Guest Bloggers

How to embrace your entrepreneurial spirit

Occasionally we invite people to discuss issues of importance to our community. Here are some thoughts from Amiad Soto, CEO and co-founder of Guesty.

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Some things in life (and work) can’t be absorbed in school or taught in the office. They cultivate over time and become part of our existence. In the business world, this is what we call the development of the entrepreneurial spirit.

It ripens in individuals who have a true passion for creating something from scratch and they are willing to do anything to achieve those goals. You don’t need to own a million-dollar business to exhibit qualities of having an entrepreneurial spirit. It’s that special ‘je ne sais quoi’ that you exhibit everyday and how you tackle your life and career.

What is an entrepreneurial spirit?

As Forbes adequately puts it, “Entrepreneurial spirit is a mindset. It's an attitude and approach to thinking that actively seeks out change, rather than waiting to adapt to change. It's a mindset that embraces critical questioning, innovation, service and continuous improvement.”

A word so common on our tongues, but do we know what it actually means? If we had to delve deep into the roots of what exactly is entrepreneurial spirit, a starting point would be the definition of an entrepreneur, it’s French for “risk-taker”. Today the term connotes leadership, initiative and innovation in business. One’s “spirit” is built on self-motivation, inner drive and the dire need to pursue a passion. By nature, entrepreneurs are creative, original and are daredevils. It takes discipline and strong communication skills as well as characteristics such as optimism, belief in one’s self and courage.

Why do we need it?

The million Dollar question is why do we need entrepreneurial spirit? If you guessed, “to create new businesses and to motivate others, especially if you’re leading a team,” then you're halfway there.

Earn What You’re Worth By Fixing These 3 Mistakes

Danny Margulies is a copywriter and six-figure Elancer on a mission to help freelancers earn more money. Find out more at freelancetowin.com

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If there’s one thing I’ve learned from earning over $100,000 on Elance in just 12 months, it’s this: You absolutely can charge (and get) what you really deserve--yes, right here on Elance.

I know from personal experience. Today I consistently charge (and get) $125 - $135 per hour, which is 9x as much as I made from my first jobs on Elance.

I’ve helped quite a few Elancers significantly raise their rates, too. Many of them had hit “brick walls” in their pricing, but addressing a few common mistakes allowed them to break through to the next level.

Let’s talk about these mistakes and how they hold us back from charging the rates we really want and deserve.

Blending in with the masses.

When the services you’re offering look just like everyone else’s, it’s natural for clients to choose the least expensive option. After all, if they’re going to get the same result regardless of which freelancer they choose, why not go with the cheapest?

The truth is, as long as there’s a person (you) providing the service, then you’re offering something unique. Part of your job is to communicate that uniqueness to clients--and then charge accordingly.

Food for thought: What are some unique things about you that clients would appreciate?

Trends in Freelancing: Spotlight on Jamaica

Here’s another post from Sarah Ratliff’s team at Coqui Content Marketing. She and her freelancers regularly share their thoughts on ways to succeed on Elance. This post comes from noted wordsmith Marsha Buchanan.

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Jamaica is open for business, but I think it will take us a little while longer to realize the gold mine at our fingertips. Sure, it’s sweet to be ranked on the Forbes list as the top Caribbean country and the third overall in Latin America for doing business, but that’s not what this is about. More Jamaicans need to capitalize on the opportunities available and connect the dots to pursue online freelancing as a means to financial empowerment.

With a brutal economic climate and a high unemployment rate, there is no way we Jamaicans can afford to sit and twiddle our thumbs, for dreams must be realized, bills must be paid and we must get on with the business of making a living. In light of this fact, some Jamaican entrepreneurs are choosing to take their businesses online and monetize their skills. The thing is that while the Forbes list has good news for foreign investors who might be interested in doing business in Jamaica, Jamaican entrepreneurs have to face their own set of challenges. Just check the statistics on the Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) survey done by Balcostics Limited.

