Elance was excited to sponsor a blog writing competition in South Africa, along with co-working space The Common Room. Bloggers from across the region competed for prizes and bragging rights, waxing poetic on a choice of topics from life as a digital nomad and reinventing work to achieving happiness as a freelancer. Below is the winning post, from Edward Chamberlain-Bell. Enjoy these words of wisdom.
Mankind has gone full circle from a nomadic existence to a digital experience.
Nothing defines our existence better than our activity on social media platforms, where we share everything from the mundane to the sublime with family, friends, fans, followers and cyberstalkers. We know who had burnt toast for breakfast in Peru, and we also know who is nursing a hangover in Afghanistan. Sometimes we know too much about people we don’t even know when we should be sharing those experiences with the people who are closest to us. Preferably something more substantial than burnt toast and hangovers.
Even the Bible refers to principals and principalities, but these are gradually being eroded as the digital revolution is rapidly becoming a digital revelation. The new god is not an almighty spirit in the sky, it’s wi-fi. Potential employers will scrutinise your online behaviour before offering you a job, future lovers will hunt you down and compare your previous partners, and it’s even possible that your parents are more inclined to believe what you post on Facebook before believing what you say. Perception is no longer based upon the truth, but how your life has become a digitalised representation of everything you share online.
Our economies are no longer based on gold but little bytes of zeros and ones forming a binary code of valuable information. Banks are more likely to trade your personal details than keep your money safe. We are more likely to burn plastic than ask for a cash discount. It’s no longer a cliché to tell a beggar or homeless person that we don’t carry cash because who has cash when companies stopped paying salaries in favour of the ever-efficient EFT.
As our world evolves, especially post-Web 2.0, survival of the fittest will determine how mankind survives the digital evolution. As children we were told that to get ahead in the world we needed to know how to read and write. Typing has replaced writing while search engine optimisation skills have replaced reading. Great writers would write for the love of expressing themselves eloquently through words. Today, we are more concerned if Google will like it.
This is not a criticism, just an observation, because once we embrace the existence of becoming digital nomads, it becomes quite liberating. Yes, we would all like to believe that one man can save the world or end global hunger simply by planting a trees, but the truth is that person is probably not going to be you or me. If it was going to be that easy, then why not all of us plant trees together? If we truly believed planting trees would become the almighty band-aid that could preserve our existence we’d be getting to know the names of our neighbors at weekly tree planting ceremonies. Ironically, as our cities become more densely populated, people are becoming increasingly more isolated. How many people know the names of their neighbours, or even the names of their neighbour’s children that their children play with? Oh right, they don’t.
We’ve become digital nomads in a world where our interconnectivity is defined by our broadband, and not by the people we connect with. There is still that human drive for human contact, which explains why we’re connecting through chat rooms, forums, blogs and social media platforms. We don’t write letters, we email. We don’t visit family, we Skype. And, we don’t stop to consider what is the next step in our digital evolution even though it has already happened. And, some people need to put down their pencils and stop swinging from trees to appreciate that unless they’ve upskilled themselves to function online they will face a life as redundant as an organ grinder selling pencils along the side of a road.
Commercially, the advantage of embracing a digitally nomadic lifestyle is that you are no longer bound by location, nationality or currency. You don’t even need a computer anymore because with any laptop, tablet or smartphone, your business can be transacting in twenty-four time zones a day while simultaneously earning multiple foreign currencies- while you are sipping Pina Coladas on an island resort somewhere that the NSA doesn’t even know about. When we were kids we’d mention how we enjoyed going to the beach to surf while becoming a digital nomad allows you to add that you enjoy surfing the internet while at the beach.
If you’ve never heard of the term ‘Digital Nomad’ you should Google it. It’s not a change to be feared but one to be embraced. You’re probably already more of a digital nomad than you think.
Here’s another post from our roving reporter, Joshua Rodriguez.
Last weekend, I decided to take my fiancé out for a night downtown. It was an amazing night that included 3-D glow in the dark put-put golf, an arcade, and a nice meal. While we were walking downtown we were thinking of where we were going to eat. We walked past a few food carts and one of them really caught our eye.
It was called Love & Whiskey. We stopped in and although the owners were there, the cart hadn’t officially opened yet. We had a great conversation with the owners and they agreed to do an interview with me on their opening day. So, today we’re going to talk about the inspiration behind Love & Whiskey, the journey it took for their food cart to come alive, and how one Elance contractor played a major role in their branding. Here’s how the interview went.
