Occasionally we invite entrepreneurs to discuss issues of importance to our community. Here are some thoughts from Morten Storgaard, a Denmark-based startup fanatic and digital nomad who travels the world working with his business partner (and wife of seven years) Maria.
My wife Maria and I have been working to become geographically independent for over two years. Here is how we were able to live a more fulfilling life in Denmark while also travelling extensively while we work.
When we first decided to make the change to a digital nomad lifestyle, we were both working long days at our own startup. We owned a print-on-demand webshop, which required our attention on a daily basis. There was never a free moment, as we were needed to keep the printers running, get pictures framed and shipped and so forth. We realized that in order to travel more, and to successfully immerse ourselves in other cultures, we had to leave that behind.
To begin the process of independence we arranged a meeting with our investor, and worked out an exit plan that would take one year to execute. The plan worked, although being an entrepreneur, I would have to say that the exit part was difficult. When you like building stuff, it’s hard to take out a full year for an exit (at least when you know it won’t make you rich).
Well, we got out, and as we started to plan for our new life we also started a blog, Go Downsize, about simple living. We covered the downsizing process in depth, and today that blog is part of our income stream as we have ads and affiliate links on the site. We write about how to live better in a small apartment, which is a good idea if you want to travel as much as possible. We also chose to sell most of our stuff and get debt free, and now we are almost there. You can follow the process on our blog if you’re interested.
Starting a new business without employees.
After downsizing our apartment from 1,000 to 450 square feet, we needed to get creative about space saving and optimizing the space we did had.
With this in mind we decided to build a bed that would fold up on the wall during the day (called a Murphy bed). This would allow us to use the room as an office, gym, and dining room during the day.
We even built a website around Murphy beds, and our new business was born. One thing we decided to do differently this time, as we didn’t want to manage people on a daily basis, was to build a business that could run more automatically. In the beginning we did everything ourselves, and it was fun. But small tasks can take a long time if you lack the experience.
This is when we decided to hire freelancers on Elance-oDesk for individual assignments. This decision has been one of the best choices we made. Maria and I started out with small tasks, like the logos for our websites, which were created by a great graphic designer from the Philippines. Soon after this we had another freelancer help us make some changes to the creative theme on our website.
Where else do we work with freelancers?
Originally for Go Downsize and Murphy Bed HQ, we only used freelancers for specialized skills. But for our latest website (a board game webshop), we have worked with freelancers for everything from copywriting and graphics to coding and handling. I wish I had started doing this earlier, because it’s much more fun to focus on the things I’m really good at.
My advice: Only do what you do best and let other experts around the globe work for you. They can get the job done faster and better than you, because it’s their expertise.
I would say that graphics are probably the easiest thing to hire freelancers for, and if you haven’t tried it yet, this could be a good place to start. Too often I have tried to create web graphics myself, but if you want to look professional, you need to work with people who are good—really good.
We have been working with one designer regularly, and I recommend finding a good long-term partner for graphics. The same goes for coding. You can see how our board game project turned out here.
If the workload is too big for one freelancer, consider this: Get a good designer to do the overall design from the start (or create a design manual), and then hire other freelancers to work within these guidelines. This way you get a consistent look and feel through out the entire website.
So take a good look at your workload. There might be tasks you do again and again, that others could do more efficiently and effectively. Wouldn’t it be awesome to be able to focus more on the stuff that comes more naturally to you? And as an added bonus, you’ll have freedom to travel and grow your business while you’re on the road. That’s why being a digital nomad is so rewarding.
Occasionally we invite clients to discuss issues of importance to those who work with freelancers on Elance-oDesk. Here are some additional thoughts from Nicholas Wright. He frequently hires freelancers and is one of the founders of AppInstruct, an online course that teaches people how to make an app utilizing the Elance-oDesk platforms.
This week we’ll address an often-asked question: “I’ve got a great idea for an app, but how do I stop you from stealing it?”
Bottom line: Your idea is the easy part.
The first thing to let go of is the mistaken belief that the greatest value is in your idea. The truth of the matter is that the idea is normally the easiest part, and lying between your idea and a successful, revenue-generating product are many potential hurdles.
If you spend all of your time vigorously trying to protect your idea, and not disclosing it sensibly to anyone for feedback or getting assistance on building it, then you’re less likely to succeed.
This being said, there a few standard methods of protecting your idea while discussing it with potential contractors or partners.
The main suggestion is to only disclose as much as needed when seeking initial quotes for the project. Once you identify one or two contractors you think are capable of doing the work, and determine that you’d enjoy working with them, consider putting in place non-disclosure agreements. This will bind the other party to retain the confidentiality of your information, and are a must before any work is undertaken. In our experience, reputable freelancers on the Elance-oDesk platforms will expect and be happy to enter into a non-disclosure agreement before undertaking your project.
Protecting your intellectual property.
Once work begins on your app, you’ll most likely have begun obtaining protection under intellectual property laws.
