Guest Bloggers

Infographic: How To Start A Startup In College

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.

Start a Startup
Source: DegreeLibrary.org

Bridging the Designer-Developer Divide: How to Efficiently Build Your Next Website

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

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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.

7 Top Mistakes That Cost Freelancers Work On Elance.

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.

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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.

 

5 Strategies for Startups to Reduce Expenses and Save More Money.

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.

What other ways can startups save money?

Insider Tips: Choosing The Best Online Courses.

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.

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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:

1. What’s your desire? This might be a no brainer, but make sure you have a passion, interest, or need to learn the subject matter. Picking a course you’re feeling “meh” about is like taking a college elective to just satisfy a requirement. For example, if you’re a marketing specialist and you have a fleeting interest in JavaScript, you may not take it seriously and you’re more likely to cut corners and eventually drop out.

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.

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Brad Zomick is Chief Content Officer at SkilledUp, our strategic partner in delivering online courses to the Elance community.

 

Infographic on The Best (and Worst) Jobs.

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!

Best and Worst Jobs Infographic

Guest Post: Owning The Transaction -- Why Professional Services Marketplaces Need To Think Like SAAS Businesses.

Occasionally we invite professionals to wax poetic about issues of importance to the Elance community. Here are some thoughts from Sangeet Paul Choudary, Singapore-based author of the blog Platform Thinking.

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Marketplaces are difficult businesses to get off the ground. A marketplace without buyers cannot attract sellers and vice versa. In fact, the infamy of this proverbial chicken and egg problem detracts entrepreneurs from the challenges that a marketplace presents after it has successfully gained adoption and is successfully matching buyers with sellers. After all, marketplaces for products, like Ebay and Etsy seem to have it all working for them once they gain adoption.  

Why the eBay of remote services behaves differently

Services marketplaces, however, present a unique challenge. Most services marketplaces cannot facilitate a transaction before the buyer and seller agree on the terms of the service. Also, actual exchange of money often follows the delivery of the service and the delivery of the service requires the buyer and seller to directly interact with each other. Connecting buyers and sellers directly before facilitating the transaction cut weakens a marketplace's ability to capture value. The party that is charged is naturally motivated to abandon the platform and conduct the transaction off-platform. 

Marketplaces that fail to capture the transaction often resort to a lead generation, paid placement or subscription-based revenue model. The classifieds model has traditionally worked on paid placement. Dating websites and B2B marketplaces work on a subscription-based model while several financial comparison engines work on a lead generation model. However, lead generation models are attractive only at very high levels of activity and subscription-based revenue models make the chicken and egg problem worse than it already is. If your monetization model involves extracting a cut from the buyer-seller transaction, you need to figure out a way to own the transaction. 

Solving the buyer decision-making problem

Services marketplaces like Fiverr, Groupon and Airbnb try to solve this problem by preventing the users from directly connecting before the actual transaction. These marketplaces typically try to provide all the information that a buyer needs to make a transaction decision. Groupon features services from sellers that are largely standardized. While less standardized, Airbnb and Fiverr try to provide enough information for the buyers to make a decision without having to contact the seller. 

Additionally, some marketplaces charge the buyer ahead of the transaction and remit money to the service provider after the provision of services, thus providing some insurance to the buyer, encouraging her to transact.

The two-pronged challenge of professional services marketplaces

Unfortunately, the above strategies fail with professional services marketplaces for two reasons.

First, it is much easier to take the transaction off-platform in the case of marketplaces connecting professionals. Freelancer marketplaces like Elance or expert marketplaces like Clarity are particularly prone to off-platform transactions for two reasons:

a) Clients need to know information about service providers before making a transaction decision

b) Once the end users know each other, they can potentially connect directly on LinkedIn or other networks, thus avoiding the platform cut

Second, professional services marketplaces require discussions, exchanges and workflow management during the provision of services before the actual charge can be levied. As a result, charging the buyer ahead of the transaction is all the more complicated.

So how do professional services marketplaces own and retain the transaction? 

To own the transaction, professional services marketplaces need to think like SAAS businesses!

This may sound counter-intuitive. After all, a marketplace's goal is to connect the two sides, complete the transaction and get out of the way, isn't it? 