I started out with the classic question, “Why did you decide to open a food cart instead of a brick and mortar location?” The answer really caught me off guard. I assumed that it would be associated with how much a brick and mortar restaurant costs to start. Instead, Brandon, the owner explained that “since it’s a small operation, we have the ability to put a lot more love into our food. We’d also like to get a mobile catering business going one day; so, we figured a food cart would be a perfect first step!”
The birth of a wonderful business (and more)
After that question, we chatted for a little while and I learned that the lady by his side in the cart wasn’t just a co-worker, she was his wife. Brandon and Jadie met in culinary school, and it was there where they fell in love and started to come up with big plans for their future. Today, they’re married and have a 6 month old baby girl. Throughout the last several years, Brandon had worked as a cook at several different restaurants. However, there came a point where he realized that holding his day job as a cook took far too much time away from his family. So, his dream became to open a business he could call his own in order to provide for his family while still being able to be part of their lives.
At one point in the conversation, I asked him what his signature dish was. He replied with “All of them”. He went on to explain that everything he makes is made with love and made in house. Brandon and Jadie even cure the bacon, pickle the red onion, and make the sauces all on their own! He also told me that they make it a point to reach for perfection in all of the dishes they create. So, they are all equally perfect!
Then again he’s the chef, he’s going to say that right? Well guess what…I got to try some of the food! During our visit, Jadie started us off with a fish taco. It was made with a corn tortilla, fresh snapper, Napa cabbage slaw, mango habanero pico de gallo, pickled red onion and more! I’ve got to say, it was absolutely amazing! Next, Jadie served me a fresh Frisco Burger. It was a fresh burger topped with fried jalapeno, Tillamook cheddar, chipotle ole, house sauce, tomato, and butter sauce. The burger was also absolutely amazing!
The Elance connection
After the food, one of my favorite questions came up. “Have you ever heard of Elance?” Brandon’s eyes lit up as he told me that he wanted to make sure that the branding for his food cart was done perfectly. He wasn’t sure who to hire or what to do when it came time to have his logo designed. So, he went on an online search. That’s where he found Elance. An Elance contractor helped him through the process of designing the simple, yet perfect logo; and he plans to reach out to Elance contractors for future design or development jobs!
To keep up with the theme of Love & Whiskey, I decided to bring a gift when I went to meet him. To ring in our new found friendship, I brought along a small bottle of Jameson Irish Whiskey. I offered a toast and Brandon and Jadie were happy to oblige.
After the toast, I asked the final question…”So what is the idea behind love and whiskey?” In the smiley, fun manner he generally responded to questions with, he said “Mostly because it took a lot of love and whisky over the last couple of years to get here!” and let off a chuckle. He went on to explain …”Me and my wife are a team that runs off of love. We also like to incorporate a lot of whiskey and bourbon into our food. The name just seemed to fit!”
After meeting Brandon and Jadie, I can honestly say it was a pleasure getting the opportunity to get to know them. With bubbly, fun loving personalities, amazing recipes, and signs of love everywhere (even on their door into their kitchen), I’m sure they’re going to go far! It was nice to see Brandon’s face when he was talking about having the ability to spend time with his family; as well as watch how well Jadie and Brandon worked together from behind the scenes (The interview was at 12:30pm on Wednesday in Downtown Portland, OR). I also think that it was awesome that an Elance contractor helped them come up with a logo design that worked well for them. I wish them all the best!
The business world is buying into online work, literally putting their money where the best talent is more accessible today — online. Elance-oDesk is the only online business—and the first ever—to be included in the annual listing of the top U.S. staffing firms by Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA).
Ranked 29 out of 124 companies listed, Elance-oDesk’s position is remarkable not only because of the innovation in staffing it indicates, but also because it already outranks 75 percent of the traditional firms.
“Staffing Industry Analysts changed its 2014 U.S. staffing and talent engagement market share report to include online staffing companies. Based on revenue managed through their system, Elance-oDesk is the U.S. market leader in the online staffing category,” stated Timothy Landhuis, senior research analyst.
According to SIA, companies spent $1.3 billion on online staffing last year. Elance-oDesk accounted for more than half of that at $750 million.
Online work lets businesses find talent when they need it, hire on demand and work directly with these professionals—a change from traditional staffing firms, which act as intermediaries between organizations and the freelancers they want to engage.
This gives businesses of all sizes control and flexibility. SIA predicts the online staffing industry could grow to $47 billion by 2020.
