Elance Blog

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November Elance Work Index: PHP Dominates 2009

With December's still numbers coming down the pipe, some may say that the race of 2009 is too early to call.  But if you ask me, I'll tell it to you straight: PHP is the number 1 most in-demand skill for online work for all of 2009.

The Elance Work Index, which ranks the hottest 100 skills in today’s online labor market, revealed that for the third month in a row PHP (Personal Home Page Tools) captures the number one spot on the Index, confirming the theory that PHP-skilled professionals as the most sought after independent workers online today.

Elance is also expanding its skill testing platform to augment Elance’s existing 250 tests with new “Code Tests” that give technical experts in top programming languages like PHP a way to demonstrate their expertise in writing and debugging actual computer code. To launch the new PHP Code Test, Elance is sponsoring a 14 day “code-off” in PHP for its pool of skilled PHP providers – offering $250 and a full-year premium membership to each of the coders who score in the Top 10 for PHP programming. The PHP “code-off” begins now and ends at Noon PST on November 30, 2009.

The November Elance Work Index highlights several emerging trends:


  • Language Translation – For the first time, specific language translation skills have appeared in the Top 100 with Spanish Translation at #77, French Translation at #83 and German Translation at #88. Italian, Swedish and others are also knocking on the door to enter the Index. If all jobs requiring Translation skills were combined, Translation would appear in the Top 10 list for the first time.

  • Illustration – As designs and stock photos become more ubiquitous, companies appear to be increasingly in the market for distinct imagery. We noticed that Custom Illustration popped 27 spots to #18, while Cartoon vaulted 43 spots to #41. Graphic Design clung to its Top 10 placement and Animation moved up 12 places to #37. All and all, great news for those with the right skills.

Are You A PHP Coding Master? Prove It In Our “Code-Off” Challenge

Today, Elance is adding a new and advanced type of Skill Test to our lineup that takes the assessment of one’s computer coding skill to the next level. These new types of tests, which we call "Code Tests", require you to demonstrate your code-writing skills in leading computer programming languages. We are initially releasing Code Tests for PHP and SQL, with many more languages to follow in the coming months.

To celebrate the launch of our new Code Test platform, we’re setting out to find the best, fastest, and most efficient coders out there on the ‘net. That’s why we’re hosting the first ever Elance “Code-Off” in PHP – the longtime number one skill in demand according to the Elance Work Index. The prize? $250 in cash and one year of premium membership on Elance (valued at $120) to the top 10
performing PHP programmers.

The new Code Tests are timed tests that require the test taker to work with actual code to solve a problem. Each test is made up of 10 questions with a time limit for completing the entire test and a recommended time for each question. The test taker will not only be required to solve the problem in the allotted time, but the code is scored based on how concisely written and how efficiently it uses system resources.

The PHP “code-off” begins now and ends on Noon PST, November 30, 2009 with the winners announced here on the Elance blog on December 1, 2009. To enter, simply complete the PHP Code Test on Elance before November 30, 2009.

Ready? Set. Code!


10 winners will receive $250 in cash and one year of premium membership on Elance, valued at $120.

Code Test: PHP
Code Test: SQL
All Skill Test Page


Payments Get Even Easier

When we speak to the most active Elance users, we often hear comments about a common theme. Clients say: “Help me stay organized in making payments.” While providers ask: “Help me collect payments for the work I deliver.”

We’ve listened, and are now releasing some new features to address these requests.

Improvements To Fixed Price Payments

Elance’s Escrow payments system builds trust between clients and providers who work together online. We’ve now added "Pay for Results" functionality to Elance Escrow to ensure that providers get paid on time for work completed, while making sure clients retain control in paying only for verifiable results delivered.

On Elance, clients are already able to safely release payment from escrow as they review and approve the work. The updated process helps clients and providers exchange payment on a timely basis. When milestones are marked complete in the weekly status report, the escrow release request is issued automatically to the client. Clients have up to 15 days to review and approve the work and release payment. In the event that a client does not take any action by day 30, the milestone is deemed to be approved and funds are released from escrow.

Elance Opens Up the Workroom For Multi-Party Collaboration

When it comes to getting work done, we all know how valuable it is to get input from multiple parties along the way. With this in mind, we’ve made some major improvements to the Elance Workroom that will allow you to invite whomever you want, whenever you want to collaborate with you in your workroom.

Here are a few really exciting new features that we’re very pleased to release:

Workroom Team Collaboration

Employers on Elance have long been asking for the ability to set up “company” accounts with the ability to add multiple team members and assign them role-based permissions. Effective immediately, employers can now add as many people as they want to their account and assign them roles such as Account Administrator, Manager, and Staff.

For example, imagine that you decide that you want to hire someone on Elance, want to participate in the hiring and payment process, but want to delegate the management of the work-in-process to someone else on your team. Quite easily done.

