Let’s all raise our leaded crystal champagne flutes and toast to the winner of Elance’s contest for the best new startup idea, Next Glass.
Next Glass’ ingenious startup idea involves changing how we all talk about, recommend and eventually purchase (ca-ching!) wines. Kurt Taylor and the team at Next Glass have some wonderful thoughts on how to thrive in a huge and growing market “ripe” for disruption.
The North Carolina-based startup plans to roll-out a free mobile app, which allows customers and wineries to share a subjective “universal language” when describing wines (don’t worry, it’s cooler than it sounds in a blog post). And as the winner of our Bold Idea Pitch Completion, they’ll get to the corner wine market sooner -- given their First Place price of $5,000 in Elance credits. The top award also means Kurt gets to pitch Next Glass to two Elance investors and venture capitalists, Paul Hsiao from NEA and Dan Marriott from Stripes Group.
Check out a video of their winning pitch to our panel of esteemed judges. You’ll also see the presentations of all 6 Finalists in our contests, including Second Place winner Maximillian Lekhtman of Raisera and Third Place winner Patrick Chu of 99 Composers. Maximillian earns $2,500 in Elance credits while Patrick earns $1,000. Our Fourth through Tenth Place winners each won $500 in Elance credits too. It will be interesting to see how these aspiring startups use their Elance credits to hire freelancers to fuel their great ideas.
Well done one and all. Thanks again to the 200+ entrepreneurs who submitted video pitches to our competition, plus everyone who voted for the Finalists. Keep dreaming up those great ideas as we’ll have more fun competitions in the near future. And if you need inspiration and tips be sure to check out Elance’s Startup Toolkit.
Thinking of venturing into the world of entrepreneurs? Perhaps beginning your own startup? Or are you an established company who wants to retool and grow like a startup? We say, “Go for it.” The time is right as markets are shifting quickly and the world is ripe for fresh new thinking.
If you’re unsure about throwing your hat in the ring, the first hurdle to overcome is fear of the great unknown. Sure there are a lot of “doom and gloom” forecasts out there for startups and companies branching into new areas, but the simple truth is if you have a good idea, great execution (and some top freelancers to lend a hand), success awaits you.
Our brand-spanking-new Startup Toolkit is designed to help you progress from the initial stages of a startup to a full-fledged business. You’ll find lots of articles and resources geared towards helping you get off the ground floor and ramp up. Or if you’ve already launched your startup there’s also a plethora of information sure to provide you with valuable insights and guidance.
But if you’re new to the startup world, a great place to start is the Startup Toolkit’s article: Eight Common Myths to Building Your Startup. Seasoned entrepreneurs know that how startups are portrayed in the media is much different than reality. Check out the article to learn about misconceptions that may be holding you back, including myths about your startup idea, skills needed, funding and more.
While you’re there, browse around Elance’s Startup Toolkit for other articles and tools. And bookmark the site and come back often, as we’ll be adding new content often to further broaden the resources of your “go-to” spot for startup and fast-track growth information.
Thanks to everyone who submitted entries in Elance’s Bold Idea Pitch Competition. And ditto to the thousands and thousands who voted for our contest’s Finalists. Read more about the competition, including our First Place prize of $5,000 in Elance credit and a meeting with two Elance investors/venture capitalists.
In a nutshell, hundreds of aspiring startups submitted their video pitches – each outlining a great idea for a startup. Then thousands of people went online and voted for their favorite ideas.
The polls are now closed and we’ve tallied the results. Later this week our six Finalists will each have five minutes to present their idea to our panel of esteemed judges, live via Google+ Hangouts. The judges will then announce the First, Second and Third Place winners (each earning Elance credit to fuel their ideas) -- plus the First Place winner also earns an online meeting with top VCs Paul Hsiao and Dan Marriott.
Quick, spread the word. Elance is making it easier than ever for clients and freelancers to communicate with each other en masse.
Now you can quickly and easily send a single message to Folders in your My Elance page. The message can be sent to one Folder, to select Folders, or even to all of your Folders at once.
Previously, the Broadcast Message feature could only be used to send the same message to multiple jobs in My Elance. With this update you can make quick work of communicating with an even larger group of Elancers.
This is great for letting teams know anything from upcoming vacation dates to personnel changes and updates on the schedule of a project. Here’s how to use the enhanced Broadcast Message feature:
1. Select more than one job or Folder by selecting the check boxes on the left 2. Click on the "Broadcast Message" button in the panel 3. Type your message and click "Send"
Elance is making it easier for freelancers to narrow down job options and find perfect opportunities.
In doing so, we’re excited to announce that the Preferred Candidate Location is now listed in your job search results. Plus you now have the option to use a new filter: Job Location. Here are some brief details on each.
Now see the client’s Preferred Candidate Location in your job search results.