Clarity's early success illustrates that a marketplace's role may be a lot more than just connecting buyers to sellers. Clarity connects advice seekers with experts. Traditionally, such marketplaces would connect the two sides, charge a lead generation fee and allow them to transact off-platform. Clarity provides additional call management and invoicing capabilities that serve to capture the transaction on the platform. Since the call management software manages per-minute billing, advice seekers have the option to opt out of a call that isn't proving too useful. For the experts, the integrated payments and invoicing provides additional value. There is enough value for both sides to prevent them from leaving the platform to avoid the cut. 

Clarity is one of many examples of platforms which are using workflow management solutions to capture the transaction. Services marketplaces like Elance focus on providing work-tracking and billing solutions that provide value to both sides and capture the transaction on-platform.

When marketplaces behave like SAAS businesses, the following design principles are commonly observed:

1. The SAAS workflow tools should create additional value for both sides, not just for one. This prevents either side from abandoning the platform for the transaction.

2. The SAAS tools should remove frictions in the interaction. 

3. The interaction management tools should feedback into some form of on-platform reputation. Reputation is an added source of value that ensures stickiness to the platform. Clarity calls are followed by a request for rating the other side. Over time, the rating increases discoverability of an expert on the platform and acts as social proof for further callers. 

The added benefit of engagement and stickiness

Workflow and interaction management tools also help make the platform more sticky. The traditional marketplace model has a very transactional use case. There is no need for a user to return often to such a marketplace. Users turn up only when they're looking for something specific. With workflow management tools, the post-matching interactions are also captured on the platform, which encourages users to return often and to actively use the platform. 

Secondly, a marketplace is only as good as the liquidity of available suppliers. As a result, there is no real need for a buyer to stick to a particular marketplace, transaction after transaction, especially if two or more competing marketplaces have similar liquidity and choice. Workflow management solutions help create stickiness because the requirement of on boarding on and learning new workflow management tools acts as a greater barrier to switch and can potentially keep users loyal to a particular marketplace. 

The SAAS-first marketplace

In recent times, we have been seeing the model flipped. Businesses are now building SAAS workflow solutions first to get entrenched among the demand side and then opening out the marketplace, to get suppliers in. An invoicing service spreads out to become a B2B order management platform. A payroll software provider expands to append a marketplace that can bring in freelancers which are then managed using the same payroll software. This also solves the chicken and egg problem by staging the launch of the marketplace. 

Summary

In general, if you run a marketplace that requires services to be exchanged remotely, provisioning workflow management solutions to facilitate this exchange is a great way to own the transaction and create greater engagement and stickiness for users.

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About the Author: Sangeet Paul Choudary is the author of the blog Platform Thinking. Follow him at @sanguit.

3 Biggest Mistakes When Using Virtual Teams & Tools (and How to Avoid Them).

Occasionally we invite professionals to wax poetic about issues of importance to the Elance community. Here are some thoughts from Tamsin Fox-Davies, a Small Business Marketing Mentor at Constant Contact UK.Tamsin Fox-davies

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If you read my article about how virtual teams and tools can change your business for the better, you’ll already know that outsourcing and using online software like Constant Contact are brilliant ways to grow and increase profits.

However, despite being really easy to use, there are a few common mistakes that can undo the benefits of online tools:

1.       Not using what you pay for

How often have you seen someone (maybe you!) sign up for a tool or service, and then fail to actually use it? I see this ALL the time, and it makes no sense. The thing about tools like Constant Contact and FreeAgent, or outsourcing through Elance, is that just signing up does not magically fix your problems or move you forward. You have to actually DO something with them.

Error avoidance tip:

When you sign up for a new virtual tool or service, start using it straight away – even if it’s just on a small test project or task. This will prevent you from getting stuck in limbo, and will get your virtual tools and resources working for you as quickly as possible.

2.       Lack of monitoring

Once you’re up and running with your tools or outsourcers, it’s important that you check in to see that all is working as you’d hoped, so that you can make adjustments as necessary. If you just ‘set it and forget it’ all sorts of problems may occur.

Error avoidance tip:

Most virtual tools have in-built reporting, so use it. For example, with Constant Contact each email you send out has its own report, so you can see if your message is being opened, which links get the most clicks, as well as new subscribers/unsubsribes.

3.       Flogging a dead horse

If you are monitoring the teams and tools that you’re using, you should know if they’re working for you or not. The job doesn’t stop there though, you need to look at the things that aren’t doing as well for you as you’d hoped, and decide if they need changing or if you should leave them to run as they are for a little longer.

