Elance Blog

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Protecting Your Internet-Based Business And Information

OK, you hired talented freelancers to help create a killer business. While working online, you felt safe. Elance-oDesk provides many solutions that help ensure your safety. But once your business goes live, online, in the real world, you’re vulnerable to mayhem. To discuss protecting your business and information on the Internet, we asked Detectify CEO Rickard Carlsson to weigh in. His Stockholm, Sweden-based company is a SaaS web application security scanner that analyzes and reports on the status of your website.


The Internet is broken, from a security point of view, and most organizations are vulnerable to attack.

Hackers have now changed their behavior, increasingly going after all organizations without a specific target in mind. There is no longer an excuse to say that you have nothing of value to steal.

The only question is, how vulnerable you are? And how to most efficiently and effectively protect your information? As you know, killing a mosquito with a bazooka is expensive.

To get started, let’s clarify five common misconceptions.

1. Nobody wants to hack us, we’ve got nothing of value to steal.

Most hacks are automated. They’re designed to spread malware via your site, send a political or commercial message, carry out an advertising scam, or some other malicious activity. Hackers don’t care about you, specifically. But if they’re successful, the damage will hurt your brand and give you unnecessary clean up work.

2. I’m safe, because we’re using a CMS for our website.

No. During the last three months, over 150 new vulnerabilities have been found on WordPress alone. Most Content Management Systems (CMS) show similar statistics.

3. I’m safe, because we’re on a hosted platform.

This will partially improve your security, as the provider will patch your servers. However, you still need to manage the sites and applications you install on the platform. It’s not a solution in itself.

4. I’m safe, because we only use integrated third party services.

Not true.  For instance, poor use of JavaScript on a third party service or a plugin could compromise the security of your complete domain. This includes on your blog (blog.yourdomain.com) or your general website (support.yourdomain.com).

5. I’m safe, because we let an agency do our development.

Wrong. Unless you asked specifically for a security assessment/safe development, you’re not safe.

OK, then … what can happen?

A lot of bad things can happen. A potential attacker might try to steal information, or use your site to spread harmful code. Or the hacker might just be mean-spirited and encrypt all your data, just for fun. Also, very basic sites can be used for illegal activities.

Here are three examples of what can happen …

1. Your site is mainly for providing information:

Hackers can replace your site with Viagra ads or changed board member information for new visitors while you see the original information.

2. Your site has user login and user profiles:

Hackers can obtain and leak customer data. This can happen any number of ways, one of which is through poorly managed picture uploads.

3. Your site uses SaaS services and web-shops:

Hackers can impersonate a user on your system and trigger actions in the system, or complete a purchase.

Relax, there are solutions.

Four Simple Steps To Finding Perfect Freelancers

Occasionally we invite Elance-oDesk clients to discuss issues of importance to our community. Here we share some wisdom from Tobias Schelle, a Danish entrepreneur who is the Founder/CEO of 24slides.com. Check out his blog post, as well as the first video in Tobias’ upcoming series of helpful video tips.


Almost everything can be done online these days.

Which is why it’s no surprise that online technology is influencing the way we do business, too. This includes everything from searching for talent to collaborating with and managing freelancers.

This video explores ways to streamline hiring. It’s the first in a series on how to maximize the benefits of working online, each designed to help you be more productive and conduct business seamlessly.

Your 4-step plan on finding the right freelancer.

Amid the multitudes of possible candidates on Elance-oDesk, how do you find the most suitable freelancer for the job?

It’s tempting to narrow your list to only qualified applicants, and then hire the person who submits the lowest bid. But if you want to get the most out of your online team, use this simple 4-step process as a guide. In the long run it will save you time, energy, and money.

Step 1: Screen and choose your top three candidates

Posting a job is easy and fairly straightforward. Pretty soon, you’ll have many candidates applying for you job. While this is great, it also poses a challenge: Finding the right one among the many capable applicants.

To start off, narrow your applicants to the top three based on their relevant skills and the ratings and reviews from previous Elance clients. From there you can click on the applicant’s name and view their profile and employment history.

Step 2: Now test your top three freelancers.

Why is this important? Simple. Because people can sometimes look great on paper or in theory, but fall short of expectation in actual application. If you evaluate applicants merely based on what’s written on their resumes, or gathered from previous client feedback, there’s less chance of selecting the perfect candidate for the job.

And because many freelancers can be really good at selling themselves, giving them a test task beforehand can help you drill down further. You can get a clearer picture of who really is the ideal match for your particular project.

Ideally the test task should be as close as possible to the demands of your job at hand. This can typically take somewhere between 20 minutes to an hour. You should pay them for the test project, to simulate a real working environment and to ensure that the freelancer gives 100% on the project.

Freelancers Zero In On $3 Billion In Earnings

It’s official! The freelancer economy has arrived. In a big way.Chart of freelancer earnings

Our recent Global Online Work Report reveals that freelancers have now earned a cumulative $2.9 billion (yes billion, with a “b”) on the Elance-oDesk platforms. This amazing figure is a testament to the growing adoption of a more agile work model, where businesses and talent can connect with unprecedented ease.

Thanks to everyone who worked so hard to help us approach this momentous milestone. We look forward to bringing you more major developments as our community continues working online at record pace.

There are other juicy nuggets among the report’s findings too, so feel free to browse the highlights. You’ll find Q3 2014 numbers on everything from the hottest skills (spoiler alert: QA Testing is up 250%) to the growth rate of job categories (as long as we’re spilling the beans, “mobile” leads the way with a whopping 49% increase in earnings). There are numerous client-focused facts and figures as well, from job posting figures and spend by category to average time to hire.

