Elance Blog

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How To Ditch Distractions And Stay Focused When Working Online

While the Internet is one of the most powerful tools to facilitate communication, distribute information, and most importantly, enable work, it’s also chock full of sports scores, viral videos, tweets and wall posts, email chain-letters, and a ton of other distractions that can negatively affect your productivity and work output. (Trust me, I know.)

Here are a few tips you can follow to help better manage your work time to stay productive while also keeping yourself happy.

1. Set The Time: Bucketing your time into various categories can really help you stay focused and become more efficient with your day. Typically, I set my work into three different groups.

First, there’s standard “work” time. While working on my general projects, I'm also available to be contacted through standard email (Outlook or your software or web client of choice), instant messenger, Skype, the Elance Workroom, work-related social media, telephone, web cam etc. This is when you get your primary communication done before getting started on your main projects.

Second, there’s “solo” time. This is where I close Outlook, close all Internet browsing windows, set my IM status to "busy", and get down to business. Some others suggest completely unplugging to get away from Internet distractions (oh YouTube, you always come calling), but I stay connected just in case there is any online reference material I need access to or if there is some emergency contact that needs to be made regarding a project. Use the combination that fits your work life best, but remember to make sure you designate some time alone to get to work.

iPad Strikes, And Elancers Are Ready

It’s been a busy week in the tech world. While some of the rumors turned out to be more fact than fiction, some other rumors failed to materialize at this week’s Apple announcement.

Yes, the iPad is real. Very real. The “magical and revolutionary device”, as Steve Jobs puts it, features a 9.7-inch LED-backlight Multi-Touch display, Wi-Fi, a custom 1GHZ processor, and a ton of other standard Apple amenities you have grown to expect.

The device, which some say is just a giant iPod Touch, is designed to present the web, email, news, apps, e-magazines, and books in a new, even more-touchable form factor. And another bonus – right out of the box, the iPad will support all 140,000 apps available at the Apple App Store.

Speaking of apps, when the newest technology, devices, and platforms strike, the Elance community is right behind it. With the Droid and an army other Android devices joining the party in 2009, there’s no doubt that mobiles have been making huge news. And it shows. The Mobile category on Elance has grown nearly 200% in payments made throughout the course of last year, and it doesn’t show any sign of slowing down, especially with the announcement of the iPad.

Consequently, within mere moments of the announcement of the iPad, we began seeing iPad related jobs being posted, and that number is continuing to grow. Within 24 hours, we saw over 20 clients posting jobs looking for skilled iPad professionals, and as of right now, we have highest number of iPad-specific job posts out there on the web.

This just goes to show you – when cutting edge technology hits, Elance is where businesses, entrepreneurs, and skilled professionals go to get work done.

The New Look And Feel Of Elance

At Elance, we’re always striving to provide you with a faster, more elegant, and more efficient platform to hire and manage over 100,000 talented online professionals. Keeping that in mind, the internal team here has been hard at work upgrading the site with new elements that will not only update the look and feel but also improve ease-of-use across Elance.

As some of you perceptive elancers may have already noticed, today, we’ve introduced a new, streamlined global navigation with a number of visual and functional improvements.



First, we’ve increased the font sized used in the main navigation as well as added several color elements to make it easier to read and quickly identify where you are currently on Elance.

Secondly, we’ve created a new “Community” drop down menu that can quickly take you to the Blog, Water Cooler, Groups, Elance University, Trust & Safety, and Trends pages. We've also added links to our Facebook and Twitter pages so you can interact with us via our favorite social media sites.

Lastly, we’ve streamlined the navigation by reducing the number of main tabs by moving the Inbox tab to the top right corner by your username, and we've replaced the Explore tab with How It Works to improve clarity. Please keep in mind that the Inbox link will only appear when you are signed in.

Give the new navigation a test drive and tell us what you think by dropping us a line in the comments below. And before we go, one more thing: As you continue working online on Elance, some of you may run across a newly designed homepage. Throughout the next couple of weeks, we'll be testing with a small portion of users several different variations of a new homepage we've been working on, so be sure to keep your eye out for it. We look forward to hearing your thoughts!

AT&T iPhone Exclusivity To Expire?

Normally, any tech rumor story I find floating on the web comes bundled with a huge grain of salt, but today, the rumblings of the possible expiration of AT&T’s exclusivity contract (PCWorld) with the game-changing iPhone has myself and the entire tech world buzzing.

At Apple’s special event this Wednesday in San Francisco, analysts, reporters, shareholders, and gadget fans are all patiently awaiting the release of Apple’s new venture into the tablet market. However, the strong rumor stealing the limelight is that the Cupertino-based electronics manufacturer may be announcing the end of its exclusivity arrangement with AT&T and the potential release of the iPhone on Verizon later this year.

This is clearly the right move at the right time for Apple, if they choose to do so. With Android increasing its market share with the number of mobile handsets, carriers, and mobile applications developed, it’s clear that Apple is feeling the heat from their neighbors in Mountain View. Opening up to other carriers, specifically Verizon, would be the smartest move to not only thwart Google’s advances but also address criticisms of AT&T’s wireless network by allowing consumers to have a choice.

