Guest Bloggers

Guest Post: Can Startups and Small Businesses Turn Summer Vacation into a Tax Deduction?

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 Nellie Akalp, a big Elance fan who also happens to be a successful entrepreneur and CEO of


As the summer heats up, vacation season kicks into full swing. Employees with office jobs enjoy all those traditional perks like paid vacation days, while time-pressed, cost-conscious startups, small business owners, and contractors are left wondering how to get that much needed time off without jeopardizing their business and clients. 

However, small businesses, startups and entrepreneurs have one advantage, and that’s the ability to mix business and pleasure…at least when it comes to expensing parts of your summer travel. Here are some of the basics of what you need to know (but as with any general tax advice, it’s a good idea to discuss your specifics with a tax advisor):

1. The primary purpose needs to be business.

The IRS will let you deduct travel expenses if the primary purpose of the trip is for business. You can include a few days of fun in a business trip, but the majority of days must be for business activities. If not, you won’t be able to make any transportation deductions. So, if you have 3 days of client meetings (or a seminar) and 2 travel days, that counts as 5 business days – meaning you’d most likely be able to tack on 4 days of vacation and still have it count as a business trip.

2. What can you deduct?

In general, you’re able to deduct any transportation costs (plane tickets, taxis, airport parking, etc.) needed to get you to your destination. And as a general rule of thumb for U.S. based companies and startups, you can deduct 100% of lodging, tips, car rentals, and 50% of your food for any of the business days. Refer to IRS Pub 463 for all the details on which expenses can be deducted.

3. Sandwich a weekend between business days.

Normally, you can only deduct your on-the-road expenses only during the business portion of a trip. So, if you attended a conference Monday-Wednesday and then spent Thursday and Friday sightseeing, you would not be able to deduct your expenses for Thursday and Friday. However, if you have a business day on Friday and Monday, you are able to deduct your hotel, meal, and other costs incurred over the weekend too.

4. Document your expenses and keep all lodging receipts!

You don’t have to worry about keeping a pocketful of receipts- the IRS doesn’t require receipts for a travel expense that’s under $75. The one exception is lodging; you’ll need a receipt for any lodging expense, no matter how much. Keep in mind that just because you don’t need a receipt, you still must keep a good record of each expense. Consider putting all expenses on a business credit card, so you have a single paper trail.

5. Make sure you set up your business appointments before you leave.

You can’t just take off on a vacation and hope to be able to talk ‘business’ on the plane or find a new customer lead in the hotel lobby. The IRS requires that you have at least one business appointment already scheduled before you leave (what they call “prior set business purpose”).

Final thoughts.

As with any tax strategy, the best way to avoid trouble is to be honest about your intentions, deduct only the expenses you’re entitled to, and then keep all supporting documentation to back up those deductions. We all know how hard you’re working, so see if it’s possible to follow the rules while expensing the transportation costs to enjoy a few days of relaxation at the beach.

Guest Post: 4 Tips for Choosing the Right Freelancer for Your Business.

Occasionally we invite professionals to wax poetic about issues of importance to clients who hire on Elance. Here are some thoughts from David Bakke, a small business owner who writes about money management and productivity on the blog Money Crashers Personal Finance.


In small business ownership, cutting costs is key. While you can certainly benefit by marketing your business through social media free of charge, there are many other ways that you can save - and one major way to save is by enlisting the services of affordable, productive freelancers.

Make a good choice, and your small business will benefit significantly. To help you choose wisely, here are five tips:David Bakke

1. Use A Reputable Hiring Resource.

If you plan to hire a freelancer, it's important to only use the best resources for locating available help. One website to consider is Elance, which allows you to choose from roughly two million freelancers located all over the world. The site features freelance copy writers, market researchers, web designers, software developers, and more, and it is free to set up an account and list your job.

2. Follow up With References.

Be sure to read each freelancer’s feedback on Elance, and ask for references from people you’re consider hiring. Also be sure to contact references to learn how well the candidate performed on previous projects. Inquire whether all deadlines were met, and how well the candidate performed on specific areas of a similar project that are most important to you.

