Guest Bloggers

Elance: A Window to the World

When I first signed up on Elance as a writer/editor, I really had no idea what to expect. My first projects were small ones—a few press releases, a couple of sales letters, some content editing. Little did I know then that I would be doing projects on a huge variety of subjects, from the ordinary to the intriguing to the bizarre, and that I would be working with people from all over the world and learning more about the global economy and the global education system than I ever would have thought possible.

When I look back on my projects over the three years I’ve worked on Elance—and I’m sure it would be similar not just for other writers and editors but also for web developers, graphic designers, etc.—my client list is extremely varied: lawyer, airline pilot, software developer, pastor, photographer, musician, and the list goes on. To date, they come from 35 countries—Brazil, Italy, Israel, Egypt, South Africa, Russia, India, Singapore…What it means is that, as an Elance contractor, you’re always learning—about so many subjects and so many countries.

The Global Economy
In the global economy, English is the international language of business and also of advanced schooling in the top US, UK and international schools.

7 Ways to Better Manage Your Time as a Freelancer

As a freelancer, you've taken control of your career. You can scale your workload up and down as you see fit, but how do you effectively manage yourself without losing a step? Kevin Casey, a Null Media author, and Jerome Iveson, who founded project management site Solo, discuss how a freelancer can best manage their most valuable resource—time.

One of the great allures of the freelance life is the opportunity to gain more control over how you spend your time. But making that dream a reality while building a successful, sustainable business can prove to be a challenge.

For starters, there’s the nagging anxiety that if you’re not working you’re not making money, which is, unfortunately, largely true. There’s no such thing as paid time off in the freelance world. Working for yourself revives the old cliché that “Time is money.” Mismanaging your time can become exceedingly expensive and sidetrack an otherwise promising career. This fact becomes even more apparent when you factor in all the mundane but necessary non-paying tasks of running your business, such as invoicing, courting new clients, and paying taxes.

So what are the best ways to maximize your time as a freelancer? We asked Jerome Iveson, founder of Solo, an online project-management suite designed specifically for freelancers, to share his thoughts. He offered some straightforward advice for how to manage your most valuable commodity and to avoid common time sinks.

1. Overestimate your time. Freelance pros who don’t take steps to adequately understand how much time a project or assignment will require set themselves up for major management headaches. If you ever take on work thinking “piece of cake,” take a moment to be sure it’s not a schedule drain in disguise. “Underestimating how long something will take is a killer. Always overestimate,” Iveson says. “This is especially the case if you are attempting something new that may be just outside your comfort zone. Learning on the job is all well and good, but it will take longer.”

5 Virtual Hires That Make Sense

Back in the day, when you needed help you hired people to work in your office. Employing someone on the other side of the country—or the world— to do a job remotely was unheard of. Today, it’s a different story. In this economy, “virtual hires” make sense, because they can save you money on office space and employee benefits. Of course, some short- and long-term tasks are easier to handle from afar than others.

According to technology research firm Gartner Inc., the number of worldwide remote workers will pass 46 million this year. Here are five types of positions that lend themselves well to remote contract workers, as well as some tips for hiring and managing the people who’ll fill them.

1) Web Programmers and Designers

Tasks: You want to revamp your company’s website or set up a new one, but you don't have the time or the knowledge to design it or write the underlying code. A web programmer (for the code) or web designer (for the layout) can handle all project-development responsibilities remotely, sending you samples and layouts for review.

Hiring considerations: Review candidates’ portfolios to see what types of sites they’ve developed and ask what role they played in building or designing each one. Not all web programmers or designers excel in the same areas, so look for the ones who specialize in the skills that your project requires. For example, if you’re designing an e-commerce website, your virtual hires should have strong experience with creating online product catalogs, shopping carts and payment methods. When working on projects, make sure that at the outset you and your virtual hire agree to a timeline that is reasonable for everyone. Setting deadlines, from the date a programmer delivers the first beta version for your review to the period of time you’ll take to approve a designer’s layout, is important to avoid misunderstandings and problems.

