Elance Blog

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6 Tips For A Fun And Productive Summer

For much of the world, summer is officially here. Woo hoo!  Hire a freelancer and relax

Which means it’s time to grab your sunscreen and hit the road for a much-deserved summer break. Whether it’s that white sand beach, a cultural hub, your dear ol’ hometown or wherever you go to unwind, the great news is that you can now enjoy a wonderful getaway without the guilt trip.

How? Simply hire freelancers to work on your business while you relax.

You’ll get some great “me” time in, while keeping the ball rolling workwise. Ditto for filling in for your staff, as team members head off to points unknown for the summer. To fill the gaps just hire teams or individual freelancers to tackle projects while they’re out.

Here are our 6 top tips for a productive and relaxing summer:

1. Attract new customers via your blog or website.

Build momentum while you’re out by enticing new customers to come check out your business. Hire a content writer on Elance to create articles for your blog or website. You’ll be catching rays while new customers are introduced to your business through engaging content.

2. Get fresh eyeballs on your enticing new content.

Hire an SEO expert to assess whether that new web content is earning you love from Google and other search engines. A freelancer will make sure your posts rise to the top of search results when potential customers are surfing for information.

3. Keep the home fires burning.

As well as enticing new visitors to your website, summer is also a good time to make sure existing customers are having a positive experience. To this end, hire a customer service specialist to offer technical support and take incoming orders. Your freelancer can also schedule meetings so you can hit the ground running when you’re back from that getaway.

4. While you’re mobile, think mobile.

Your summer escape is also be a great time to hire a mobile app developer. An impressive mobile site will modernize your business and help you attract active and tech-savvy clients. For more help, view our tips on creating a mobile app with no prior experience.

5. Prepare for your well-rested return.

While an endless summer may sound inviting, the truth is that you’ll be back to work in no time. Hire a marketing research professional to assess your margins, analyze competitors and pricing, sharpen your differentiators, or suggest fruitful avenues for expansion.

6. Bring in admin support to keep you focused.

Once you’re rested and recharged, you may find yourself ready to pack more into your day. Hire a virtual assistant to help you manage operational tasks, or to keep your calendar organized. This allows you to focus on critical strategy and razor-sharp execution.

So pass the sunscreen. But don’t pass on the opportunity to keep your business growing all summer long (or all winter long, if you’re in the southern hemisphere). Go ahead and take that much-needed trip, and keep the work flowing by hiring freelancers to build on your strengths.

Rest assured you’re in good hands, as a world of talented freelancers are ready to lend a hand. Have a great summer and bon voyage!

How Elance-oDesk Helped Build One Of The Most Popular Personal Finance Blogs

Hey everyone, Joshua Rodriguez here again. I’ve got some great news to start with. I’m going to begin contributing stories here on a regular basis now. This week, I had a unique opportunity to have a chat with Jeremy Biberdorf from Modest Money. In that conversation, I learned quite a bit about his blog, and what helped him to go from concept to completed vision!

Before We Talk About What Made His Blog Successful, Let’s Look At Some Stats:

According to Alexa Traffic Stats, Modest Money is currently ranked as the 22,165th most popular website in the world and continues to grow steadily. Although that rank may seem pretty low, considering that the Internet is an amazingly big place with billions of websites, that’s actually a remarkable number for a blog to achieve. Jeremy’s domain is highly trusted no matter what metric you look at, and as a result, he receives about 19,000 visitors per month! So, here’s how the conversation went.

Me: Why did you start Modest Money?

Jeremy: Since I have an IT and SEO career background, it makes a lot of sense for me to work on various side projects.  If someone could make extra money while sitting at their computer, I'm sure most people would.  Previously I had created websites in various niches which earned money via referral commission.  Basically I'd get money if I sent traffic to another website and it leads to a sale.  That was all going great, but then Google started to shift their 'rules' from what had previously been acceptable. In an effort to combat that I decided to create a blog since that seemed to be the most effective platform with the current SEO landscape.  Two years later and it was definitely a smart move.  The blog has earned me a fair bit of money and still has a lot of untapped potential.

Me: How long did it take to become overwhelmed?

Jeremy: Well 'luckily' for me I was unemployed and single when I started my blog.  So I was able to put in long hours every single day.  Even without other commitments that started to get overwhelming within the first few months.  At the time I was waking up at 6AM to comment on blogs right when they published their posts.  There was just so much involved between managing my blog, writing, marketing, social media and networking.  It was a wonder how some people managed to do all of this on top of having a full time job and a family.

Me: Did you try to hire local contractors?