This means that you no longer have to share your log-in credentials with colleagues who are helping you manage your Elance jobs. Further, you can control the access of each team-member with permissions – for example, you may not want some people to be able to see or touch any of the payment activities.

With teams (a free feature), employers will have the best of all worlds – visibility into all work in process, while being able to delegate tasks and activities to colleagues as needed.

Invite A Guest To Your Workroom

We are also introducing a new workroom "guest" role to invite a client or colleague to a specific workroom with limited permissions and temporary access, for example to get feedback on a particular design or object.

Say you are a client working with a designer who has uploaded some mockups in your workroom. You want to show them to a colleague or partner and get their feedback. You can now invite them as a “guest” (whether they are registered on Elance or not), and they can join the workroom, view files, and leave their own comments for all parties to see. Guest user access automatically expires after the time period you set. You’re in control.

The New Way To Work Highlights Part 3

Many professionals, freelancers, mom-and-pop operations, and large-scale businesses are seeing the global landscape of work change right before their eyes. With just over two weeks remaining in the contest, we’re continuing to hear inspiring stories of everyone who’s knows, feels, believes, and lives by The New Way To Work.

First, we have a truly inspirational story from Julie Trade Levitch, a marketing copywriter and technical writing provider on Elance. Here’s several excerpts – check out the full story at Stay-At-Home Mom Starts A Global Business - Vator.TV

On January 3, 2007, my husband was very unexpectedly laid off along with many others in his office. He was given one week's pay and told to clean out his desk. He lost his job, his salary, and our family's health benefits. Unfortunately, the worst was yet to come.

After one fitful night of sleep full of worry, I woke up in the wee hours and began searching for projects on Elance. I responded to one in particular for a company that was looking for someone to write a white paper. I had a background in marketing and technical writing, so I decided to bid. I was awarded the project, and the pay was good! It was a mid-sized software company based in Hong Kong.

5 Signs You Need A Website Redesign Now

Back in 2005, you took your business online with the latest and most cutting edge eCommerce technologies. Now, almost half a decade later, your website is still chugging along, but that once shiny layer of digital paint is now showing signs of age.

Does this story sound familiar?

Standards, styles, and best practices on the web change at lightning speed, and although your website may still be completely functional, you may be warding off potential customers and clients unknowingly. Here are 5 questions you need to ask yourself to see if your website needs a redesign, pronto. 

Question 1: In terms of speed, how fast is your website? You’ve worked hard to get your visitors to show up at your website’s door – don’t put them to sleep with long load times. Numerous studies have been conducted and all of them have found the same result: Longer load times = less visitors = less business.

A study conducted by Akamai in 2006 found that if your website takes longer than four seconds to fully load, 33%, or one-third, of all visitors will abandon your site. Additionally, Amazon found that a 100ms increase in site load time would result in a 1% decrease in sales, while Google found that an increase of 500ms on load time would directly result in a drop in traffic and revenue by 20%.

Whatever numbers you go by, the one takeaway is that your website needs to load, fast. Try optimizing your website by compressing images for the web, aggregating and cleaning out your CSS, and removing old, unnecessary content to reduce HTTP requests. You can also try switching webhosts if loading issues persist.

Question 2: Does your website lack consistency? Although it may not seem like it, consistency in major elements on all pages of your site is a must. Elements like navigation, fonts and colors, URL format, and editorial style should show consistency throughout your website as it shows your professionalism and attention to detail when conducting business.

Weekend DIY: How To Speed Up Your PC, Fast

In today’s business world, personal computers are the center of any workstation and are an absolute requirement to succeed, no matter if you’re a small business owner, large corporation, or a freelance individual. And keeping those PCs running smoothly is a number one priority. Viruses, spyware, and an overall unhealthy PC can bring your business to a screeching halt.

Even if your rig has the fastest processor, highest memory capacity, or biggest hard drive, your PC can still get bogged down with malware and other annoyances. Here are a few quick tips and software solutions to clean out your files, remove malware, and optimize your PC. (Disclaimer: This is a very basic guide for novice Windows computer users. Use these software solutions at your own risk, and backup your files before continuing.)

Cleaning Out The Malware: Seeing a lot of pop-up ads at random? Spyware and other malware critters are lurking all over the internet, and simply navigating down the wrong alley can get you infected. Microsoft’s Windows Defender, which is available for Windows XP Service Pack 2, Windows Vista, and the brand new Windows 7, has been generally reviewed as a good performer at spyware detection and protection. Another popular detection program is Spybot – Search and Destroy, something I personally use. (Here are some quick guides on how to use Windows Defender and Spybot.)

If you’re looking for an even higher level of protection, you can’t go wrong with a paid software protection platform like the very popular Norton Internet Security 2010.

