Guest Bloggers

How to Set Expectations with Clients and Avoid Stress

Finally! It’s Friday afternoon. You’ve put in a lot of hours this week—including some late nights—but it looks like your extra work has paid off—you’ll be able to enjoy a real meal tonight, maybe spend some time with friends and most of all just kick back and chill out. You spontaneously smile at your computer screen and start to feel the tension begin to drain from your back.

Then comes a ping—an e-mail from someone you’ve been following up with for months. They just posted a new message in the Elance Workroom that they want you to move ahead on a project and deliver it Monday.

Your smile deflates into a resigned sigh as you turn your attention to the details of the request, and your dreams of rest flicker and fade away like an iPhone run out of battery life. “Looks like it will be a late night,” you mutter to yourself.

Yet another Friday has gone from fantastic to frustrating. You wonder, “Is there any other way? Can I really manage a freelance career without constantly getting pushed around by others’ time demands?”

My answer is yes!

As the CEO and founder of Real Life E®, a company that provides time coaching and training services that empower people to accomplish more with peace and confidence, I’ve found that overcoming the cycle of stress often comes down to setting reasonable expectations with clients. Here’s some of my expert time coaching advice on simple techniques you can use to take back control of your time.

How I Nurse Two Careers: Medical Writer and Mother

Have you ever been afraid that your specialized field would prevent you from finding work online? Rachel Ballard, both a writer and a registered nurse with clinical experience, shares her story of the medical field, motherhood, and bridging the gap with Elance.

I love to diagram sentences. Well, I used to. You can call me a nerd if you want to, but I can’t help it. Ingrained in me through the course of my education by inspiring teachers, was a love for literature and the English language that I have never been able to shake. Through high school and college I would sit quietly by and watch my classmates sweat over term papers. For me, writing was something easy and natural—something I did in my free time for fun and to relax and I never viewed it as something to be dreaded.

Despite my love of writing, my love of others motivated me to complete my nursing degree and then begin a career caring for patients of all ages. Offering comfort and healing in my own little way still gives me an unmatched sense of self-fulfillment even to this day. While I loved my profession, I found myself expecting my first child just a few short years after I was able to tack “RN” after my name. A move away from friends and family left my new family without much local support, and I couldn’t imagine leaving my children in the hands of strangers. For that reason, I decided that staying home would be best. I found a job working one or two days a month at a local hospital, but between my shifts, the weeks sometimes felt like months. My brain, which yearned for stimulation and adult conversation, was bored and I found myself always wondering what the rest of the professional world was doing while I watched The Wiggles at home with my children.

Motivated by the need for self-fulfillment, I began to search the internet for a work-at-home opportunity. I learned quickly that unlikely promises were just that—and I was probably scammed more than once. I tried home party sales only to walk away feeling frustrated and worn out with asking people to buy products they didn’t need or want. I poured over every online classified site, and searched through every category that I thought might hold the key to what I was looking for—something that I didn’t even have an answer to.

Contractor Spotlight: Michael Moreau

 

Michael Moreau
mdmoreau
WordPress and CSS/XHTML Development
Woodbridge, Virginia, United States
Elancer Since January 2010


How Did You Start Using Elance?
I started using Elance during my initial job search, after graduating from Virginia Tech with a degree in Marketing Management. I’ve always enjoyed web development as a hobby and thought that I could earn some income while looking for a career. Fortunately, things went really well on Elance, and I decided to start doing freelance work full-time.

What are the key benefits you’ve seen from using Elance?
The primary benefit that I’ve realized from using Elance has to be the increased exposure. As I’ve built up my portfolio and collection of feedback, working through Elance has only gotten better; I’ve gone from seeking out jobs to having clients request to work with me. I really believe that the system promotes and rewards success through completing quality work, which makes Elance a great place to find proven, legitimate contractors.

Why Online Work Makes Every Day Earth Day

Anyone who works online could be the poster child for Earth Day. The green advantages of working at home, for both workers and employers, are astonishing.

The environmental benefits of using public transportation or biking to work are well known as viable alternatives to traditional passenger car commuting. Incredibly, our recent research based on Census Bureau data shows that in 5 of the largest U.S. metro areas, more employees telecommute than travel to work via public transportation, taxi, motorcycle, bike or walking. How’s that for eco-friendly commuting!

