Occasionally we invite Elancers to discuss issues of importance to businesses and freelancers who use our online work marketplace. Here are some thoughts from Bas van de Haterd, who has just published a new book, (R)evolution of Work: Social Capital in Organizations.It's about a new mentality, social change, upcoming markets, sustainability and finding meaning in our work.
There is a revolution going on in the workplace. Of course, Elance users know this already. But recently mainstream media has been writing about it a lot. Oxford University, one of the most prestigious in the world, published a paper stating that 40% of all American jobs might disappear in the next 20 years or so.
This isn't really news for those following the revolution that's going on in the workspace. Many books have been published on this topic, including my own (note that Elance VP Kjetil Olsen wrote part of the preface). However, there is another, positive, side of the revolution as well.
My book, called (R)evolution of Work is now available in English. That's something pretty rare for a Dutch author. To give you some numbers, about 10% of all books published in the U.S. have a non-U.S. writer. This includes native English writers from the UK (like J.K. Rowling and Tolkien) and Australia. Translated books are rare, because most publishers don't even dare try.
Yet in this revolution in the workplace, having a book translated, is a lot more affordable and easier than it ever was. Writing about a revolution of the workplace, I of course use tools I write about in my book as well.
The cost of translating my own book was cut in half, because I used Elance.
Dutch, my native language and the language that the book was originally written in, isn't spoken much outside the Netherlands (except for a part of Belgium). Yet when I posted the translation job online I got offers from South Africa, Egypt and Morocco. All from Dutch individuals who had moved away. The editing was done by a native English speaker from the United States.
The publishing itself was done on Kindle. Amazon also offers this service, making it possible to write and publish a book without a publisher. This offers great opportunities for writers.
Part of this revolution in the workspace is the creation of opportunities. Without Elance my book would have never “left” the Netherlands. Translation and editing would have been too expensive and publishing impossible. Now it's available on Kindle for everyone to read.
Occasionally we invite clients to discuss issues of importance to freelancers who work on Elance. Here are some thoughts from Nikolaj Astrup Madsen, a Danish entrepreneur and creator of the popular Workaway Camp (which is a one week camp for entrepreneurs in a beautiful house in the mountains north of Barcelona). Check out how you can win a spot, including airfare.
There is a major trend towards working when and where you want to. I’m sure the internet and concepts like Elance are a big part of this trend. Nowadays it is possible to work within a niche, selling stuff online to the whole world just with a laptop.
In my eyes we are seeing a change of the perception of “success.” Normally success is defined by wealth, how far you can get in a big organization, etc. This trend is changing this, because it makes it possible for people to work and live like they truly want to. People living and working when and where they want to measure success in another way. They measure success in terms of knowledge, experience and most importantly happiness.
A lot of other articles describe why this is a cool and interesting way of life, so I am not going to dig deeper into that, but instead I am gonna give some concrete ideas and tips you can use, to make it easier to work and live wherever you like to.
I have gathered these experiences in around two years’ time. In that time I lived in Beijing, China for about a year and travelled a lot always with my laptop, working as a self-employed marketing consultant.
4 Tips on how to make it work.
Most self-employed people have some kind of customer contact. Most of the people I meet, whoworked remote had some kind of freelancing job, where they have to have contact to their customer.
Many customers would like to meet sometimes and many want to call you all the time. These kind of customers can be really difficult to work with when working remotely. I have been lucky to have customers that like the flexibility and email communication. I will always prefer these kinds of customers, because they are nice and easy to work with.
If you have some kind of freelancing job and you are thinking about doing it remotely, you might wonder how you can get your customers to agree to do it. Many people fear that they will lose customers.
I met a designer for an American newspaper in Beijing He had lived there for 5 years. He said that trust is the key to make it work. He asked his employer if they could just test it for some time and see how it went. The result was a cheaper employee (no office, lunch, etc.), and he was much more efficient because he worked when all the other employees were sleeping because of different time zones (which resulted in fewer emails, calls, etc.).
So if you need to convince a customer, show them that they can trust you. Try it for some time and show them even better results than before. Normally the fear of losing customers is not that relevant. Customers just want things done at a good price without too much trouble, so that is what you should give them!
1. Get an office abroad.
When I moved to Beijing with my girlfriend (who was going to there to study), I needed some kind of an office. I started out with working from home and coffee shops, but it can be pretty difficult to work in a Chinese coffee shop they can be pretty loud.