3. Institute a Stringent Interview Process.

Once you narrow down your search to two or three candidates, you must begin a comprehensive interview process. This is especially important, since you're unable to meet face-to-face with the individual. Phone interviews make a fine starting point, and you can also schedule video interviews via Skype. Prepare a detailed set of open-ended questions, and don't be afraid to ask for more information or for the candidate to expand on his or her answers.

4. Explicitly Define Your Goals.

You'll never hire the right person for the job unless you clearly outline what you expect. This explanation should include a time-frame and any other specific requirements you may have. If a freelancer doesn't clearly understand what is expected, they can't provide satisfactory results.


Guest Blog Post: The Road To Society3.0

Now and again we like to invite clients and freelancers to this blog, asking them to discuss their real-life experiences and offer insights they’ve gleaned from a world of online work. Today we’ve slated Ronald van den Hoff, who will explain his views on Society3.0. Ronald is co-founder of CDEF Hodlings, a collection of companies in the hospitality and social media space.


The present economic difficulties in Europe will more than likely persist, and may well be felt for a long time.

Many countries within and outside Europe will have to endure a great deal of strife in the next few years. In my opinion there is nothing being done about these conditions, except a lot of hot air being blown -- which will convert into financial disillusions.

Just think of the enormous rise of the ageing population in Europe and the fragile situation of the welfare state, the pension system and the connected level of spending of our municipalities, the rising costs of our health care and the inevitable depletion of our natural reserves. We are yet to experience the effects of these developments. Hot air, after all, is intangible. And, intangibility translates into financial depreciation.

The old economic, financial & politic systems, not being capable of delivering the answers to these dynamics, are in a zombie-state, meaning we are in ‘transition’, moving from the industrial era to, what I call ‘Society3.0’.

We see more and more people who have clearly chosen how they want to define themselves, their environment and their relationships with other people.

They are the people I call global citizens: People of the new world. These Society3.0 citizens cannot and will not deal with the thinking of the establishment anymore. They want to add value in their work and life in a significantly different way, namely by creating value instead of growth. Most of all, the global citizen wants a sustainable society. The Society30.

Through the fast growing network of inter-human contact (thank you Web1.0, 2.0, 3.0), a permanent connectivity comes into being between the organization, its people and its other stakeholders. This social exchange of information and knowledge leads to collaboration and eventually results in “doing business” with each other in real time-virtual-value networks.

The most important value creation players in the new global Interdependent Economy are no longer large organizations, but increasingly small to medium sized networked enterprises, complemented by an army of independent professionals – the Knowmads (Moravec, 2008). We’re talking about a new generation of people who consider virtual social communication to be normal and find sharing even more common good; they find the use of the Internet common practice. The collapse or even the disappearance of large traditional organizational entities will accelerate this process.

These new value networks need virtual and physical locations to meet and to collaborate. The office as we know it is gone. The traditional school, library, and meeting centre will follow. Besides virtual platforms to do business, like Elance, we need new physical locations in new geographical locations where people can meet, work, exchange information and more.

3 Reasons Why Some Freelancers Get More Jobs Than Others.

Now and again we like to invite freelancers and clients to this blog, asking them to discuss their real-life experiences and offer insights they’ve gleaned from online work. Today we’ve slated Toke Kruse, who will explain what he’s looking for when hiring Elancers.


My name is Toke Kruse. As the owner of several businesses, I often use Elance to find freelancers for various types of projects.

Though hundreds of freelancers have sent me proposals in response to jobs I’ve posted on Elance, there are a few key things that least 80% of them could have done differently, and ended up with a far better chance of being awarded one of my projects.Toke Kruse

With that in mind, I wanted to give you some advice on how to optimize your proposals – three simple but important actions that will increase your rate of job awards. As the CEO of Billy’s Billing, a provider of accounting software for freelancers and small businesses, these are points I always look for when choosing a freelancer.

#1: Provide a great presentation of yourself, your skills and your success.