Smartest Freelancer New Year’s Resolutions for 2012

For freelancers, the time-honored tradition of making New Year’s resolutions should involve thoughtfully reflecting upon the events of the past year—both successes and shortfalls—and then using the resulting insights to chart a bold new course for the future. Although statistics show that many personal resolutions are broken by Valentine’s Day (mostly due to a lack of willpower), framing your professional goals in the context of a small-business strategy may help you stick with things.

“Many institutions do an end-of-the-year strategic analysis, where they take stock before going forward into the new year,” Temple University psychologist Frank Farley tells USA Today. What works for large organizations can work for your small operations, too. Here are six tips, or freelance resolutions, for staying as committed to your 2012 freelancing goals as you are to those of your clients.

1. Treat yourself the way you treat clients. Think of this resolution as an inverse Golden Rule: Do unto yourself as you would have them do unto you. If you’re constantly working to meet client needs (not to mention your family’s time), “me time” can become a mythical concept. That needs to change in 2012. Taking care of everyone else while totally neglecting yourself is a recipe for failure. Give exceptional consideration to your physical, mental, and emotional needs next year—and your focus, energy, and quality of work will increase noticeably as a natural consequence. When you’re relaxed and content, your work, relationships, and even the relentless pursuit of elusive goals become easier and surprisingly more enjoyable to manage.

Overcoming Freelance Fears

Are you just getting started on Elance and feel nervous about freelancing? Online work is growing faster than ever, and has become a viable career choice for countless independent workers around the world—but you may have some concerns still. Contributing author Stephanie Taylor Christensen is here to debunk six common freelance fears.

If you dream of a flexible work schedule and a workload that can be filled with projects that nurture your skills and interests, freelancing as a full-time career might provide the career fulfillment you seek. Nevertheless, feelings of trepidation can be a common roadblock when you forgo the security of traditional employment for the life of a freelancer. But, as fans of the television series Mad Men have heard, “Our worst fears lie in anticipation.”

Here are six common freelance fears—and how to overcome them.

1. How I will stay connected to others?
Many freelancers fear losing the social support an office gig. But when you become a full-time freelancer, you enter a new professional realm and should seek out groups that complement your redefined role. Being active in your field not only will help you to build a reputation and uncover new projects, but also will let you swap trade secrets with other freelancers and learn from their mistakes (before you make them). LinkedIn groups, such as LinkEds & Writers and Flash Freelancers let you tap into an active online community of independent contractors. Elance’s Water Cooler also presents opportunities to connect with other freelancers and build client relationships.

CorpNet: Using Elance to Create A Hybrid Organization

I run a small business called CorpNet that helps other small businesses incorporate a company, form an LLC and manage business filings online. One of my favorite things about running an online business is making use of the amazing online tools and resources that are now available that make life so much easier—and one of the most important online tools for my company is Elance.

My company CorpNet has a full-time staff of 7 in-house employees located onsite to do the daily work of our business—talking with customers, handling business filings, and offering free phone consultations to help entrepreneurs get the information they need to make an informed decision about how to choose a business structure and incorporate a business.

In addition to our full-time staff, we have also hired Elance contractors to deliver over $22,000 worth of projects to help our business grow. We are truly a “hybrid organization”—we use onsite and online hiring to create a new model for how to work.

We rely on Elance to outsource all of our web development projects, graphic design, short-term administrative work, and blogging and copywriting projects. As a small business, Elance is hugely valuable to us because it gives our small business the ability to efficiently “scale up” and “scale down” our hiring.

The Three P's of Time Management

Is your freelancer lifestyle challenging your organizational and time management skills? Productivity coach Kirstin O´Donovan explains how you can make efficient use of your time and maximize your results using three simple concepts—the three P's.

Being a freelancer isn´t easy—not only do you have to provide an excellent service but you also have to run a business and manage your own time, and do all three successfully. Do you ever find yourself feeling completely overwhelmed when you think of all the things you have to do, or find that you just can´t seem to get on top of all the work?

When you want to improve your time-management skills, there are many areas to look at.You can begin by understanding how you use the time you have. Next you can identify bad habits and then you can learn the tools to change these habits. Here are a few tips and techniques you can apply to get more done and feel more productive using the three P’s of time management: Planning, Prioritizing and Performing.

