Elance Blog

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Tim Ferriss Gets to Hang Out With Me

I wondered how long it would take one of the people lined up around the block to ask Tim Ferriss, author of the New York Times bestseller "The 4-Hour Workweek" when he was bringing out the 3-hour version. Because that was also my initial question. Fortunately, I managed to edit myself before I blurted it out. Thus, I feel entitled to thumb my nose at the person that did.

I turned up at the Elance booth this afternoon for Tim's book signing, and the people were already lined up around the block. With a nod to the Elance crew I set up shop behind the man himself and speed read his book. You can see my ear in the pic. I know, I should have read it earlier but that's the advantage of speed-reading, right? What an amazing story. Tim basically travels the world, creating businesses and outsourcing the work requirements through the internet. Genius. And judging by his reception at the SXSW Interactive Trade Conference, everyone else thinks so too.

The ideology behind "The 4-Hour Workweek" is minimizing one's personal physical baggage, exploiting travel deals, and committing to mobility in both career and lifestyle. By the use of Elance, Tim is able to hire people around the world to complete his work requirements.

Online Film Distribution

The first South by Southwest weekend is shared between the Interactive conference and the Film conference. The organizers have made sure to separate the two distinct crowds with either a neon green lanyard for Interactive only attendees or a black lanyard for Film only attendees. The benefit of hosting the two conferences on the same schedule is the opportunity to cross-pollinate ideas. Today I attended a joint Interactive and Film event entitled “Nobody Wants to Watch Your Film: Realities of Online Film Distribution.” The event brought together filmmakers and tech geeks together to debate the best way to solve that filmmakers want more viewership and online providers want more content but users want everything to be free and easy.

The biggest question posed by moderator Efe Cakarel of The Auteurs, was “What do you think will be the most dominate way to make money in film in the future?” Despite the title, the panel was setup to address that consumers are interested in new films but smaller films have a hard time getting their content in front of a paying crowd. There are websites that offer access to a range of different movies but memberships are required across numerous sites to access multiple movies. There is not one single platform that has successfully enabled small and large filmmakers to profitably deliver their content. Netflix streaming is a great example but the scale of demand they need to support smaller movies is hard for new filmmakers to reach.

One of the most exciting new opportunities for the future of online distribution came from Sarah Pollack of YouTube. In celebration of the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, YouTube launched a limited number of full-length feature films on the youtube.com website on a pay-per-view basis. This is huge news for filmmakers. YouTube has the second most popular search bar behind Google and millions of views a day. The core assets of the YouTube platform are what companies like the Auteurs aim to replicate: ease of use and a large community.

Beyond a great infrastructure, if YouTube decides to fully launch their pay-per-view model they want to give content producers options. Filmmakers will be able to choose the cost of their movies and the length of time the viewer can access it. The initial pilot has proven successful. There was great feedback on getting access to the movies in a simple format but there were also user complaints about paying for content on a website built on free video. In both instances, it opened the door for the filmmaker to start a conversation with the community on the comment board. The filmmakers responded to questions and shared more insight into why they made the movie. It brings creator and consumer closer together. Plus utilization of YouTube’s video analytics tools helps better identify a filmmaker’s fan base.
Pay-per-view videos on YouTube may not be the end solution to online distribution but their move to get involved is a great opportunity for filmmakers. In the meantime, any online platform that helps content creators easily and profitably deliver their content to customers is well positioned to be a future success.

How To Make A Living Blogging

Companies like tumblr.com and wordpress.com are making it even easier for anyone with an internet connection to start a blog. Some people have had huge success and turned a writing hobby into a full time job. However, the Perez Hilton’s of the world are far and few between. Today at SXSWi I listened to the founder of Nerve.com and many enthusiastic audience members share their tips on how to make money by blogging.

Advertisements. Adsense is one of the easiest ways to add a revenue component to your blog website. Most websites can make money but very few can make a living through advertisements alone. In reality, you'll be in a good position if you can make a few hundred dollars through click-through advertisements a month. As web users become savvier they are more likely to ignore irrelevant side banner advertisements. More targeted advertisements have higher rates of success. Websites like AdBrite.com and OpenX.com provide the tools to post more tailored advertisement solutions. Great if you have a smaller fan base or want more control over the advertisements posted on your site.

