Tips, Tools, And Tricks

Backing Up Your Data: The Gmail Aftermath

In case you haven’t been following the tech news-sphere, Google made headlines Monday when it was initially reported that 500,000 Gmail users lost access to their accounts.

The outage, according to a blog post by Google, was due to a software update that left Gmail users unable to log in or greeted by a blank inbox, with the appearance that all their messages, attachments and chat logs were deleted. Despite having several data centers that Gmail uses for backups, the issue was made worse as apparently those were affected as well. And even though Google said it only affected 0.29% of all its Gmail users, that’s still hundreds of thousands of upset and inconvenienced people.

While we still feel strongly about the cost and collaborative advantages of using cloud-based tools, it’s only fitting that we use this Gmail example to speak on the importance of backing up your important work, and to discuss what options you have available.

Mozy
An industry-leading online backup service with over 1 million customers and 70,000 business customers, you install the Mozy software on your computer, target which files on your computer to back up, and then simply set up scheduled times to back up your files. Mozy happens to be owned by EMC Corporation, a Fortune 500 company specializing in storage and virtualization.

IDrive
Similar to Mozy, once you download the IDrive application and set up your own encryption code (for added security), select the folders and files you want, and use IDrive to set up regular intervals for data backup, ideally during afterhours. Compatible with both Windows and Mac, IDrive offer a free 5GB account and then PRO upgrades at tiered pricing points.

Backupify
Backupify is an all-in-one archiving service for cloud-based, online services like Facebook, Twitter, Google Apps and Gmail using Amazon S3 web services, which “redundantly stores your objects on multiple devices across multiple facilities in an Amazon S2 region.” Even better, in wake of this week’s Gmail outage, Backupify is offering a free year of their Backupify Pro 100 service.

Someone For Everyone: 40 People To Follow on Twitter

 

Twitter may be considered an extremely noisy channel to some, but at the same time it can become an incredibly valuable resource if you know who to follow. We hope to give you some direction by putting together five must-follows across eight of the areas most relevant to elancers:

 

Design & Multimedia

@DesignMagTweets
DesignM.ag
A community-focused website for web designers and developers, they tweet about news, featured tips and tutorials, samples, and just about everything to help your design career.
twitter.com/DesignMagTweets

@Designrfix
Designerfix
Walter Apai, a web designer from Vancouver, heads Webdesigner Depot—one of the most popular blogs about web design trends, tutorials and much more. His timeline is no nonsense—great articles, tutorials, resources, and no filler.
twitter.com/Designrfix

@smashingmag
Smashing Magazine
One of the most comprehensive places on the web for designers and developers, with resources for everything from HTML5 and CSS to Typography. Their “Smashing Network” is a manually selected collection of articles pulled from the best design blogs on the internet, updated throughout the day, which get sent right to your Twitter timeline.
twitter.com/smashingmag

@nenuno
Nenuno Creative
A leading digital magazine and creative showcase resource for web designers, illustrators, graphic artists, photographers and web developers alike. Lots of helpful Tweets, top ten lists, and an emphasis on inspiration.
twitter.com/nenuno

@DesignerDepot
Webdesigner Depot
Touted as a joint effort and collaboration between leading designers around the world, Webdesigner Depot is an example of design diversity, with tweets ranging from Adobe Creative Suite, coding and typography to best practices for your design business.
twitter.com/DesignerDepot

Technology for Every Occasion: Tools to Keep Freelancers Organized

 

As an online worker, how would you evaluate your organizational skills? Are you a well-oiled machine or do you find yourself scrambling to manage your calendar, expenses, and maybe even your sanity? Chances are that, as an online worker, you work from your home office or on the go and untethered. You’re managing several different projects at any given time, communicating with several clients, and flying around trying to manage what is essentially your own business. Instead of letting the demands of the job pile up, try utilizing some of the fantastic new programs and applications designed to make your work a whole lot more manageable.

Of course you could use a cloud-based enterprise suite from Google or Zoho, but now you can opt for something more individually tailored to your needs. Are you always getting new ideas and having to scribble them down on napkins or random pieces of paper? Maybe all your loose papers are receipts that accumulate in a tray on your work desk? Or is your computer desktop the one that needs to be de-cluttered?

