A ton of you already know that being an independent professional can have its ups and downs, but what you might not realize is that being the significant other of can feel a lot like a roller coaster as well. Pete Savage, co-author of The Wealthy Freelancer and co-founder of the upcoming International Freelancers Day, writes an open letter to the many supportive spouses and partners of freelancers to explain.
In recognition of how weird we freelancers can be... what follows is an open letter to spouses and partners of new and soon-to-be freelancers. You’re in for a fun (and sometimes bumpy!) ride. And though you probably deserve your own support group, hopefully this letter will help life with us freelancers be a little more manageable...
Dear Significant Other,
You have the hardest job of all. Living with a freelance professional who works from home ain't easy. We know that, and in the interest of peace and harmony at home, please allow us to make a few special requests...
Let us off the hook for past commitments. I know, we promised to build a deck, refinish the antique dining room table, and shingle the roof, but that was before we launched the business, and it's unlikely we'll have time to follow through on some or all of these things. Which of these are noncritical at this point in our life? Can we cancel or postpone them for now? Or pay someone else to do them?
Forgive if we forget. If you tell us something while we're working, or in passing, we're likely to forget. If you say "Annie has ballet this Saturday at 2 o'clock," she may very likely be late, or miss it altogether, and have to run laps at the start of next week's class when you take her. (This forgetfulness is much worse if we are male.)
Let's start a family calendar (a paper or online version) where all those details are recorded, so we can keep track of things that are important to us both in our business and personal lives.
Help us protect our time. We creative / entrepreneurial types are not always the most disciplined people in the world, and we tend to get distracted easily. (Oh, you've noticed?) Please help us guard our time by resisting the urge to interrupt us when we're hard at work. Even if you just pop into our office to tell us something quickly, this can be enough to send us off track for the next half-hour! Before we know it, we're checking e-mail when we should be back to the task at hand, or we're following you out into the kitchen to continue to the conversation and make coffee. Staying focused and disciplined when you work from home is hard! So unless the house is on fire, let's talk at dinner.
Share Sure, I could tell you about the 165,000 different expert professionals there are on Elance, or how businesses and entrepreneurs everyday on Elance are getting started, but in reality, seeing it in action is a whole different experience. Quoc Bui and Michael Moon, founders of Free the Apps, stop by and share their story, strategies and experiences in a multi-part blog series.
How is it possible that two 26 year old guys can start and maintain an $800,000 a year business with limited resources and only a few hours a week?? If you had asked me that question in early 2009 I would have thought it was an impossible task, but just one year later my best friend Michael and I are living the dream as founders of Free the Apps! That dream was made possible by not only Apple's iPhone and the app store, but also Elance.com and how easy they have made it to outsource all aspects of our business.
Last summer, we were hanging out and talking about the insane amount of revenue indie developers were generating through the Apple iTunes App Store. Being tech-geeks who love the latest technology, we talked about how cool it would be to release our own app in the App Store. The thought of creating an app and making it available for the world to use was enough to get us started. Making a few bucks off it was merely an afterthought, let alone creating a real life-changing business out of it. We got really excited to make it happen, but realized that we didn't have any iPhone app programming experience. So instead of spending months learning Objective C to develop apps ourselves, we did what any efficient entrepreneurs would do, we hired someone to build it for us! The idea to outsource our business was the single smartest decision we made.
With Elance, we’ve been able to research all of our outsourcing options and pick the team that is best for our projects. There are thousands of extremely talented professionals all over the world that are excited to work with us at a price that keeps our overhead costs low, and we’ve been able to leverage their talents to build quality apps for our users. Not only have we used the experts at Elance to develop our apps, but we’ve outsourced all aspects of our business. We hired them to design our website and SEO. Our eBook, “How to Make iPhone Apps With No Programming Experience” had the cover design, in-page formatting, and proofreading done by a professional from Elance as well. As I am writing this article, there are iPhone app developers from China, Russia, India and America, all working on our newest projects. Elance and the wonderful, top-notch providers have made this possible.