Guest writing. A blog is a great platform to showcase your writing ability and the subjects you're passionate about. Online and print publications are constantly seeking passionate experts to freelance or contribute content. Writers can seek out paying freelance opportunities on broad or niche topics on websites like Elance or directly on a publication's website. In some cases, if your blog has a large or very targeted following a content publisher may reach out directly to request your writing. Although the articles you write are not published on your blog they still add to your blogging brand.

Sponsorship. Blog brand building is essential as your readership grows. Once you've packaged what differentiates your blog from others it is easier to make the case for stronger advertisement and partnership support. For example, HerBadMother.com is a parenting blog from a busy Mother's perspective written by Catherine Connors. Connors’ was able to leverage her large mother fan base as a selling point for advertising sponsorships. She pitched a story about taking her children on a trip to Disney World and landed an advertising sponsorship from a vehicle company that supplied use of a car and monetary compensation to be included in Connors’ coverage of the trip.

Write a book. People start blogs as a way to write or share about a topic they’re interested in. Growing the fan base of readers and views shows proof that the writing and topic are interesting to attract an audience. This proof of concept is a great jumping off point to expand coverage of a topic into a book. If you have a large user base or an interested publisher than it will be easier to get your book into stores across the country. If you’ve got something to write about for a smaller or more niche market then selling an online e-book can be another monetary option. Even better, you can use your blog to further promote your book or e-book to new customers.

The Power of Responsibility

If you read my first blog from SXSW Interactive, you’ll know I barely escaped a horde of rampaging technogeeks by rolling, Indiana Jones-style, into the Screenburn Panel discussion With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility: The Future of Video Games, hosted by Discover magazine’s Amos Zeeberg and co-sponsored by the National Science Foundation.

As I smoothly collapsed into a chair, heaving and sweating, the discussion commenced as if they‘d been politely waiting for me (a somewhat pleasant fiction). A row of highly-intelligent-looking folks began sounding off about the work they’d done in video games, and a very impressive group they were too; Tiffany Barnes, Ann McLaughlin, Jim Bower and Lucy Bradshaw.

For an hour, as the discussion evolved, it became apparent this was a get-together designed to rag on the politicians, parents, clergymen and other interfering busybodies who deign it necessary to disparage the fine pursuit of video gaming and the participants thereof.

Now, I’m one of those participants. There’s nothing I like better than meeting new people in an artificially-created online environment and blowing them up with high explosives or viciously dismembering them with a bladed object. And it appears I wasn’t alone in the room.

The academics on the panel scoffed at the perpetual layman’s claim that video gaming creates mindless automatons with lacking social skills. Indeed, they suggested quite the reverse. Online gaming actually gives people with underdeveloped socialization abilities an outlet that, without video games, would be unavailable. The panel created compelling arguments with reference to their gaming work involving children and the elderly. The gist of their point was that people learn by play. We’re psychologically geared towards doing so. It’s natural. The concept (and conceit) that real people should actually learn from books is a relatively new one that’s only been around since the invention of the printing press 600 years ago. This tiny blip on the human learning history oscilloscope pales in comparison to the legacy of the interactive play we’re supposed to be engaging in, and did so for the preceding millions of years (and continue to, albeit now under duress from the busybody crew). Sure, they didn’t have video games then, but play is play; our toys are simply slightly different.

While gamers may look like all they’re doing is staring blankly at a screen (which is, frankly, where the technophobes derive their objection), there is actually a whole hive of activity frenetically buzzing beneath the surface, sharpening such things as reaction times, hand-eye co-ordination and spatial awareness. Skills are being acquired. The nature of the skills is not as important as one might think; the sheer act of acquisition keeps the brain ticking over and is particularly useful in preserving the neural pathways of the elderly.

The discussion moved onto the advent of internet gaming and social media sites such as facebook and twitter, and veered towards the social (albeit online) interaction such platforms encourage. A question was asked of the audience if any members felt they had been made socially awkward by online interaction. While a somewhat facetious question, no one raised their hand. This was not an indication of audience apathy, you understand, as they were quite lively throughout the discussion. A poignant and fitting result at an interactive conference, all in all.

