Elance Blog

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5 + 1 Questions With Elance Staffer, Stephan Outrey.

1. What’s your job here at Elance?

 Answer: Originally from France, I am a software engineer at Elance in charge of the Trust and Reporting subdivision. This subdivision encompasses the famous MyStats feature. In case you didn’t know it, MyStats is used to analyze freelancers’ important data for computing their Elance level, points and ranks.

While working in close conjunction with our OPS team, I also laid the foundation for several improvements to our platform. Some examples are guaranteeing the timely processing and delivery of emails, the handling and scheduling of recurring payments and the constant updating of user content.  In addition, I assist the Customer Service team to promptly handle user requests.

2. What do you like most about working at Elance?

 Answer:  I definitely most like Elance’s global impact. Our platform simply empowers people. On one hand, an individual with a great start-up idea does not need to know how to design, how to program, how to advertise or how to place cold calls! Our platform will simply present the best candidates possible in order to bring his or her idea to life and to allow it to finally succeed.  

On the other hand, the technological exodus has already started.  More and more jobs are moving online; thus, the physical presence of employees is less pertinent. Most of the time you simply need to have an internet connection, in order to be hired and to be paid on our platform. Your skills are valuable and will make a difference on our platform.  

3. How do you Work Differently?

Answer:  Despite my long commute, I enjoy starting my day early while the office is still quiet. It is a great way to take a fresh look at the purpose of my job and to contemplate how I can improve things. Carpooling is ideal for me to meet new people and to get home early on a regular basis.    

4. What songs are now on heavy rotation as you’re working-away?

 Answer: I let Huka, our African Grey parrot, decide on our playlists. He takes pleasure in imitating my voice.  He then impersonates me to my lovely wife, who is the love of his heart, too. To answer your question, I like to hum and sing a mixture of French and English electronica music. Electronica is the music computers would sing if they could.  

5. When you’re not working, what do you enjoy doing?

Answer:  California is practically ideal for me! I hike at the Pinnacles, in Yosemite and in redwood forests. I like spending time on the beach with my wife picnicking at dusk. Watching sea otters, sea lions and seals in the Monterey Bay is pretty fun, too! I enjoy visiting art galleries, especially when my wife is one of the featured artists. I love to taste wine in local wineries and to improve my pallet. However, I do miss French food. If it weren’t for my wife’s delectable cooking, I probably would not have stayed in the U.S.    

6. (Bonus question!) OK, ask yourself anything. No subject is off the table.

My question: What is little known about you and where you came from?

Answer: I grew up in the Jura Mountains near the Alps in France on a dairy farm. Our milk is used to make the delicious Comté cheese. My home village has only seventy inhabitants, yet it is populated with almost one thousand cows. Nozeroy, where I attended grade school, is the smallest city in France. A few kilometers away lies the coldest city in France, Mouthe, otherwise known as “little Siberia”. I grew up cross-country skiing and even competed at the national level for a time.

Our region is famous historically for the industrialization of eyeglasses in Morez. Also, Louis Pasteur and his family were native to the area. I am proud to share roots with Pasteur whose unprecedented breakthroughs in medicine, science and technology are still widely known and in use today.

I studied at Iowa State University where the Atanasoff–Berry Computer was the first electronic, digital, computing device. Algorithms were my favorite subject to study. Throughout college, I dreamt of working in Silicon Valley. Now, here at Elance, I am sure that we are certainly writing history by transforming the lives of millions of people around the globe.

A Tip Of Our Cap To Military Personnel and Veterans.

Here in America today is Veteran’s Day, celebrated from coast to coast with parades and other emotional congregations.

But far from limited to merely in the U.S., “Veteran’s Day” is celebrated globally (with different names on different days and in different ways). But in all locations each holiday has a similar ring to it: Thanking military personal for serving the people. And an amazing job the world’s military is doing in this regard.

A case in point is the global military personnel in the Philippines, now helping those in need as the country tries to cope with the devastation left in the wake of Super Typhoon Haiyan. It’s a tough road to hoe and the world’s military has always tackled the job with courage and compassion.

