Elance Blog

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Two Approaches To Getting Online Work Done

Developing a strategy when engaging in online work reminds me of an old axiom that I live and die by: "Look before you leap.” Regardless of whether you're the Provider or Employer, creating and standing by an overall approach before diving in head first is an important step that warrants a good amount of thought. 

What is the best strategy for working with others online? Do you give your team of providers unlimited free range to ideas, work styles, and most importantly, resources? Or do you create a clear-cut set of blueprints for your provider to follow step-by-step, down to every single last letter? Or is it a hodge-podge combination of the two ideas above? There isn’t necessarily a right or wrong answer in my book—it all boils down to what works best for you and those you work with online.

I stumbled across Seth Godin’s blog (yes, that Seth Godin, the marketing guru) and saw his interesting take on the above question. Seth sees it go one of two ways:

"There are two ways to work with talent.The first is to give someone as clean a sheet of paper as possible. "We have these assets, we have this opportunity, here is our budget, go!" That's a great way to build a house if you have a ton of money and brilliant architects.

The second is to give someone as strategic and defined a mission as possible. "Here are three logos from companies in other industries, together with the statement we want to make, the size it needs to be, the formats we need to use it and our budget, go!" If you do this, you're almost certain to get something you can use, and almost certain not to be blown away with surprise. Which is the entire point. "

Elance Is A Webware 100 Winner

The results have just been announced, and Elance has been named a winner in this year’s Webware 100 Awards in the Commerce category, recognized alongside PayPal, Etsy, Amazon, Craiglist, and others.

It’s humbling and gratifying to receive this award and the customer endorsement that it represents, as this award is based on online voting from people just like you. This award is truly the rightful property of the Elance community, as it recognizes our immensely talented people in our professional network and the savvy businesses who tap into elancers as a cost-effective and flexible way to get work done.

Forgive us for our excitement, and know that we will not rest until we’ve revolutionized the way work is done online by bringing talented people together and providing them with the tools that inspire and drive great results.

Say Hello To The New Elance Help

Recently, we’ve taken a long, hard look at the Help destination on Elance and realized it was time for an upgrade. We’ve completely revamped our entire Help section by tidying up the content a bit and placing it on a fresh new platform that brings two big improvements (not to mention a slew of smaller ones) to the table.

The first is something you’ll probably notice right off the bat – the layout. Our new Help system sports a much cleaner, easier-to-use interface that makes navigating to proper and relevant help topics a cinch. You’ll also be able to see additional relevant information, like when the page was last updated, comments (on pages that support comments), and number of times the page has been viewed.

Secondly is a big one: New and improved search. Our new Help search engine blows the old version out of the water. The engine surfaces the most relevant topics to your keywords in an uber-digestible format – headlines and several introductory sentences to give you the most context before you click into the topic.

You’ll Get Great Proposals: Guaranteed

With over 84,000 active professionals, each with their own unique expertise, Elance is literally a treasure-trove of talent, always available whenever you need it.

And with increasingly strict entrance requirements (did you know our providers have to pass tests to join the Elance professional network?) and on-going performance monitoring (we dismiss poor-performers), the pool of professionals on Elance has never been stronger.

So much stronger that we’ve decided to put our money where our mouth is and guarantee your money back if you're unimpressed with the proposals that you receive.

Money back, what? Yes, it’s true that you can post a job on Elance at no charge with a standard job post. But did you know that you could pay a mere $15 to make your job a “Featured Post” and get more attention on the site, inclusion on our job distribution feeds, including Twitter @Elance_Jobs, and most importantly higher quality proposals from the most experienced providers? That’s what I’m talking about. Unsatisfied for any reason with the proposals you get on your featured job post? Drop us a note and we’ll refund your $15 bucks.

Elancers have talent, and we’re here to make sure you find it.

