In January, Microsoft will be officially launching the Windows Azure platform, a "cloud services operating system that serves as the development, service hosting, and service management environment." In a nutshell: You’ll be able to create, host, and run your online application all in the “cloud” with Azure.
To celebrate the launch of Azure, we here at Elance have partnered up with Microsoft to bring you the Windows Azure Challenge so you can get skilled, get work, and get paid. (This program is initially for U.S.-based providers, but we hope to offer a similar program for international providers soon.)
Get Work – Throughout December, US based providers are invited to submit a $50 proposal to one of our Windows Azure Challenge job posts here on Elance. We will accept up to 500 qualified proposals during the challenge. The work simply requires that you develop and demonstrate an Azure sample application that you have created using the Windows Azure token we provide.
Get Paid – All submissions will get $50 and the benefits of having a completed project, earnings, and feedback on your profile. But it gets even better! The best 6 applications created during this challenge will receive a total of $15,000 with the top application taking home $10,000. Entries will be judged on innovation, functionality, and use of the Windows Azure platform.
After you successfully create your first sample application, you can participate again by using a new token and creating a different sample, improving your odds of winning the top prizes. You’ll also become eligible to join the Windows Azure Experts group here on Elance, a future destination for Azure work.
The winning entries will also get publicity from both Elance and Microsoft, firmly establishing you as one of the first Windows Azure experts on the web.
Michael’s lighthearted and easy-to-grasp video showcases his interpretation of the New Way To Work: Let Smart People Work Hard for Your Business. Sit back and watch how Mike took advantage of elancers to take his small business to the next level.
A New Way To Work – Mary Baker
I firmly believe that small, independent family businesses are the backbone of America. We are the ones that create original products and services, we set the bar for personal and friendly service, we supply true craftsmanship, and we are the ones that create new jobs, new concepts, real price competition, choices for the consumer, and new hope for the future...
Until recently, small businesses and independent contractors have been limited by their regional focus and reach—but now the internet provides national visibility to even the smallest family-owned company. The downside to navigating this vast new landscape is that small businesses, and in particular many of the small wineries I work with, sometimes feel overwhelmed when it comes to choosing and hiring web site developers, graphic artists, e-commerce and point-of-sale solutions, public relations firms, hospitality and architectural consultants. They generally feel they are limited to local providers who command high prices...
The regional isolation of small business in America is over, forever.
Mary Baker, blogger and social media expert for wineries in California’s central coast region, writes an smart, elegant, and compelling look at how wineries and other small businesses can empower themselves by utilizing an online workforce for the resources they need.
After reviewing nearly one hundred blog posts, YouTube videos, websites, images and more all over the web, we’ve gone through the difficult process and narrowed them down to our top 10 finalists. We judged all of the entries on three criteria: Creativity and Innovation, Quality of the Message, and Inspiration to the Community.
Back in September, we launched the New Way To Work contest to put the spotlight on you, the trailblazers of this new movement towards online work. Skilled professionals are now able to provide their skills to clients in a global marketplace, entrepreneurs and small businesses can access talent and pursue ideas and goals never seen before, and companies big and small are taking advantage of contract professionals worldwide to supplement their staff to satisfy real-time demand. And in the past three months through your expressions, you've showed the world how it's all happening.
Here are your first five New Way To Work finalists!
Pamela Swingley's creative usage of Prezi.com’s innovative presentation system to give us an inside look on their operations, their story, and the tools they use to connect and build software that helps you to remember when your next health checkup is. Give it a spin right here.
My New Way To Work – Salma Jafri
Salma Jafri, a content creator based out of Pakistan, tells her story of leaving the corporate world and turned to the online world to start her own business after her daughter was born and her husband’s production company begain to suffer.
Qittle Elance Video
One of the earliest entries in this competition comes out of Aspen, Colorado from the mobile marketing company Qittle. CEO Casey McConnell and his team takes us through some of the business history behind Qittle while also telling the story of how location doesn’t matter in the New Way To Work regardless of if you’re on the slopes of Aspen or out in Wisconsin.
One of the most crucial elements in creating or receiving the highest quality work is having a successful relationship with those you work, collaborate, and share with. As technology and communications continue to evolve, more and more people are moving to the online world to get the work they need done. However, many of the timeless tips that were once used offline still apply today, albeit slightly differently, when working online.
Before you hop back on your PC and get back to work, check out these six tips to have and maintain a successful working relationship online.
Build a Human Relationship: Considering that most people conducting work online spend a good chunk of their time behind a computer screen, it’s easy to forget that those on the other side of the network are human just like you. Be sure to spend some time building a more human relationship with those that you work, online or off. For example, when exchanging Workroom messages, it doesn’t hurt to add a friendly greeting or ask how the other is feeling for the day.
You’d be surprised at how much a simple “thank you” can affect attitudes as well as your business. According to a study conducted at The University of North Carolina Business School in 1999, people that “experience rude behavior on the job quit their jobs (12%), lose work time (52%), and deliberately decrease their work effort (22%).” (via Smashhits)
And this one goes for employers: Give your provider the trust and freedom they need to complete job tasks. The people that you work with are the experts in their respective fields and have the credentials to prove it – it’s the reason why you hired them in the first place. And remember, over-micromanagement is almost always counterproductive for both parties involved.
Set Up Office Hours: This is a big one. Just like any other brick and mortar business or office, both the provider and employer need to have a standard set of office hours that they can be consistently reached. Having this will not only help facilitate smoother communication on jobs in progress but will also allow you to rest a bit easier at night knowing that the other is just a phone call/chat/Workroom message away. Remember: You don't necessarily have to be working in the same time zone or same continent for that matter -- just be sure that there is a set time that both parties are aware of.
