Market Trends

Trading Careers For Gigs

The U.S. labor market continues to mystify economists. U.S. GDP (gross domestic product) is growing briskly, but the Labor Department reports 20,000 jobs were eliminated last month alone. How can employers keep pace with increased demand for goods and services without adding to the payroll?

The not-so-simple answer: they can’t. Businesses are hiring; they simply have to given the current rate of economic growth. But the kind of workers they are hiring and the way in which they are hiring them has changed.

Consider this piece of data from the Labor Department’s recent report: the number of self-employed Americans grew by 126,000 in the last quarter. Add to that another telling statistic: the number of temporary jobs has increased by 250,000 in the last quarter. (The Labor Department consistently under-reports the rate of temporary job growth.)

Our so-called jobless recovery is nothing more than an illusion. What we are experiencing is a long-predicted structural change in the job market. In the span of a single generation, we’ve gone from “company man” to being our own man or woman, thanks, in part by, to advances in computer and telecommunications technology.

And it was made possible by changing attitudes toward work. Roiled by globalization, the rapid pace of technological change, and a boom and bust economy, many of today’s workers have found security in the idea of free agency. Job uncertainty has bred a worker that is more resilient, adaptable and entrepreneurial than his predecessors. People have traded in careers for gigs.

Employers, facing the uncertainty that comes with a downturn, have seen the advantages of a flexible workforce. With the Internet, the search for talented employees is no longer limited by geography.

iPad Strikes, And Elancers Are Ready

It’s been a busy week in the tech world. While some of the rumors turned out to be more fact than fiction, some other rumors failed to materialize at this week’s Apple announcement.

Yes, the iPad is real. Very real. The “magical and revolutionary device”, as Steve Jobs puts it, features a 9.7-inch LED-backlight Multi-Touch display, Wi-Fi, a custom 1GHZ processor, and a ton of other standard Apple amenities you have grown to expect.

The device, which some say is just a giant iPod Touch, is designed to present the web, email, news, apps, e-magazines, and books in a new, even more-touchable form factor. And another bonus – right out of the box, the iPad will support all 140,000 apps available at the Apple App Store.

Speaking of apps, when the newest technology, devices, and platforms strike, the Elance community is right behind it. With the Droid and an army other Android devices joining the party in 2009, there’s no doubt that mobiles have been making huge news. And it shows. The Mobile category on Elance has grown nearly 200% in payments made throughout the course of last year, and it doesn’t show any sign of slowing down, especially with the announcement of the iPad.

Consequently, within mere moments of the announcement of the iPad, we began seeing iPad related jobs being posted, and that number is continuing to grow. Within 24 hours, we saw over 20 clients posting jobs looking for skilled iPad professionals, and as of right now, we have highest number of iPad-specific job posts out there on the web.

This just goes to show you – when cutting edge technology hits, Elance is where businesses, entrepreneurs, and skilled professionals go to get work done.

Will Apple Change The Way We Work?

With the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show behind us, the eyes of influencers, pundits, marketers, and other technology representatives have their eyes fixed westward towards Cupertino amidst strong rumors of new, touchable, game-changing devices.

Earlier today, Apple sent out private invitations to reporters to a special event on January 27 asking reporters to “come see our latest creation” – many speculating that this will be the unveiling of the highly anticipated Apple Tablet and Touchscreen computers.

Although specifications are merely speculation at this point, the long standing rumor is that Apple will be launching a touch-screen device with a screen in the range of 7-to-10 inches designed to present a variety of multimedia content and internet browsing in a form factor with incredible aesthetic design you’ve come to expect from Steve Jobs and Co.

Some liken it to being an “iPhone on steroids,” however, this isn’t the only touchable device scheduled to show. According to another report that hit the wire this morning, it appears that Apple will also be entering the touchscreen PC market with the introduction of the 22-inch, touch-enabled iMac desktop computer later this year. Specifications on this device are similarly scarce, but its existence has been all but confirmed as of today.

Several thought-provoking questions still remain. First: What will be the operating system driving these new devices? Secondly, will we see an expansion in the iPhone application development market with a whole new set of apps specifically designed for the new tablet? And thirdly, with an uncanny adoption rate expected, will we be seeing the early stages of extinction for the mouse?

The Employment Situation And The New Way To Work

Today, the Bureau of Labor Statistics published the November 2009 edition of “The Employment Situation” which states that the unemployment rate has unexpectedly fallen to 10% while hitting the lowest number of job losses in one month since the start of the recession in December 2007.

The Employment Situation is a snapshot of current employment, unemployment, and underemployment rates in the United States, and while on the surface November’s lower unemployment numbers may seem cut-and-dry, there's an interesting insight that pertains to the shift in online work that can be extrapolated from the report.