You know better than anyone what you’re capable of, and all about the great work you’ve done in the past. Don’t keep it a secret! Present yourself well and honestly, highlighting your strengths and showcasing relevant examples of your work:

  • Make sure your profile is well written – that means good grammar, perfect spelling and well-constructed sentences and paragraphs. It also means a tone and “flavor” that will appeal to the sort of client you prefer to work with. That might be bright and friendly, or it might be more conservative and businesslike – it’s up to you.
  • Include a good photo, and highlight your past experience and other qualifications as a proven provider. If you’re new to Elance, say so. There are a lot of clients willing to give newcomers a try.
  • Your profile should also include examples of your best work (even if it wasn’t done through Elance), and feedback showing how satisfied clients have been with what you’ve provided.  No client is likely to hire a provider who doesn’t have any good references and work samples.
  • Build up a portfolio showing the different types of work you do, and be sure to attach relevant samples when bidding on a job.
  • As time goes on, be sure to keep your profile up to date, too. Add new samples of great work, new feedback from enthusiastic clients, new qualifications and so on.

#2: Offer the perfect product and a clear pricing policy.

It’s vital to your success that you offer and provide an outstanding product. I know this isn’t shocking news, but still it needs to be said – and kept foremost in your mind on every project you undertake.

The people who are consistently the most successful – in any field – are those who make it a point always to provide more than what the customer or client expects. A better product, a faster delivery, more prompt, courteous and clear communication – there are all sorts of ways you can exceed expectations. And it’s just good business to do it.

Next, it’s important to have a sensible, fair and clearly stated pricing policy. Make sure your customers or clients know, right from the start, exactly what your products and services will cost them. A clear, firm agreement on price before a project begins will save everyone involved headaches and upset later on.

When stating your pricing policy, be sure to mention factors behind your pricing that are important to the client or customer: the superb quality of your work, your speedy and reliable delivery, your flexibility and willingness to work with the client to ensure the product is exactly what’s needed, and so on. 

I won’t try to go into all the ins and outs of pricing here. The subject is worth a whole article (or two or three) all by itself.  And fortunately there’s plenty of good information and advice available. To put it very briefly, though:

  • You don’t want to overcharge, so that the customer feels he or she won’t receive fair value for the price, and look for someone who will charge less.
  • You don’t want to undercharge, either – that’s not being fair to yourself, and can end up driving you out of business.

By the way, as you may already have learned, there are some people posting jobs on Elance who are ONLY interested in getting the lowest price possible. And there are plenty of providers who, for whatever reason, will charge ridiculously low prices. Unfortunately for the clients who hire them, their product quality and service are often ridiculously low, too. So don’t compromise and offer prices way below what your work is worth. There are plenty of clients who appreciate great quality and are willing to pay a fair price for it.

#3: Be certain of what your client needs, wants and expects.

Before making a bid on a project, it can be very helpful to communicate with the prospective client, to clarify what he or she needs. Elance has provided ways for you to do this. (If you’re not sure how, check their “Help” section.)

In sending such a communication, introduce yourself briefly, tell the client that you’re interested in the project, and ask for information or clarifications you need in order to make a fair bid.  A good client (one you’re likely to be happy to work for) will appreciate your questions and the professionalism they indicate. 

Be sure to be very clear and concise. If your potential client is anything like me, they’ll be receiving a flurry of proposals and bids – and they don’t have time to be reading long Harry Potter stories. 

Whether you’re asking questions about a project, or making a direct proposal, it’s very helpful if you include samples of past work that are similar to the project in question. In some cases you might even supply a small sample of what you would do on that specific project. I don’t mean you should do a part of the project for free – no way. But a small sample of how you would approach the task can demonstrate that you really DO understand what’s needed, and that you CAN provide it. (It can also open the door to helpful clarification of the client’s needs. Either way, you both win.)

I hope what I’ve said here will help you to stand out from the crowd, land more projects and increase your earnings as a freelancer. I look forward to seeing you here on Elance!

Toke Kruse

CEO, Billy’s Billing

Tips From A Pro: The Tax Benefits Of Properly Structuring Your Business.

With tax time coming in the U.S., we thought the time was right to get everyone thinking about how to best prepare your business (or freelance operation) for tariff time. To get the ball rolling, here is a guest blog post from Nellie Akalp of CorpNet.

………………………………………………………Tax time

Have you ever wondered if your business is legit? Is there a way to reduce self-employment taxes? If so, read on to learn more about business structures and freelancing.

By default, you’re a sole proprietorship.