Those same online workers are saving their employers about $10,000 a year each, too, thanks to increased productivity, reduced facility costs, lower absenteeism, and reduced turnover. Those aren’t Earth Day benefits, per se, but if companies do more with less, an indirect benefit is less pollution.

Based on all the research we’ve done we estimate that, out of a workforce of 143 million, 5.9 million people consider home their primary place of work, and half of those people are self-employed.

Not everyone can work from home online, of course—bus drivers and baseball players come to mind (yes, a catcher works at home, but that doesn't count, silly). Our research shows that about 65% of jobs in the U.S. are compatible with online work. You wouldn't think that manufacturing, for example, would lend itself to online work, but manufacturers hire exactly the kind of people whose talents are available on Elance, where there are Engineering and Manufacturing professionals in addition to professionals in more traditional online areas like Web Development and Programming, Graphic Design, and Article Writing. And companies in every industry are discovering that using a 'contingent workforce' is a powerful strategy that goes way beyond just controlling their carbon footprint.

Is This Legal? A Guide To Avoiding Copyright Issues and Plagiarism

It’s your responsibility, professionally and legally, to provide your clients with original work. This article covers the basics of what you as a contractor need to know about copyright law. The content in this article should not be construed as legal advice. If you need assistance, you should consult an attorney.

Copyright law is a frequently discussed and frequently misunderstood topic in the freelance world, and there's probably no other topic that generates a larger volume of well-meaning but incorrect advice. Understanding the basics is a responsibility of professional freelancers, whether you're a writer, designer, editor, or web developer.

Copyright infringement is easier and more common than ever before, but international agreements on copyright law– and a bevy of new legal services – have also made enforcement easier.

Bring On The Lawyers:

The online world of digital technology has made it far easier for people to steal or appropriate copyrighted work, but it's also spawned legions of new copyright enforcers, according to the L.A. Times. More than a dozen new firms (with and without lawyers) offer services that look for online content and find unauthorized copies of it online.

201 Great Ideas for Your Small Business: In Days and Out Days

As my business flourished and life became more demanding, I really needed a way to structure my work schedule. I came up with this great idea when I was working out of my home office in rural Sun Valley, California, a suburb of Los Angeles. Because L.A. traffic is such a nightmare, trying to make it to one meeting across the city meant I would be out most of the day.

About five years ago, we moved to Sharon, Vermont, from New York City. We live in a former summer camp on 440 acres located about 15 to 20 miles from civilization, if you consider Hanover, New Hampshire, civilization.

Similar to Los Angeles, you need several hours to get to and from an appointment around here. So, to maximize productivity, I schedule “in” days and “out” days. Here’s how it works: on my “in” days, I don’t leave the office, except perhaps to mail a letter at the post office or pick up milk at the Sharon Trading Post—a mere seven-mile round-trip. I spend “in” days writing columns, marketing materials or proposals, returning calls, and handling financial matters and paperwork.

On my “out” days, I stay out from morning until night. I schedule back to-back appointments, often ending the day by joining a friend for dinner and a movie in town.

During the day, I check e-mail wherever I am, thanks to free public Wi-Fi, or on my smartphone. I find this system boosts productivity, especially for elancers who are juggling multiple projects.

Try this system and let me know if it works for you.

- Excerpted from 201 Great Ideas for Your Small Business by Jane Applegate, published by John Wiley & Sons and available for pre-order on Amazon.com, and also in all e-book formats.

What Google’s New Algorithm Means for SEO

With its recent major algorithm change (nicknamed "Farmer"), Google has made a significant effort to improve the rankings of high-quality Web sites in its search results, and to reduce the visibility of low-quality sites. What does this mean for SEO now and how does it change the content landscape? Kelly Andersson, experienced writer and website developer, talks about this new algorithm's impact on search, ranking, and elancers.

Google regularly adjusts its search function – the algorithm programming that determines what you find when you search for something. These algorithm changes are almost never noticed; the February 2011 change, though, devastated some websites' rankings – and thus their traffic. The change was made to reduce the high rankings of content farms on the search engine result pages (SERPs) and to move sites with quality content up in the rankings. And it worked.

Why Did Google Do This?
In short: user feedback. Customers complained that sites with poor quality content ranked too high on Google pages. Content farms such as Associated Content, Wisegeek.com, and Mahalo.com were targeted for ranking reductions, and they took big hits. Companies with websites that "gamed" Google (and were good at it) ranked high, and Google fixed that. The plan was to reduce the rankings of sites with duplicate content and low quality content – those with a low ratio of content to ads, and those that were identified with "poor user experience."