Adding Virus Protection: If you’re not running some sort of antivirus protection, you’re pretty much a fish in a barrel. Currently, there are two free antivirus software packages that come to mind for home use. AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition and avast! Home Edition are both completely free and offer basic antivirus and antispyware protection. Pretty straightforward stuff here – install, scan (and reboot and scan if necessary), and you should be set with protection – check out AVG's free video tutorial if you need some guidance. Again, if you’ve got a few bucks to spend, both AVG and avast! offer paid solutions, and you could also go with a Symantec/Norton security package like the one mentioned above. (I personally am very satisfied with Symantec’s antivirus program.)

The New Way To Work Highlights Part 2

We've got just a few more weeks left in our "The New Way To Work" Contest, and the submissions keep rolling in. This week, we’ve got a pair of very compelling blog posts from two very different people both embracing the New Way To Work. First, Gagan Biyani, a full-time consultant and part-time freelance writer from Chicago, had this to share about his experiences in launching a new startup and penetrating Silicon Valley with the help of contract professionals (from blog.udemy.com):

There just isn’t any doubt about it. Things are changing, and Udemy, a startup I’m co-founding, is as good example as any to embody that change. Folks like me don’t just quit their job, take out a loan and start a company anymore. Instead, we spend every free hour – every waking moment – working towards our dream. Success doesn’t just come with the 9-5 anymore, although some can said to a packed room at the Web 2.0 conference, if you want to pursue your passion, there are no excuses. You work 9-5 to support your family and yourself? No problem – “7 to 2 in the morning is plenty of time to do damage.” And here’s a little tidbit from the co-founders at Udemy: if you make a decent wage on your day job, pay someone else to work 9-5 on your dream.

Valerie Walker, a freelance marketing and technical writer, embraces the flip side of the New Way To Work – as a skilled freelance professional, you call the shots as your own boss (from valerie-walker.blogspot.com):

Elance Work System Part 6: Payments And Escrow

This is a continuation of the Hands-On With The Elance Work System by Matt Katsaros. To read the previous part, follow this link here: Hands-On With The Elance Work System: Part 5.

After spending a little bit of time with amstudio utilizing the tools in the Workroom, the website is done, delivered, and ready to go. Now it’s time to foot the bill and get our provider paid, and Elance has a payment system designed to do exactly that.

One of Elance’s payment features (and one of my personal favorite features of using Elance) is Escrow. The service allows you and your provider both to be protected during the transaction. If you’re a little unfamiliar with how Escrow works, here it is in a nutshell: You and your provider agree to a job, you (the client) put the money in Escrow and leave it to be held by a third party, the provider begins work, and once you’re completely satisfied, the money gets released and your provider gets paid. (For more on Escrow, check out this help topic.)

6 Tips To Improve Your Writing Skills

The need for killer content for businesses and entrepreneurs continues to grow at an amazing pace. Whether it’s a blog post, product description, marketing collateral, or newsletter, the growth in demand for strong, high-quality content is clearly apparent as writing-related skills on the Elance Work Index continue to rise. And if that wasn’t enough to convince you, think about all of the other benefits that online content brings to your site, like search engine optimization, online community building, and more. (Check out a more in-depth look at why you need content here.)

However, there’s one thing that you must know before running off to slap a few words together – in order to reap the full benefits, you’re going to need a steady feed of high-caliber content. Are you suffering from a combination of dull content and Writer’s Block? Here are a few quick tips to add a little zip to your website’s content. Don't have the time? Hire a content creator right here.

1. Keep it fresh: Like food, freshness is key. Keeping your website’s blog (you’ve got a blog for your business, right?), product descriptions, and other pages fresh with new content will give your customers or readers a reason to come back for more.

Additionally, publishing fresh content to your website grabs the attention of search engines like Google and Yahoo!, giving you a little bit of a boost in Search Engine Optimization and search ranking. While you’re at it, don’t write about the same thing over and over – search engines will knock you a few points for duplicate and repeated content. Write high-quality content rich articles with a lot of relevant keywords for the most success.

2. Let your voice shine through: Remember, there are millions and millions of other websites out there on the web. Try to bring something unique to the table that your readers will enjoy. Try writing a bit more conversationally – your readers are people just like you.

Also important: Be sure to evaluate and understand your product and your target demographic and then cater your content and writing style to them. Although you might be noticing that more and more sites on the web today are taking a fun, more casual approach to writing with great success, don’t expect the same results if you write loose, sarcastic content for certain products or industries (for example, computer security.)

3. Get to the point: Your visitors have places to go and people to see online, so don’t bore them with overly-wordy paragraphs and descriptions. Internet surfers have the attention span of a 5-year old, so hitting them quickly with what’s important is key. If they aren’t able to answer the question, “Why is this important to me?” within the first few sentences, you can kiss those visitors goodbye.

Also, write shorter, quicker paragraphs. Succinct segments are far more digestible for the average person to read and retain.

4. Play by the rules: You could have a Pulitzer-prize worthy blog post published on your site, but if it’s riddled with typos, grammar errors, punctuation mistakes, and other blunders, its value to your site is close to zero. This is especially important for those with online businesses, as the legitimacy of your website can depend on the cleanliness of your copy.