When clients and independent professionals get together, there are two big questions that always get asked: How much is it going to cost, and how long is it going to take? Struggling to answer the latter question? Elizabeth Saunders, Elance employer and expert time coach, shares her tips on how to estimate project time effectively.
Estimates matter. Get them right, and you have happy customers, employees and profit margins. Get them wrong, and you have just the opposite. When you’re a freelancer, successful time and cost estimates can literally mean the difference between bliss and bankruptcy.
So if estimating is so important, why do most people think it comes down to guessing?
Because it’s deceptively complicated and emotionally charged.
As a time coach, I’ve developed an exclusive Schedule Makeover process that allows me and others to work 40 hours a week or less, have evenings and weekends free and make a living. I’ve seen that a systematic approach, like the one described below, is the best way to overcome this challenge. And in order to give you some specific examples, I interviewed a senior business systems consultant (i.e. a liaison between business and IT) and a quality assurance analyst (i.e. a bug finder) for their best IT estimating examples.
Here are some of my best Schedule Makeover tips on effectively estimating projects: Get Clear on What You Are Estimating
The Most Important part of project estimation is really truly understanding what you are estimating. If the client doesn’t really know what problem they want to solve, let alone what they want you to do, suggest completing a mini-project to clarify these elements before giving a full project estimate:
Phases: You need to understand the high-level stages that will take the project from start to finish. For instance, a small project could include: receiving information from client, executing task, delivering items and making changes. A large project could have many more and higher level phases such as: analysis, design, testing, documentation, installation, user training, tech support training and help desk training.
Done: As an outside contractor, make no assumptions about the definition of done. If you think “done” means installing a system on the server, and your client thinks “done” means the system is in use and supported by internal staff, you have two very different projects and two very different estimates.
Knowing your audience – Any successful content creator on Elance will tell you it's one of the cornerstones of writing great content for yourself, your business or your clients. Margot Lester, owner of The Word Factory stops by the Elance Blog once again to share her best insights on learning more about the most important group of people: your readers.
Writers are often told to write with the audience in mind but are rarely told how to do it. The solution is writing like a reader.
Bringing awareness to your own experience as a reader is the first step. What makes you want to read a piece? How do writers hold your interest? What types of details do you crave?
Now you can start focusing on your audience and what they want to know, versus what you want/need to tell them. Here’s how:
Describe Your Reader
Start by identifying your audience down to the smallest workable group. “Anyone with a pulse” isn’t going to be effective. “iPad users who need to file a health insurance claim online” or “Busy moms looking for play groups where they can drop off a child at the last minute” are better. Maybe you can even narrow it down a person you know who seems like the ideal audience.
Then determine what you know about this audience. What are their values? Their concerns? And what questions might they have about your product or service?
Several years ago, I was asked to write a faith-based dating advice column for a major online personals site. Great opportunity, but not exactly my sweet spot. Before I started writing, I learned all I could about my readers, including reviewing the questions they’d sent in, to get a feel for their issues and concerns. This helped me understand who was reading my column and what they cared about. The audience was “people working hard to align faith and romance who didn’t feel they could share their concerns with friends and family.”
Figuring this out also told me how they wanted to hear my advice: “a compassionate and tolerant voice giving them ways of thinking through their situations without pressuring them to arrive at a particular conclusion”. I couldn’t give the usual “do it my way” advice. Instead, I had to give people advice on how to advise themselves. Had I missed this subtle point, I might have had a “one and done” career in this area. As it happens, I probably wrote a hundred of these columns.
Predict Their Questions & Concerns
The most valuable writing answers readers’ questions and addresses their concerns. This usually involves some guess work unless you’ve got amazing market research at your finger tips. But even a stab in the dark is better than no stab at all.
Write down a few things you think your reader might ask you. It’s a safe bet that most readers will at some point ask a variation of “What’s in it for me?”, “Why should I care?”, or “What if I don’t?”. Feel free to use one these as a starting point. Still, develop three or four more specific questions related to your readers and topic.