And as their time in uniform winds down and they leave the military, here at Elance we’re finding more and more that military personnel are turning to a life of entrepreneurism. From working freelance jobs to starting their own businesses, veterans are finding that Elance is a great career option.

We’re proud to note that freelancing has always been a positive job path for military veterans, who here in the U.S. have traditionally had a higher unemployment rate than others. According to the Bureau of Labor Static’s recent release, military veterans between the ages of 18-24 have a 20.4% unemployment rate. That’s more than 5% higher than others in the same category. Also of note is that military personnel often have difficulty adjusting from the public to private sector. A recent survey by the Center for a New American Security (CNAC) found that 60% of veterans reported that translating their military service into the civilian market was difficult.

This seems odd, since veterans have such extreme skills garnered for their military service – from leadership to technical adeptness. Here at Elance we’re proud of the many veterans who freelance in our marketplace and we invite you to seek them out for projects when you hire freelancers. They’ll often mention their military experience in resumes and when discussing work experience. Look for them on your next project. And be sure to thank them for making the world a better and safer place for us all.

Our Thoughts Go Out To Everyone In The Philippines.

As Super Typhoon Haiyan leaves a wide path of destruction across the central Philippines, our thoughts are with everyone in the area now struggling during this difficult time.Elance Philippines Country Manager  Ron Cirujano

With winds gusts of 235 mph (380 kph), it’s no surprise that the media is reporting how this may well be the strongest storm in recorded history. Naturally there are several members of the Elance community who are now unable to communicate with the rest of the world. With no power, no internet access and limited cellular service, these freelancers and clients are also unable to work.

We’re keeping up-to-date on developing news via Ron Cirujano, our Elance Country Manager in the Philippines. We’ll be sure to update you with any important developments that we gather from Ron.

Note to all freelancers in the Philippines: As soon as you’re able, please contact your clients directly to keep them updated on your current situation. If there is anything we can do to help accelerate your recovery, please let us know.

Note to all Elance clients with freelancers in the Philippines: Due to the widespread damage, expect disruption in communications with your freelancers. On behalf of those who are affected we request your patience during this difficult time. If you are experiencing significant delays in your job, please contact us and we’ll help in any way possible.

Thanks to everyone for your understanding.

Taking Stock In Twitter’s Global Impact.

Congratulations to the team at Twitter for 1.) creating a wonderfully-powerful product that helps people around the globe, and 2.) for a successful launch into the private sector.

It’s no small feat to create a true game-changer that’s impacting the lives of so many people, in so many ways. That’s our goal at Elance as well, and we understand the challenges Twitter faces (as well as the rewards of a job well done).

Here at Elance it’s amazing to see how Twitter usage has changed and surged among our community in the few short years we’ve shared space on the same planet. We’re closing in on 50,000 followers and growing at a 30% clip annually (to join the conversation look no further than @Elance or the hashtag #workdifferently).

Bravo Twitter, we’re proud of your success and wish you continued luck in the future.

Infographic on The Best (and Worst) Jobs.

Although we’re “people” persons here at Elance, we do relish digging into meaty statistics. In fact, we love it.

Which is why we couldn’t resist this far-reaching (and deep-scrolling) infographic from Elance fan Carolina Mesko and her team at Numbers Sleuth. They specialize in understanding and analyzing numbers and statistics (as their blog attests), and the infographic below reflects their findings on the Best and Worst Jobs.

While not all of the data is 100% reflective of the skilled professionals found in the Elance marketplace, there are some interesting takeaway. Enjoy!

Best and Worst Jobs Infographic

Free Guide: How To Hire A Developer.

Sure, if you have a really strong technical background (or have been around the block when it comes to programming projects), hiring a developer is simple. You know what’s needed for the job and how to hire a programmer with the perfect skills and experience. Done. Have a cup of coffee, then back to work doing your own job.