The Winners Of The Windows Azure Challenge

At the start of the year, Microsoft officially launched the Windows Azure platform, a cloud computing service that allows you to develop, host, and service your applications all in the cloud. To celebrate the launch of Azure, back in December, we here at Elance brought you the Windows Azure $10,000 Challenge. Here are the winners!

Grand Prize - $10,000: Cloudphoto by twoo



 
“Cloudphoto is an extension of the Facebook experience, leveraging the more advanced technologies of Windows Azure and Silverlight. These technologies allow Cloudphoto to easily accommodate a varied amount of web traffic, and to create a rich user experience.

Cloudphoto allows the user to view photos quicker and with more flexibility than the traditional method. Users can view large amounts of photos on a single page, and multiple albums at the same time. Albums and photos are dynamically loaded in to avoid long wait times and provide feedback for the user.

This product is innovative in the way that it fuses the strengths of many new web technologies together. Windows Azure provides the easy server scalability that is needed for a high volume social networking product. Silverlight provides the dynamic user experience. Also the API provided by Microsoft's Facebook toolkit gives the user a seamless link to Facebook resources.”

Will Apple Change The Way We Work?

With the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show behind us, the eyes of influencers, pundits, marketers, and other technology representatives have their eyes fixed westward towards Cupertino amidst strong rumors of new, touchable, game-changing devices.

Earlier today, Apple sent out private invitations to reporters to a special event on January 27 asking reporters to “come see our latest creation” – many speculating that this will be the unveiling of the highly anticipated Apple Tablet and Touchscreen computers.

Although specifications are merely speculation at this point, the long standing rumor is that Apple will be launching a touch-screen device with a screen in the range of 7-to-10 inches designed to present a variety of multimedia content and internet browsing in a form factor with incredible aesthetic design you’ve come to expect from Steve Jobs and Co.

Some liken it to being an “iPhone on steroids,” however, this isn’t the only touchable device scheduled to show. According to another report that hit the wire this morning, it appears that Apple will also be entering the touchscreen PC market with the introduction of the 22-inch, touch-enabled iMac desktop computer later this year. Specifications on this device are similarly scarce, but its existence has been all but confirmed as of today.

Several thought-provoking questions still remain. First: What will be the operating system driving these new devices? Secondly, will we see an expansion in the iPhone application development market with a whole new set of apps specifically designed for the new tablet? And thirdly, with an uncanny adoption rate expected, will we be seeing the early stages of extinction for the mouse?

The Best Small Business Resources Online

Small businesses play a huge economic role in almost every industrial nation worldwide and not suprisingly are also a huge part of the New Way To Work on Elance. But regardless of the location, type of business, or market, many small businesses have commonalities and also share growing pains with others. Here is a quick roundup of small business websites, resources, and communities that you as a small business owner or entrepreneur can use as an asset for your success. (Although many of these sites focus primarily on U.S. targets, many of the tips and strategies can be applied to businesses worldwide.)

Inc.com – The online counterpart to Inc. Magazine hosts an excellent resource center for small business owners in its “How to Start a Small Business” Start-up Guide. The site covers everything from writing a business plan, conducting initial market research, how to get low-cost marketing for your start-up, raising capital, how to pitch your business to investors, and more. Also, since tax time is just around the corner, be sure to also check out their Tax Strategies section to find guides on structuring your business with tax cuts in mind, planning your taxes for tough times, and the lowdown on small-business tax deductions. (And they have a great blog, too.)

CNNMoney.com – CNNMoney, a partnership by CNN, Fortune Magaine, and Money, is one of the big players in the space of online business and finance publications. There are a ton of standard resources, like strategy articles, small business news, and a “How We Got Started” section showcasing small business success stories, but the section I found to be most compelling was the Questions & Answers. Here, you can view the question and answer of the day, search through the database of previously answered questions by CNNMoney staff, or shoot them your very own question to be answered by an expert.

Small Business Administration – Sponsored by the United States government, the Small Business Administration offers a wide variety of tools and information resources to aid the growth of your small business. If you’re looking for location-tailored information, the SBA offers regional, city-based offices and information to aid you. If you’re unable to take advantage of local resources, there are also many online components, like the Small Business Training Network, that provides a wealth of information in the forms of online courses, research tools, podcasts, and more.

Securing Your PC And Your Data

Contractors, professionals, entrepreneurs, and businesses of any size have one thing in common: Their computer and the information on it is the centerpiece of daily operations. And with that, maintaining a high level of security for your business or your client is an absolute must in today’s digital world.

Additionally, freelancers and contract professionals that work from home can sometimes overlook computer security since they're in the comfort of their own home. Here are a few quick tips you can employ to add an additional level of security to protect you or your client’s data.

Passwords: Your password is the most important pillar of the security of your data, both personal and private. However, a surprising number of hacks in today’s world occur when a weak password is compromised through various techniques. Here are a few simple rules that you should follow when creating your passwords to thrwart would-be intruders.

