Elance Blog

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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.

The New Way To Work Highlights Part 1

It’s been a little over 8 weeks since we kicked off our “The New Way To Work” contest back in September, and the world of work is continuing to evolve. We’ve spotted a healthy number of blog posts, articles, videos, and graphic designs on Twitter, Facebook, and Vator.TV expressing and celebrating the new way to work – here are a few special submissions that have really caught our eye.

First, an awesome YouTube clip from Tanika Goudeau, otherwise known as tigi202:

 



And secondly, a powerful story from a Rita Sanghita, based out of Greece. Here’s an excerpt (read the full story here):

The Ins And Outs Of Email Marketing

If you’ve logged into an email account in the past 15 years, you’ve almost definitely encountered some form of email marketing during your daily inbox routine. Regardless of if it’s used properly (opt-in) or not (oh no, spam!), one fact is clear: Email marketing is a very powerful tool for a wide variety of reasons that businesses can take advantage of with very low overhead costs. However, maximizing its potential requires you to use it as effectively as possible. Want to learn more? Here are a few pointers to get your feet wet. (Don't have the time? Hire an expert on Elance to get the job done.)

What Is Email Marketing?

According to Wikipedia, email marketing is “a form of direct marketing which uses electronic mail as a means of communicating commercial or fundraising messages to an audience.” So basically, if you’re a business and you’re contacting your current or potential future customers with sweet offers, then you’re using email marketing. Additionally, from the same source, researchers estimate that U.S. firms alone spent $400 million on email marketing in 2006.

Opt-In Vs. Opt-Out

If you're unfamiliar with Opt-In or Opt-Out email marketing, think of it like this: Opt-In are your customers who specifically asked to receive email updates and newsletters from you, while Opt-Out is that you assume your customers, or anyone for that matter, wants to hear from you unless they specifically state that they do not want to hear from you. Of course, it gets far more technical (read the full descriptions here at Spamhaus.org), but before you choose one, be sure to understand all of the potential ramifications prior to making a decision.

Personalization

“Dear Alex, check out our newest sales offer!” If you’re sitting there thinking that someone is on the other end typing each individual email in Outlook and clicking send, think again. There are quite a few email marketing solutions online that offer a wide variety of features, like email personalization. And don’t think that personalization is limited to just a name – you can personalize each email with custom links, login and user information, subject lines, headlines, and more. Does it make a difference? Well, a Jupiter Research study in 2006 states that inserting a person’s name into an email increases open rates by as much as 10%.

Managing Your Email Lists

So, how do they get your name and all of that personalization in there? In reality, the information needed to customize all of these emails is placed in simple spreadsheets. These datasheets are the who, what, and where of your entire email marketing campaign. It’s important for you to pay close attention to these lists because if these lists get filled with bad email addresses, it could negatively affect your email deliverability rate. Email hosts pay close attention to who’s sending what to who, so if you’re getting a high bounce rate (due to invalid or outdated email addresses), you could end up getting blacklisted and end up in the junk box rather quickly.

October Elance Work Index Reveals Optimistic IT Hiring Trends

We’ve all heard so much about full-time job losses in the IT sector of late that it’s almost hard to fathom the numbers. At the risk of going all “green shoots” on you, I’m here to tell you that there is a rosier outlook for tech hiring when you consider the data coming out of this month’s Elance Work Index.

More companies than ever are realizing the benefits of hiring contractors online. Facts don’t lie, and the fact is, so far in October awarded jobs on Elance are up almost 50% from the same period a year ago.

Let’s face it, online work is more than a trend. This is happening as people (both companies and workers) continue to discover and embrace the New Way To Work.

Speaking of trends, here are the trends we see in this month’s Elance Work Index:
 

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