Within the world of a mobile app, the most likely areas of intellectual property law that will be relevant are 1) copyright law and 2) moral rights.
1. Copyright law.
Copyright laws protect not the idea itself, but the expression of that idea. For example, the way the idea has been recorded—be that in writing, sound (music) or visually (films and television).
Computer programs are protected as a literary work under the respective copyright laws in each country. In the context of an app, the critical copyright will most likely exist in the code written to create the app. So, were you to work with freelancers in the coding of your app, it will be very important to obtain intellectual property transfers/assignments from any contracted developers working on it. It’s not enough to simply have paid them. In such instances you’ll actually only have a license to use the work, rather than ownership. Clearly, this is a critical point, (which becomes even more important if your app is successful and you seek funding from investors). But we’ll revisit this point below, when we discuss Elance-oDesk’s Independent Contractor Services Agreement.
With the launch of the Apple Watch and a new operating system, there’s a whole world of opportunity for iOS developers to integrate wearable technology with other mobile devices.
Behind all this potential lies Swift — the new programming language from Apple that could quickly replace Objective-C as the iOS coding language of choice.
Introduced in June, Swift is a programming language for Apple’s Cocoa and Cocoa Touch frameworks that’s set to make a big shift in OS X and iOS design.
“Swift isn’t just a language. It’s a language that’s tightly woven with everything developers need to build their software,” explained Wired Magazine.
“This includes not only an integrated development environment, or IDE — an interface where coders can actually write their software — but also various other tools, such as a debugger that can help weed errors from their code.”
Swift works with Objective-C, which means developers have options. The TIOBE Index of programming languages — an interesting way to gauge developer mindset — already places Swift in the #18 slot. With iOS 8 set to roll out on Sept. 17, use of Swift is only expected to pick up.
How can you add Swift to your programming skills? Start by downloading the reference eBook directly from Apple, free on the iTunes store: The Swift Programming Language. Then, check out one of these five great courses:
Thinkful programs are delivered one-on-one with a mentor, and are designed to take three months to complete. This program aims to take you “from your first ever line of code to your first app in Apple’s App Store.”
Online iOS Bootcamp is a full-time eight-week program. Led by instructors and working with peers, Bootcamp is an intense course that goes from coding to building an app. There are online and in-person class options.
Health and finance benefits are important issues for entrepreneurs around the globe. Here is an important message from Caitlin Pearce of Freelancers Union.
The world of work is changing quickly, evolving into a global economy where freelancing is the norm. Now more than ever, freelancers need a support system to help build lives of meaningful independence, where their health, finances, and the safety of their families are protected.
In the United States part of this support system is the Freelancers Union—a non-profit organization that has partnered with Elance-oDesk to launch the National Benefits Platform. This program offers benefits like health care, 401(k)s, and life, disability and liability insurance to freelancers.
Fully searchable, the National Benefits Platform allows U.S.-based freelancers to search by zip code to see what benefits are available in their area.
This platform is being built by, and for, independent workers. We aren’t just trying to create better careers and more flexible lifestyles—we’re collaborating, connecting, and supporting each other. And together, we’re leading the way towards more stable, healthy lives.
Caitlin Pearce is Senior Manager of Strategic Initiatives at Freelancers Union, the nation's largest group representing the growing independent workforce. Overseeing partnerships and new initiatives for the 250,000-member union, Caitlin is a guiding force in the union's drive to help the new workforce build a more sustainable, mutualistic society.
A summer camp for grown-ups? In August Elance-oDesk paired up with the NYC-based coworking community WeWork and their annual Summer Camp — a weekend-long event for entrepreneurs, freelancers and members of the WeWork community.
With a good dose of outdoor activities, Summer Camp is part festival and part start-up/freelancer bootcamp. This year’s camp featured talks from UPS, Coach and Restoration Hardware. They spoke about everything from small company logistics and the power of brands, to creating the perfect startup culture for teams.
Hosted in upstate New York at an actual Boys & Girls Club campground, Summer Camp brought nearly 1,500 entrepreneurs and freelancers together for a break from work. It also gave them a chance to be a kid again. And, just like childhood, it was a weekend of experiences that allowed people to bond for life.
Naturally Elance-oDesk had to get in on the fun too. We organized one of the most coveted competitions at camp: the Human Skee Ball Competition. It’s a super-sized slip-n-slide, with bragging rights for the team that traveled the furthest in the air! The winning team was “Almost YouTube Famous,” who took home the trophy for the competition.
Want to learn more? Visit http://summercamp.wework.com/ or check out #WWCAMP14 on Twitter for this year’s highlights. Plus check back for more information about how you can be a part of Summer Camp 2015.
As you pour that second caffeinated beverage and focus on your upcoming workday, add this article to the top of your “to-read” list.