Kurt Brouwer’s Fundmastery Blog on MarketWatch takes a very compelling look at the numbers highlighting the good, the not so good, and the ugly of this month’s report.

The good: Although job losses continued in the month of November, the number of actual jobs lost this month (11,000) is far lower than the previous three months (average 135,000). Additionally, the Brouwer notes that job losses for September and October were overestimated.

The not so good: Brouwer says, “Though the unemployment rate went down, the reduction was essentially a statistical change rather than a real improvement. It seems a number of people stopped looking for work and that — paradoxically — is why the unemployment rate went down. If you are unemployed, but not out looking for work, you are not counted as unemployed.”

Authenticity: A Key Trend In Marketing

In a world where market trends change by the millisecond, it's difficult to stay on top of what technologies, services, and other external forces are affecting business trends today. Rich Sloan, co-founder of StartupNation and its "Home-Based 100" contest, gives us a quick peek in to his latest findings in the StartupNation Q3 Marketing Trends e-Report.

One of the hallmark trends we’ve highlighted in the just-released StartupNation Q3 Marketing Trends e-Report is the value and effectiveness of “authenticity.” People are tired of being “marketed to.” Instead, they want to connect with real people and real companies that care about the world and care about people.

Part of this may be driven by the plummeting economy, providing people an opportunity to reflect on what really matters in their lives. With an economic downturn, it’s natural to hunker down, spend less and look for real meaning in what we do.

And with the proliferation of social media and social networking platforms, the online conversation is growing louder and louder. In such an environment, it’s difficult for any company to hide behind its walls and present a faceless voice.

Instead, you would be wise to adapt to the trends of openness and authenticity and to show your customers the real you.

This trend is evidenced in the way that company leaders are getting involved in the online discussion through Facebook, Twitter and other similar online vehicles. As examples, look at the success of Tim Berry, President of Palo Alto Software, or of Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, both of whom blog and Tweet regularly.

Similarly, look at the success of StartupNation member Heather Nolte, founder of the baby clothing company Glamajama. Heather is the face of the company, appearing in numerous YouTube videos, maintaining a Twitter feed and Facebook page, and blogging for StartupNation and Mom’s Can Launch.

Online Work: The Panacea To Your Restless Nights

When you see colleagues walking around with bags under their eyes, it's a safe bet one of two worries is keeping them awake at night: "How am I going to get everything done within my budget?" or "How can I bring in more customers?"

For anyone thinking about both at the same time, well, there's always Ambien.

It's been said necessity is the mother of invention, so it may come as no surprise savvy business leaders are embracing the hiring of online freelancers and contractors on Elance as a way to grow their customer base while minimizing fixed costs.

The fact is online work has come of age. When companies need expertise nowadays, they simply get on Elance, post their requirements, and start fielding proposals from far and wide from skilled and tested independent professionals who are ready to work.

This real-time access to a vast pool of over 96,000 qualified skilled technical, marketing, and administrative experts is giving companies a real advantage—it enables them to stay flexible while getting real work done on-demand. Think about it: Ramp up when you need to, scale back when you don't. As business leaders know, it sure beats the ups and downs of recruiting, hiring, training, and then severance.

The notion of paying for talent and resources only when you need will certainly make the finance department happy. But what about driving the top line?

At this very moment, marketing and sales executives (including, potentially, your competitors) are finding and hiring freelance and contract professionals to help attract new customers while servicing existing ones. Every hour of every day, businesses are hiring sales and marketing mercenaries to optimize their Websites for search engines, to freshen up their e-mail marketing, to vet and qualify sales leads.

They're writing blog posts, translating media releases into foreign languages, integrating PayPal checkout, surveying their high-value customers, researching competitors, and so on. Getting the idea yet?

Elance offers online directories of sales and marketing freelancers who specialize in subject matter expertise ranging from graphic design to copywriting to Flash animation to telesales. Accessing these experts is generally as easy as posting a simple job description (describe what you need), and allowing the marketplace to compete for your attention.

Maybe The Recession Wasn’t So Bad

What is "Cloud Commuting" and what does it mean to business owners and skilled professionals like you? Gene Marks, online columnist and author of the best-selling Streetwise Small Business Book of Lists, gives us his take on the rise of the cloud commuter, the recession and its impact, and how his business and others plan to adjust in this new age of online work.

Hmmm, maybe the recession hasn’t been such a bad thing after all.

Prices have been kept in check. Many of my competitors are either struggling or out of business entirely. Industries that have been failing for decades are now reorganizing themselves. Our bankers are picking up the phone when we call them. People have stopped buying useless crap on its way to the landfill. Being a cheapskate has even become vogue.