*Our legal team has implored me to be clear about this, so pay attention. My money-back offer is limited to your featured post fees, and not for the work itself. Getting great work results is what our market-leading “Online Work System” is all about - helping guide you though the entire work engagement, enabling you to release payment using Elance Escrow only when you’re satisfied with the results you receive.

The Next Generation Of The Workroom

The Workroom is without a doubt one of the most important and fundamental components of the Elance Work System. It presents an intuitive platform for Service Providers and Employers to work together securely while allowing effective and efficient collaboration online.

Over the course of the past several weeks, we have been hard at work developing a completely revitalized version of the Workroom that will bring an unprecedented level of real-time communication to the world of online work. This one is a big one – we’ve got a lot to cover. Here’s what in store:

  1. Streamlined Process To Send Private Messages. Private Messages have always been one of the key communication channels for Providers and Employers. We’ve now simplified the interface of the Message Board, added an automatically resizing text box for lengthy text messages, upgraded the message filter by allowing filtering by dates or user, and added the ability to attach code samples, files and URLs within the message. Also, you’re now able to view thumbnails of images from within the message itself, and you can also quickly see the number of unread messages or alerts in the navigation menu.

  2. Easier File Sharing. Getting online work done simply could not happen without the creation, sharing, and distribution of digital files, and we here at Elance recognize that. You’re now able to share files up to 50MB each in size, and you’re able to store an unlimited amount of total data on your account. (However, there is a 500MB-per-Workroom limit.) We’ve also added the ability to upload files in parallel, automatic file version control, a new “gallery” view to view your image files, and the option to refer to files stored in the Workroom – so you don’t have to upload your files again.

Nine New Skill Tests Now On Elance

We're continuously expanding our database of Skill Tests here at Elance, and the month of May is no different. We’ve just added nine new Skill Tests to our database (see all available Skill Tests here) covering many of our categories, and they’re just itching to be taken. Here’s what’s new:

New Tests
Adobe Illustrator CS4
Academic Writing (U.S. Version)
DotNet 3.5 using C#
Dreamweaver CS4
eBay Web Services
Event Planning
GAAP – Generally Accepted Accounting Principles
Market Research
View All

Following hot on the heels of Adobe Photoshop CS4 are two other members of Adobe’s Creative Suite posse. Illustrator CS4, the super-popular vector-based drawing application, adds a good number of new features, including a blob brush tool, transparency in gradients, elliptical gradients, multiple artboards, in-panel-appearance editing, multipage output, and more. Dreamweaver CS4 offers a good number of upgrades, including a live view mode, a new user interface, a “related files and code” navigator, and tons of other features to aid in your web programming.

Even Letterman Knows Where To Find The Best Talent: Everywhere

Seriously, who isn't on the outsourcing bandwagon these days? A recent news story about late-night host David Letterman popped up regarding his and many others' venture into the world of outsourcing. According to the LA Times, Letterman has been asking freelance writers to send jokes his way, and if it makes it on the air, you cash out an easy $75-100 dollars. From the LA Times (via WalletPop):

Reporting from Los Angeles and New York -- "Beautiful day in New York City," David Letterman mused on the "Late Show" recently. "Am I right about that? A gorgeous day. It was so nice today that AIG gave a bonus to Al Roker." That joke, part of Letterman's March 17 monologue, wasn't penned by the late-night host or one of the dozen writers on his staff. It was written by Phil Johnson, a freelance writer and Web developer, sitting at home in Boston. Johnson says he has gotten more than 160 of his jokes on the "Late Show With David Letterman" and, before that, "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno."

There's always a rhyme to my reason, and with this, the reason why this article caught my attention (and why I am subsequently now passing it on to you) is this:

5 Easy Ways To Improve Your Search Rankings

Search engine optimization continues to be one of the most crucial methods of generating direct traffic and increasing your websites monetization. However, SEO isn't something you can just pick up and master overnight — it's probably best to leave it up to the search engine pros. However, there are quick and easy ways to improve your search ranking from dead last to back in the pack. Alex McArthur, Vice President of Search Strategies at OrangeSoda, outlines five tried and true ways of pulling in more Web traffic.