A few years ago, I was writing a piece for a local museum about health issues related to coffee consumption and the environmental impact of coffee farming. Based on what we knew about museum visitors and members, the program director and I came up with these questions to guide my writing:
Wondering how hiring professionals and tapping into endless talent online works in the real world? Bill Dwight, founder of FamZoo, tells us his story of how working with an elancer gave his business access to the skills he needed instantly.
We’re a small bootstrapped start-up. We need to move fast. We don’t have a lot of money to burn. We don’t have any spare cycles. And, we like to do things in a quality way. When the situation is right, we turn to Elance to help us achieve these seemingly competing objectives. This article dissects a classic example where the situation - and the outcome - was just right.
Recently, we had a last minute opportunity to sponsor a promotional banner at a sporting event. We wanted to use our signature illustrations in the banner, but unfortunately, we only had small scale images of our artwork. Our graphic artist (the very talented Lea Alcantara of LeaLea Design) informed us that if we tried to just expand the image we had and use it directly on our large-scale banner, it would look “extremely pixelated”. That’s graphic-artist speak for “really lame” as you can see in the fuzzy blow up here:
To do things right, we’d need a vectorized version of our graphic - pronto! Unfortunately, Lea informed us that producing a quality vector tracing would take her a couple of hours. Of course, that would be a couple of hours she didn’t have. We needed Lea to get going on the overall banner design.
Looking for ways to engage people who visit your blog or website? Improve the effectiveness of your site’s content? Then consider using podcasting.
Why? Because audio enhances your blog posts and site content. Audio podcasts excite your listeners’ ears, communicate your company’s value proposition and personalize your brand.
eMarketer estimates that 38 million U.S. consumers will download podcasts monthly by 2013, double the 17 million who listened to podcasts in 2008. Regardless of your industry or market niche--technology, politics, current news, religion or humor—podcasts enhance the impact of blogs and other social media channels.
What is a Podcast?
A “podcast” isn’t just an audio or video file inserted into a blog post. A combination of “iPod” and “broadcast,” podcasts, like blogs, are frequently syndicated and listened to on MP3 players and mobile phones. There are four types:
Audio podcasts, lasting five minutes to an hour, appeal to Web audiences who enjoy listening rather than reading. You’ll find thousands of them on iTunes, BlogTalkRadio, Podbean and other syndication services.
If you’re a Wordpress blogger and podcaster like me, Blubrry’s plugin makes it easy to add audio to your blog and appear on iTunes. eCamm’s Call Recorder lets you record Internet phone interviews on your Mac. And Audacity is a free software recording program for PC’s and Macs.
Video podcasts, produced by NPR, ABC and other media companies, add streaming video to the audio. They’re more complex to produce and require faster Internet connections to download but are very effective demonstrating products or services.
Enhanced podcasts are slideshows with audio, mainly intended for Mac users. GarageBand, a powerful recording and editing software program for Macs, is a good software tool for this type of podcast.
Screencasts, video screen capture podcasts, are useful if you want to show PowerPoint slides or other “static” computer screen images.
Getting the word out about your brand isn't as difficult or cost-prohibitive as it used to be. Angelia Kane, Marketing Consultant and director of The Bedtime CEO, translates basic techniques exhibited by street vendors in Bangkok into effective marketing campaigns for you.
May I Have Some Profit With My Satay, Please?
In a tough economy, you can forget about formal marketing training and B-school theories. To succeed in today’s marketplace, you need to use street smarts. Combining commonsense and hustle, street smart entrepreneurs know how to make a viable living. They may not be MBAs, but their real-world savvy can teach us all.
Our unlikely classroom is located in the bustling streets of Bangkok, Thailand. There, street food vendors serve everything from breakfast to 2am snacks and generate $1 billion annually in the process. These savvy entrepreneurs transform simple, local ingredients into tasty meals.