We’re here to share with you some very useful apps and software, most of which are very affordable (or free), that can keep you and each aspect of your freelance work humming smoothly and as efficiently as possible.

Evernote | Notes
www.evernote.com
Evernote is a really exciting web-based note and clipping organization program that you can access on your home desktop, smartphone, or traveling web access connection. In a nutshell, Evernote is set up to compile all of your text notes, website clippings (text and images), photos and screenshots and index them so that they are searchable by keywords, titles and tags. The software can even detect keywords from your scanned handwriting. There are limitless possibilities to the sort of tasks to which you can use Evernote, but the key thing is that it makes being organized fun, visual, and most importantly—something you won’t have a problem maintaining.

There are different pricing tiers depending on how much information you sync monthly, but most users won’t need to have anything more than the basic free account. Evernote is increasingly popular among the freelance community as its accessibility is perfect for workers who are often on the move who use different workstations in different places. Here Freelance Weekly offers some great tips for maximizing your usage.

Also see: Springpad

Your Tips For Entrepreneurs and The 4–Hour Workweek Giveaway

 

It may be stating the obvious, but the world economy hasn’t bounced back as much as many would have hoped. But according to the Kauffman Foundation Survey of Entrepreneurs, the popular opinion is that entrepreneurs are critically important to job creation and that it’s near impossible to have a sustained economic recovery without continued entrepreneurial activity. In a 10-year study conducted by the Kauffman Foundation, in 2009, an average of 558,000 new businesses were created per month in the United States alone--that’s a 14-year high. We know many of you are small business owners and entrepreneurs yourselves, so we pose this question:

What is the best tip you can give to someone starting their own business?

We want to know what you think, so head over and add a comment to this post on our Facebook Page. We’ll be giving away copies of Tim Ferriss’ bestselling book “The 4-Hour Workweek” randomly to five people who share their answers with us. Don’t delay—the cutoff for responses is Friday, January 21st at 6pm Pacific Standard Time, and we will announce the winners on Monday, January 24th.

Please check back then, as we’ll be posting some of the best responses, along with the winners, right here on the Elance Blog.

We’re looking forward to all of your tips!

10 For '10: The Top Ten Blog Posts of the Year

 

Wow—another year, another series of blog articles aimed to maximize your potential as an online worker. Now it’s time to take a look back and see which stories that you, the Elance community, found to be the most compelling.

On to the best blog posts of 2010:

Are You Killing Your Productivity? 6 Things to Watch Out For

Whether you’ve been working as a freelancer, entrepreneur or business owner for days, weeks or years, you know there are always opportunities for bumps in the road that can dramatically affect how you work and operate. We discuss six common pitfalls that you can avoid in your quest to be the best version of your work-self.

Two Guys in a Garage Build a Business with Elance
There are Elance success stories everywhere, but you can’t help but take notice when a couple of 20-somethings are able to start and operate a successful business by using Elance for virtually everything—finding providers for the development of their mobile apps, creation of their website and design of their e-book. Here they discuss how they've leveraged all the opportunities on Elance and left their 9-to-5s behind.

5 SEO Tips Every Newbie Should Know
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is one of the hottest trending skills of the year on Elance because virtually every website can stand to improve its search engine results ranking and relevancy on Google, Bing, Yahoo!, etc. Just by subscribing to a few of these helpful hints, even the greenest of novices can put together an efficient optimization plan.

Why Big Companies Hire Freelancers
Freelancers and contractors aren’t limited to working for mom-and-pop business and early-stage startups anymore. Some of the largest corporations in the world turn to freelancers to ease the workload on staff, ensure they meet tight deadlines, and even resuscitate stagnant ideas. Intrigued? Read on!

12 Tips for Outsourcing Your Business to the Next Level in Today’s Economy
Outsourcing is often a misunderstood word, as many employers don’t really see how it fits as part of their business—but they just don’t realize that using today’s “testing economy” enables  you to leverage the global pool of resources available at your fingertips. Once you’re ready to delegate your work (enabling you to focus on your core business), we have 12 tips designed to maximize the tools at your disposal.

