Hi. I'm Matt Katsaros and I've been using Elance to get work done online for quite some time. Today, however, I'll be doing something a little bit different. You and I both know how Elance works to some extent, thanks to documentation and word of mouth testimony. Post a job, find a provider, complete the job, pay for the work, leave feedback... you know, the whole nine yards. In reality though, it's one thing to know how something works, and it's a another thing to see the beast in action.
This is where I conveniently come in.
I'll be taking you through my personal experience getting a job done on Elance, step-by-step in a multi-part blog series. You'll see everything I encounter from day one to day end, whenever the job wraps up. Now, a little background about myself.
I founded and currently run a company helping small-to-mid sized businesses gain exposure online mainly through the development of websites. I found Elance and quickly realized I could tap into a huge force of people when needed; Elance has thousands of web developers that I could hire at any time that could help me build the sites my clients need.
Recently, one of my long time clients, Jim Willenborg, founder and chairman of Cloud Telecomputers, called me for a new project. He explained that they were preparing to publicly announce their new product, The Glass, a new Google Android-based IP phone for the office. Their current website was in need of a major a face lift as well as some fresh new content to mark the event of this product launch. Business has been busy for myself and my company, and unfortunately, all of our programmers are occupied with other jobs. However, I didn’t want to turn Jim away since he’s been a long running client of mine, so I decided that this was the perfect job that I could source out to Elance and manage the progress of it to make sure we provided Jim with a great site.
When I took a peek at the old site, it reminded me of prehistoric cave drawings meets the Internet. Loading up the homepage brings up some basic Arial text, a logo, and a snooze-worthy picture of a cloud-filled sky. For a company launching what could be the next big technological innovation, a site that looks like it’s from the ‘90s isn’t going to cut it.
When you see colleagues walking around with bags under their eyes, it's a safe bet one of two worries is keeping them awake at night: "How am I going to get everything done within my budget?" or "How can I bring in more customers?"
For anyone thinking about both at the same time, well, there's always Ambien.
It's been said necessity is the mother of invention, so it may come as no surprise savvy business leaders are embracing the hiring of online freelancers and contractors on Elance as a way to grow their customer base while minimizing fixed costs.
The fact is online work has come of age. When companies need expertise nowadays, they simply get on Elance, post their requirements, and start fielding proposals from far and wide from skilled and tested independent professionals who are ready to work.
This real-time access to a vast pool of over 96,000 qualified skilled technical, marketing, and administrative experts is giving companies a real advantage—it enables them to stay flexible while getting real work done on-demand. Think about it: Ramp up when you need to, scale back when you don't. As business leaders know, it sure beats the ups and downs of recruiting, hiring, training, and then severance.
The notion of paying for talent and resources only when you need will certainly make the finance department happy. But what about driving the top line?
At this very moment, marketing and sales executives (including, potentially, your competitors) are finding and hiring freelance and contract professionals to help attract new customers while servicing existing ones. Every hour of every day, businesses are hiring sales and marketing mercenaries to optimize their Websites for search engines, to freshen up their e-mail marketing, to vet and qualify sales leads.
They're writing blog posts, translating media releases into foreign languages, integrating PayPal checkout, surveying their high-value customers, researching competitors, and so on. Getting the idea yet?
Elance offers online directories of sales and marketing freelancers who specialize in subject matter expertise ranging from graphic design to copywriting to Flash animation to telesales. Accessing these experts is generally as easy as posting a simple job description (describe what you need), and allowing the marketplace to compete for your attention.
Some job postings can attract a large number of proposals from qualified providers. Receiving a lot of proposals is a great "problem" to have, but it can still feel overwhelming – so here are some tips to help you efficiently review, manage, and decide which provider is right for you.
Perform a first pass review. If you can, try not to wait until the acceptance period is over to take a look at all the proposals you receive. Go to the workroom, check them out every day or so, and use your first look as a quick screening tool.