But for many of us, determining how to hire a coder can be problematic. If this includes you, the simple fact is that you’re probably not even sure where to begin? Especially given so many technical issues you have to consider. That’s why Elance has created a hiring resource center for answeriFree How To Hire A Developer Guideng your questions on hiring developers and helping you to more easily locate the ideal coder.

Begin by downloading a free guide: How To Hire A Developer.

Among the many resources you’ll find in our resource center is a valuable “how to” guide that outlines the strategies and tips for hiring a developer. Download your copy of How To Hire A Developer for advice that’s sure to save you time and money, plus help you get the job done right.

The comprehensive guide covers the entire process – from scoping your project to finding and hiring a programmer – including:

• What kind of developer you should hire (PHP developer, iPhone developer, etc.)

• Recruitment strategies

• Choosing the right candidate

• How Elance can help you succeed

Within the pages you’ll discover 5 winning strategies for every step you’ll go through when you hire a coder, whether you need to hire a mobile programmer, web developer or whatever. This includes eye-opening info such as the cost of a bad hire, top 10 mistakes often made when hiring a developer, good hires vs. bad hires and more.

You’ll also learn when hiring online freelancers make the most sense, and what advantages Elancers offer vs. full-time staff or offline hires. Topics covered include more easily surfacing the best talent through online feedback and ratings, faster time to completion, getting more from your budget, and higher quality of work through teams with specialized talent.

Plus the free guide is just one tool you’ll find in the resource center. There’s also a guide for hiring a mobile developer and guide for hiring an iPhone developer, as well as videos and webinars, white papers, related articles and other documents to help take the trial and error out of hiring a programmer. Get started by getting How To Hire A Developer.

Freelancers who want to drop a subtle hint (you?), may want to let potential clients know about this free guide too. It’s sure to give them food for thought on how you can help them grow their business.

We’ll also be creating more hiring guides and updating these guides. If you have suggestions on what you would like to see included in the guides, please let us know in the comments section below. Thanks!

Today’s hottest job skill? Translators.

The U.S. Department of Labor just released a list of the 15 fastest growing occupations in America, and topping the list is translators and interpreters.

According to the report, 25,000+ jobs will open up in these two related categories in the next 8 years. That’s a whopping 42% growth, and it doesn’t even include the military (which is even hungrier for translators). Those expected to hire bilingual workers include everyone from startups and Fortune 500 companies to all areas of the government – including state and local governments near you.

This is great news for Elancers, as there is an ample supply of translators in our growing marketplace. Right now there are nearly 290,000 translators on Elance, specializing in virtually every language on earth. Businesses looking to hire a translator for their website, marketing materials or other projects can expect a plethora of skilled talent available to help them expand into fruitful new global markets.

A recent article on CNN Money notes that the majority of translation jobs are now going to freelancers. This is no surprise to businesses that use Elancers for their translation, including Irene Jaindi of Austria-based I & S Translation. She uses a host of Elancers to meet the needs of her clients around the world. See her story.

Naturally translation job opportunities continue to increase on Elance, which is great news for the many freelancers in our marketplace with bilingual skills. This includes Maria Andrade who is based in Mexico, and has created a successful and blossoming career as a Spanish-English translator. Check out her story too.

Guest Post: Owning The Transaction -- Why Professional Services Marketplaces Need To Think Like SAAS Businesses.

Occasionally we invite professionals to wax poetic about issues of importance to the Elance community. Here are some thoughts from Sangeet Paul Choudary, Singapore-based author of the blog Platform Thinking.

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Marketplaces are difficult businesses to get off the ground. A marketplace without buyers cannot attract sellers and vice versa. In fact, the infamy of this proverbial chicken and egg problem detracts entrepreneurs from the challenges that a marketplace presents after it has successfully gained adoption and is successfully matching buyers with sellers. After all, marketplaces for products, like Ebay and Etsy seem to have it all working for them once they gain adoption.  

Why the eBay of remote services behaves differently

Services marketplaces, however, present a unique challenge. Most services marketplaces cannot facilitate a transaction before the buyer and seller agree on the terms of the service. Also, actual exchange of money often follows the delivery of the service and the delivery of the service requires the buyer and seller to directly interact with each other. Connecting buyers and sellers directly before facilitating the transaction cut weakens a marketplace's ability to capture value. The party that is charged is naturally motivated to abandon the platform and conduct the transaction off-platform. 