If you want to dig even deeper into the US side of online work, we also released findings in the US Online Work Report. Give it a read while you digest the awesome news from our Global Online Work Report.

5 Tips On Being (Or What To Look For In) An Amazing Virtual Assistant

Mads Phikamphon is a Copenhagen, Denmark-based freelance programmer who specializes in online marketing projects. To help manage his complex projects, Mads recently hired a virtual assistant on Elance-oDesk. Highly impressed with his new hire, Mads looked at the qualities of his virtual assistant to see what made that freelancer so outstanding. Below are his top five insights into what makes a successful virtual assistant, along with insights on what to look for if you’re hiring for the position.spacewalk


1. Perfect time management:

If you’re an aspiring virtual assistant looking on Elance-oDesk for virtual assistant jobs, or hiring a virtual assistant to manage your projects, then time management is the first skill you should pay attention to.

As a virtual assistant, you have to plan your own time effectively. Luckily, there are many tools available to help you make the most of every minute. Below are two favorite methods I’ve come across.

1) If you’re working on an hourly job on Elance, use the free Tracker tool and Work View™ to keep track of and document time spent on each individual job.

2) If your job is fixed priced, simply jot down the start time, end time, tasks you’re working on, and breaks you take on a notebook you keep with you at all times. Or use a timer app like Free Stopwatch to keep track of your working hours.

2. Don’t be shy:

As a virtual assistant you’ll need to do different tasks every day. If you’re having trouble understanding any task, don’t be shy. Ask your client to brief you on the task again.

Mads Phikamphon

By asking questions, you will save time that might have been spent trying to understand the task yourself. Often you just need to ask your employer to explain the goal in a different way. Similarly, for those hiring, be open to providing more information to your virtual assistant.

3. Never stop learning:

Don’t ever stop improving your knowledge. As a virtual assistant, the type of tasks you need to do can change at any time. Whenever you have time, use it to learn new things that relate to your job.

Continuously improving your knowledge will make all your future tasks easier. If you’re a client, look for a freelancer who is adding new skills to their profile and taking on additional responsibilities for teams.

4. Stay in contact with other virtual assistants:

If you’re having trouble with some area of your job, the best way to solve it is by asking an expert in that field. Ask for suggestions from other virtual assistants.

There are many forums and groups where you can connect with other virtual assistants to share ideas and business opportunities.

5. Don’t switch jobs midstream:

If you find a better job opportunity, it can be tempting to quit your current job without warning. But doing so will destroy your relationship with your employers and lead to poor feedback ratings—making it harder for you to get hired at a later date.

If you’re planning on moving to another job, inform your employers at least two to three weeks in advance. This will give them time to find someone to replace you and also help you establish yourself as a trusted and professional person to work with.


About Mads Phikamphon

A talented freelance programmer from Copenhagen, Mads hates cars. In fact, he hates cars so much, that he doesn’t even have one (or a driver license). Instead, he loves bikes. So much so that he’s now building a directory of bikes and bike prices.

Spaceship photo courtesy of Dennis Wong. All rights reserved.


Digital Nomads Report In From The Road


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.Digital nomads by poolside


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).Morten Storgaard

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.

Protecting The Intellectual Property Of Your App

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.


Earlier posts in this series have looked at:

How to turn your idea for a new mobile app into a working app

Exploring the concept of minimum viable product

Tips on how the start-up fundraising process works

Equity and control options

Ideas on raising funds for your startup

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.

5 Best Online Swift Courses for Developers

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.Apple store and swift products

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:

Bloc: Learn Swift, Build Your First iOS Game [FREE]

Bloc is offering Swiftris, a step-by-step process that takes you through the basics of Swift in 11 segments while you build your own 2D puzzle game.

Udemy: Swift – Learn Apple’s New Programming Language by Examples [$99]

Udemy offers a self-guided course, taught by iOS developer Rick Walter, with 65+ videos divided into 11 sections.

Thinkful iOS Course: Intro to iOS Programming in Swift [$500 /mo]

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.”

The Mobile Makers Bootcamp: Online iOS Bootcamp [$4,200]

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.

Treehouse: An Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Swift [FREE]

Treehouse has a Swift course in the works; in the interim, this lengthy DIY blog post describes the basics: fundamentals, collection types, control flow, and functions.

Is there another Swift course or resource you’d recommend? Tell us about it in the comments below!


Health Benefits And Financial Programs Now Available For U.S. Freelancers

Health and finance benefits are important issues for entrepreneurs around the globe. Here is an important message from Caitlin Pearce of Freelancers Union.Health benefits website for freelancers


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.

Caitline Pearce of Freelancers Union

To get started, enter your zip code to search the National Benefits Platform now.

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.

Check out your National Benefits Platform.


About the author:

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.

Summer Camp Unites Entrepreneurs and Freelancers

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.WeWork and Elance-oDesk Summer Camp


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.


Here’s a quick video of this year’s camp:




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.


53 Million Americans Are Freelancing, New Survey Finds


More than 53 million Americans are freelancing, according to “Freelancing in America: A National Survey of the New Workforce,” a landmark study released by Freelancers Union and Elance-oDesk.

53 Million Americans Are Freelancing

The old way of working isn’t working and these professionals -- and the businesses hiring them -- are showing a new way.

Interested in reading more insights from the most comprehensive sizing of the U.S. freelance workforce in almost a decade? Find more information here:

Press release

Study results