Jeremy: To be honest, no I've never hired anyone locally.  At one of my previous jobs my boss had encouraged me use online freelancers.  With affordable wages in other countries, it made a lot of sense to use them for some tasks.  Hiring someone online for small tasks was just a much easier process than doing local interviews and weeding through full resumes and cover letters.  Plus by opening up my search to an international audience I could find much more specialized employees.

Analysts See Jump in Big Businesses Hiring Online

A recent study by Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA) reveals that mid-market and enterprise companies are turning to online freelance teams at record pace.Hiring online freelance teams

Centered around research conducted by the SIA team, the article reports that 10% of firms now employing a contingent workforce plan on using online staffing in the next two years. This is a dramatic increase from last year’s SIA study, where similar estimates were at 3%.

SIA asked Jon Diller, our VP of Enterprise Solutions, for his take on the trends behind the uptick in online hiring.

He pointed to three key reasons for the increased adoption of online staffing by large companies:

1. Online work is the new norm.

“Contingent Workforce leaders are recognizing that online staffing is the new frontier for finding the talent their organizations need and accessing them on-demand,” Diller said.  “Almost half of the world’s population is now connected to the Internet. And the people with the latest skills have essentially grown up online. Many are freelancing online even before graduating from college. Working online is the new norm. And this new breed of talent is simply not accessible through traditional staffing channels.

2. The war for talent is becoming fiercer and leaders must find innovative ways to find the talent they need—quickly.Elance-oDesk VP Jon Diller

“Beyond the ability to reach across the country or globe to find exactly the right skill at exactly the right time, the flexibility to ramp up and down as needed with a bench of pre-qualified professionals, coupled with the speed to value achievable through online staffing has captured the interest of these same leaders who must innovate just to keep pace with the changes around them. 

3. HR is realizing that independent contractors can no longer be managed like vendors.

“Our data also shows that contingent workforce leaders are increasingly dissatisfied with their current solutions for working with independent contractors. These individuals cannot be managed like vendors, nor can they be managed like FTEs. Online staffing platforms like the Private Talent Cloud™ provide the right solution to engage with this workforce efficiently and in compliance.”

For more info on the move to online staffing, check out the article: Online Staffing is the New Frontier: CW Managers’ Interest Rises Sharply.

 

5 Hacks To Help Digital Nomads Get Stuff Done

Jens Jakob Andersen is a Danish solopreneur travelling the world while working. For the last couple of years he has lived 6 months in Malaysia, 6 months in Spain, 6 months in Denmark, 3 months in Indonesia and 3 months in Eastern Africa. He is currently doing affiliate marketing at iloebesko.dk and selling skiing equipment at blacksnow.dk.

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The majority of people are fascinated when you tell them about your lifestyle as a digital nomad. Traveling the world while working does indeed sound exciting – and it is!

Working from whichever country you’d like dramatically increases your quality of life, and at the same time leads to the hockey stick effect on your disposable income. Who would not enjoy that lifestyle?

People actually do live this dream. Crossing one border after another and still having a high income is indeed catching people’s attention. If you go for it (please do), you will meet some challenges when it comes to getting stuff done. This includes challenges I myself had, and struggled with for a long time. All challenges do have solutions though.

5 hacks that will help you get stuff done while traveling.

You will find undreamed numbers of books and concepts about efficiency. Inbox zero, priority lists, time tracking tools, mobile efficiency apps, etc. But if you do not have the right conditions to get stuff done, none of the above will do you any good. The foundation must be at balance.

To me, the biggest challenge is always to find the best possible conditions for work without spending too much time researching where to go.

I love the idea of working from a different café each and every day, but to be honest, this is overrated. Do it for 14 days and you will get tired before even asking for the WiFi-password.

Here are my five suggestions for you to consider.

1.     Do not work when conditions are not good

2.     When you work, work

3.     Travel slow

4.     Buy a laptop with a card add on feature

5.     Work only at offices

Here we go.

1. Do not work when conditions are not good.

I think a common pitfall is to work when you do not have the right conditions for doing work. Sitting in the backseat in a 4WD Land Rover with a USB 3G internet connection on dirt roads in Kenya is simply not worth it.

Also less extreme cases are not worth it. It is a romantic belief that spending one hour in a café to get stuff done is an efficient way of working. I love the idea of walking into a Starbucks, ordering a coffee, looking and enjoying the surroundings and then working with the silent lounge music and small talking in the background. Though the truth is, you will get next to nothing done.

2. When you work, work.

Get real work done when you decide to work. Schedule working hours to be sure you focus 100% on the necessary tasks to grow your business. If traveling and working at the same time, you do need to get stuff done while working. Do not spend time checking flights, tours and social activities in the area you are.