Marketplaces that fail to capture the transaction often resort to a lead generation, paid placement or subscription-based revenue model. The classifieds model has traditionally worked on paid placement. Dating websites and B2B marketplaces work on a subscription-based model while several financial comparison engines work on a lead generation model. However, lead generation models are attractive only at very high levels of activity and subscription-based revenue models make the chicken and egg problem worse than it already is. If your monetization model involves extracting a cut from the buyer-seller transaction, you need to figure out a way to own the transaction. 

Solving the buyer decision-making problem

Services marketplaces like Fiverr, Groupon and Airbnb try to solve this problem by preventing the users from directly connecting before the actual transaction. These marketplaces typically try to provide all the information that a buyer needs to make a transaction decision. Groupon features services from sellers that are largely standardized. While less standardized, Airbnb and Fiverr try to provide enough information for the buyers to make a decision without having to contact the seller. 

Additionally, some marketplaces charge the buyer ahead of the transaction and remit money to the service provider after the provision of services, thus providing some insurance to the buyer, encouraging her to transact.

The two-pronged challenge of professional services marketplaces

Unfortunately, the above strategies fail with professional services marketplaces for two reasons.

First, it is much easier to take the transaction off-platform in the case of marketplaces connecting professionals. Freelancer marketplaces like Elance or expert marketplaces like Clarity are particularly prone to off-platform transactions for two reasons:

a) Clients need to know information about service providers before making a transaction decision

b) Once the end users know each other, they can potentially connect directly on LinkedIn or other networks, thus avoiding the platform cut

Second, professional services marketplaces require discussions, exchanges and workflow management during the provision of services before the actual charge can be levied. As a result, charging the buyer ahead of the transaction is all the more complicated.

So how do professional services marketplaces own and retain the transaction? 

To own the transaction, professional services marketplaces need to think like SAAS businesses!

This may sound counter-intuitive. After all, a marketplace's goal is to connect the two sides, complete the transaction and get out of the way, isn't it? 

Clarity's early success illustrates that a marketplace's role may be a lot more than just connecting buyers to sellers. Clarity connects advice seekers with experts. Traditionally, such marketplaces would connect the two sides, charge a lead generation fee and allow them to transact off-platform. Clarity provides additional call management and invoicing capabilities that serve to capture the transaction on the platform. Since the call management software manages per-minute billing, advice seekers have the option to opt out of a call that isn't proving too useful. For the experts, the integrated payments and invoicing provides additional value. There is enough value for both sides to prevent them from leaving the platform to avoid the cut. 

Clarity is one of many examples of platforms which are using workflow management solutions to capture the transaction. Services marketplaces like Elance focus on providing work-tracking and billing solutions that provide value to both sides and capture the transaction on-platform.

When marketplaces behave like SAAS businesses, the following design principles are commonly observed:

1. The SAAS workflow tools should create additional value for both sides, not just for one. This prevents either side from abandoning the platform for the transaction.

2. The SAAS tools should remove frictions in the interaction. 

3. The interaction management tools should feedback into some form of on-platform reputation. Reputation is an added source of value that ensures stickiness to the platform. Clarity calls are followed by a request for rating the other side. Over time, the rating increases discoverability of an expert on the platform and acts as social proof for further callers. 

The added benefit of engagement and stickiness

Workflow and interaction management tools also help make the platform more sticky. The traditional marketplace model has a very transactional use case. There is no need for a user to return often to such a marketplace. Users turn up only when they're looking for something specific. With workflow management tools, the post-matching interactions are also captured on the platform, which encourages users to return often and to actively use the platform. 

Secondly, a marketplace is only as good as the liquidity of available suppliers. As a result, there is no real need for a buyer to stick to a particular marketplace, transaction after transaction, especially if two or more competing marketplaces have similar liquidity and choice. Workflow management solutions help create stickiness because the requirement of on boarding on and learning new workflow management tools acts as a greater barrier to switch and can potentially keep users loyal to a particular marketplace. 