Instead, I did two things: I got a membership to Regus, which is a worldwide chain of offices. Normally, they are quite expensive, but they have a really nice concept called “Business Lounge”. All of their offices have these business lounges. It is just a kind small café where you can work with good Wi-Fi and free coffee.
Occasionally we invite clients to discuss issues of importance to businesses and freelancers who use Elance. Here are some thoughts from Adam Franklin is a social media speaker, author of Web Marketing That Works and co-founder of Australian marketing firm Bluewire Media.
The future of work is already here. With a laptop and WiFi connection, your location suddenly doesn’t matter at all. Companies like 37signals and WordPress.com have been paving the way and demonstrating that ‘work’ now exists outside of the office cubicles that many of my friends inhabit.
Over 5 years ago I chose to start working remotely. I moved to the Gold Coast from Brisbane, and weaned myself from five days in the Brisbane office down to three. Since that day in 2009, my team and I have been taking baby steps that free us from the confines of traditional office. At the same time websites like Elance have made it a cinch to source freelancers from an ever growing global talent pool.
My business partner and I have now built a great team of people who are located all over the world. After eight years of paying rent, we’ve also just moved out of our Brisbane office too. We are one hundred per cent remote and these days I choose to work from Bondi Beach in Australia.
The remote toolkit.
The internet of course makes this new life possible, and the toolkit we need is pretty straightforward.
Skype: for video and audio calls
Gmail: for email
Google Drive: for collaborating on documents
Dropbox: for sharing and backing up files
Basecamp: for project management
This is all it takes from a technology point, and the only paid product there is Basecamp and it is very affordable and free for 60 days.
As a business owner, having all of our team members on an ‘as-needed’ basis is amazing for cash flow and flexibility. A typical week in the life of managing a remote team looks like this for me.
Occasionally we invite clients to discuss issues of importance to those who engage freelancers on Elance. Here are some thoughts from Nicholas Wright. He frequently hires freelancers and is one of the founders of AppInstruct, an online Course that teaches people how to make an app utilizing the Elance platform.
In our last guest post, we looked at how you might set about starting to turn your idea for a new mobile app, into an app. Today we’ll discuss a hot topic in the relatively new discipline of startup science, which is having a growing impact on traditional management education, the ‘minimum viable product’, before looking at how that relates to current market expectations for mobile apps.
Since the first dotcom boom in the mid-nineties, technology changes have made launching new products dirt cheap, radically lowering the barrier to entry for new ideas and products. What once required months of planning, writing a detailed business plan, pre-funding in the tens, sometimes hundreds of millions of dollars, can now be achieved for thousands of dollars. This shift has seen new management practices exposed and adopted.
Possibly, the most significant enabler in all this, has been the growth in the volume of computing power and digital storage that is now available online. This was pioneered by Amazon Web Services (when one of their product managers suggested the business as a good way to use their excess capacity), which remains the largest ‘cloud’ provider, with a free basic package, which includes 750 hours of server time. Similar services are now offered by the likes of Microsoft (Azure), Google (App Engine) and, acquired by Facebook, mobile focused Parse.
What this means, is that when turning your idea into an app, you don’t need to invest thousands of dollars building your own, proprietary server systems to support your app. Rather, you can hook it up to one of these cloud providers, which then allow you to increase your bandwidth (usage) as you grow your user base and needs demands it. An example of a very high profile mobile app company which has done this successfully, is Snapchat, which launched and ran for about six months, before it raised its first round of outside funding. We’ll return to Snapchat later.
Returning to the management theory, there are two leading authorities, who developed different theories whilst actually being involved in the same startup. Steve Blank and Eric Ries were both involved in IMVU, which was an instant messaging firm, where Mr Blank was an investor and Mr Ries, the Chief Technology Officer. Their approaches differ, in that Mr Blank in his books ‘Four Steps to the Epiphany’ and the more recent ‘Startup Owner’s Manual’ favours an approach of ‘customer development’, of ‘getting out of the building’ to talk to as many potential customers as possible, to learn what it is they want.
Let’s be honest, startups aren’t just for seasoned entrepreneurs who are branching off from the business world. Millennials are also starting new companies, often while still in college (or earlier). Our friends at Degree Library have created a fun infographic on the topic. Enjoy.