If you travel with others, it is crucial telling them (and making sure they understand) that when you work, you work. I have personally experienced this as one of the major challenges.

Combined Data From Elance And oDesk Enriches New Online Work Reports

Our latest Global Online Work Report and U.S. Online Work Report are each out now, which is news in itself.

But what makes these reports even more newsworthy is, they’re the first to include the combined data of both Elance and oDesk. The significance of this fact was not lost on analysts and journalists who closely follow online work (and rely on Elance-oDesk to be the industry bellwether), including Andrew Karpie of Staffing Industry Analysts.

In a recent article Mr. Karpie notes that the powerful new consolidation brings even greater insights to our collective understanding of online work today and in the future. In his post he points out that the reports “draw from the (combined) Elance-oDesk data warehouse, which contains the world’s largest and most comprehensive set of data available regarding independent work happing (online).”

He went on to further explain the significance of the combined reports:

There were quite a number of interesting data points in this new combined data set. One was a revelation that the current annualized run-rate of Elance-oDesk gross spend/freelancer earnings of $940 million, which CEO Fabio Rosati mentioned in a briefing call, was fast moving toward $1 billion (at that level, Elance-oDesk would weigh in around the same size of the 35th largest global staffing firm — and growing much more rapidly). In addition, there was truly revealing data, such as there now being 2 million U.S.-based freelancers registered on Elance-oDesk (with 248,000 new US workers registering January through May 2014).  The report also pinpoints the natural—and ever more rapid — ebb and flow of different skills in demand:  Demand for Data Science, Internet Security, and Android App Development is growing noticeably, while demand for Facebook Development, Ajax Programming, and Joomla! Development is noticeably falling off.

And so, while these published reports reveal some interesting data points, they also reveal — like the tip of an iceberg — the enormous data resources and insights that online staffing platforms make possible. 

Here at Elance-oDesk we’re excited to now bring additional insight to online work. This will allow our many communities greater understanding of the market. This is especially true for freelancers who can visit our Trends section to see what skills are in demand, so they can adapt, remain relevant and grow their careers.

Elance-oDesk CEO Fabio Rosati also expressed his commitment to providing this increasingly valuable information to our communities. "Never before have we enjoyed such visibility into work — from the number and nature of jobs, to demand for skills, to where and how the work gets done," he said. "We live in a connected age when millions of businesses and professionals can collaborate with anyone with unprecedented ease. Together with our customers, we are re-imagining where, when and how work gets done."

For a few highlights from our online work reports (which cover data from January through May of 2014), you can also check out this quick recap.

The Slow Demise Of Email: How To Benefit From Changes In Remote Communications

Occasionally we invite Elance-oDesk clients to discuss issues of importance to businesses and freelancers who work in our marketplaces.  Here are some thoughts from Tobias Schelle, a Danish entrepreneur who’s the Founder and CEO of 24slides.com.

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There is enormous value in taking advantage of talent outside your geographical area.

Companies who understand how to utilize the best skilled freelancers, regardless of their location, will win in the long run. But it requires a big change in how we communicate.

Unfortunately, 99% of us (including myself) have been trained to use email regardless of what we want to communicate about. It’s an ingrained habit that is so hard to change because everyone else is doing it. I’m not against email as a tool, but I’m against how it’s being used. Sure, email is great for the initial contact, simple discussions, report and notifications.

Yet, imagine a world where it is as normal to talk to someone from Vietnam or Ukraine as to the guy next to you in the office. It’s a world with no language barriers nor cultural misunderstandings. This is the future. It’s when technology enables us to imitate real-life face-to-face communications.

On a short term, it might be the phone on your desk that shows a 3D version of the person you’re speaking with from Spain. In the long run, it might be you inviting someone into your virtual 3D office. It would be like meeting in person. Wearing your virtual glasses, you’ll have full information and background of the person you’re speaking to.

Today’s technology is moving much faster than our adaption to it. The first step is to start using what’s tried, tested, and immediately available now.

The Remote Communication Ladder

I’ve created what I call, The Remote Communication Ladder. It’s not the future of communications, but it’s a snapshot of the technology we have at hand right now and their effectiveness (time/value ratio) for communication about tasks and projects.

Video call

This is currently the closest we get to real-life communication. It’s effective because it also allows non-verbal communication. Things that would otherwise be hard to explain such as feelings or intentions are possible. Small talk which contributes to a strong relationship is possible as well.

7 Financial Tips for Millennials Who Freelance

Occasionally we invite professionals to wax poetic about issues of importance to freelancers on Elance. Here are some thoughts from entrepreneur Eric Riley.