These numbers indicate the hardship of a regular Joe or Jane trying to run a business in Jamaica. If you have your heart set on building a profitable business the traditional way, prepare yourself for a mammoth task. This has been one of the biggest reasons young professionals are seeking to run leaner and smarter businesses by getting into online freelancing. This is where I do a happy dance and thank the heavens for online freelancing sites like Elance, but the reality is there are thousands who have no clue Elance even exists, let alone what it is. I suppose because of my own knowledge of the various freelancing sites and the opportunities to be had, I just took it for granted that most Jamaicans knew too. This expectation was especially because of what happened in 2009.

Back in 2009, Jamaica’s Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) sector outlined as one of its main objectives the intent to create a strong ICT framework that will see Jamaica established as a regional investment center for ICT companies and reliant service industries. Of course, they recognized that before that could be done they would have to partner with a country or organization that had experience with this. So in 2012, the World Bank teamed up with the Jamaican Government and the ICT sector to spearhead Digital Jam 2.0, which has been the most important event that launched Jamaica into the virtual world of work.

Has Motherhood Driven You Away From Work?

Here is sage advice from Remisha Hasnain, who has been happily working on Elance for over 5 years – often with her son at her side.

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Have you ever felt that motherhood has brought your career to a dead end? The set of skills you once possessed, are now left unnoticed? Your lifestyle after the baby has limited you to constant diaper changes, cooking, cleaning and well catching up on the much-needed sleep?

Well if so, then you are not alone. Being a mom of a two-year-old boy (read: utterly notorious boy), I have learnt that the stress of excessive baby work is one essential part of motherhood. It not only makes you realize your strengths, but also helps you strive to achieve your goals. However this also requires a bit of extra effort, which you may regret now, but are going to appreciate in the long run. Trust me! All you need is patience, time management and most importantly the will to achieve your set goals.

Mentioned below are a few guidelines, on how you can manage to keep your sanity intact, while working and handling your baby all together.

As much as we think things are going to remain the same, except one addition of a family member, they don’t. With the arrival of your cute little bundle of joy, your priorities, work load and lifestyle start to change simultaneously.

To begin with, as per experience, home based businesses or freelance jobs are a much better call for mothers. As they give you the freedom to choose the place and time, that fit you best. However that doesn’t mean they require any less effort when compared to office jobs. The key to a successful career along with bringing up a baby with utmost affection, is time management, focus on the goal and promise to never over burden yourself.

How To Go From Idea To Prototype In 1 Hour

Occasionally we invite people to discuss issues of importance to our community. Here are some thoughts from Adam Rossi, an Elance client and owner of Elvaria.

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The freelance economy and 3D printers have converged to dramatically lower the time and cost associated with creating a new prototype. Recently, I was shocked at just how effective this combination has become.

My company, Elvaria, manufactures soft-serve ice cream and frozen yogurt machines. We frequently refine and improve the components of our machines based on customer feedback and our product roadmap. A number of the components that we use are custom manufactured based on our specifications.

The Traditional Process of Prototyping

1. Create a CAD drawing of the new part using in-house engineering or bring in a contract engineer.

2. Send the CAD drawing out to one or more rapid prototyping companies for a quote.

3. Select a vendor and wait for the part.

4. Test the part. Make refinements to the design and CAD drawing.

5. Repeat until the design is optimized.

6. Send the final drawings and specifications out for manufacture.

This usually took a few months.

A new approach.

A few weeks ago we decided to try the “new economy” approach to redesigning an agitator for one of our machines. The agitator is a magnetic mixing blade that spins in the hoppers of our ice cream machines, keeping the liquid product well mixed and preventing product separation. It’s driven by a motor located underneath the hopper and spins by magnetic force. Think of a large version of the spinning magnetic mixer you used in chemistry class.

The Internet: A Level Playing Field For Freelancers

Elance invited Kristen Gramigna of BluePay to discuss working on the Elance platform.