Occasionally we invite clients in our marketplace to discuss issues of importance to freelancers who work on Elance. Here are some thoughts from Jessie Krieger. He is a best-selling author of Lifestyle Entrepreneur and creator of the Business In a Weekend. Learn more, and get a free copy of his book, at: www.BusinessInAWeekend.co
Over the last half decade I have hired Elancers for over 110 projects, including dozens of websites both for my own entrepreneurial pursuits, and those of my clients. Throughout those five years I have deduced a super easy way to save thousands of dollars building websites through Elance. It all revolves around a 3-step process that divides the work between designers and developers (as opposed to hiring one person or team to build the whole site).
You see, design work and development work (aka programming) are two totally different skills. Very rarely does one person posses a total fluency on both fronts. Rather, there is no shortage of incredible designers out there, just as there is no shortage of incredible developers out there. The trick is knowing how to break down your website needs into three discrete jobs. Let’s take a look:
Job #1 – Logo Design
Assuming you’re starting a new business or doing a redesign on your website, the first place to start is getting a great logo designed. Your logo encapsulates the look and feel of your business or brand and communicates what you’re all about to your customers. A great logo instantly builds credibility and immediately informs new visitors to your site how you can help them and what your value proposition is. And perhaps most importantly, a great logo embodies your brand’s design aesthetics can act as the “seed” from which your website design grows.
A great logo consists of a suggestive illustration, your business or brand’s name, and an informative tagline.
Here are some examples of logos I’ve had designed on Elance. Each one cost less than $100 to design including multiple initial design ideas and many rounds of revisions.
Takeaway: To start building your next great website, start by posting a Logo Design job on Elance and describe the look and feel you’re going for as well as provide some references to other logos whose style you like.
Job #2 – Homepage & Inner Page Template Design
Now that you’ve got a great looking logo, it’s time to put it to work! For your second job post a job titled something like “Homepage and Inner Page Design Template Needed for _________ Business” where you simply fill in what industry your business is in.
The specifics of this job should include two deliverables; a homepage design and a template for how the inner pages should look. When you post this job make sure to mention that you have a logo to share with the designer that they can use as a basis for the look and feel of the homepage and inner page. The inner page template simply describes the structure and layout that all pages inside your website will be based on.
The logic here is that by starting with a logo, you’ve defined the key graphical sensibilities that your website will be based on. Then by limiting your second job to just two designs, you keep costs under control and take advantage of what designers are great at – DESIGNING! This step in the process can cost as little as $200-$350, depending upon your requirements.
Takeaway: Provide the homepage and inner page design team with your logo and give them references to other sites you like, pointing out specific elements you like there (i.e., I love the menu bar on ABC.com and I love the right-hand sidebar on XYZ.com)
Job #3 – Technical Integration Specialist
Now it’s time to take these great designs and turn them into a fully functioning website. For this job you are hiring a programmer to take the designs you now have and do whatever coding work is necessary to get them published live on your domain.
This job is all about handing off the designs from Job #2, tell them what functionality you want such as a shopping cart and/or email capture forms and telling the developer/s to “take it across the finish line”. You want the final deliverable for this job to be your website published on your domain as a fully functioning website.
By splitting up the website development process into these three discrete steps you stand to save thousands of dollars as compared to the more traditional approach of hiring a team to “build your website”. Once again, this step in the process may only cost $200-$350 -- depending upon what you need.
Takeaway: Have designers deliver your homepage and inner page designs in HTML/CSS format, then hire a programmer to integrate all the functionality you need and publish the finished site live on your domain.
In conclusion: By separating the design process from the programming aspect of building websites you stand to save hundreds, or even thousands of dollars building your next website or launching your next online business. Bridge the designer-developer divide let Elancers focus on what they are best at, just like you’re focusing on what you’re best at by hiring great talent on Elance!
About the Author:
Jesse Krieger is the best selling author of Lifestyle Entrepreneur and creator of the Business In a Weekend.
Occasionally we invite clients to discuss issues of importance to freelancers who work on Elance. Here are some thoughts from Bjarne Viken. He frequently hires freelancers and is one of the founders of Digital Mined, a place many freelancers go to learn how to earn from clients.
As a freelancer it can be quite difficult to know why you did not get hired. What you possibly could have done different. Luckily, the mistakes most applicants make are easily understood and corrected. They generally tend to be around not understanding the hiring process and what employers are really after.