Error avoidance tip:

As our CEO, Gail Goodman, likes to say ‘hope is not a strategy’. So stop hoping that things will improve if you ignore them, and start testing different ideas that could help. Testing isn’t complicated, it just means that you try something new, and then see if it works.

Learn more – Live!

Want to know more about how you can bring the power of virtual teams and tools into your small business? Come along to Grow Your Business with Virtual Teams & Tools on September 30th, at Google Campus in London.

Book now to secure your place

We’re proud to be partnering with Elance and FreeAgent to bring you this highly useful seminar for the second time, due to the excellent feedback from previous attendees.

About Tamsin Fox-Davies

A Small Business Marketing Mentor at Constant Contact UK, her time is spent zooming around the UK delivering the free marketing education that Constant Contact loves to provide to small businesses. She likes cakes and shoes (and shoe cakes).

 

Guest Blog Post: How to Land Lucrative Projects, Without The Hard Sell.

Occasionally we invite professionals to wax poetic about issues of importance to Elance clients and freelancers. Here are some thoughts from Ashwin Satyanarayana, an online marketing strategist and big fan of Elance.

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I confess, it was a shameless trick to make the title irresistible for the lazy freelancers, but the truth is this: Either there is “hard sell” or years of hard work involved before the “easy sell”.

Personal development guru Steve Pavlina says it best, “Challenging work, when intelligently chosen, pays off.” Challenging work is painful. It sucks your soul. Yet, it’s this pain that charts the path to your growth. Pain, by the way, is a ruthless, unbiased, and a horrendously hardnosed teacher.

Yet, there’s a way for freelancers to land more jobs. You are on Elance and that should be enough work for this lifetime and the next. It’s not about whether there are jobs (because there are too many of them out there). It’s about the approach:

The Rule of Pure Hustle.

For freelancers who dig digital work, “hustle” here is of the digital kind.

You’d send proposals, write guest posts, develop your own content for your blog, generate alternate content, and compose social media specific content.

On Elance specifically, the hustle is entirely digital. It’s simple: How many proposals do you send out everyday? Hustling on Elance has a specific workflow: Customize your proposals, fix a set number of proposals you’ll make per day, send in proposals irrespective of what happens to the proposals you make.

It’s not like heaving bags of cement and working in harsh conditions (oil rigs or construction work) and also doesn’t require you to shove your hands between moving gears and free-falling pistons.

You’ve just run out of excuses to not “hustle” at least when it’s digital.

Play by the numbers.

It’s amazing how numbers (in the sense of activity volume) come to your rescue.  I am a freelance writer and here is how my averages play out:

Number of proposals or bids sent per day: 20 (and all of them are customized)

Historic average conversion rate: 10%

Number of opportunities that accrue per day: 2

Average ticket size per opportunity: $350

Total bookings made per day: $350 x 2 = $700

If I work 20 days a month, I make: $700 x 20 = $14,000.

Want more? Can you do with less? Go play with the numbers.

Now, the numbers look good here but in real life there are things like the state of your mind, motivation levels, hunger, distractions, people, and current workloads that you have to think of.

Find exactly 20 right opportunities to apply to everyday and in months (or sooner), you’ll have more than you can handle. Elance, at any given point, has thousands of jobs across categories. You’ll never fall short of opportunities to apply to. Of course, ignore those “Peanut Projects” and others who look for “Monkey labor”, if you want to.
Assuming you do take all of that into account and still manage to pull it off, I can hear your cash register ringing.

Being creative with the act of “looking out.”

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt of Payscale points out that more than 80% of job openings aren’t advertised. While you let that sink in, browse Peter Cappelli’s explanation of why employers aren’t filling up open jobs, in the Harvard Business Review.

Clearly, there’s impetus to getting creative with “opportunity seeking” for freelancers. The competition is understandably high for every opportunity. So, here are a few ideas to kick-start your opportunity patrolling on Elance:

  • Cross Sell: On Elance, there are two ways to make more money: getting clients and selling more to the clients that you manage to secure.

To make more money per client, you’ll have to upsell your services. While bidding, the key lies in something so simple that we miss it every time: it’s called “asking for it”.

 

Let’s assume that the client posts a brief asking for exactly 12 blog posts a month (3 per week). You could send in a custom proposal along with other services you can offer: upload posts and manage comments through their CMS; find and add images to every blog post; do their social media management for them; let them know that you can also do guest blogging campaigns.