1. Avoid using very commonly used password techniques, like names, birth dates, and common words and phrases as these are usually the start points for those looking to break into accounts. Also, remember that just because you flipped your password backwards does NOT make it secure.

2. Don’t use the same password for everything. This should be obvious as if one password becomes compromised, then all of them are. If you can’t create a password for every single account (which I know is difficult), at least try to get down to the category level. For example, have a password for your social media, a password for your finance, a password for your email, and a password for Elance.

5 Technologies Your Business Needs In 2010

With the books officially closed for 2009, businesses around the world are all now looking forward to predict what adjustments and investments they’ll need to make to stay competitive for 2010. Clueless on which technologies your business needs? Here are five big players that are shaping up to make a huge impact throughout the rest of the year.

Android Assimilation: As outlined in the December Elance Work Index, Google’s mobile operating system ended 2009 with a huge amount of momentum. Additionally, with the introduction of the Nexus One as well as an army of other Android phones, it doesn’t look like it will be letting up anytime soon.

With Android continuing to gain share in the mobile phone market and it’s more open-ended development approach, businesses will (and have already been for a while now) shifting resources to create mobile applications for the popular open-source operating system. However, don’t expect Android’s 11,000+ application market to surpass Apple’s 100,000+, but there’s no doubt that you’ll see a investments made to set up shop on Android and on other mobile platforms, like Windows Phone and Palm WebOS.

Find Your Android Experts Here

Browsing On The Go: Just because you’ve set up shop on the iPhone and Android doesn’t mean you’re done yet. Why leave out millions of other internet-equipped mobile devices? Creating a mobile website was a hot topic in 2009, with huge businesses like Target, Amazon, PayPal, Bank Of America, and Southwest Airlines creating mobile websites that can be easily (and quickly) accessed by any standard mobile browser on any network.

Ease of access for mobile users will be a huge, huge priority for businesses of all sizes in 2010, so expect to see the adoption of mobile-enabled websites trickle down from larger businesses to medium and small businesses.

Find Your Mobile Experts Here

5 Tips For A Successful 2010

For many, the beginning of a new year is known as a time for making changes for the better, having a positive attitude, and starting off on the right foot to set the tone for a successful year. Why treat your online work any different? Here are a few tips that you as a provider can try out to make 2010 even stronger than before.

1. Update Your Profile Page: Although this may seem to be a no-brainer, the importance of your profile page should never be underestimated. Data from our client survey shows that having a compelling online profile is “Very Important” or “Extremely Important” to 55% of clients when making a hiring decision. Before you make changes to your profile, browse through some of your fellow providers' profile pages to get a good idea of what others are having success with. (Words For Hire, SynapseIndia, and REDPIPAL have great profile pages.)

Now, when reviewing your profile page, keep a few things in mind. Is it clear and to the point? Is it grammatically correct and typo free? Are all of the appropriate fields completed, like Headline, Summary, Keywords, Skills, Employment, etc? Although you probably don’t want to overload your potential clients right off the bat, having a healthy, comprehensive amount of relevant information will give customers a lot to weigh in with when making a hiring decision.

Also, don’t be shy! Don’t forget to show off your best work in your online portfolio. In the same client survey, 85% of respondents found that having work samples was “Very Important” or “Extremely Important”, so this is something you do not want to skip especially if you’re in a creative field like graphic design.

So, how are you feeling about your profile page? If your page feels a little sparse, invest a little bit of time – even a good half hour of improvement could make the difference for your next potential client.

2. Create High-Quality Proposals: There’s no denying the importance of the proposal – after all, day in and day out they make the Elance world turn. Your profile, portfolio, credentials, references, and feedback establish your credibility and showcase your skills, but in most cases, the first (and possibly last) impression you make on a potential client will be through the proposal process.

Although there is no perfect formula, there are several very successful strategies that you can start employing to increase the success rate of your proposals, like doing a little research on your client beforehand, asking relevant and poignant questions, custom tailoring your proposals (as opposed to copy and pasting), mention your benefits and where you excel, be clear and concise, let your personality show, and of course, have clean, grammatically correct copy.

Check out this blog post here to get more in-depth tips and strategies on improving your proposals. Trust me, it’s worth the read.

3. Take A Few Skill Tests: Skill Tests are a big factor to potential employers on Elance. When asked “What are the most important criteria you consider in hiring an online professional,” half of the those polled responded that having tested skills was “Very Important” or “Extremely Important when making a hiring decision. Additionally, over 76 percent of the respondents are more likely to hire a professional with tested skills that are relevant to their job. That’s nearly 4 out of every 5 clients!

If you’re ready to add some tested skills to your profile, you can view all of our available Skill Tests in one easy location, otherwise known as the All Skill Tests page. We are always working hard bringing the freshest tests available, so be sure to add that page to your bookmarks to stay on top of your game. And Skill Tests definitely play a big role in the next item below.

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