Also, simple marketing techniques to sell yourself effectively are often ignored by a lot of freelancers. Most clients are just interested in the best candidate for their job, and your job is to convince the client you are the obvious choice.
Here are some of the top mistakes I see freelancers make in their cover letters and profiles on Elance:
1. Sending generic cover letters.
90% of freelancers appear to be sending the same cover letter over and over again. It serves no purpose. As an employer, it gives me the impression that you don't care enough about my job to reply to what I asked for. It is better if you work out a routine for writing cover letters that will make clients want to hire you.
2. Not addressing everything in the brief.
Again a sign of bad communication and low level of professionalism. This is particularly bad when the brief lays out exactly what needs to be included in a cover letter. Some freelancers try to save themselves time by cutting and pasting single words from the brief into a generic cover letter. Very easy to spot and not impressive.
3. Thinking inside the brief.
Many freelancers seem to take the terms that are presented in freelance briefs for granted. On Elance, the budget options for fixed projects are often viewed as written in stone. It is OK to put in a higher bid than the given budget if you are able to argue it well, ask questions, or suggest variations to the brief. A client is willing to forget a lot if the client’s dealing with a freelancer that has clearly thought about the brief and what is needed.
4. Bad communication.
If you put in an application for a job on Elance, you should be prepared to reply within 24 hours. The faster the better. You should also be able to answer thoughtfully and clearly about what the client is asking for. If you don´t know, simply say that you will have to research that. Although clients want highly skilled staff, they don´t expect you to know everything and modesty can be a sign of integrity.
5. Incomplete profile.
When you apply on Elance, next to your cover letter is a picture and an opportunity to click on your profile to learn more about you. If you don't have a picture and lot of bits are missing, it is very likely that I will move on. The bits I will be looking at the most are your repeat percentage, portfolio, description, and any tests you have taken. In short, I want to check that you know your stuff.
6. Bad testimonials.
There are three types of bad testimonials; no feedback, polite feedback and outright negative feedback. No feedback could be an indication that the client does not want to risk getting a bad reputation by speaking their mind. Polite feedback is much the same and can be recognized by words like “good”, “OK” and by being more modest in the form. Instead you want “WOW” and “outstanding”.
7. Lacking attention to detail.
If the work you are applying to relates to language and you have spelling and grammar errors in your cover letter then you could easily strike out. The same goes with your profile. You are interpreted based on the way you present yourself. So your image should back up and be consistent with what you are trying to express.
If the list above discourages you, then just keep in mind that most freelancers lose jobs by not listening. As a client, I often go through hundreds of applications and usually 3-5 reply to what I ask for. If they are qualified, they usually get followed up on. At times, I will even ignore shortcomings in their profile if they just reply to what I ask for. This has also been confirmed by freelancers I have been in contact with through Digital Mined who have gone from no work to overload by simply listening.
Occasionally we invite our partners to discuss issues of importance to businesses who work on Elancers. Here are some thoughts from Eric Riley. He’s a small business owner and entrepreneur who is always looking to hire freelancers and make operations more efficient. He enjoys reading and writing about business marketing and finance.
The failure rate of startups (and small businesses in general) has been widely disputed over the years, but suffice it to say that the failure rate is rather high. Many of the reasons startups fail boil down to poor financial management, and in particular, the inability to save money. If you recently started your own venture, read on to learn how to cut costs and increase the likelihood of long-term success.
1. Convert Your Expertise Into Capital.
It's important to use everything at your disposal when it comes to reducing business overhead costs and your business acumen can really come in handy. If you're an accounting expert, don't contract your accounting out to a firm - take the time to do it yourself. Similarly, you could generate extra capital for your business by taking on side gigs to help other small businesses with tax preparation. If IT is your thing, offer to do some PC troubleshooting in exchange for services your business needs. To avail yourself of bartering opportunities, check out the websites BarterQuest and SwapRight.
2. Get Supplies at a Discount.
Whether you need general office supplies, such as writing utensils, printer paper, or Post-it Notes, or you need bigger items like office furniture, there are ways to find what you need for free or at a significant discount. For the bigger items, check Craigslist or Freecycle. For virtually all office supplies, sign up for the customer loyalty program at your preferred office supply retailer and look for items offered for free after a 100% cash back rewards program.