You don’t have to click into a job post to see if a client prefers freelancers in your location. Simply browse results from your initial job search, and in the bottom right-hand corner of each listing you’ll see if the client has made a preference in their job post. This will save you time (and Connects?) as you’ll instantly know whether or not you match the preferred location.
New Job Location filter allows freelancers to search jobs by location.
Now freelancers have the option of narrowing the list of jobs they search for. This time-saving new filter lets you specify jobs by Region (such as Western Europe or Eastern Asia), Country, or a Specific Location (such as Sydney, Australia). For job searches in the United States you can further filter by State, City or even Zip Code.
The job search results will deliver results based on client’s preferred candidate location (which they can specify in their job post). If no preference has been selected in job posts, we’ll look at the client’s location as specified in their Elance account settings.
Be sure to check out these 2 new features.
We’re sure these new additions will make it easier to get the jobs you want. And rest assured we’ll keep working hard to make great things happen as you continue to Work Differently on Elance. So keep an eye out as we’ll be rolling out more and more new features to the Elance platform this summer and in the weeks and months to come. Enjoy.
Occasionally we invite professionals to wax poetic about issues of importance to Elance clients in general and startups in particular. Here are some thoughts from Nellie Akalp, a big Elance fan who also happens to be a successful entrepreneur and CEO of CorpNet.com.
As the summer heats up, vacation season kicks into full swing. Employees with office jobs enjoy all those traditional perks like paid vacation days, while time-pressed, cost-conscious startups, small business owners, and contractors are left wondering how to get that much needed time off without jeopardizing their business and clients.
However, small businesses, startups and entrepreneurs have one advantage, and that’s the ability to mix business and pleasure…at least when it comes to expensing parts of your summer travel. Here are some of the basics of what you need to know (but as with any general tax advice, it’s a good idea to discuss your specifics with a tax advisor):
1. The primary purpose needs to be business.
The IRS will let you deduct travel expenses if the primary purpose of the trip is for business. You can include a few days of fun in a business trip, but the majority of days must be for business activities. If not, you won’t be able to make any transportation deductions. So, if you have 3 days of client meetings (or a seminar) and 2 travel days, that counts as 5 business days – meaning you’d most likely be able to tack on 4 days of vacation and still have it count as a business trip.
2. What can you deduct?
In general, you’re able to deduct any transportation costs (plane tickets, taxis, airport parking, etc.) needed to get you to your destination. And as a general rule of thumb for U.S. based companies and startups, you can deduct 100% of lodging, tips, car rentals, and 50% of your food for any of the business days. Refer to IRS Pub 463 for all the details on which expenses can be deducted.
3. Sandwich a weekend between business days.
Normally, you can only deduct your on-the-road expenses only during the business portion of a trip. So, if you attended a conference Monday-Wednesday and then spent Thursday and Friday sightseeing, you would not be able to deduct your expenses for Thursday and Friday. However, if you have a business day on Friday and Monday, you are able to deduct your hotel, meal, and other costs incurred over the weekend too.
4. Document your expenses and keep all lodging receipts!
You don’t have to worry about keeping a pocketful of receipts- the IRS doesn’t require receipts for a travel expense that’s under $75. The one exception is lodging; you’ll need a receipt for any lodging expense, no matter how much. Keep in mind that just because you don’t need a receipt, you still must keep a good record of each expense. Consider putting all expenses on a business credit card, so you have a single paper trail.
5. Make sure you set up your business appointments before you leave.
You can’t just take off on a vacation and hope to be able to talk ‘business’ on the plane or find a new customer lead in the hotel lobby. The IRS requires that you have at least one business appointment already scheduled before you leave (what they call “prior set business purpose”).
As with any tax strategy, the best way to avoid trouble is to be honest about your intentions, deduct only the expenses you’re entitled to, and then keep all supporting documentation to back up those deductions. We all know how hard you’re working, so see if it’s possible to follow the rules while expensing the transportation costs to enjoy a few days of relaxation at the beach.
Offering the team everything from work-at-home Wednesdays to weekly BUZZ social gatherings on each Thursday (and that’s just two of five days in our work week!), it’s no wonder Elance was voted among the best places to work in the San Francisco Bay Area.
It’s an incredible honor – especially here in the Silicon Valley where companies like Google and Facebook have set the gold standard for what a great working environment is all about.
Specifically, Elance was ranked #22 on the Bay Area News Group’s 2013 list of best small companies to work for (under 150 employees … whew, just squeezed in, but not for long as we’re hiring). The list was determined by thousands of employee surveys, and the rankings factored in a number of important workplace criteria – from compensation and benefits to community involvement, diversity, health & wellness and more.