Speaking of communication, be sure to let those you work with know your preferred method of communication, whether it is Workroom messages, chat, Skype, webcam, email, or phone. Some might call me old fashioned, but I still love calling someone up on the phone and hearing someone’s voice regardless of if it’s business or personal, but the choice is yours.
Stay In The Loop: Setting up checkpoints, or Milestones as we like to call them, is a great way to establish a timeframe surrounding the work that will be completed. Think of it as a general map that will provide guidance and set up appropriate expectations for both employers and providers.
Also, make sure that those you work with are in the loop with what's going on in real time. Setting up succinct, consistently-placed communications or meetings to go over what was accomplished and what’s on tap for the following week is a no-brainer. On Elance, you can accomplish this by using our weekly Status Report or Timesheet tool. However you choose to get the point across is up to you, but the main takeaway is that the success rate of the job largely depends on both parties staying on the same page.
Additionally, a good way to make sure both of you are on the same page is by using documents like Non-Disclosure Agreements, Change Order Agreements, and Contracts. These documents will protect both parties in case there is any sort of dispute. For sample versions of these documents and more, visit our help portal here.
Know Your Tools: Take time to familiarize yourself with tools that are available for you to utilize online. On Elance, there’s a wide variety of tools that are integrated into our Workroom, like a 500 MB-per Workroom file server with version control, integrated real-time chat, and a message board that will continuously log all chats and messages that can be reviewed at any time. There are lot of key benefits to utilizing the Workroom’s robust feature set – learn more about it here.
If there are other tools that float your boat out there, like video chat, online collaboration suites, IM, or even standard email, spend some time researching what tools will help boost your productivity when working with others online.
Today, the Bureau of Labor Statistics published the November 2009 edition of “The Employment Situation” which states that the unemployment rate has unexpectedly fallen to 10% while hitting the lowest number of job losses in one month since the start of the recession in December 2007.
The Employment Situation is a snapshot of current employment, unemployment, and underemployment rates in the United States, and while on the surface November’s lower unemployment numbers may seem cut-and-dry, there's an interesting insight that pertains to the shift in online work that can be extrapolated from the report.
The good: Although job losses continued in the month of November, the number of actual jobs lost this month (11,000) is far lower than the previous three months (average 135,000). Additionally, the Brouwer notes that job losses for September and October were overestimated.
The not so good: Brouwer says, “Though the unemployment rate went down, the reduction was essentially a statistical change rather than a real improvement. It seems a number of people stopped looking for work and that — paradoxically — is why the unemployment rate went down. If you are unemployed, but not out looking for work, you are not counted as unemployed.”
If you’ve had your radio, television, or computer flipped on in the past month, you’ve most likely run into the phone that is a “bare-knuckled bucket of does.” Although the ad campaign positions the Motorola’s Droid (and other Google Android-based phones, for that matter) as a device that is everything that Apple’s iPhone is not, Android does have an uphill battle in the mobile phone arena.
Some will say that Android’s 10,000 available applications are paltry when compared with Apple’s 100,000 apps and over 1 billion downloads to date, but despite this, Google and co. are still sitting in a favorable position to make power plays in 2010 and beyond. If you’re considering taking your idea or business platform on the go with a mobile application, here are 5 reasons why deploying on the Android platform as is a worthy of serious consideration for your business. (Need help getting started? Hire an expert Android developer here.)
Strength In Numbers: The adoption of Android by mobile phone and other technology manufacturers is palpable. Since the launch of the T-Mobile G1 on October of last year, there have been 26 Android devices released across carriers all over the world. In the states, the words "carrier exclusivity" do not apply: The Android operating system has managed to hit all four major U.S. carriers in the form of many devices (Sprint, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon) with more slated to appear in due time.
Tools For Development: Although some found the initial software development kit for Android to be somewhat lacking, the SDK and its development community has matured substantially. The widely available open-source SDK contains a comprehensive set of tools, which include an emulator, tools, sample code, and core libraries, and there are large numbers of communities and user-generated help documentation floating around on the web to help you get started. The SDK is also available in multiple platforms, allowing even more flexibility for developers.
Additionally, Android-based devices operate utilizing Java combined with Google’s custom Java libraries, so those that are familiar with developing Java applications should have a relatively short learning curve when developing on Android. And if development isn’t your thing, there’s a large number of developers ready to get your app pushed to market. Skeptical? There’s more than 500 Android developers ready on Elance right now.
Road To Market: With Apple’s App store, getting an application published can be a humbling experience. Besides a subscription fee that can range from $99 to $299, there is an application approval process that every submission must meet before being released to market that has reported to sometimes take weeks at a time. Additionally, Apple requires all applications to be exclusively distributed through the iTunes network which also charges the developer 30% of all application revenue to be listed in the store.
Here’s a little background: A little over two weeks ago, we launched a new type of testing platform on Elance called Code Test which requires test takers to fully demonstrate their code-writing skills in leading computer programming languages, like PHP and SQL. To celebrate the launch of these specialized tests, we held our first ever code off. After two weeks of coding and over 100 exams taken, we’ve found the 10 fastest and most efficient PHP developers who scored the highest on our code test that values solving complex coding problems quickly and effectively. (For more information on Elance Code Tests, click here.)
So congratulations to our 10 winners – you’re all set to receive $250 and one year of paid membership here on Elance valued at around $120. Sit tight, and we’ll be contacting each one of you very soon to distribute your prizes.
If you think you’ve got skills and you want to show your stuff, go ahead and try your hand at the new PHP or SQL Code Tests. Score well on one of these, and your profile page will receive a major bump in your skill credibility. Is PHP or SQL not your thing? Keep checking back as we will be adding more and more Code Tests to our lineup very soon.
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.
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.
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.
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.