Panrop Kamlah became one of the noodle kings of Bangkok, all from his noodle cart. Already earning $175 a night using a commercial dough, he further improved his product with his own, homemade dough. Business grew as a result, helping him launch more carts. Then with the assistance of family and friends, he expanded into a full-fledged franchise. As of 2009, he had over 1,500 franchisees.
Resourcefulness Wrapped In a Banana Leaf
Street food vendors are resourceful out of necessity. For poor vendors coming from the countryside, they have to “make do” with any cheap tool they could find, even with the humble banana leaf.
Banana leaves are a versatile and prolific tool for Thai vendors. They make handy takeout containers that impart foods with a mild aroma and flavor. When molded into geometric shapes, they create a labeling system. Pyramid, conical, or triangular shapes indicate a sweet or savory product inside. Specially cut, angled or looped leaf tips on rice packages distinguish the ones made with coconut milk from those made with taro or palm fruit.
So find your banana leaf. Create the unexpected from accessible tools.
The Right Location Is In Front Of Your Customers
Success on the streets of Bangkok, or any street for that matter, means picking the right location. Where are your competitors? Are there too many similar products in your area? How high is the foot traffic? With so many street vendors in Bangkok, that it’s common for vendors to go door-to-door to sell their wares. Yes, the noodle cart does make house calls.
As an entrepreneur or freelancer, you probably have some sort of an online location: a website or even a social media page. But are you working unnoticed on a crowded street corner or are you a standout online? Do your customers know where you are? How high is your traffic? If they’re not coming to your cart, what are you doing to deliver to your customer’s doorstep?
A successful soup vendor doesn’t just sell soup. He builds a made-to-order experience. He combines a variety of noodles, meats, vegetables and garnishes all cooked to the customer’s liking. Customers can then fine-tune their soup with spicy, tangy or savory condiments.
Ask any freelancer around, and you'll get the same response: Maintaining a strong level of productivity is an absolute must for success. Ed Gandia, co-author of The Wealthy Freelancer and co-founder of International Freelancers Day (Sept. 24-25) brings 6 great ways to make you a more efficient and productive freelancer.
I love working from home. The flexibility to take my lunch break whenever I want, visit the gym when it’s not crowded or walk my dog when I need to clear my mind...
You just can’t put a price on that!
But with that flexibility comes temptation. The temptation to watch a bit of TV (which turns into a two-hour break). Eat a snack and call a friend about last night’s football game. Take a nap. Go shopping. Name your weakness.
That’s not good. Because as a freelancer, your most precious nonrenewable resource (besides your knowledge, talents and experience) is your time. Using it wisely is one of the quickest ways to boost your income and get more free time.
How can you become more productive? Here are six simple and easy-to-implement tips that have helped me boost my productivity by more than 30 percent over the last two years. I guarantee that you’ll get similar (or even better) results if you apply them.
#1: Start by developing a productive attitude. Treat your craft as a business, not a hobby. And treat your time as a business owner would treat her most valuable inventory: with great care. After all, time is part of your own “inventory.”
This doesn’t mean you should work more hours. You could be working full-time, part-time or half-time. It doesn’t matter. But when you’re at work… work! Which leads me to the next point…
#2: Set working hours every day. And stick to them. For instance, I’m at my desk every day by 7:00 a.m. I find that the early morning hours are the most productive for me. My mind is clearer and my creative energies sharper.
End time is 6:00 p.m. That sounds like a long day, but I take an hour to go to the gym every day. I also pick up my son from school four days a week. Some days I take him to school in the mornings. And when we get home, we usually spend an hour doing homework and playing. I also often have meetings, lunches or coffee with friends and personal appointments. So it’s not all work time.
Looking to move your website's search listing up on Google, Yahoo! and Bing yet don't know where to start? Gregg Murray, online marketing and website consultant and author of Website Blueprint, shares his five basic tips to help you hit the ground running in your search engine optimization efforts.