Planning

There is a common expression that says ¨By failing to plan, you are planning to fail.¨ If you don´t plan, you won´t know everything you need to do to make a project successful. You might be inadequately prepared, face unexpected problems, miss deadlines and as a result, your reputation could be at stake. That can lead you to feeling overwhelmed, unorganized and stressed. You must understand the value in planning—it may not have immediate results but don´t forget what it is costing you to not plan.

What’s New With HTML5 and CSS3

Would you ever expect to hear computer code being compared alongside automobiles? Me either. But in many ways HTML5 and CSS3 are like a new car—faster, cleaner, more efficient, and with some pretty sleek curves.

There have been a lot of developments to HTML, but the biggest addition award would have to go to the ability to handle audio and video. Gone are the days of having to use a Flash video player, or a clunky Java-based video plug-in to handle your audio and video. This means that if one of the dominant features of your home page is a video, that it will now make your website more tablet and mobile friendly.

Implementing a basic HTML5 player on your website can be quite simple, but most developers want more than basic. They want the look of the video player to match seamlessly with the site, or they want the controls to look a certain way. They may have a vision on how they want the player to function, or they may just want to add keyboard shortcut keys. All of these things are possible, but involve a great deal of Java coding. One thing I would consider doing before writing thousands of lines of Java would be to see if there’s already an open source solution to what you want—this will save you a great deal of time and ultimately keep the cost lower for your client.

Ten HTML Email Tips for Web Designers

If you open your email inbox right now, you're guaranteed to see an HTML email (or maybe a hundred). When it's time to create one to send to your own clients and customers, there are some critical things to know in order to ensure successful delivery. Elancer Anchal Jaiswal, shares the top ten things you or your HTML email coder should be aware of.

There are several reasons why HTML emails are preferred to simple text versions. HTML emails give the impression of web pages, which have more visual appeal than plain text. This kind of mail is not only better for the recipient, but it is also more beneficial for the sender, who can use the tracking and reporting aspects of HTML emails, and metrics like open rate and forwarding rate.

Rich HTML coding makes an email more concise, attractive and readable. However, if your HTML coding is not done well, it will turn out to be a mess. It will either not work properly or will be rejected by various email clients. You therefore need to focus on common areas of concern, such as coding, included images, message width and file size. Here are 10 tips that will help you to code your HTML emails better:

1. Manual coding: In order to keep your HTML emails clean, always code it manually. HTML design programs, such as Microsoft FrontPage, are not ideal for the creation of HTML emails. If you code using this kind of software, you will get a different layout of the HTML email from what you expected, as such software adds redundant coding. However, if you absolutely need software to speed up your processes, you should opt for something such as HomeSite or Dreamweaver. After coding, always remember to remove unnecessary coding, if any, by hand.

How to Run Your Business Without an Office

Entrepreneurship is on the rise—more than half a million new businesses were created each month in 2009, according to research from the Kauffman Foundation. Many of these business owners aren’t factoring rent into their expenses but wireless technology and cloud-computing tools have made it possible for many entrepreneurs to make their businesses portable, eliminating the need to maintain dedicated office spaces.

Office-free working can mean a lot of things, from setting up shop in a spare room or at your kitchen table to taking your laptop to a coffeehouse or along with you on vacation. For entrepreneurs, running a business outside of a traditional setting can drastically reduce overhead by cutting rent and commuting costs out of the equation. It also can increase your operation’s mobility and scaling capacity—going mobile allows you to serve more customers and provide greater value for your services while increasing profit margins.

Storing data remotely enables you to access files from anywhere, and there are resources discussing essential tools for building your business in the cloud. It’s equally important to consider the operational issues involved in running a company that has no dedicated office space, so we developed the following strategies:

Work from home or a shared space
In most cases, you can save on office rent by simply running your business out of your home. If you don’t have the room or there are too many distractions in your house, a co-working space — for which you’ll pay a small monthly fee — could be the ideal solution. Regus, for example, has 1,100 locations worldwide offering a range of fully equipped and staffed offices to virtual office packages.

Under this scenario, you can use the building’s reception services, mailing address, and conference room. If you’re unable to pick up your mail, you can arrange to have it shipped to you in bundles. These types of rental agreements can cost less than a quarter of what you’d pay to rent a full office space.

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