If you’ve never actually chosen a business structure, then your business is a sole proprietorship. As the simplest business structure, the sole prop doesn’t separate your personal and business finances. That means that if your business is sued or can’t pay its debts, you may be required to tap into your personal savings and property.

A lot of small businesses transition to a formal business structure like an LLC or Corporation. These structures will help protect your personal assets from any liabilities of your freelance business. And in some cases, there can be tax benefits as well.

Business structures: an overview

Three common U.S. business structures are: the LLC (Limited Liability Company), S Corporation, and C Corporation. Each structure has pros and cons depending on your specific situation. However, in most cases the C Corporation is overkill for a freelancer. For several reasons (including tax structure), the C Corporation is a good option for bigger companies who plan to go public, seek VC funding, or invest profits back into the company.

The LLC and S Corporation are popular choices for the small business/freelancer. Both give you the option for “pass through” taxation where the company doesn’t pay taxes, but all profits and losses are passed on to your personal tax report. That probably sounds a lot like how it works with a sole proprietorship, but there’s a big difference.

If you’re a sole proprietor and pay your taxes on a Schedule C, you’re subject to paying self-employment tax in addition to income taxes. This can leave you scratching your head wondering what happened to your hard-earned money.

However, Bert Seither, Director of Operations at Corporate Tax Network, explains that many freelancers will set up as an S Corporation or LLC that’s taxed as an S Corp in order to reduce self-employment taxes.

“When you have an S Corp or an LLC that’s taxed like an S Corp you can be paid a good portion of your money from the entity to yourself in distributions (think of distributions as bonuses). The distributions are not subject to any self-employment taxes,” said Seither.

“However, keep in mind that you cannot take all of your money in distributions and are required to pay yourself a ‘fair and reasonable’ salary,” he added.

Other considerations:Nellie

While taxes are typically at the forefront of everyone’s mind, you need to consider other aspects that can have just as big an impact on your bottom line. If you incorporate as an S Corporation, you’ll need to set up a board of directors, file annual reports, hold shareholder’s meetings, etc.

With an LLC, there’s a lot less paperwork and fewer ongoing administrative formalities to follow than a corporation. For some people, the S Corporation can be too burdensome.

Take some time to learn about the different business structures; talk to a tax advisor about your particular situation. It’s easy to set up and you’ll be protecting your personal assets and giving your business more legitimacy.


Nellie Akalp is a passionate entrepreneur, small business advocate and mother of four. As CEO of CorpNet, a legal document filing service, Nellie helps entrepreneurs start a businessincorporateform an LLC or set up Sole Proprietorships (DBAs) for a new or existing business. 




Third-Party Tool Improves Communications Between Elancers.

While Elance provides you with many handy tools for communicating and collaborating, sometimes teams have specific needs and opt for third-party solutions. One software program that’s gaining a lot of traction is Doodle, an online scheduling tool. Below is a quick guest blog post from Doodle’s CEO, Michael Näf, explaining the product.

------------------------------Doodle homepage

Communication is something that’s essential for any project to be a success. As an Elancer, you’ve surely experienced the truth of that statement in a personal way.

With that said, finding a time to have a meeting with one or more people can definitely be a challenge. Just because a time works for you doesn’t mean that it’s going to work for everyone. That may be obvious, but it’s still a frustrating reality to deal with.

We created an online scheduling tool, called Doodle, to help solve the problem of getting people together at a specific time. If you’d like to make scheduling less painful, then I’d encourage you to use Doodle alongside Elance to take your collaboration to the next level.

Benefiting from better communications.

Most of the products that we offer through Doodle are completely free, and we also provide extensive time zone, language, and calendar support. This means that collaboration through an international online platform like Elance will be effortless.

Included below are some of the core features you can leverage:

Group Scheduling - Registration isn't required to use the basic free service, so getting started is quick and easy. To schedule a meeting, you just select some possible dates and times and let the participants specify what works best for them. With a quick look, you'll see everyone's availability and be able to make a final decision that satisfies the entire group.

Premium Doodle - This ad-free professional version of Doodle offers premium functionality and customizable branding options.

MeetMe - With this personal scheduling profile, your Elance contacts can see when you’re busy and available and will then be able to submit meeting requests to get on your calendar. 