3. Fine Tune Your Marketing.
In the beginning, you may find yourself overemphasizing the importance of marketing. Advertising is essential, but it's not always a good idea to use expensive platforms to generate a buzz. Instead, start with social media marketing, and if you already have that going, expand your online efforts to new players like Google Plus and Instagram, rather than branching out to more expensive methods like billboards and radio spots. Monitor your results across different platforms to see what works, then adjust your strategy accordingly.
4. Shrewdly Negotiate Vendor Contracts.
Businesses were hit hard by the recession, just like consumers. With the economic recovery still underway, you may be able to secure excellent pricing from vendors hurting for business. Negotiate prices that are as low as possible for monthly services such as communications, janitorial, and pest control.
5. Limit Full-Time Staffing.
You can't do it all, but that doesn't mean you need to immediately hire a team of employees. Staffing costs are the greatest expense of any business, so it's important to make sure you don't hire full-time team members when you have better options. If you need help, but aren't quite ready to hire employees, consider hiring freelancers for projects.
Once you start saving money, consider where you should invest the surplus. Maybe it's time to contract out more services or pay down business debt. Or maybe you want to build up cash reserves. Whatever you decide, remember that cutting costs is every bit as important as investing in your business.
Occasionally we invite our partners to discuss issues of importance to businesses and freelancers who work on Elance. Below are some thoughts from Brad Zomick, Chief Content Officer at SkilledUp. Here at Elance we’re excited to announce that SkilledUp is our strategic partner in delivering online course to the Elance community.
In the past couple months there have been some nice enhancements to Elance University. This includes the educational content on Elance, which has been supercharged.
You’ll now find some 25,000 online courses at Elance – each ready to help you upgrade your skillset, while helping you land higher-quality and higher-paying gigs.
Online courses are a great way to upgrade your existing skillset. Here’s why:
They let you focus - Hone in on a niche subject and master it. I.e. Ruby, SEO, Photoshop.
They go where you go - Sign in from home, Starbucks, your laptop or iPad.
They’re affordable – Many courses are free and most retail for $100 or less.
So are you are ready to “Get the skills to pay the bills?”
Not so fast. With 25,000 courses to choose from, selecting the right courses is of paramount importance.
Online courses are wildly popular right now and platforms like Coursera (free college theory classes) boast enrollments of over 5 million students. However, the quieter story is that only 10% of students are completing their coursework. With premium courses, you are spending your hard earned money and the last thing you want to do is pick the wrong course and kiss that money goodbye.
Do not let this deter you. Much of your success is contingent on proper course selection.
5 crucial factors worth considering in your hunt for the optimal course.
To help you pick the right course, I’ve highlighted some insights we’ve learned here at SkilledUp:
2. Is there Actionability? Will you be able to apply the learnings of the course immediately? If you don’t have any related project, it will be difficult to apply in a practical situation. For instance, if you don’t have a website it will be hard to follow a class in Google Analytics. Maybe you’ll take the course and still complete it, but as time passes you’re less likely to put that insight to action.
3. Does the format fit? With the recent explosion in online education, courses come in many shapes and sizes. It’s important to know what you’re getting and test the goods.
Do you prefer to learn via reading or video? Content is a factor as well. Subjects like graphic design are better learned by watching video.
What if any exercises and testing is available? For beginners, learning a technical subject like web development is easier with an embedded interactive code editor.
Do you need a one-off course or a full-blown learning library? A one-off course will satisfy a very narrow demand, but if you need a structured learning path or help in other subjects, a larger library of content is helpful.
4. Is the price right? The obvious consideration here is your budget. Fortunately there are many great options at a reasonable price point. There are even many courses on Elance that are 100% free. Although, without any investment, you may be less likely to take the learning seriously. With zero marginal cost, it’s easy to just stop going (which is why the dropout rate of free coursers is 90%).
5. Does it meet your final needs? The ultimate consideration is whether the course provides you with the skills you need to land a gig and successfully complete the job. Make sure to research the provider and look for course reviews. If you can’t find reviews, look for forums, discussion on Reddit, or even questions on Quora about the course.
Make the right first step.
Online courses can be invaluable to upgrading your skills and helping you get the best gigs. But it all starts with appropriate course selection. Follow the guidelines above, and you’ll be well on your way. Over the next few months I’ll be posting here again, bringing you more strategies on how to get the best out of your online courses experience. In the meantime, happy hunting.
Brad Zomick is Chief Content Officer at SkilledUp, our strategic partner in delivering online courses to the Elance community.
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!