Jaleh Bisharat, Senior Vice President of Marketing at Elance-oDesk, pens a regular Huffington Post column about the ongoing evolution of work. This week, she looks at surviving and thriving in our new sharing-based economy. Here’s a sample:
“Corporate loyalty is dead. A recent survey shows that nine out of ten Millennials say they expect to stay in a job for less than three years. This translates into 15-20 jobs over the course of their working lives! Now it's about employability as opposed to employment. What does that mean? The concept of static roles is fading into the past. They will be thinking, "what skills do I need?" instead of "what role will I have for the next 10 years?" And will constantly ask, "Am I at the top of my game, or is the field shifting?"
Go here to learn more about the five disruptions that are driving the talent-sharing economy, and how they’re changing the way we work and live.
About Jaleh Bisharat, 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.
Looking to win the talent war? Distributed engineering may be your ticket to success.
Which is why we’re thrilled to introduce Hire Fast & Build Things, a new eBook written by Elance-oDesk Senior VP of Engineering and Product, Stephane Kasriel. A comprehensive guide on how to find, hire and manage a top-notch team of distributed engineers, which you can download as a PDF for free or grab it to go on Kindle for just $2.99.
Step-by-step guide to distributed engineering teams.
Businesses are abuzz over distributed engineering as a way to hire world-class developers, blending teams of full-time onsite staff with freelance engineers spread out across the globe. And because Elance-oDesk was built using engineering talent from around the world, distributed engineering is baked into our corporate DNA—making this a natural subject for Stephane to write about.
Hire Fast & Build Things features a plethora of valuable information, including:
• Advantages of a distributed engineering team
• Structuring your remote team
• Building a shared infrastructure
• Examples and case studies
• Top insights and tips for instant success
The informative eBook goes into great detail on how to put your team together, gleaned from Stephane’s real-world experience building teams on Elance-oDesk. Get your free copy.
Welcome to Advice From An Elancer—a place to find answers to your burning questions about Elance. My name is Dorothy D. and I have worked with Elance as a freelancer since April 2009. My goal is to help fellow Elancers understand how things work and how to accomplish more.
LinkedIn: Join a Group and Make Connections
Many people think LinkedIn is merely a place to rack up connections with colleagues, professionals in various fields, and, of course, friends. Beyond that, they have no real idea of what the benefits are, or what to do with their membership. Let’s talk about that, beginning with groups.
One of the most important and beneficial options on LinkedIn is groups. There are literally thousands of groups related to every business you can think of, including web programmers, developers, app developers, and more. If you search “Elance” in groups, you will find more than one entry. The Elance Professional Network is the only official group. Elance monitors this group and often assists with issues that people encounter.
The group is comprised of Elance members, including clients and freelancers. The result is intelligent conversation, advice, and a great networking tool. You will find that questions are answered with thoughtful replies and that everyone is very respectful. I personally am very active in the group and often try to offer my knowledge.
In general, LinkedIn groups are great places to interact with others who share your professional skills and interests. I have earned jobs on Elance from my connections on LinkedIn, and have met a huge number of professionals through my connections in the Elance group!
LinkedIn has a free membership option and offers a great page for you to highlight your professional experiences. It is menu-driven and has sections to add volunteer work, certifications, and more. Once you complete your page, you will find that you can use some of the information to update your Elance profile or resume. It is very thorough. You can complete, or skip, any of the optional sections.
A few hints: Use a professional-looking image for your photo. A selfie on the beach or posing with duck lips just won’t work here. Also, join several groups and post in those that interest you. This will lead to connections with others. Definitely join in the conversations in the Elance group. Do not request to connect with people you do not know. Too many of these requests will result in complaints and suspension of accounts. If you are in a group together, it is considered appropriate to “link.”
The best way to get started is to create your LinkedIn profile (if you don’t have one already) and join the Elance group. You will find the group welcoming, the information useful, and the conversation interesting. Join us and say hello.
About a year ago I introduced myself to talk about some of the programs the Trust and Safety Team was developing. Our charter is to continuously improve and maintain a safe and trusted workplace. Over the coming months I will be reaching out to share updates that will help our community continue to grow and thrive.
I’m writing to let you know that this week we will begin closing the accounts of a small number of community members with a history of consistently poor performance, and will initiate the review of additional accounts. Careful consideration went into the decision to take action against these active members' accounts. We evaluated the entire work history of freelancers who had multiple contracts that resulted in client concerns, poor feedback and disputes. While we recognize that satisfying all clients all the time is not realistic, consistently poor performers weaken the reputation and growth potential of our entire community.
Ultimately, we feel these actions will benefit the vast majority and maximize opportunities for the many great members of our professional community. Freelancers who continue to deliver good client experiences and follow the Elance Code of Conduct will not be impacted. For freelancers in the affected groups, please know that we did not make this decision lightly. Notifications will be sent via email and you can find more information here.
We understand that no process is perfect, including this one, and always welcome your feedback on how we can improve.
Thank you for helping us build a trusted workplace. Please stay tuned for more updates from my team.