Writing Opinion and Persuasive Pieces: One More Time, with Feeling!

Ever since an opinion piece I wrote for my high school paper, The Proconian, and won an award from the state press association, I’ve been hooked on the op/ed page.

But many people aren’t. And that’s too bad, because whether they’re for a print publication, a blog or vlog, a broad- or podcast, opinion pieces are free advertising for your ideas. The genre is a great way to advocate for a cause you care about, shape a debate you’re invested in or spread the word about something important to you. You’re missing an opportunity!

I’ve delivered enough workshops on this topic to know that one big reason people don’t utilize this form more is because they’re afraid. Afraid of being disagreed with publicly. Afraid they’ll tick someone off. Afraid they won’t sound as smart as they think they are. Afraid that they're so worked up about the topic that they won't be able to be calm, rational and influential.

Well, it’s time to exorcise those demons!

First, let’s start with some criteria to describe effective opinion and persuasive pieces. My partner, Steve Peha, and I just did a workshop on this topic last weekend and the list didn’t change in any meaningful way. It never does. But you should feel free to take a few pieces that resonated with you and develop your own list.

On Creativity, Virality and Ukuleles

It’s somewhat needless to say that there is an element of unpredictability when it comes to viral marketing. While experience and foresight can help reduce the chances of a brilliantly thought-out campaign dying with no more than a whimper, it can and will happen from time to time with no other explanation than Sod’s Law being in particular strong effect that day (though don’t jump to this conclusion in every instance – always try to identify possible flaws for future improvement, even in highly successful cases).

By the same token, we also know that you can’t manufacture true virality on the net, and if you need any convincing there’s a great PCWorld article here highlighting some embarrassing corporate attempts at this.

Creativity is something any professional should have in his or her arsenal. This may sound very obvious (especially in the case of designers and marketers), but the importance of creativity in all disciplines can’t be overstated enough.

Sure, But You Can’t Force Creativity…

Nonsense.

Yep, I said it. We can’t force things to go viral, but contrary to popular belief we can force creativity and thus improve the chance of the former occurring.

To keep heads from shaking and browsers being closed, let me clarify for a moment. I don’t mean that you can take an accountant and get him to compose a violin concerto off the top of his head, but there are some great tips on ‘best practice’ for generating those small ideas which have you thinking “hey, we might be onto something here…”

1) If you have a team, chances are you aren’t benefiting from them enough. Unless you’re paying by the minute and are worried about costs, always, ask for their input, even if it seems like a trivial issue and you think you have it sorted anyway. Random comments coming from brains other than your own can reveal new avenues, particularly when working with those of varied disciplines (e.g. the HTML guy and the graphic designer will come at things from different angles).

And always ask your quieter colleagues. More often than not they’ll surprise you with what they’re holding back.

2) Can’t seem to come up with any ideas?
Get out of the rut by doing something different, and I’m not talking about the clichéd stuff like taking a coffee break with a Sudoku.

It’s all about getting your thought process to switch lanes, and everyone should have their own method. My own is fairly mundane, but effective – occasionally I’ll switch from the computer screen to one of those giant flip-pads to sketch out ideas, starting with keywords for the topic and going crazy with marker pens until ideas start to form.

Image Editing Basics: Five Techniques You Need to Know

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Images – they're incredibly versatile, come in a variety of formats, and deliver context, information, and emotions that words alone struggle to convey. Having a clean and balanced image for your website, business, or blog to support your words can also make a huge difference for your site. Kit Heathcock, otherwise known as content creator OriginalOrange, shares the basics of image editing so that you can transform your snapshots and graphics into images that will take your words to the next level.

Newspapers have always used dramatic images to sell their stories. An image is the hook that draws the reader’s eye to read the words. It breaks up the text, brightens the page and sets the mood for the article. Websites use photos in the same way, to catch the reader before they navigate away from a page, to draw them on to reading the content.

No website or blog is complete without at least one image per post or page. With digital cameras and even cellphone cameras producing better quality images than ever before, it is now quite simple to produce your own images to complement your content.