Build a Web Company - No Experience Necessary

SXSW Interactive (SXSWi) pulls together some of the brightest minds and most-promising businesses in the technology field. Although almost all attendees seem to know their way around an iPhone or a MacBook, most of the players in tech start-ups are not programmers. Sahadeva Hammari and Suzanne Xie are two great examples that you don’t have to know how to code to build a successful online company.

Hammari is a graphic designer, the creator of the successful PrintSociety.com, has been featured in BusinessWeek’s Best of the Web but he doesn’t know to code and did not start with a Tech Co-founder. Xie on the other hand was an ex-wall street investment banker who founded Weardrobe, the largest online fashion community for street style and fashion photos, without any knowledge or experience of the tech world. How could they create a successful web business without any experience? The answer is sourcing project-based talent.

Learn To Sell Your Milk After You’ve Given The Cow For Free

After arriving in the land of cattle and cowboys, beyond the herding of attendees for a badge, I felt it only fitting to learn how to sell milk after giving your cow away from free. No, this is not a lesson in dairy farming; this is SXSWi’s look into making money on an open-source online product.

The large attendance at the panel reflected a common question in the online world- monetization. Open source is beyond the land of making money off of a social community, it is about websites like LiveJournal and Wikitravel that allow users access to the product’s code. In the internet world, it is the equivalent of publicly sharing a product’s blueprint. If everyone knows how to make your secret sauce, why would anyone pay you to make it?

Competitors have free access to a product you built. Brad Fitzpatrick of LiveJournal- an open source journaling website- had many competitors take what he built and copy it. The other websites even offered more features and targeted LiveJournal’s user base. However, after a few months of the competitor websites crashing and no response to complaints, users came back to LiveJournal. In addition to the strong user base that LiveJournal already created, the website succeeded because the copycats didn’t build the quality service underneath. Competitors can take the code but that doesn’t mean they’re equipped to run the business.

Badges, Mugshots And A Foot Chase

I arrived at the Austin Conference Center for the SXSW Interactive Festival trepidatious of the upcoming cattle-herding that invariably heralds the opening of such swollen, unwieldy events. Mugshots were taken. Badges were speedily created and appropriated for the price of a small used automobile. IDs were suspiciously glared at by obviously unqualified volunteer personnel. Much mirth was generated by the pronunciation of my name.

After shuffling along in a line with thousands of other attendees I received my Adobe®-sponsored tote bag of goodies. It was a lovely sunny day outside, so I hauled my new luggage outside to a quiet, leafy spot and trawled through the contents like a vagrant looking for a morsel, making a neat pile of interesting bumph to leisurely investigate later. The other, not-so-interesting pile got scattered by a sudden breeze. In a brief panic I darted hither and thus, gathering up as much as I could before the surrounding gang of disapproving downtown Austin hippy-billy onlookers amalgamated into a sufficiently vicious mob to physically work me over.

One thing really grabbed my attention in the interesting pile. It looked like an over-wide book of matches, but upon opening I discovered a pad of small, adhesive-backed barcodes and the name Stickybits®. Intrigued, I investigated further, exploiting the free SXSW wi-fi through my five-year-old, stylus-driven PDA as the passing youngsters spryly danced around its onerous bulk. I met questioning smirks with a defensive, “Oh, you find this funny? It’s got a foldable keyboard! Ha! The joke’s on you! Let’s see your iPhone do THIS!!” reaching into the pertinent pocket of my cargo shorts to find I’d left my wow factor foldable keyboard at home. The tweenies started texting each other, some of them within talking distance. I absconded rapidly in a direction I hoped would contain less up-to-date technology, which, I found, ain’t easy at the SXSW Interactive Conference.

Three Companies To Watch At SXSW 2010

Every March, bloggerheads and tech-lovers alike gather in Austin to check-out some of the best emerging music, film and interactive ideas. SXSW is the festival where great new companies make the leap from nobody to the next big thing. In order to prepare for what will surely be a whirlwind of great ideas, I've picked the top 3 companies I'll be watching at this year's SXSW festival.