This shift is making it faster and easier for businesses to hire for the skills they need, when they need them, while freeing professionals to work anytime, from anywhere.
“An average job on our platform fills within three days and about a quarter of jobs fill in 24 hours or less,” said Jon Diller, VP of Enterprise Solutions at Elance-oDesk. “Our customers are delighted by this efficiency because it helps them get to work faster.”
Occasionally we invite Elance-oDesk clients and freelancers to discuss issues of importance to our community. Here are some thoughts from Sarah-Elizabeth Ratliff. As the owner of Coqui Prose Content Marketing,Sarah has been an Elancer since 2010. She’s also one of the founders of FreelancetoWin.com, a site dedicated to helping fellow Elancers succeed in the competitive online freelancing world.
When I registered with Elance in March 2010, my family and I were broke. I don’t mean broke like we still had our brownstone in Manhattan, but we may have had to sell the house in the Hamptons. And I don’t mean the kind of “dead broke” that gets journalists’ and political analysts’ tongues-a-wagging, either.
I’m talking about the kind of broke where we had $40 in our checking account, several mouths to feed and overdue bills to pay.
To suggest I needed to make money immediately is putting it mildly.
Because of this, I did as many do when they first discover the virtual world of connecting clients with freelancers: I bid on practically every job in the Writing & Translation category that I felt was even remotely a match with my expertise.
Tip: Under promise and over deliver.
I landed my first Elance job after five days on the platform. The job was to write three articles about baby cribs. It wasn’t particularly academic or even terribly exciting, but I still bid, and I won.
My motivation for how I delivered work wasn’t about getting repeat business or even receiving great feedback. It was about survival: getting paid, eating, paying a bill or two, and then moving on to the next job as quickly as possible.
Promising to deliver this client’s work within five days, I stayed up all night the day I won the job in order to learn as much as I could about baby cribs. The next day I crashed for about five hours and when I woke up, I wrote all three articles in under two hours.
I delivered the client’s work three days early.
Although I can still to this day remember his name (as I can with every client who’s hired me on Elance) and the amount I was paid, all I could think about was bidding on the next job so I could pay a few more bills. I almost didn’t notice he’d left me 5-star feedback. Why? Because I was too busy negotiating with my next client to realize he was pleased enough with the quality of my work.
This was my modus operandi for the first few weeks I was bidding, winning and completing jobs on Elance. Then one day I realized I’d paid off the backlog of bills and we had a little left over to splurge on a bottle of wine to go with our dinner. I had racked up several jobs, all with 5-star feedback.
I never drank the wine. I slept for two solid days.
Welcome to Advice From An Elancer – a place to ask your Elance questions (through Elance’s LinkedIn page) and get them answered as thoroughly and personally as possible. My name is Dorothy D. and I have worked with Elance as a freelancer since April 2009. I have always tried to help other Elancers understand how things work and how to accomplish more. In Advice From An Elancer I will address as many questions as I can each week. In some cases, questions have been edited for clarity.
How do you go about citing images that you use in your slides, and that require crediting the originator?
Advice from an Elancer:
If the image is clearly marked that it is free to use in the public domain, then no attribution is necessary. On websites such as Wikimedia Commons or Getty Images, the owner of the image indicates how they wish to be credited. Look for attribution information. Some require an embedded link in the photo and some require licensing information. Each website is different.
I just started a job with a client on Elance that has been difficult to reach and it has been slow getting enough information to actually make headway. I did some hourly work for her this past week so used the time tracker. I tried calling her and left voice messages, I messaged her in the workroom. I finished up some work, posted it to the workroom, sent her another email and finalized the invoice for the hours, which were less than the hours per week allowed. She then sent a note to me about wanting me to work for a fixed price and meet milestones. She is not releasing funds for my time. What should I do?
Advice from an Elancer:
If the current Terms say Hourly, then you will be paid for the hours you worked - since you used the tracker - whether she releases the funds or not. Her credit card is on file and you will be paid within 30 days.
If she wants to change to fixed price, have her list a new job for you. Read the terms carefully and make any changes to protect yourself. Do not do any work until both of you agree to terms. Use milestones and don't work on them until they are funded.
Lastly, if she is difficult ... do you really WANT to continue to work with her?
That’s enough for today. If you have questions or want to follow the conversation of other Elancers, visit the Discussion page of our LinkedIn page.
For much of the world, summer is officially here. Woo hoo!
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!
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.
A recent study by Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA) reveals that mid-market and enterprise companies are turning to online freelance teams at record pace.
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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.