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The barriers to entry for Internet marketing are very low. Businesses can create marketable websites and blogs for several hundred dollars, and can participate in social media without spending a dime. Other popular Internet marketing techniques such as SEO, PPC advertising and email marketing can often be conducted effectively on modest budgets.

On the Internet, every business can play — and not only is the playing field level, it’s THE field. Thanks to smartphones and generations of Americans who grew up with the Internet, often their favorite place to do business, is on the Web.

If every freelancer can use the Internet, why do relatively few succeed? This article will explore a few of the most important reasons.

It All Starts with the Website

No matter how charming you are on social media, or how clever you are at SEO, sooner or later, prospects will come to your website and decide if they want to engage with you. If your website presents clear and compelling value, establishes your credibility and competence, and offers persuasive reasons to take the next step in the business relationship — you stand an excellent chance of making the right impression and gaining a new client.

Furthermore, an effective freelance website must be built to be marketed; in other words, it must be SEO-friendly, integrate with Google Analytics, and enabled to track conversions. If your site is only a “billboard” site that gives you no ability to increase organic search engine visibility or know where your sales inquiries came from, your online marketing will be ineffective.

Avoid the Social Media Time Suck

A second huge Internet trap for freelancers is spending an inordinate amount of unproductive time on social media. This trap is very enticing. On social media, a freelancer can chat with peers, vent frustration in a safe place, and gorge on a steady diet of fascinating articles. It’s a safe haven in what is often a difficult if not hostile business environment.

Growing Pains: Create a Realistic Growth Strategy By Hiring Freelancers

Occasionally we invite people to discuss issues of importance to those who work on Elance-oDesk. Here are some thoughts from Cameron Johnson, a small business consultant and social media expert. 

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Recent reports on the trends in consumer purchasing reveal that 78% of consumers are not loyal to any particular brand. With the increase in product reviews and mobile comparison shopping people are now often able to find good quality at a competitive price regardless of brand. This shift in consumer spending is requiring businesses to rethink their growth strategies in order to be competitive in this evolving marketplace.

The Mobile Economy.

A number of elements have led to this changing landscape of brand loyalty. Two key factors in this change are the increasing popularity of mobile devices, and a languishing economy. Today’s mobile technologies allow consumers to shop simultaneously online and in store. A shopper browsing the aisles of a local shop can check local inventories, prices, coupons, review online competition, and quickly sum up their purchasing options. The unprecedented ease of comparison shopping has contributed to consumers lowering the importance of brand in their decisions.

The fallout from America’s long term economic challenges have motivated people and businesses to reconsider their buying patterns. Although the decision process has remained the same, the emphasis placed on stages 2 and 3—information search and alternative evaluation—have expanded and drastically changed the results away from brand loyalty. Agile price comparison coupled with social reviews of products have given consumers confidence in choosing an off brand product.

Businesses Need Fast Turnaround.

The growing shift away from brand loyalty is changing the way companies have to think about the markets they serve. They must provide quality options at more competitive prices. As a result, it is becoming crucial that companies be able to quickly adjust to consumer preferences, which in turn increases competition and accelerates release of new products entering the marketplace.

Why I Stay On The Elance-oDesk Platform

Here’s another post from Sarah Ratliff of Coqui Prose Content Marketing. She regularly shares her thoughts on ways to succeed on Elance.

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It’s been a journey since you registered with Elance, hasn’t it? You opened your Elance profile; you uploaded a photo and agonized over what to write in your profile. You added some portfolio samples and took some tests. You bid on and won several jobs, and I’ll bet it’s been more exhilarating than the first time Mom let you drive her car.

With a few jobs under your belt, most, if not all with excellent feedback, it feels pretty damn good, doesn’t it? Riding that wave over the last few weeks or months, you may not have been able to stop and think about the business side of things for too long. If you are anything like me, you were probably too busy working and meeting deadlines. You admit to your partner/spouse that you're in love with Elance. Forget grateful; you’re in love!