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According to a poll conducted by the Kauffman Foundation, 54% of millennials either want to start a business or have already done so. But it takes a lot of courage to delve into entrepreneurship, especially if you're recently out of college or new to the workplace. And though there are many benefits to being a freelancer, maintaining a healthy budget on a fluctuating income isn't always easy. To lessen the inevitable stress and shore up your chances of success, it's essential to make your personal finances a priority.

1. Set Aside Savings First
Have you ever heard the term, "pay yourself first?" It refers to the act of setting aside money for savings each month prior to outlaying cash on anything else. Not only does this practice provide you with a steadily growing nest egg, but it gives you a better idea of what you can reasonably spend each month.

Consider setting up an automatic transfer from your main bank account to a separate one at the beginning of each month, or set up an IRA with an automatic contribution. Don't wait to see what you have at the end of the month to save - make your savings a priority.

2. Use a Personal Budget
Most people don't like to budget, but to effectively manage their finances, millennial freelancers don't have a choice. Given the fluctuating nature of monthly income, the only way to stay in the black is to carefully monitor what's coming in and going out. There are lots of free budgeting websites, such as BudgetSimple, Mint, and BudgetPulse, so choose one and start tracking your finances.

And don't forget, U.S.-based freelancers are responsible for paying quarterly taxes. Use IRS Form 1040-ES to estimate how much you'll owe, and set money aside accordingly.

3. Save on Monthly Bills
It's important to develop a spirit of frugality as a millennial freelancer. This doesn't mean you can't buy the things you want, assuming you can pay for them, but it does mean always being on the lookout for ways to save. For instance, if you rarely watch TV, cut back on your cable TV package by dropping down one tier on your channel lineup. Or similarly, look into switching your smartphone data plan to something more affordable - according to BillShrink, many households pay for as much as 8GB of data each month, but use only 25% of that.

The possibilities for cutting back are practically endless. Little things, such as adjusting your thermostat to attack your home energy bills, or clipping coupons to save on groceries, can go a long way toward ongoing financial health.

How Elance-oDesk Helped Me Start and Grow A Successful Business

Ah, the 9 to 5 grind … how I don’t miss it at all. My name is Joshua Rodriguez, I’m the owner and founder of a personal finance blog, freelance writing agency, and marketing firm. However, it wasn’t long ago that I was going to work, punching a clock, living on a schedule I was forced to live on, and loving it because I felt like I had no other choice.

Why I Decided I Wanted To Start A Business

About 5 months 7 months ago was my 3 year anniversary at a relatively small marketing firm. When I first got hired, I absolutely loved it. They didn’t force me to sign a non-compete agreement, I was open to be creative, and the team was awesome. Unfortunately, over time I realized that my bosses weren’t the people I thought they were. After about a year, I went from jumping out of bed and showing up to work 30 minutes early with a smile on my face to hitting the snooze button so much I made it to work just in time to button up the last button on my shirt.

To put it simply, I absolutely HATED MY JOB! Unfortunately, like most people, I had very little in savings, no fall back plan, and I felt like I had to deal with the hand I was dealt. Fortunately enough, my desire to leave my job gave me the drive I needed to finally get up and start doing something more with my life.

That’s When My Business Was Born

About a year and six months into employment, I decided I would start a personal finance blog. I’m what most people would call a personal finance nerd crossed with a…well, I’m just a nerd. I like to write, I like tech, and I like what most people don’t, dealing with the challenges that come up financially.

At this point, I ran into a new problem. I had a blog, and I was writing pretty consistently, but that’s all I had the time to do. Because I was working 40 or more hours a week, I only had 10 to 20 hours that I could work on my blog each week.

As the manager of a marketing firm, I quickly realized that although I had time to come up with great topics, the knowledge to make my posts valuable, and the skill to write in a way that people would enjoy, I simply didn’t have the time to do any marketing for my blog. So, essentially I could build a Ferrari of a blog, but I had no time to put gas in its tank and make sure people saw it.

And So The Search For Help Begins

About 2 months into blogging, everything I had to do to build a following and maintain a quality blog became overwhelming. I considered quitting several times, but the urge to quit blogging didn’t surpass the urge to quit my day job. So, I stuck with it. I knew if I was going to keep blogging I needed help!

I started by putting an ad on Craigslist. The good news that came from the ad was that there were tons of people that wanted to work for me. The bad news was that few were qualified.

3 Vital Steps to Making More Money as a Freelancer

Obviously everybody wants to make more money. But how do you optimize your cash flow as a freelancer with limited working hours?

My companies hire freelancers regularly. When we’re deciding who to hire for a project, there are specific skills and qualities we look for.