If you want your website to rank higher and more often in Google (or any other search engine), it’s essential that you know a handful of techniques regarding SEO (search engine optimization). When you optimize your web pages so Google can more easily find you, you’re sure to be found much more often when prospects are searching for your products or services while searching online. If you can take advantage of the five tips that follow, your web pages will receive more traffic from the people you really want to find you…potential clients and customers.
The most important word to remember through each of these tips is, “keywords.” Think of keywords as search engine magnets. The more relevant keywords you have, in the right places on your pages, the more energy you are giving Google to find your website and have it appear in search results.
Tip #1: The Power of Links
Each tip that follows is something you can do to your actual web pages that can improve your Google visibility, but this one doesn’t. My first tip is for you to get as many links as you can to your website, from other websites. These are called, “inbound links,” and Google loves them. When other websites have a link to your website, Google is more likely to see your website as authoritative and more important. This means everything else you do on your web pages when it comes to SEO will be more valuable. However, not all inbound links are created equal. The bigger the website you can get to link to you, the more impressed Google will be. Start with your Chamber of Commerce website, and keep it going from there.
Bonus Tip - Remember, “keywords” still matter in links. A link to your site (or even within your site) that is hyperlinked as a keyword is much (MUCH) more valuable than just a hyperlink that says, “click here” or “www.yourwebsiteaddress.com.”
Tip #2: Page Titles
Page titles appear as the headline in Google search results. You should have page titles that are both relevant to what’s on that specific page, as well as keyword rich. Google allows you to use up to 70 characters in your page title, so maximize that real estate wisely. A perfect headline example for an accountant in Raleigh, NC may be: “Raleigh, NC Accounting Services | Acme Accounting and Bookkeeping.” That took up 65-characters and contained several keywords that may be used when someone is looking for an accountant in Raleigh, NC. See how easy this is? :)
Bonus Tip: Here’s a link to a free SEO character counter. By the way, did you see how the link we just mentioned used keywords as the hyperlink? This is what I was talking about in Tip #1.
As a business owner, entrepreneur or developer, making the decision to adopt the new HTML5 web standard or continuing to utilize older technologies like Flash can be a difficult one. Len Payne, content creator on Elance and web development enthusiast, shares his thoughts on HTML5 and the future of the web.
The Internet is not a place to be caught standing still. With the constant shifts and twists of technological trends, it's important to be aware of what's coming, and to make sure you're not getting left behind. With the recent adoption of HTML5 and CSS3, we're looking at a brand new set of open standards for web development. HTML and CSS make up the backbone of all web content and the native language of our web browsers. They're growing, expanding and leaving unprepared companies in the dust. Do you know what changes are coming, and how that's going to affect your business?
Escaping The Past
First of all, let me give you an example of what it's like to be left behind by internet technologies. I was recently linked to the actual, honest to goodness, ticket ordering websites for the two most-watched game shows on North American television today. I'm talking about Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune. Click on that, I'll wait. It's a blast from the past, but it's the web presence of a very successful business. Today. Would you seriously feel comfortable giving your personal information out on a website like that? It's functional and cost-effective, but in an age of eBay, PayPal and Facebook, is a 1996 Geocities template the kind of face you want for your company?
That's an extreme example, and we all know that it's always important to keep up with the times, but what's really changed? What is the cutting edge of web design and how do these web professionals actually make things look so professional? The big changes we're seeing in HTML5 and CSS3 are leaps and bounds beyond what you saw from "America's Game", but the hugest shifts from last year to this year are the inclusion of inline media tags—bringing movies, sound and games back in control of the browser.
Now somebody out there is gonna say, "What?! But I can already watch movies in my browser!" And they're right… sort of.
For years, we have relied on Flash and Java to provide rich multimedia web content. Why? What did they offer? They offered programs that would run within your web browser to play sounds, videos and even interactive games. It's an added layer, like paying someone else to wash the windows. What you're seeing in today's web browsers, however, is the built-in ability to show rich media content without bloated overhead. In other words: Everyone's windows are washing themselves for no extra cost.