You don’t have to be a professional photographer to produce good enough images for web use. It does help to shoot a good clear image in the first place, but simple snapshots can be improved a lot in an image editing program.

Whether you use a free image editing program like GIMP or Picasa, or purchase software such as Adobe Photoshop, learning just a few basic image editing techniques can turn a photo from dull waste of space to effective hook for your website.

If Your Home Is Your Castle, Why Does Your Office Feel Like a Dungeon?

Does you home office make you feel like you are serving time, instead of working at what you love? The insights of architectural psychology (the overlooked human factor in design) can guide you to improve your workspace. Linda Varone is an award-winning consultant, author and professional speaker. She is the author of The Smarter Home Office and writes The Smarter Home Office blog. (We’re giving away two copies of The Smarter Home Office – scroll down to the bottom of this page for more information.)

"Order, comfort and connection."

Many people think a functional home office is a desk, a chair, a computer (with the appropriate peripherals and gadgets) and paperwork in a reasonable state of order. But you may have set up your office like this:
 

  • Have you positioned your desk against a wall and unconsciously re-created a drab corporate cubicle in your own home?
     
  • Are you still using the desk lamp that got you through college and wonder why your eyes are tired and you have headaches?
     
  • Do you feel restless or distracted when you work?
     

No wonder you flee to the local coffee shop to work!

Learn practical tips, based on architectural psychology, on the best way to position your desk, what kind of lighting reduces strain and how an understanding of your personal workstyle can improve your work life, using what you all ready own.
 


Positioning Your Desk for Maximum Efficiency and Energy

“We moved our desk by the window. I can’t believe how different it feels in there now.” – email from client.

It is not just about what is on your desk, but it is about where your desk is in your home office. Move your desk next to or near your office window. Natural light is the best light, make the most of it. Position your desk perpendicular to the window and your work surface will be bathed in sunlight. Near a window your work space will feel expansive and energized. With a window to your side, you can glance up and enjoy a view of nature or city life and rest your eyes and your mind. Note: Do not move your desk so you face out the window as you work, looking into sunlight can be too distracting and fatiguing.

Eliminate Deadline Stress: Here's How

What does taking on a lot of jobs mean? Just as many upcoming deadlines. Managing your workload and deadlines to avoid unnecessary stress is an important part of every elancer and freelancer's career. Elizabeth Grace Saunders, Elance member and expert time coach shares her tips on avoiding deadline stress.

Have you been exhibiting abnormal behavior like:
 

  • Sorting through the avalanche of papers on your desk with gusto?
  • Checking e-mail so often that you seem to have an inbox twitch?
  • And snapping when someone asks you a harmless question?
     

If so, you’re most likely you’re suffering from “deadline-itis,” i.e. the distinct blend of mounting tension coupled with total avoidance that finally explodes into a frenzy of activity right before you need to deliver on a milestone. In short: procrastination.

Although you may actually meet your deadline, you’ll end the process so incredibly drained that you have little motivation to keep moving ahead at a consistent pace on your next projects. That means the stress and pressure will mount once again until it spills over into another flurry of activity and all nighters.

You may ask, “So what? Isn’t this the way it has to be?”

And I can say as a full-time freelancer for over four and a half years and a time coach who has 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 meet our deadlines. As a matter of fact, it doesn’t have to be this way.

Here are some of my best Schedule Makeover tips on eliminating deadline stress:

Focus on the Beginning, Not the End: So you worked hard submitting your proposal, negotiating fees and setting milestones. And congrats! You won the project. Your usual next step is to breathe a deep sigh of relief, make a note of when you need to complete the project and then to do nothing about it until you’re within days of a deadline with no room for error. To reduce stress, shift your focus from the end game to what you have the ability to do right now in the present.

Review Right Away: As soon as you receive an assignment, decide to review it in detail within the next 24-48 hours. This gives you the opportunity to dramatically decrease your apprehension about starting the project because you’re able to assess the scope of the work without having to do anything about it immediately. Also, you can follow up and ask your client any questions at the beginning of the process. This builds trust and minimizes the possibility that you end up filled with guilt when you realize that you need to call the client right before the deadline to clarify what needs to get done.

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