I’ll describe them in some detail – and I recommend you incorporate them into what you do and how you present yourself as a freelancer. Do these and I’m certainly more likely to notice and hire you – and I’d be willing to bet others looking for good freelancers will, too. Here we go.

As CEO of accounting software provider Billy’s Billing, I’d like to give you three concrete, practical pieces of advice, aimed at increasing your freelance income. To put them most simply:

1.     Make smart working choices

2.     Build an effective profile

3.     Delivery what your clients want

Those might sound awfully obvious, but stay with me here. Let’s dig into them a bit.

1. Work Smart: Do What You Do Best

To optimize your freelancing efforts, stick with the kind of projects at which you excel.  You’re probably already a specialist in some area or other. Great. Build on that – become more and more expert in that area. The more specialized and proficient become, the greater value you offer and the more you can charge.

The market moves fast and more and more freelancers enter the scene all the time. Most newcomers try to get an edge into the market by dumping their prices – just as you probably did when you started out. Well, it works, so why not? But there will always be clients more focused on expertise than low price. So be the one with that expertise. Work toward being a specialist, not a generalist.

With the rise of sites like Elance, it’s become easier for clients like me to find competent freelancers. So your skill set and portfolio should make you standout in your chosen niche – an expert who can be counted on to turn over top-quality work, and well worth the higher fees you charge. Sure, you may have to take on some more general jobs as you build your expertise and portfolio in your area of focus. Bills do have to be paid, after all. But be diligent in cultivating that niche and before too long you’ll be a recognized, sought-after, well-paid specialist.

2. Don’t Just Tell It – SHOW It

Every time we post a new job on Elance, we’re looking for people with strong portfolios. This is often the factor that decides whether or not we go forward with a new freelancer.  

How To Start A Business Without A Product

Occasionally we invite Elance-oDesk clients to discuss issues of importance to businesses who working in our marketplaces.  Here are some thoughts from Yaro Starak, an Australian-based businessperson and blogger who runs Entrepreneurs-Journey.com (among other ventures).

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"What do you want to be when you grow up?"

My answer as a child was "banker", but that's only because I liked winning all the money in the game monopoly. As I became a teenager and entered university I still didn't have a good answer to the "what do you want to do?" question.

However I did know one thing - I did NOT want a job.

I was absolutely adamant that going to some place from nine-to-five each day, working to earn a linear wage, was not for me. My only real goal was to figure out a way to avoid full time employment and preferably make enough money to live off, and have plenty of spare time to do other things.

Odd Jobs And Odd Businesses

During and after university I made a living working casual jobs and starting internet businesses.

At one stage I made money offering web design and hosting. Later I had a little e-commerce website selling a collectible card game called "Magic: The Gathering". Finally after playing around with all kinds of ideas, I started a business that made enough money to live off. 

I read a book called the "Perfect Store", which outlined the story of how eBay started. I liked the book because it talked about a business model called "many-to-many". This means it has many suppliers (people selling things) and many customers (people buying things), and makes a profit connecting the two groups. The many-to-many model can scale rapidly because there are no constraints on supply or customers - each can expand organically to meet demand. Elance-oDesk is another brilliant example of the many-to-many model, connecting contractors with customers.

I wanted to do something similar.

My business started as a language translation and proofreading service. I planned to hire contractors as the work came in, so first I built the website and made the services available for sale. When a customer came through with a job request, I would take the details and go to outsourcing sites to find people to give me a quote to do the work. I would grab the best quote, tag on an extra fee usually about 50%, which I would keep, and then gave that as the quote to my client.

I later refined the service to focus on essay and thesis editing and proofreading for university students only. I also hired regular contractors who became part of the editing team.

The Final Step: True Freedom

My business was easy to run, but there was one problem - I was glued to my email all day. I had to constantly check the inbox to make sure I did not miss any jobs that came through with tight deadlines. I didn't have to work many hours to keep the business going, but I did have to stay close to an internet connection all the time. This made it difficult when traveling or if I just felt like having a weekend off.

To solve this problem I hired one more contractor - a person who took over the email customer service. I hired a work-at-home-mum on a contract basis, who managed all the emails between editors and clients. This left one or two hours work per week at most for me to do on the business.

I created a true lifestyle business that made money without me doing much more than a few hours a week.

Although I later sold that business, I have since never had a full time job. My original goal to avoid employment is still in place today. Thanks to the internet anyone can start a business and tap into outsourcing marketplaces like Elance-oDesk to deliver products and services.

You can even start something based just on an idea. Offer your concept for sale, and once you get a customer, go find the contractors to deliver. This is the best way to learn if your business idea will work.

Good luck!

 

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