Glass - How many times have you shared a website, an article or a picture online? Blogging and micro-blogging sites like Twitter or Stumbleupon have made this a lot easier, but what if you could write notes on the items you share? Glass is a new company that allows users to "write on top of the Internet."

Beyond just adding notes in a comment section like you do today, you'll have more flexibility to share thoughts as you would on a piece of scrap paper in a boring meeting. What if you could see exactly what Guy Kawasaki thought of a marketing article? What would advertisers pay to see all the viewer reactions to their online ads? Glass has a lot of potential if they can show users the power of real-time notes; it is definitely a company to watch at this year's festival. Learn more at www.writeonglass.com.

Pocket Tales - E-readers like the Kindle and the newly launched iPad are changing the notion that a book is paper and ink. In the near future, books will more often require batteries than extra space on your bookshelf. Whether you like the idea or to embrace this movement or not, the literary landscape is changing, and Pocket Tales is embracing the new wave to get more kids excited about reading.

Young readers earn points in the social reading game by completing quizzes, activities and providing recommendations to other users. It also rewards children for reading and keeps them coming back for more. I think interactive reading has a huge future which puts Pocket Tales in a great position to bring in a young fanbase an potentially expand the appeal to an older tech-savvy crowd. For more information check out Pocket Tales at www.pockettales.com.

Payoneer Now Available For All Providers

As a provider, one of the most important and most gratifying parts of working online is getting paid for delivering high-quality work. Currently, one of the options to withdraw your funds from your Elance account is through the Payoneer Elance Prepaid MasterCard, but only if you're a provider with a paid membership plan.

Today, that's going to change. Now on Elance, the Payoneer Elance Prepaid MasterCard is available to all providers, both with free or paid memberships, as an approved way to withdraw your payments after delivering work.

For those of you who are unfamiliar, the Elance Prepaid MasterCard is a debit card that has a prepaid limit and can be used everywhere MasterCard is accepted. Simply withdraw your funds electronically into your Payoneer account, and then you are free to use your Payoneer Elance Prepaid MasterCard at any location or ATM that accepts the MasterCard logo.

And don't forget: On Elance, you always have access to a variety of ways to get paid, like Automated Clearing House bank transfer (U.S.), check, PayPal and wire transfer (outside of the U.S.).

For more information on how to withdraw your funds, visit the "Withdrawing Funds" section of the provider guide.

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Simple Ways To Spruce Up Your Workplace

Work. Whether it’s online or offline, corporate or work-from-home, we all do it at some point in our lives, and as a matter of fact, we spend a lot of time doing it. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, those that are employed and between the ages of 25 to 54 with children spend nearly 8.8 hours a day on work-related activities.

Let's do the math: Nearly nine hours a day, five days a week – that equates to over 25% of your adult life. Since you’re spending such a significant amount of time working, a comfortable place to work isn't just a nice benefit to have – it can also improve your productivity and overall happiness. Here are a few ways to spruce up your work area for a happier and more efficient you.

Get A Plant: Adding a little bit of greenery to your workplace isn’t just aesthetically pleasing to the eye -- it can also reduce your work stress and actually increase your productivity. According to a Texas A&M University study, both women and men demonstrated “more innovative thinking, generating more ideas and original solutions to problems in the office environment that included flowers and plants.”

Additionally, a plant in your work area can improve the air quality of your indoor work area and consequently improve the health and safety in your workplace. According to another study by the Environmental Laboratory of John C. Stennis Space Center says that “rooms with plants contain 50 to 60 percent fewer airborne molds and bacteria than rooms without plants. The indoor plants clean the office air by absorbing pollutants into their leaves and transmitting toxins to their roots, where they are turned into food for the office plant.” And don’t worry if you don’t have a green thumb – there are plenty of plants that are easy to maintain and retain all of these benefits.

Ergonomics: Ensuring that you have an ergonomic workstation to use isn’t just to improve your productivity – it’s also to protect your health. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 34 percent of all lost-workday injury and illness is caused by repetitive stress injury and costs up to $20 billion annually.