The SAAS-first marketplace

In recent times, we have been seeing the model flipped. Businesses are now building SAAS workflow solutions first to get entrenched among the demand side and then opening out the marketplace, to get suppliers in. An invoicing service spreads out to become a B2B order management platform. A payroll software provider expands to append a marketplace that can bring in freelancers which are then managed using the same payroll software. This also solves the chicken and egg problem by staging the launch of the marketplace. 

Summary

In general, if you run a marketplace that requires services to be exchanged remotely, provisioning workflow management solutions to facilitate this exchange is a great way to own the transaction and create greater engagement and stickiness for users.

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About the Author: Sangeet Paul Choudary is the author of the blog Platform Thinking. Follow him at @sanguit.

Introducing Free Online Courses and Skills Tests: The All-New Fast Track To Top Jobs And Improved Hiring.

We’re excited to launch an all-new collection of free online courses and skill testing.

For the first time Elance is truly connecting all the dots between online education and jobs. The result is the ability, from a single location, for Elancers to see what skills are in demand, build skills, verify and promote those skills, and ultimately get hired.

To help make this possible Elance has partnered with two of the industry’s fastest rising stars: SkilledUp and Smarterer. See Press Release.

SkilledUp makes learning and honing skills simple.

By partnering with SkilledUp, Elancers now have access to 22,000+ online video courses delivering the skills businesses are looking for. Over 6,000 of these online training courses are available for free on Elance. If you’re not yet familiar with SkilledUp, they’re at the forefront in the world of online curriculum, making the learning experience better, more practical and a lot of fun.

This includes access to curriculum covering some 500 different skill areas. Courses are available for high-demand areas from PHP, iOS and Ruby on Rails to Photoshop, CSS, WordPress, Final Cut Pro and more. And not merely quick one-off classes (although you’ll find those too), many courses are college-level curriculum taught by renowned university professors.

Check out online courses available now at Elance University. We’ll also be adding more courses in the weeks to come (both free and paid), so check back often.

Smarterer redefines testing and promoting skills.

By partnering with Smarterer, Elancers now gain newfound ability to verify talents. The free skills tests on Smarterer are quick and fun. Smarterer’s assessments leverage adaptive scoring and crowdsourced test design, adding greater efficiency and accuracy in testing.

Test your skills now, as we’re currently offering over 100 free skills tests (with more coming in the immediate future). FYI, tests labeled “New” are Smarterer tests. Smarterer skill testing is an ideal vehicle for confirming your know-how and promoting your expertise to potential clients on Elance. Similarly, businesses looking for top talent can continue to see test results in freelancer’s profiles, giving businesses confidence in an Elancer’s abilities.

For all Elancers who have taken skills test previously on Elance, rest assured that your existing test results will still be available to clients. As you take similar tests on Smarterer, these tests will replace your previous scores to show your new, more-relevant scores. Learn more about how previous test results will be converted to Smarterer.

It all adds up to a complete picture for great talent.

Elance is proud to be the one online workplace connecting all the dots for freelancers and businesses alike, and we’re glad to make this investment. Also check out a recent TechCrunch article on our new launch with SkilledUp and Smarterer. And thank you for continuing to create great work on Elance.

 

5 Reasons The Government Needs to Start Acknowledging Freelancers.

Elance Vice President of Operations Elizabeth Tse recently contributed the following article to the Huffington Post. To view the original article, visit the Huffington Post Blog.

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Though the monthly employment report is widely considered to contain the most significant economic data the government publishes, the payrolls report is missing an important, growing segment of the labor market: independent freelance workers.

Nearly one of every three American workers is a freelancer or fractional worker. These 42 million individuals are designing our nation's logos, landscaping its yards, programming its computer algorithms and walking its restless dogs. But while they contribute to our GDP just as full-time employees do these workers have been overlooked by the federal government's statisticians.