Getting your website listed in Google, Yahoo and MSN isn’t a mystical process that should be left to the geeks, techies or the pimple-faced kid down the street. For most small business owners, getting ranked simply comes down to ensuring you’ve done the basics. While this isn’t intended to be the end all, be all of Search Engine Optimization, we find that you’ll get the biggest bang for your buck with the following 5 things:

1. Make sure your ‘Title’ tags are related to the content of the site.
Huh, title tag? What’s that? Well in a nutshell, your title tag is a line of HTML code that specifies the title of an individual webpage. If you look in the upper left hand corner of your browser and in the first line of an individual search result, you’ll see the product of a title tag. Specifically, a title tag in HTML looks like this:

<title> San Jose Plumbing | Clean Plumbers, Inc </title>

Most search experts agree that having correct title tags is one of the top three factors that determine where a search engine will rank you. Where many people fail with their title tags is they use the same text for every page on their and they fail to properly describe the page with their title tags. Imagine going to a book store and picking a book up off the shelf with the title “True Spy Stories of the Cold War”. However, to your surprise, inside the book is a steamy romance. You, the reader, would want your money back. So spend a minute and look at the title tags of every page on your site and see if you have accurately described the page with your title tags. A good title tag will include the keyword you are trying to rank that page for, and don’t forget to add your company’s name as I’ve done in the example above. Be aware — brevity is a virtue; Google and the rest will truncate your title tags after 65 characters including spaces.

May Elance Online Work Index: Cash Is King

The market does not lie. Let the record show that in May 2009, the Elance Online Work Index* confirms what all business people already know: Cash is indeed King.

This month’s Elance Online Work Index, a leading indicator on business hiring trends, highlights today’s most topical business imperatives of driving revenue, gaining IT efficiencies, cranking out great content, and diving into social media. Here’s what’s on the mind of business leaders all over:

  • “Show Me the Money.” Getting expert help to drive revenue is hotter than ever with demand for skills in Sales (#11) rising 10 spots, Marketing Strategy (#19) up 12 places, Internet Marketing (#23) up four and demand for PayPal (#24) skills moving up five rungs.

  • "How’s My LAMP Stack?” For three months running, PHP (#1) and MySQL (#2) continue to dominate the list as the most sought after skills in the market with no signs of being dethroned. Businesses continue to look to online experts to save cash by hiring IT expertise in open source (Linux, Ruby on Rails, Joomla, WordPress, osCommerce) and other leading technologies (AJAX, Javascript, ASP.NET, XML).

Write, Direct, And Film The Next UGC Masterpiece With MOFILM And Elance

The world of film is constantly evolving, and thanks to nearly-ubiquitous broadband access, it isn’t just for the creative elite anymore. In the age of powerful, humorous, and emotionally gripping user-generated content, there’s a filmmaker in all of us, even if you’re capturing your child’s first steps and sharing it with family online or writing, producing, and directing your own in-depth documentary.

MOFILM, myself, and some of the most recognizable brands in the world are partnering together to invite you, members of the huge creative and innovative talent pool of providers here
on Elance, to try and become the next influential director in this new age of UGC.

The brands, 12 in total, include Best Buy, Doritos, Kodak, HP, and AT&T, and they’re in the hunt for creative minds to give innovative and fresh perspectives on their favorite brands. The 12 best videos will be awarded with prizes worth over $100,000, and the top three will be given an all-expenses-paid trip to the Cannes Advertising Festival in Cannes, France to see their work on display.

I’ll be judging the competition along with four leading marketing professionals from around the world, and the winner of the competition will walk away with €12,000 and an apprenticeship with me to study film. The contest runs until June 8, 2009, so get your creative juices flowing, fire up your camera, and show the world what kind of talent Elance has got.

For more information, terms and conditions, and the full list of brands, visit the MOFILM website.