 

The worst that could happen (apart from getting no response to your proposal): Clients will stick to their original requirement and commission you to work on those 12 blog posts a month.


All I did was put up an offer. If accepted, I earn more and the client is happy. If the offer were not accepted, I’d still end up blogging for the client.

  • Find channel partners: Reach out to others on Elance. Web designers and developers generally don’t take up content development work. Clients, however, ask developers for content work, and vice versa. Virtual assistants could team up with anyone. You get the drift, don’t you?
  • Be everywhere with your mettle: Creative types should showcase – that’s a given.  

Elance already has a functional portfolio section.  Instead of putting up files on your portfolio, use graphics (even for word documents and other content). Web Designer and developers could do the same.  

What other ways can you think of?

Build a legacy

Here’s one way to sell easy: do work upfront, give to the community, and create a legacy.

Now, it’s against Elance Terms and Conditions to offer free work to clients. It’s not against any Elance policies to provide value to the Elance Community itself, though.

Designers/developers can sit tight and create templates for free on Elance. Did you know that you could head to the Water Cooler, create free templates for other freelancers to use, and let others download these templates?


If you are a content developer, blogger, or writer, you can offer to write guest posts on the Elance Blog, to begin with. You could also create helpful posts and publish them as a new topic on the Water Cooler.

When you rustle enough leaves and make some commercially viable noise, you create a name for yourself.

You, in effect, create a legacy.

When you give away, you earn credibility and trust. Once you are past the tipping point, selling is automatic. You could contribute, write a book, develop a community website, and lead a tribe. In years, you’d develop enough credibility and build a personal brand that can pump your pipeline up.

Brent Weaver of Hotpressweb.com actually built bcgurus.com as a community site that helps him get loads of credibility, trust, and visibility. Daniel Larsson of RightInbox.com chronicles how Brent Weaver manages to do it. Do we have lessons to pick or what?

Which of these tips do you think you can act on?

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Ashwin Satyanarayana is an online marketing strategist and is the founder of Fetchprofits -- an end-to-end digital marketing services company. He is a passionate blogger, technology evangelist, and an incorrigible world traveler.

Hiring freelancers for your social media projects.

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 Carlo Pandian, a big Elance fan and successful entrepreneur.

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Practically every guide to social media marketing guide will assure its readers that quality content is the single most important key to success. That’s great news if you have within your team the talent to implement this sound advice, but if not then the requisite know-how will have to be ensured utilizing independent contractors.

In-house or not in-house.

There are advantages and drawbacks to using remote workers for the web content provision.

While you will find many great freelancers on Elance, you will have to be sure they have the necessary experience and knowledge of your niche industry to produce anything other than generic content.

The talent in that case may require some tracking down, or else you can train in-house resources, which will take time...and money.


Integration with existing systems, security risks, knowledge transfer and management issues are other areas you’ll have to give some thought to. Using accounting software such as the QuickBooks from Intuit will help smooth out some of the cash flow issues when an outsourcing option is implemented.

Main benefits:

  • By hiring skilled online social media experts you’ll be assured of top quality, on-time content and will be able to manage your project more effectively than if you have to rely on in-house talent which may not be up to the challenge.
  • You’ll also be able to hire expert video, illustrators, copy and infographics providers only when you require them, so you won’t have to pay for a permanent content provider even when there’s no work going on.
  • In terms of the online market and big competition, smaller niche companies are able to exert effective leverage when they outsource to professional content providers. They’ll also be able to concentrate more on customer satisfaction once production has been transferred out.

Preliminaries

Business owners should assess the relative merits of various outsourcing companies before hiring them, as it is crucial to identify the services on offer before engaging. You need them to be able to create original, fresh and often innovative content which is targeted specifically at your market audience.

The proficiency levels of writers and image manipulators can be checked on by giving them sample tests before responsibility for the project is handed over. Before hiring a particular company for the task in hand, carry out some preliminary research and consultations. Take a good look through their portfolio and read some client reviews of previous projects they’ve been involved with.

You may even choose to hire the social media services of more than one specialist provider, depending on the volumes of content you need and whether it will be on a regular basis.

In terms of internet marketing strategies, web content is absolutely critical. Without effective content, businesses have no means of attracting the all-important search engines and generating the necessary web traffic.

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About Carlo:
Carlo Pandian is a freelance blogger that is interested in social media, start-ups and freelancing. He is a regular contributor at Techli and loves writing about how small businesses can share great web content thanks to services like Elance.

 

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