Guest Bloggers

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.

4 Tips to Prevent Small Business Burnout

Having a small business is a dream for many, but along with the flexibility and autonomy comes the potential to overwork yourself since you alone likely control your success. Freelance writer Brandi-Ann Uyemura offers her four tips on how to keep you (and consequently your business) from fizzling out.

It’s not hard to go from busy to burnout when it comes to running your own business. Being your own boss is a blessing and a curse. You have the freedom to create your own hours, work on handpicked projects and essentially run your business the way you want it. But as it is with owning a house, you can’t rely on the maintenance man to come fix your plumbing anymore. Your paycheck’s now 100% dependent on the work you produce and you’re the only person responsible for it.

Over time that pressure can build to insurmountable heights. Without anyone telling you it’s time to go home and with the knowledge that no work equals no pay, it’s all too easy to burn the candle at both ends. And that doesn’t bode well for you, your health, your relationships or your business.

How do you maintain your business and your sanity? Use the following tips as a guide to keep burnout at bay and help you balance your business and your life.

Hire A Team

It may be tempting to do it all yourself especially for you "Type A" personalities out there. No one can do it better than you right? Consider this. The busier you get, the harder it’s going to be to keep all those balls in the air. And the truth is there are people who can do a better job than you. Do an inventory of your skills and competencies. When you find an aspect of your job that you’re just not good at (finances, writing, administrative work) or dislike, highlight it. Then look for professionals that can help you in that area of work.

On Elance you can hire an accountant, a virtual assistant or an online copywriter, for example. You may think that DIY (do it yourself) saves you money. But when it comes to managing your business, doing everything yourself is costing you time and time equals money.

Small Businesses Were Growing Leaner Before They Had To

Small businesses are launching at roughly the same rate in 2011 as they did in 2001. What’s different today? Startups are significantly leaner than their counterparts were 10 years ago.

By the end of 2010, new small businesses in the United States – firms launched with 500 or fewer employees during the preceding twelve months – employed an average of 4.9 workers. That’s significantly fewer than the 7.5 workers they employed a decade earlier, a detailed report from the U.S. Small Business Administration indicates.

Conversely, The Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity shows that entrepreneurial activity actually reached a 14-year high in 2009 for new business creation, shortly after global economic turbulence began. But that same year new independent businesses created 700,000 fewer jobs than recent annual averages, reiterating the employee-streamlined model for new small businesses.

So while job growth in the U.S. continues to be driven primarily by the small business community, small business owners are now being driven by the obvious benefits of using contemporary and cost-effective tools, technologies, and, most importantly, online workers wherever possible.

From Idea To Execution: How To Hire the Right Contractor for Your Job

Elance can be a great resource for anyone that has a project for which they need help. However, finding the “right” contractor is crucial to a project’s success and can be tricky to come across if you are not a proactive client. Luckily, there are tricks to getting the most out of the system so you can find the right contractor the first time you post a job.

The first time I posted a job on Elance I decided that I would go through the top contractors in a particular category and only invite those contractors that listed the skills I needed. I only invited about 15 contractors and received 3 bids total in response—not a large pool to choose from. Finally after I got a chance to ask each contractor some questions, none of them ended up being what I was looking for either. So, there went a week of my time. My major mistake was that although I was interested in hiring these contractors, they weren’t necessarily interested in taking my job and I had closed myself off to other contractors that would have done a fantastic job but weren’t at the top of the search results.

I decided to post my job again. This time I decided I would not invite any contractors at all and I would just open the bidding as a free-for-all. I got a ton of bids but, again, none of these contractors were really what I was looking for. This time I realized my mistake was that I was not very clear in my job description and when I finally spoke to contractors I was interested in, they were no longer interested in my job.

So, at this point I had spent two weeks of my time trying to find a pool of contractors for my project. If I just really paid attention to my posting and used the tools Elance provides to make the hiring process easy, I would have already been two weeks into my project. The hiring process is pretty straightforward. You post your job and then wait for bids to come in right? Not quite. Here are some tips on how to get the most qualified and motivated contractor for your job:

8 Steps to Creating a Drupal E-Commerce Website

Using Drupal to build your business' e-commerce store has several advantages, including search engine visibility, a tested security framework, and a highly scalable CMS system to work with. Monica S. Flores, Elancer and principal Drupal web developer at 10K Webdesign, walks through the process of getting your e-commerce store up and running so you can acquire customers immediately.

(Click on the thumbnails to open the full image in a new window)

 

Step One: Specify the Desired Features

Planning, planning, planning: When working with your e-commerce clients, it's easy to say "we do e-commerce and shopping cart," but part of the web development process is going through the nitty-gritty of specifying the overall process.

When you uncover more information about how the proposed e-commerce website will work, you can better ascertain which modules will best "fit" the desired tasks.

Some questions to help guide your process include:

a) Who is allowed to sell on this website?
Will it be one main brand that is selling multiple products? Or will there be representatives from multiple stores that are selling in a "marketplace" fashion?

b) What level of detail will be on a product listing?

Typically, a product listing has, at a minimum: 3-5 product photos, the "category" of the item (e.g. "women's" or down to more detail like "women's dresses"), the title and description, SKU and price. Additional features may include "attributes" like sizing (small, medium, large), color, texture, materials. Or you may need to display keywords or additional categorization levels. Work with your client to understand their needs.

Big Dude Clothing: Retailer Reinvention Through Elance

In order to keep up with a constantly changing global marketplace, businesses often find the need to utilize new technologies and leverage their experts. Darrell Freeman of specialty men's apparel online retailer Big Dude Clothing discusses the challenges they were facing with their old e-commerce system and how they came to use Elance to rebuild their core business capabilities using the red-hot Magento platform.

Big Dude Clothing is a specialist online big men’s clothing company based in the UK. Having started in late 2009, our original ecommerce website was built by a local UK agency. There were various problems with the original e-commerce site, from being a disaster in the search engines, poor knowledge of the shopping cart by the agency, to high ongoing monthly maintenance charges.

In early 2010, we decided to find new partners to work with on the website. We required a highly experienced Magento specialist, with competitive fees and the flexibility to work on set projects rather than monthly maintenance. We contacted several UK agencies, small development companies and freelancers; however there was no proposal that clearly fit our criteria.

All Writing is Compelling Writing

Whether you're submitting proposals or posting new jobs, leaving feedback for a project well done, or maintaining a personal blog or website, you should make sure your words represent you well. Freelance copywriter Bob Younce goes over some ground rules in ensuring your writing has both character and purpose.

You might not recognize it, but every time you sit down at work and put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard, as the case may be) you’re engaging in compelling writing. Every piece of writing your business produces – from office memos to sales letters – is designed to elicit a response. Sometimes, that response is making a purchase, such as with a sales letter. Other times, that response is increased confidence in your business as an authority in your field; this is the case with a blog post or informative article.

So, how do you make sure your writing gets the response you want and need? How do you empower your compelling writing? Simply follow these principles:

Start by identifying the desired response. Figure out what you want the reader to do. Do you want a potential Elance client to select you for a website development project that you would love to work on? ? Do you want to attract new site visitors to your graphic design blog? Do you want to promote your search engine optimization skills to new businesses? Before you string two words together, know what you’re hoping to achieve. Keep that response in mind throughout the entire writing process.

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