Why should the BLS bother with freelancers? Here are five reasons that tracking and reporting their numbers can lead to positive action and genuine change throughout the country.

1) We need data that accurately reflects our era.

BLS methodology is behind the times. The agency continues to dust off worker surveys originally administered under Franklin D. Roosevelt--surveys that contain conspicuously dated questions and misleading prompts such as "did you work last week?". As Sara Horowitz, founder and executive director of Freelancers Union, recently pointed out in an interview for PBS, "There's a whole workforce out there that doesn't fit easily into that box. For many freelancers, full-time employment is really a series of short-term gigs and projects."

With 40 percent of all U.S. workers expected to be freelancers by 2020, it's clear that the BLS needs to break free of the assumption that the 40-hour workweek is the be-all, end-all of employment. Our workforce data should be capturing the cyclical trends that often impact freelancers, feast sometimes closely following famine for many.

2) We need a definition of livelihood that reflects our era.

Millennials make up over a third of our domestic workforce, and many are finding that a 9 to 5 employment culture doesn't jibe with their lifestyle. These young professionals are striking out on their own, setting their own hours and pay rates, and promoting their skills with entrepreneurial zeal. A recent Millennial Branding poll found that 45% of Millennials value flexibility over pay.

Freelance opportunities, of course, can often provide the best of both worlds -- but we won't know if Millennials and other groups are balancing their livelihoods and their ideals until we start asking them. By updating its surveys, the BLS can start to delve into the values that are driving these massive labor market shifts.

3) The economic growth freelancers have led could inspire much-needed confidence in the U.S. economy.

Total freelancer earnings have increased 69% in the last year for U.S.-based workers, according to Elance's recently released Employment Report for September 2013. Hourly wages climbed 5%--which is ten times more than the national average as quoted by the BLS. Given the immense influence that the monthly BLS jobs report has on economists and investors, it's not much of a stretch to say that more inclusive numbers could be more encouraging numbers.

4) We need to promote the opportunity that the freelance market represents to workers.

Over 50,000 new freelance jobs were created in the last month, according to Elance's September Employment Report. None of them were counted in the BLS report released on Tuesday.

Though it's not the government's fashion to partner with the private sector in compiling economic data, if the BLS were to join with online job marketplaces to regularly measure freelance employment, it would foster more respect and visibility for the independent workforce. This could encourage more job seekers to find opportunity by exploring freelancing. In fact, some of the biggest increases in freelance hiring are currently occurring in states with high unemployment rates. The rate of freelancing hiring in Nevada, for example, which has the highest state unemployment rate in the country, has more than doubled over the last year.

5) Recognizing freelancers will encourage entrepreneurial attitudes among American workers and allow them to take more control over their professional lives.

There's a strong bias toward W-2 form-reported labor in the U.S. that runs all the way up to Capitol Hill, which left over 800,000 civil servants furloughed without pay during the government shutdown. The powerlessness of the federal employees provided an apt illustration of how traditional employers don't always prioritize their workers' best interests. When a government or company temporarily closes its doors for whatever reason, the employees are left to fend for themselves.

If the BLS were to acknowledge the freelance market, it would be subtly promoting a rising trend toward worker independence. The new world of work rewards entrepreneurial thinking. Quantifying the growing success that freelancers are enjoying will show that earning and spending through fiscal and policy-making crises is possible -- especially for workers who have control over their careers.

Many people across the country eagerly anticipate the BLS jobs data every month. Investors view them as a gauge of economic performance; lawmakers look to these numbers for policy guidance; and citizens find encouragement or disappointment in the employment opportunities they tally.

A more accurate jobs report, one that includes freelancers, and that truly reflects the values of today's workforce, could positively influence millions of Americans. It could inform more educated economic decisions, encourage more workers to view themselves as entrepreneurs, and provide a much more nuanced snapshot of the state of labor in the U.S. By taking steps to recognize and promote these opportunities, the federal government can provide a fuller view of our nation's employment picture.

To view the original article by Elizabeth Tse, visit the Huffington Post Blog.

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