BookMe - Designed to help service providers streamline their booking process online.

Being more productive on Elance.

While Doodle can be used to make your project communication on Elance more productive, we’ve also found that Elance has helped our business become more productive. Just like with any other company, specific projects randomly come up from time to time, and while our team could handle them on their own, this activity can take time away from other established priorities.

In order to keep our employees focused on their usual tasks and avoid burdening them with additional tasks, we’ve used Elance freelancers to help us with things like user support and market research, and our experiences have been very positive.

In the end, it’s all about getting work done in an efficient way, and I hope you’ll be able to do that with Doodle in the same way that we’ve done that with Elance. 

About the Author

Michael Näf is the CEO of Doodle, which is the world’s leading online scheduling service. Doodle is based in Zurich, Switzerland and is used by more than fifteen million people per month.

Advice from an Elancer (Volume 4)

Welcome to Advice from an Elancer – a place to ask your Elance questions (through Elance’s LinkedIn page) and get them answered as thoroughly and personally as possible. My name is Dorothy D. and I have worked with Elance as a freelancer since April 2009. I have always tried to help other Elancers understand how things work and how to accomplish more. In Advice From An Elancer I will address as many questions as I can each week. In some cases, questions have been edited for clarity.


Question #1: Category Confusion

Every time I click on the job post I am instructed to subscribe to a certain category to apply. Why?

Advice from an Elancer:

When you signed up for Elance, you were asked what area you would be working in. You may have indicated Writing & Translation, Admin Support, Sales & Marketing, or one of the many other categories. Jobs are listed in categories and you may only bid on those in the category you have signed up for. You may change or add categories at any time by clicking on your name in the upper right hand corner and going to your Membership. The Membership page summarizes your membership. If you need to edit any information, click the edit tab and you will be presented with the opportunity to change information. If you wish to change your category, you may do that with no fee. If you wish to add a second category, you may do so for a fee.

In this example, the Writing & Translation tab has been clicked. The results will include only jobs in this category. As you can see, the jobs can be narrowed even further if you like.

Check what category you are subscribed to and make sure it is the right one for you!


Question #2: Not Getting Jobs!

How come I have completed the processes of Elance, but am still not getting any jobs.

Advice from an Elancer:

Go to the Help Center or Elance University.

The Contractor Guide, located in the Help Center at has a step-by-step guide to using Elance. It goes from creating your profile to getting paid and more. I suggest starting there. Your second reference guide is Elance University at . The videos in the University outline the process of finding jobs and clients, doing great work, and getting paid.


Advice from an Elancer (Volume 3)

Welcome to Advice from an Elancer – a place to ask your Elance questions (through Elance’s LinkedIn page) and get them answered as thoroughly and personally as possible. My name is Dorothy D. and I have worked with Elance as a freelancer since April 2009. I have always tried to help other Elancers understand how things work and how to accomplish more. In Advice From An Elancer I will address as many questions as I can each week. In some cases, questions have been edited for clarity.


Question #1: Proposal declined for incorrect reason

A potential Client said they would send me a few pages of copy for a translation project that I had bid on. When I told them I only do test translations of 500 words, they declined my bid with the reason “the contractor does not have the required expertise.” How do I deal with situations like this?

Advice from an Elancer:Report Violations

The reason was not incorrect. The Client was, however, in violation of Elance’s Terms of Service by asking you for “a few pages of copy” for you to test your skill. You should not provide ANY samples for a Client other than work you have done that is not protected by agreement by a client. In other words, if you agreed that you would not take credit for it and it is allowable in a portfolio or as an example. Elance’s Site Usage Policy states that Clients may not “Post any Jobs that require free services.” The request for a sample is a free service.

Clients are given a few pre-written choices for declining a Freelancer. This one chose “does not have the required expertise”. This doesn’t reflect on you at all. It does not affect your rating.

As for how to deal with such posters, let them know that it is against Elance policy to provide samples. You may report the Client via the posting. Click the Report Violation link located just below the job description. The Report Violation Window will pop up and you can enter that the Client violated Elance Terms by asking for a sample and explain it.

Never give anything away for free! Imagine if every bidder completed this Clients sample request. He could get his entire job done for free!