When you read each proposal, check to see if it is:
Call a medic! I’ve been bitten by a bug, and now I've got a nasty case of Twitter fever. At Elance, we’ve been embracing (and experimenting with) Twitter in a couple of interesting ways: One, our standard Twitter account at @elance, and our 3 main Twitter job feeds located at @elance_jobs, @elance_web, and @elance_design.
But yelling out into the Twitter world what you fed your cat this morning isn’t the only way to reap its immense benefits. There’s a huge amount of information and data out there in the Twitter world waiting for you to receive – or in Twitter terms, “follow”. Here are my five favorite feeds that feature tips:
Vertex42: With only 178 followers as of now, Vertex42 is the least popular of any of the feeds on this list, but don't judge a book by its cover. Jon Wittwer, aka Vertex42, posts a new Microsoft Office Excel tip or trick every single day, making it a worthwhile, low-impact feed to follow.
HashDesigns: HashDesigns is one of many, many “HashXXXX” type of Twitter feeds. It covers anything from Photoshop tricks to blog posts with design inspiration and anything in between. With multiple (read: a lot) updates a day, there’s no shortage of design-related goodness for you to keep up with.
As the pool of skilled contractors, free-agent professionals, and Cloud Commuters continues to grow, more and more hiring managers in businesses both large and small are adopting the use of contract-based professionals for jobs of any size. This is the new way to get work done.
Many managers and companies, especially in the IT field, have already started taking advantage of this immediate, cost-effective, and flexible way to get the work they need done fast. The following three examples are just a few of the tens of thousands of managers reaping the benefits of a 96,000-person workforce ready and waiting to work.
Tim Nicholson, IT Manager For Knight Protective Services
Knight Protective Services, a 2,000-person firm that provides contract security officers and security solutions to the federal government and various commercial organizations, was in need of professional website that could elevate the brand’s public awareness to the next level. Tim Nicholson, a representative of Knight Protective Services, was tasked to develop the site. He turned to Elance to hire skilled web development experts to get his website, www.knightprotectiveservice.com, done fast.
“Hiring online is how I can access the talent I need, when I need it. All the tools are there to find, evaluate, and hire a great person no matter where they are,” said Tim Nicholson. “I love Elance because it helps facilitate the entire process of working online. At any time, I can track the status of the work, and with Escrow, release payment when satisfied with the work received. With these tools, I feel more confident hiring someone on Elance than hiring someone in person.”
All of you providers, employers, entrepreneurs, IT managers, marketers, business owners, and Cloud Commuters know that there is literally a ton of quality work that is consistently getting done around the world and around the clock.
And don’t think for one second that the team at Elance HQ doesn’t notice all of the great work going on right now – after all, it would be absolutely silly not to tap in to the awesome resources that skilled elancers provide. We here at Elance use Elance in a number of ways to grow our business and help keep our operation running smooth. For example:
Engineering: Some of the best developers around are elancers. We work with engineers from all over the world to augment our internal engineering team on multiple development projects. Elance software architects assign specific jobs to remote developers who then write code, and as pieces of code are checked-in, our engineering team at headquarters reviews, tests, and then integrates.
Customer Support: We currently contract 100% of our tier one customer support to experienced customer service professionals on Elance throughout the U.S. Using elancers allows us to ramp hours up and down as quickly as needed to match changing volumes of support cases. This not only gives us a flexible way to optimize our capacity but also helps us control costs.
Quality Assurance: Since Quality Assurance testing ramps up and down according to our release cycles, we leverage the same elancers as we do in Customer Support to do in depth quality assurance testing for two out of every five weeks. External elancers use the same QA tools (TestLink and Bugzilla) used by the internal QA team.
