In the world of work, certain types of jobs are best as fixed-price, while others are simply better off as pay-by-the-hour. Our latest round of site improvements have focused on revamping and streamlining the hourly work experience on Elance. Here’s what’s new:
Timesheets: This is a new feature that will save providers a great deal of, well, time at the end of each work week. With one single form, a provider working on an hourly job can submit the number of hours worked, upcoming plans for next week, attach any relative documentation, and update current job status. Timesheets for hourly jobs does double duty, providing both a status report and invoicing the client all at once.
Automatic Invoices: As stated above, the new Timesheet becomes your Invoice, removing the hassle of submitting one manually. If needed, providers can manually submit Invoices to get paid back for out-of-pocket expenses, or other costs that are not documented in the Timesheet.
Terms: Terms for hourly jobs are now easier than ever to set up. Instead of setting up weekly Milestones ahead of time, all you have to do is set up the hourly rate, the duration of the job, and the authorized hours per week. Then, you’ll be set. Providers with flexible or irregular work week schedules are free to modify the amount of hours worked (so long as it doesn' t exceed the pre-approved number of hours authorized) by filling out their Timesheets accordingly.
Ahhhh, the life of a skilled contractor or freelance professional is a great one, but before you know it, things can heat up quick. Soon, you're getting awarded job after job from a crowd of clients ready and waiting to pay you for your skills. Sound hectic? Sometimes, it can be. Christopher Null, a freelance writer that contributes to Yahoo! Tech, Filmcritic.com, Drinkhacker.com, Wired, PCWorld, and more, gives us his tips on how he stays sharp and on top of his hectic work life.
In a perfect world, you'd take a single assignment, work on it for a month, collect your fee when you turn it in, and move on to the next job. But realistically that kind of stability is rare – and largely unheard-of – in the freelance world.
Jobs come in at unpredictable intervals, deadlines change, projects are abruptly postponed or canceled, and you're stuck in the middle of it, trying to figure out how to manage it all.
Managing multiple and complex projects can overwhelm some people, but it doesn't have to. With careful attention to organization, you can keep your assignments on track, hit your deadlines, make your clients happy, and still have time for the occasional cup of coffee.
Different techniques will work better for different types of workers, so I can't offer a one-size-fits-all solution to keeping multiple projects on track. Still, here are some strategies and technologies that have worked for me and which I hope will also help you.
Search engine optimization continues to be one of the most crucial methods of generating direct traffic and increasing your websites monetization. However, SEO isn't something you can just pick up and master overnight — it's probably best to leave it up to the search engine pros. However, there are quick and easy ways to improve your search ranking from dead last to back in the pack. Alex McArthur, Vice President of Search Strategies at OrangeSoda, outlines five tried and true ways of pulling in more Web traffic.
Getting your website listed in Google, Yahoo and MSN isn’t a mystical process that should be left to the geeks, techies or the pimple-faced kid down the street. For most small business owners, getting ranked simply comes down to ensuring you’ve done the basics. While this isn’t intended to be the end all, be all of Search Engine Optimization, we find that you’ll get the biggest bang for your buck with the following 5 things:
1. Make sure your ‘Title’ tags are related to the content of the site. Huh, title tag? What’s that? Well in a nutshell, your title tag is a line of HTML code that specifies the title of an individual webpage. If you look in the upper left hand corner of your browser and in the first line of an individual search result, you’ll see the product of a title tag. Specifically, a title tag in HTML looks like this:
<title> San Jose Plumbing | Clean Plumbers, Inc </title>
Most search experts agree that having correct title tags is one of the top three factors that determine where a search engine will rank you. Where many people fail with their title tags is they use the same text for every page on their and they fail to properly describe the page with their title tags. Imagine going to a book store and picking a book up off the shelf with the title “True Spy Stories of the Cold War”. However, to your surprise, inside the book is a steamy romance. You, the reader, would want your money back. So spend a minute and look at the title tags of every page on your site and see if you have accurately described the page with your title tags. A good title tag will include the keyword you are trying to rank that page for, and don’t forget to add your company’s name as I’ve done in the example above. Be aware — brevity is a virtue; Google and the rest will truncate your title tags after 65 characters including spaces.
Adding an image to your content, regardless of it's a blog, book, email newsletter, or website, isn’t just a suggestion — in this day and age, it’s a requirement. Images add a wealth of depth and is the bait that potentially grabs the wandering eyes of those just passing by. However, finding a compelling image that is royalty-free and completely legal to use can be a tad bit difficult. (And no, you can’t just Google Image Search your way out of this unless you’re looking to spend a little time in the big house.)
A site I frequent to brush up on my graphic design skills called TutorialBlog posted an awesome list of 25 stock photo sites, both free and paid. Take a look before you go on your next image search.
A few of my favorites freebies made the A-list on TutorialBlog's list, including Free Range, Stock Xchng, and Every Stock Photo (really awesome), but there are a couple of paid sites that didn't make the cut that are worthwhile to mention.
Let me try to quickly put that into perspective: The Facebook population is now 24 times larger than the population of New York City, equivalent in size to 1,904completely-sold out shows at the gigantic Wembley Stadium, and would be the fifth largest country in the world if it were its own country. Or as I like to think of it, 199,999,700more people that are out there awaiting to befriend me.
The numbers are impressive to say the least. What's even more incredible is that the site took less than five years to reach this landmark, and its current growth rate is even more outlandish – 100 million new users in only 8 months.
Now, if you're a Facebook cynic and you think that the app “gold rush” has come and gone, just rewind and review those numbers again – the gettin’ is still good, my friends. If you’re a business, a simple yet clever Facebook application can bring new customers, engage old ones, and spread word about your company in a viral fashion, or if you’ve randomly just thought of an innovative new app, it may end up being a more lucrative endeavor than you expected.