Question #2: Communication Problems (A Client Question)

I recently hired my first Elance Freelancer. I asked for her contact information right away, sent to my email address, but she sent it on the Workroom message board. This really angers me that she didn’t follow my instructions and I plan to take it off of her star rating. Why wouldn’t a Freelancer follow a simple request like that?

Advice from an Elancer:

I can only guess. Freelancers are told to keep a record of all communication in the Workroom. While they may communicate in other ways, the important elements of the discussion are to be transcribed in the Workroom to keep a record of the contact. I don’t know why the Freelancer chose to reply via the message board rather than email, but she may have felt that she needed to keep a record that she was providing the information to you. Honestly, I hope that she does a great job and that this was a misunderstanding. I hope you rate her on her work, rather than a small bump in the road in the beginning of the job.


European Study Focuses On Freelancer Rights & Benefits.

Note: As freelancing becomes an increasingly-important force within the world’s workplace, the issues of online worker’s rights is taking center stage. While full-time employees often have access to employee benefits and rights, this is not always the case for freelancers. Below is an article discussing this critical issue in Europe, penned by Joel Dullroy of Deskwanted, with an invitation to voice your opinion in a study they’re conducting. Naturally these matters need to be studied and resolved in all regions of the world.

The situation of freelancers is undoubtedly an important one; and includes the political, economic, and social circumstances of independent workers. Currently, however, there is proportionately little discussion and reform surrounding these issues need to be addressed and rewritten to reflect their economic clout, especially as this demographic swells to account for the majority of the international workforce.Joel of deskwanted

As it stands, the situation of freelancers as a subgroup of the international workforce is still fairly unexplored, and we know comparatively little about this growing demographic which some studies suggest will make up a major part of the European workforce by 2020.

Without information, little can be done to assess the political and social needs of independent workers. This, however, is soon to change.

A study into freelancers is underway.

A group of academics, commissioned by the European Forum of Independent Professionals (EFIP) is currently conducting a European-wide study of freelancers (also referred to as independent professionals or I-pros in the UK), with the aim of better understanding the situation of freelance workers. The outcome of the report will be used by the EFIP to start an EU-level political campaign to fight for better conditions for freelance workers – and much needed workplace reforms.

Why do freelancers’ work protections need to be revised?

We know that work conditions for freelancers need to be improved. The workers’ protections that employees everywhere take for granted – fair taxation, payment protection and affordable healthcare schemes – aren’t extended to independent workers, which has created an environment in which freelancers are too-often exploited for their work.

One recent campaign conducted by the Freelancer’s Union in New York highlighted this all-to-frequent occurrence, when a cumulative invoice of almost $16 million in unpaid freelancer invoices was delivered to the New York senate. Here is a link to their site:

Without appropriate protection laws, these instances of payment infringements are bound to continue; and will become a much larger issue as the freelancer demographic grows.

With some statistics suggesting that 55% of businesses already outsource part of their work to contractors, and multinational companies like IMB introducing strategies to reduce their core workforce to a minimum – aiming to cut 14,000 of 20,000 permanent jobs in Germany alone – the independent workforce is set to become a majority of the European workforce within a decade.

There are some precautions that freelancers can take.Deskwanted space, London

There are of course several ways that freelancers can safeguard their livelihoods. Joining an agency like Elance (which includes their Elance Hourly Work Guarantee), offers a buffer between clients and contractual workers, is one way to reduce the risk of working independently. Elance can hold clients accountable by pinning responsibility back on the client, and ensuring timely payment.

Aside from joining a virtual network of freelancers, another way is to join a physical community of freelancers, like in a coworking space. By surrounding themselves with other independent professionals, freelancers can ask advice on administrative and legal issues, as well as finding trusted clients. There are coworking spaces in hundreds of cities worldwide, which are acting as hubs of freelance talent, supporting independent workers in their work and social life. Deskwanted is a useful tool to find and book coworking spaces in all corners of the globe.

In conclusion.

Despite these safeguards, the situation of this growing demographic should be improved on the whole, ensuring they are properly protected by national and regional law.