How did they do that? They asked people.

The Freedom to Live, Work and Play

Elancers all over the world have been quick to share with our community how working online has changed their lives for the better. Penny Lapenna, editor and proofreader, tells us the story of how she was able to move from her native UK to Spain for a dramatic lifestyle change and now actually enjoys more creative and professional freedom than ever before.

Elance is at the forefront of a revolution in the world of work. As global recession bites deeper, business is seeking more cost-effective solutions and outsourcing to a vast international work force is one option. Here on Elance, time zones mean nothing. While your business sleeps, your Elance team is awake and working hard on your behalf. When your customers awake, your website is up and running. The design and images are a tantalizing reflection of your products and services, the web copy is sparkling and fresh, and you can sit back and watch the orders roll in.

So what about the Elancers who are making this happen?

When I moved to Spain from the UK in 2001, I had no idea of the incredible freedom I was about to discover. The freedom to live, work and play, where I could balance my family life with the need to earn money and pay into the local economy. We had sold a property in London at the right time to take advantage of the housing market peak, and we hoped that this would buy us a year to get acclimated. I began learning Spanish and my husband and I considered new careers. Effectively, we swapped life in the fast lane for a quiet mountain village—a place where it was safe to bring up our kids, and we had time for each other.

The Best of Both Worlds

 

It’s a dream for many parents to be able to work from home and be able to afford spending time with their young children. But as most find out, it isn’t immediately smooth sailing from the moment you decide to start working from your kitchen table--or home office, couch, etc. Stef Daniels, veteran blogger and content writer, recalls why she made the decision to work from home and how her work on Elance made it the right call for her. Perhaps more importantly, she speaks on the challenges she faces as a work at home mom, and how she ultimately came to manage the realities of balancing home and work lives that often crossed paths.

Professional dreams and aspirations are one thing before you have children. Then, the pitter-patter of little feet hit your hardwood floors and the harsh realities of juggling family and work can leave even the most prepared person, stumped - to say the least.

That’s exactly how it was for me. I had spent several years dreaming of following my father’s career footsteps in law enforcement, while working on my award-winning manuscript to be – only to find myself unexpectantly pregnant with twins. Suddenly the 12-hour night shifts that left me sleeping all day, working holidays and missing important parts of my children’s lives was no longer an option. Childcare was ridiculously expensive, and my husband and I agreed that it was most important to usto afford our children the stay at home lifestyle. We both surmised that we could make cutbacks financially and that this would give me more time to finish my multiple pieces of writing work in progress.

Fast forward a few years later and I have to admit I desperately missed workI had been writing since I was old enough to put pen to paper, and being home did give me time to unleash my creative energies. Yet, it still wasn’t enough. I missed earning my own money and the validation that comes from succeeding professionally. I found myself perusing the Internet and local newspapers desperately looking for something I could do from home because I wanted to ensure that I would always be available to my children. In this day and age, it didn’t seem unreasonable to dream for the best of both worlds – pursuing my personal passion while earning an income and raising my children and having a presence in their lives.

Working Mom Turned Work at Home Mom

 

Many working parents lament the fact they spend much of their children's early years in the workplace, sometimes missing out on key events in favor of professional development and a steady paycheck. Telika Howard, writer extraordinaire and new work at home mom, shares with us her story of how she swore she would be an even greater presence in her children's lives, and how she used Elance to do so--while exercising her creative muscles at the same time.

Motherhood has always been my number one profession. Even when I first started attending college, majoring in journalism, I was a mom. After college, I worked mainly as an office administrator while doing some occasional freelance writing on the side. Four children and one more pregnancy later, I decided that I wanted to be able to be my own boss so that I could set my own hours and focus more on my children as well as put more time into my writing, which ultimately led me to Elance.

The hardest thing about working a nine-to-five was the fact that my kids’ sicknesses, field trips, school projects and sports activities were made to be inconveniences. I especially hated, when I couldn't get time off, having to look one of my babies in the eye and tell them, “Sorry mommy can't be there, she has to work.” One of the most painful sentences a mom could say. On top of that, my observations and ideas stayed trapped within me, because I would be too exhausted at the end of the day to take the time to write. If you are built to be a writer, then you find your joy when you are writing—not being able to do that all the time was making me very unhappy.

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