And business owners are no longer vilified for outsourcing. In fact, it’s not even called outsourcing anymore.

It’s called Cloud Commuting.

Cloud Commuting is a refreshing upgrade from the loaded term ‘outsourcing’ which suffered from a bum rap. For years, enterprising business owners like myself have been outsourcing work and subcontracting jobs to others in order to keep our costs as low as possible and to find the best people. In fact, ‘Division of Labor’ has always been right there on the top of the syllabus for Capitalism 101, right after "Lemonade Stands" and just before "Global Expansion".

Like every red-blooded opportunist, all we’re trying to do is to produce quality products and provide excellent services as cost effectively as we can. Once upon a time we faced the scorn of the media and others who looked down their noses at us. Well, a few quarters into the Great Recession, it’s now considered virtuous for business owners like us to do everything we can to keep our fixed costs low. And those same pundits who accused us of not employing people are now embracing us for bootstrapping our way back into the game by hiring our “cloud commuters”. Go figure.

Cloud Commuting is obviously a play on the buzzword “Cloud Computing” which is how the server-room nerds are unsuspectingly describing their ultimate obsolescence as more and more technology and data gets hosted by secured and reliable central servers in the sky. But, those server-room technicians will have the last laugh, as just as the technology is migrating to remote parts, so is the work. Configure a database from Maui? Aloha!

Talk about liberating. I’ve already started telling the world that my people are “Cloud Commuters”. Even my kids think it’s cool. Maybe they’ll even let me watch “The Hills” with them. OK, maybe, not.

Open Source: What It Is And Why You Should Care

Open source. It’s out there, and my bet is that you’ve already run into it in some form probably without even noticing it. Its prevalence in the real world is palpable — there’s open source software, hardware, books, journalism, politics — even an open source soda dubbed “OpenCola” has been seen in the wild. And after taking a hard look at the latest trends on our April Elance Online Work Index, it’s clear that this whole “open” idea won’t be vanishing anytime soon.

But what does the term “open source” actually mean? Some believe, “It’s free as in freedom, not free as in beer,” while others say, “Sometimes, it’s free as in beer, too!” Others preach, “It’s the open sharing of knowledge,” and some others yell, “Free code!”

With all of this open source talk floating around, it’s easy to get mixed up with what the term really means. Here’s a quick primer to get you started.

The Idea

In order to be a part of the open source crew, there are 10 rules in the Open Source Initiative's definition that one must follow. But the main pillars behind the idea are these three points: (1) there must be free redistribution (meaning your code can be shared freely), (2) the original source code must be obtainable in a reasonable fashion, and (3) you must allow modifications and derived works. (See the full definition here.)

April Elance Online Work Index: Open Source On The Rise

Elance, the leading site for online work, today releases its April edition of the "Elance Online Work Index", ranking the hottest skills in-demand on the Web today based on data from more than 100,000 jobs posted on Elance over recent months.

The April Online Work Index reveals that IT and marketing skills continue to dominate the online work landscape as the Top 10 graphic clearly demonstrates.

Beyond the general demand for technology and marketing skills, businesses are clearly chasing domain expertise in open source technologies, help with delivering world-class user experiences, and insiders with savvy working with social media.

  • Open Source on the Rise: The overall trend of businesses migrating to open source technology solutions is stronger than ever with PHP (#1) programming now topping the Index followed closely by MySQL (#2). Demand grows for a variety of other open source skills including Joomla (#18), Drupal (#48 - up 10 spots), osCommerce, (#49 - up 20 spots), Ruby on Rails (#73 - up 27 spots), and Linux (#74 - up 13 spots).

10 Ways To Produce A Winning Blog

According to Technorati, a leading authority on the so-called blogosphere, there are more than 100,000,000 blogs that have launched since 2002. Yes, you read that right. One hundred million. But let me be honest. It is my (admittedly) unscientific opinion that 95 percent of blogs on the Web today range from generally mediocre to digital train wrecks.

Great blogs stand out because they have great content. It’s why you bookmark, subscribe to RSS feeds, and generally come back for more. If you want to take your material to the next level, you’re going to have to pay attention. Get ready to take notes — we have a lot to cover.

Let’s look at some of the basics of creating a winning content strategy:

  1. Determine your publishing frequency. Different blogs have success with different publishing schedules, but the key to this equation is to remain as consistent as possible. Elance user Tim Ferriss crafts no more than two-to-three posts a week on his blog, while sites like the uber-popular TechCrunch publish five-to-ten new posts everyday. While there is no definitive answer for how many times a week you should post, just remember that as unpredictable and fickle as blog readers may be, when it comes to frequency, they appreciate consistency.

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