But then again it’s easy to enjoy your job when you know you’re having such a positive impact on people’s lives, allowing them to Work Differently and have more rewarding lives and livelihood. In fact if you browse through a recently-released Annual Impact Report on Elance, it’s pretty amazing the wonderful influence we’re able to make on people’s lives on a global scale.
If you want to join the team, or know someone who wants to help us change how the world works, check out our careers page to learn more about job openings.
Occasionally we invite professionals to wax poetic about issues of importance to Elancers. Here are some thoughts from Pat Flynn, a big Elance fan who also happens to be a successful entrepreneur, thought leader and author of the book Let Go.
Today marks the 5-year anniversary of my being laid off in 2008, a day that (at the time) was the lowest point of my life. But after discovering online business, being let go turned out to be a blessing in disguise, and the luckiest thing that has ever happened to me. I have so many people to thank for all that's happened since then, including amazing freelancers. Without them, all of this may have never come true.
It all started when I lost my dream job as an architect. Architecture was my passion and area of study in school. In many ways, I'm still in the architecture business, only this time I'm not creating physical experiences but digital ones. Thanks to social media, podcasts, blogs, and other forms of online engagement, I've been able to build an environment where we can learn from each other about online marketing, small business entrepreneurship, and audience building, all with great transparency, honesty, and humility. I'm so grateful for this opportunity to teach and give back so that others may achieve the same levels of happiness and financial freedom as I have.
My LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) AP exam blog was my saving grace when I was let go. I created the blog to keep my study notes organized as I prepared to test for the certification exam, one of the toughest in the industry. My blog became wildly popular, which still blows my mind because I wasn't even trying to build an audience at the time. My blog simply had really great content that other architects found valuable.
In the weeks leading up to my last day, I took a risk on myself by creating my first digital product, an advanced guide to the LEED AP exam. I published it on my blog where it instantly sold like wildfire. In the days that followed, two truths became self-evident:
Wow, I just became an entrepreneur!
Whoa, I'm going to need help!
I needed help first with creating the audio version of my study guide. Here's the thing: At first, I was reluctant to hire any freelancers. I knew I needed the help, but I enjoy being hands on and have high standards. So I was anxious. But you have to step into the unknown to experience personal growth. So I posted an opportunity on Elance for someone to do the voice over reading of my guide. This was in December 2008.
Bids started coming in between $800-$1500. I was shocked. I'd never paid that much money for anything besides rent in my life, especially for something that I could possibly do on my own. So I tried, but it was a massive failure. My voice was terrible, the audio quality sucked, and I got frustrated trying to edit it all together.
But to make sure YOU have plenty of time to get your startup idea entered, we’ve extended the deadline for video submissions to Wednesday, June 19 at noon (PDT).
In case you missed our earlier blog post or Elance Facebook page announcement, our Bold Idea Pitch Competition is your chance to pitch your startup idea and win one of 10 startup-friendly prizes. First Place alone includes $5,000 in Elance credits plus an online meeting with two Elance investors/venture capitalists.
Summer’s here (at least in many places), and the living is easy.
For a majority of people in the business world, that means a relaxing week or two at the beach, camping among the redwoods, or maybe a trip back to the old country. But it’s not true for everyone.
If you’re a nose-to-the-grindstone startup or owner of a small business, chances are you’re saddled with too much to do, not enough hands on deck, and zero wiggle room for a well-deserved vacation.
Fortunately help is near, in the form of online freelancers from Elance. And right now many startups and small businesses who hire on Elance are telling us that Hourly Jobs are the preferred way to go as both summer projects and summer get-aways heat up.
Why Hourly Jobs make sense this summer.
Flexibility. With you and your team being in-and-out of the office all summer, Hourly Jobs allow you to scale up or down at a moment’s notice. If you’re planning on tackling a project yourself but the lure of the sea is too strong, go. Within minutes you can hand the job over to a skilled Elancer and it will continue as if you’re there.
Get started ASAP. With Hourly Jobs there’s no need to finalize all details at the onset. You simply outline the project and approve a certain number of hours. By the time the hours are up, you will have had plenty of time to better assess the situation. From there you can extend the job or whatever makes most sense.
From anywhere, view real-time screenshot of work in progress. You want to spend your vacation gazing at the rising tide, not your laptop. But it’s good to know that at any time you can login to Elance and see how the project is advancing. It’s all part of Work View’s Tracker tool for Hourly Jobs.
What skills are in most demand this summer?
While talking to startups and small business, we’re noticing that this summer the STEM skills (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) are in hot demand. This includes web programmers and mobile app developers. We’re also seeing a spike in demand for video production and photography, as startups and small businesses look to promote their wares through YouTube commercials and product tours.
But whatever job you have looming, rest assured there are teams of Elancers ready and willing to lend a hand this summer. Post your job and take the first step to a fun vacation away from the office.