Anyone working in the EU as a freelancer is happily welcomed to participate by taking part in a brief interview with a member of the research team. If you would like to add your voice, please be in touch with Joel Dullroy, International Representative of the Association of Founders and Freelancers – Germany ( and co-founder of


Introducing Advice From An Elancer (Volume 1)

Today we kick-off a fun and informative new feature here on the Elance blog. It’s called Advice From An Elancer, and it’s your opportunity to get timely answers to those all-important freelancer or client questions -- all from a seasoned Elance professional who has walked a mile in your shoes. Feel free to peruse the answers to other people’s questions (or ask your own question on the discussion page of Elance’s LinkedIn Group). Enjoy! Hopefully it will help greatly as you Work Differently in 2013.
Advice from an Elancer Icon

Welcome to Advice From An Elancer – a place to ask your Elance questions (through Elance’s  LinkedIn page) and get them answered as thoroughly and personally as possible. My name is Dorothy D. and I have worked with Elance as a freelancer since April 2009. I have always tried to help other Elancers understand how things work and how to accomplish more. In Advice From An Elancer I will address as many questions as I can each week. In some cases, questions have been edited for clarity.

Question #1:

Elance is new to me. I need to understand. How do I get my first job when I don't have anything to showcase. All I need to understand is "How do I approach the client or post a proposal which will not only attract the Client or Hiring Manager, I would rather he initiate the PMB, which should result in a Project Award!!!

Advice from an Elancer:

Part of the answer depends upon what area you are working in. If you are in IT or Design, you may provide links to work that you have done online. For writing, you may want to write a few pieces to use for examples of your skills. You can use this technique in several areas. Make some examples simply to use in your portfolio or to share with clients in proposals. You could also use recommendations in your portfolio from previous clients.

You cannot approach a client without making a proposal or asking a question. There is no way to contact a potential client without using a Connect and filling out at least something in the proposal screen. This may be questions for clarification or a bid without an exact amount, but it opens the door to communication.

While it is nice to communicate via PMB, your main impression on the client will from your profile and your proposal. This is the place to show who you are and what you can do. Don’t worry about initiating private conversations. Focus on your public profile and high quality proposals.


Question #2:

I have been on Elance for over a year now but unfortunately I've not even won a bid. Is the problem about my proposals? Or where I come from? (international provider). An employer that was interested in me recently declined my bid because I do not have a feedback. How do I get one when I'm not offered a job? I'm in the Finance and Management section.

Advice from an Elancer:

This was posted within a thread selling an e-book with tips for writing winning proposals. Honestly, to give a precise answer, I would need to see the freelancer’s profile as well as a sample proposal that they have written. Elance is a global business, so it is doubtful that location is the culprit. More likely, your profile is not complete or is not attractive to clients or your proposals are not written in a way that stands out above the others.

Remember, each proposal must be different. You cannot use a “cookie cutter” proposal with small changes and expect to win jobs. There is no secret for writing that magic proposal that will win a job. There are, however, ways that you can write your proposal that will show the client that you are the best candidate for the job. Let your experience and personality shine through. Be confident and explain why you are the best person for their particular job. Realistically, you may have to bid lower for a few jobs to establish a reputation on Elance. Once you have the reputation, you may raise your rates to a more reasonable level.

Another way to gain a reputation is to add some references or some jobs to your portfolio. This will help clients feel comforted that you do, in fact, have experience.


Question #3:

Sometimes it is very tough to get a project on Elance. Do clients get a lot of proposals and get confused and move for the cheapest bid?

Advice from an Elancer:

Some clients are simply looking for the lowest bid to get their job done. Some even say this in the description! Often, the client is looking for good work for an unreasonably low price. This can be frustrating for both the client and bidding freelancers. I have had situations where the client chose a very low bid, did not receive the work they needed, and came back and hired me to fix the work so that it met their needs.

The best case is the client who realizes that you get what you pay for. In other words, the client realizes that to get high quality work, they may have to pay more to get a freelancer who can provide what they need.

There are all types of clients out there. Before you bid, look at their profile. Do they usually hire the lowest bidder? Have they spent very little money on Elance? If so, you may want to save your Connects and look for another client.


Whew, that's enough for today. If you have questions or want to follow the conversation of other Elancers, visit the Discussion page of our LinkedIn page.


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