Zazzle: The online store that specializes in selling user-customized shirts, mugs, posters, cards, and more launched an impressive Facebook app that has built an even more impressive following. The Zazzle Facebook App allows users to display their customized store directly on their profile page. Case study: I get to show off my super cool T-shirt designs directly to my friends, my friends become a little bit more fashion forward and can reflect on my awesome art skills, and Zazzle gets a viral marketing campaign. Bonus: Zazzle throws me a bit of cash for anything that sells. If done properly, a Facebook App can get a huge number of new eyes on your products with minimal effort and upkeep. Who doesn't want that?
Work at your own schedule. Get comfortable at the workplace of your choosing. How much work and how much money — you call the shots. You are the boss. This all may sound tantalizing to the business-suit wearing nine-to-fiver, but there are a number of things to consider before diving head first into the freelancing pool. We've asked Ilise Benun, co-founder of Marketing Mentor, to give us her insights on living the life of a freelancer.
“I know how to do X, so I’ll just make a business out of that and life will be good.”
You probably said that to yourself when you first thought about freelancing. But if you’re totally new to the concept or have been toying with the idea a little while now, know this: It isn't quite as easy as it seems.
If you’re serious about taking advantage of the “freedom” inherent in freelancing, the only way to make it work is to be realistic, because unrealistic expectations can cause extreme disappointment. So if that’s your aim, read on and take a look at the real world of freelancing; it may save you a lot of time in the long run.
Myth #1: You’ll be a creative (or techie, or other professional) running a business. Reality: Being a successful freelancer starts with the right mindset. You must see yourself as an entrepreneur providing services, not a designer, developer, writer, or any other skilled professional making money from your skill or talent. This is a subtle but important distinction. If you see yourself as a professional who provides services, or, better yet, a solver of problems, you’ll realize that what you do commercially for others is based on their need. And focusing on the needs of the market — instead of on yourself — is a direct path to a thriving business.
Myth #2: You’ll be free to do whatever you want. Reality: Freedom is a double-edged sword. In theory, it’s true that you are free to do whatever you want, however, some of those things that you don’t want to do – like bookkeeping and marketing – are essential to the survival of your business. If you ignore them, you may singlehandedly undermine your own success. You are certainly free to do that, but it’s not a very good idea.
Updated: Voting has now ended. Check back on May 19 to see the results. Thanks for your support!
Fellow elancers, big news here!
We’ve just learned that Elance has been selected as a finalist in the Commerce category of the 2009 Webware 100 Awards. This honor should be shared by all of us as it recognizes not only the evolution of Elance in facilitating online work, but more importantly it acknowledges the millions upon milllions of dollars of work that has been delivered by the expert professionals on Elance to the benefit of their business clients around the world.
High fives all around.
We’ve come a long way since opening our doors in ’98, but if you think we’re content with this, think again. As the leading site for online work, our job is to constantly improve Elance by advancing ease-of-use, building trust, delivering timely customer support, and ultimately ensuring that the expert services providers on Elance deliver great results to their clients day in and day out. And we're just getting started.
So, if you're new to Elance or have been around since the old days, or if your feeling inspired, please drop a vote in the ballot box and help us show the rest of the world that Elance is where businesses go when they need to get work done online.
Ready to vote? Click on the big button on the right to head over to CNET to get your vote in. Polls close at noon on April 30, 2009, and winners will be announced on May 19, 2009. Until then, vote your online-working heart out, and we’ll be sure to join you in the winners circle next month.
The social-networking, micro-blogging, global-instant-messaging service has businesses, individuals, corporations, celebrities, dogs, cats, and more reporting their lives in under 140 characters. Even we’re giving it a go.
Using "tweets" (seriously, that's what they're called) to help drive actual business is still something of a global experiment, so it's hard to say what the rules are, let alone an actual playbook. But here are a few innovative ways businesses are Twittering.
Kogi BBQ: Half taco truck, half Korean cuisine, and 100 percent down with the Twitter game, this fusion Korean BBQ truck is a prime example of using Twitter to market a great product in a clever and unique way. The diner on-the-go travels all over the greater Los Angeles area, but the only way to find out where it will strike next is by following the truck’s Twitter feed online (@kogibbq). The feed, currently with almost 10,000 followers (myself included), leaks out the location only several hours in advance, creating a fanatical, cult-like following of hungry bulgogi seekers. I’ll be having the Korean Short Ribs, thank you very much.
Elance is pleased to release its first installment of the “Elance Online Work Index”, a composite index based on job posts and skills data drawn from 100,000 jobs posted on Elance over recent months.
The Elance Online Work Index reveals that businesses are actively pursuing candidates who have design, computer programming, technical, online marketing, research, writing and administrative skills. Companies that are hiring online professionals to supplement existing staff are seeking expertise in Graphic Design, PHP, MySQL, Article Writing, HTML, Adobe Illustrator, WordPress, Photoshop, Flash, Search Engine Optimization and Blogs.
With shrinking budgets and growing work loads, marketing and IT departments are increasingly turning to online work as an alternative to hiring full-time. Online work allows businesses to connect with independent professionals to get their work done while maintaining flexibility. In February, companies posted 23,000 new jobs on Elance, building on the 250,000 jobs and $100m worth of online work posted on Elance in the last 12 months.
Notable hiring trends surfacing in February’s Elance Online Work Index include:
MySQL is currently the third most in-demand skill on Elance, moving up three spots since October. In the last 30 days alone over 1,200 MySQL projects were posted.
In case you're not familiar, here's some background: MySQL is an open-source relational database management system with over 11 million installations worldwide. When Facebook first launched, they used MySQL to manage all their data - and they still use it today.