Sure, Twitter is a blast to use from your PC, but the real fun happens when you start ‘tweeting on the go. Here are the hottest Twitter applications available for your iPhone, BlackBerry, Palm Pre, Android, Symbian, or Windows Mobile device, all in one link-filled blog post for you to feast on.
iPhone: When it comes to Twitter + iPhone, you have quite a few software options to your disposal. Tweetie ($2.99 at the iTunes store) is a super popular paid client that offers features like the ability to handle multiple accounts, viewing of your timeline, replies, direct messages, and favorites, automatic link shrinking via bit.ly, picture upload to TwitPic, a secure connection, and more. For those looking for an option that has the low, low price of zero dollars, the robust TweetDeck (logo pictured to the right) and speedy Twitterfon are known to be the who’s-who of the free Twitter iPhone app world. If none of these fit your fancy, there are tons more Twitter applications available for your iPhone, like Gyazickr, Twittervision, NatsuLion, and Twitfire.
BlackBerry: If you’re a “CrackBerry” fiend like myself, adding a Twitter application on your keyboard-equipped phone is a total no-brainer. TwitterBerry offers the standard set of twittering necessities, like timelines, replies, direct messages, and friend lists, and it’s widely considered to be the most popular software choice for RIM devices. uberTwitter is another alternative available for BlackBerry users – it’s fast, it can integrate with your Google Talk status, and it brings non-GPS location-based 'tweeting to the table. Both are available for free. (Nice!)
Writing, whether it be copywriting, web content, blogging, or anything inbetween, is one of the most popular, most demanded, and most sought after skill sets in the world of online work. Don't believe me? Just look at a few of the past Elance Online Work Indexes and you'll turn into a believer.
And as a writer, don’t think for one second that all online tools and resources are just for coders, graphic designers, and web developers – there's a grip of writing-related tools out there on the web for you word-smiths to take full advantage of. Here are some of my personal favorites:
OneLook: Founded in April, 1996, OneLook describes itself as “a search engine for words and phrases.” The site offers definitions and translations from over 5 million words in over 900 online dictionaries and has a robust set of search query tools so you can properly narrow down your search results. If you can’t find your word on here, it’s likely because that word doesn’t exist… yet.
GoogleDocs: As an integral part of Google Apps, Google Docs is an cloud-based text editor that boasts a healthy feature set. One of Google Docs’ strongest features is its collaboration tools – meaning while on Google Docs, you can have up to 10 people edit a document at the same time, and you can also share a document with up to 200 people. If you’re looking for other options, SynchroEdit is another browser-based editor that allows for online simultaneous collaboration.
Write Rhymes: This one goes out to all my poets, and they all know it. Okay, obviously not the best rhyming skills out there, but if you’re just as bad as I am, then go ahead and bookmark Write Rhymes. All you simply need to do is begin typing, highlight your words, press the ALT key, and a window of 2-or-3 syllable words with rhyming elements pops up. There’s even an option to save, copy, and print your new limerick, song, poem, rap, or whatever else your zany mind conjures up.
The demand for social media, search engine optimization, and internet marketing skills as a whole has exploded in the world of online work. After all, why wouldn’t it? The internet provides the marketing industry a new, low-cost platform to distribute information (read: marketing materials) on a global scale in a variety of formats – video, still images, audio, text, interactive games, and more.
A Facebook Fan Page is one perfect example of one of these new marketing vehicles available for a business to utilize. After a recent redesign, these pages are now very similar to standard user profile pages in looks as well as functionality. These pages include a Wall tab that publishes your news feed as well as user comment posts, an Info tab that is populated with nibbles of your company’s information, a self-explanatory Photos tab, and several other default tabs. Additionally, you can add your own custom set of application tabs, some of which are completely customizable.
If your business doesn’t have a Fan Page yet, you better be asking yourself why you don't. These specialized Facebook pages offer a gaggle of benefits that would turn any entrepreneur, large business, or corporation's head:
1. Community Building: The Fan Page is a great platform for your loyal followers to come together for your product or service by utilizing the Wall feature or other available modular applications. Users can submit text testimonials, post pictures, create and upload video, hold discussions with each other – all supporting the growth of your online community.
2. Search Engine Optimization: As discussed in one of our previous posts, the benefits of creating a Fan Page also give you more footing in search ranking. By publishing backlinks to your business’ pages as well as having a Facebook Fan Page with your name in the title, your business will be receiving some big bonus points in the SEO department.