Then one day you rediscover the transactions section. Yeah, you may have seen it early on, but in the beginning there wasn’t much to fixate on: One $50 job and a few $100 jobs didn't look like much compared to the vast white space below them.

Now that you’re hitting “next page” a few times to see all the transactions, it dawns on you that you’ve made a few thousand dollars. Predictably you have two reactions: “Where’s my ‘you’re number 1’ foam finger? I am one truly awesome human being!”

This is immediately followed by, “Holy crap, I made how much money and Elance took how much in service fees?”

How Do Clients See Elancers?

Here’s another post from Sarah Ratliff of Coqui Prose Content Marketing. She regularly shares her thoughts on ways to succeed on Elance.

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Many people know me as the owner of Coquí Prose Content Marketing, but I am also a prolific client who exclusively uses Elance to hire freelancers.

Although many Elancers have hired a few other Elancers to fill the occasional needs of a client or to assist with specific projects, I work day in and day out with a team of freelancers who help meet the goals of our long-term clients.

There’s a big difference …

For every job I have with a client, I may hire five or more team members to fill the needs for that client.

With more than 1000 jobs awarded since I started hiring on Elance about four years ago (both one-off jobs and ones lasting six months or longer), I see the business of freelancing from a very unique perspective.

Okay, Let’s Get Down to Business.

Let’s start by debunking three common myths that frequently lead to lots of chest pounding, self-aggrandizing and pontification ad nauseam. These are myths I have read in online forums again and again and, sadly, a-gain.

“You shouldn’t start out with low rates because you’ll forever be branded a low-baller and no serious client will take a second look at you.”

“Competition is stiff on Elance. You need to sell yourself in your proposal.”

“Keep your earnings private until you reach $10k.”

Rates: What Matters? Your Past, Present or Future?

I’ll take you through a typical job posting of mine to give you the “bird’s eye view” of things.

I’m pretty methodical when I post jobs on Elance. I have a formula for my job descriptions. I always include the following in my descriptions, especially if I am posting a public job (which I only do if my exhaustive search for an Elancer doesn't jibe with Elance’s sometimes-interesting ranking of expertise):

Five Secrets For Making Your Freelance Voice Heard

Not long ago we featured a post on public policy initiatives, penned by job advocate Mike Hruby of New Jobs for Massachusetts. Following up, Mike has additional thoughts for the Elance community. Read his secrets on making sure you’re represented by policy makers.

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Successful freelancers focus on their projects and on marketing and improving their services. Given that focus, few give much thought to government affairs.

But just as you use Google Maps or a similar app on your mobile device to guide you past highway congestion, so too should freelancers pay close attention to government obstacles that impede the rapid growth of online freelance contracting.

Last year on the Elance-oDesk blog I mentioned that 16 states and the federal government had formed a task force to make it harder for individuals to freelance doing the kind of work you find and sell on Elance-oDesk. 

Those 16 states – California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New York, Utah, and Washington – are home to 39 percent of the US population, so any progress these states make will slow the expansion of freelancing.  Since other states and countries are watching carefully, this may affect you wherever you live.

As an independent contractor, you have a unique opportunity to educate your representatives in state government about the booming field in which you make a living.

Most legislators know little about online-freelancing and will listen with interest to how this new work style is more advantageous for you than regular employment.

Looking through the fascinating 2014 Elance-oDesk Annual Impact Report, available here, one chart shows clearly why a single visit to meet a state legislator, either in their district office near you or in their office in the state capital, can make a big difference.

The Impact Report shows that 74 percent of freelancers are under 35 years of age – individuals who rarely talk with legislators. Since lawmakers seldom see young people, talking about freelancing opens your legislators’ eyes to voters unfamiliar to them.

Here are five secrets for representing freelancers.

Secret #1:  Make it clear that you represent more than yourself.  Scale is vital for effective government relations.

Describe what you do for clients, adding a fact about how many people in your district, state or occupation also freelance online.  The Elance-oDesk impact report has many helpful statistics you can use.

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