Given the eye-opening results of the recently released 2015 Millennial Majority Workforce survey, it only makes sense to hear from a millennial. Here are thoughts from Elancer Jarek Ostrowski.
When I graduated from college in 2010, I really wasn’t prepared to enter the real world.
I had all the education I needed, and all the knowledge and expertise in the degree I chose to pursue. But in the grand scheme I had no idea what my options were, other than to get a traditional job.
Sure, my college offered career services to help students. But the help was more focused on resume building, interview do’s and don'ts, and how to write a proper cover letter. Pretty much useless garbage I could have looked up myself on the Internet. There was really no other option. You left school, you made a resume and cover letter, and you applied for jobs.
But what is a new graduate supposed to do when they start applying for jobs that require at least a year of experience? How’s a student able to get that year of experience if they’re right out of school?
Like many new graduates, I struggled to gain even the slightest of traction in developing a stable career for myself. Granted I was a Health Science major, which was a questionable choice in the first place, but I’d focused a lot on technical writing and never once considered that I could potentially make it as a freelance writer. I ended up starting a t-shirt company instead, which I’ll be sure to cover in another post. But I probably should have tried writing. Who knows, I could have done pretty well for myself.
I wasn’t prepared, and neither are most millennials and especially college graduates who leave the blissful ideology of campus life and enter the workforce for the first time. I was so focused on what my professors were telling me and so focused on not letting my $100,000 of student debt go to waste, that I was blind and naive to think there were no other options.
There are colleges who offer freelancing courses, but most are coupled with your typical freelance careers like journalism and graphic design. Every college has the responsibility to offer their students a second option when it comes to their chosen major, and that second option should be freelancing. Think of it as sort of like a backup if things don't go as planned (and most of the time they don't).
Colleges insist on being proud and assuming they provide the best foundation for their students when they're there. Yet when the person leaves, the student realizes it was just a facade and figure out the foundation was actually compacted dust painted to look like industrial grade concrete.
If colleges required a freelancing course, like many require public speaking courses, students would at least become familiar with a second option. They could spend a semester helping students establish a reputation on a freelancing site, offering a service of the student’s choice. By doing this, students may even find they finally make up their mind on what they want to do for a major. I started as a psych major, another flavorless choice. It was more like a placeholder and I didn’t really know what I wanted to do until I was a junior. Even then I still wasn't sure.
Requiring a freelancing course and allowing the students to pick a freelancing genre based on their own interest, may help them find what they were looking for in a major after all. You never know. The sure thing though, is the valuable real world skills one would learn when freelancing in school.
Students could learn valuable skills, like how to sell yourself, how to develop a solid portfolio, and how to handle clients – all of which are important in any line of work.
Maybe because colleges are more focused on collecting tuition than actually building a structurally sound foundation for their students, they may not consider freelancing courses. But they should. Everybody wins, really. The student now has a second option if things initially don't work out, plus they learn valuable people skills when working with clients. They earn money, develop a couple years of experience, and the college looks good for offering such courses.
If you’re in college right now, you need to start freelancing. Period. You need a backup plan, and freelancing is a backup plan that's not only viable, but it's something that could potentially turn into your plan A. Choose whatever field you want, learn about it, do it, and make money.
I wish I’d read an article like this when I was in school. Maybe I wouldn’t have been forced to work at that car wash or struggle to find a job out of the gate. It’s hard to think about anything other than parties and homework when you’re in school, I know. But on a lazy Sunday morning before the game, at least check it out. See if you can make it work, and maybe you’ll earn a little bit of money to get your career and life off to a great start.
About the Author:
Jarek Ostrowski is a fulltime freelance graphic designer and loyal Elancer. He runs a blog at www.thefreelanceeffect.com, which is where freelancers share stories, network with one another, and offer advice through real world experiences. Jarek is also authoring The Freelance Effect, a book that discusses the rise of the freelancer over a 20-year span, featuring stories from freelancers on how they got started and why they'll never go back to the 9 to 5. Follow Jarek on twitter @freelanceeffect for more of his posts and updates from his blog.
As a reminder, I’ll be dropping in from time to time to discuss behaviors or policies that benefit or impact the community. One of the first on my list is something we call, “Jobs without Payment.” This is essentially when a freelancer is hired by a client but no payments are made and money never exchanges hands.
A high percentage of underperforming Elance freelancers have numerous Jobs without Payment in their work history. And many of the freelancers on the list for review and account closures this year fell into this category.
These jobs damage the reputation of the community and we consider them to be a “red flag” in a freelancer’s profile. Getting paid and receiving Final Feedback is critical to building a reputation and work history here on Elance (clients can’t leave Final Feedback on Jobs without Payment). Because of this, we want to prevent Jobs without Payment, and to help you do so as well.
We’ve dug into many cases of Jobs without Payment and we find the root cause is often a simple matter of unmet expectations. Clients are unclear in their job requirements and the job scope ends up being different or unachievable. Or freelancers may overextend themselves by taking the job and over-scheduling their time, or by finding they don’t have the skills and experience required to complete the project.
So what can we do about these jobs?
Both Elance and you, our valued freelancers, can help.
On our end we’re doing our best to properly account for such jobs in a freelancer’s work history. First, for those rare, unavoidable situations when moving forward with a job just isn’t possible (the client changes his/her mind on the project or unforeseen events occur), you’ll find that one or two Jobs without Payment will not negatively impact your reputation. Additionally, when we see a Job without Payment pop up on a freelancer’s account and we find that it relates to a client with a lot of these job results or a history of poor feedback, we won’t record the lack of payment as a negative signal on a freelancer’s review.
For your part, it’s critical to only apply to and accept jobs you’re confident you can complete with success. Once accepted, carefully set and agree upon expectations with your client.
Ask questions. Make sure to discuss project deadlines, work deliverables and communication plans in your proposal/application and interview. Document these decisions carefully in your project’s Terms & Milestones.
Set clear expectations. Through detailed discussions about deadlines, communication styles and deliverable requests, you may uncover any mismatch in cost, skills or time that if not updated will lead to a poor outcome for the contract.
Interview your clients. Avoid difficult projects by ensuring the client is a) direct and reasonable in their expectations, and b) willing to clarify any open questions you might have before accepting a job. Also, only begin work on jobs where funding is in place. We can’t help recover funds that were never available in the first place.
I’m sure there are additional tips that could be of value for avoiding Jobs without Payment and I would welcome and appreciate suggestions from members of the community. My hope is that together, through our Trust efforts in the marketplace and freelancer and client education, we can make Jobs without Payment a thing of the past.
Whether you’re a savvy startup or high-flying freelancer, there’s a plethora of great reasons to strike out on your own.
But if there is one knock to being an entrepreneur or solopreneur, it’s that life can get a touch lonely. Working from your home office day after day, week after week (gazing at that same Bob Marley poster on the wall), can drive you a wee bit wacky.
Working in isolation can also leave you ripe for distractions. As hard as you try to stay focused, that sporting match on TV or trip to the farmer’s market can quickly derail your productivity. Not to mention, the college buddy crashing on the sofa, looking for a partner for that zombie flick afternoon matinee.
This is exactly why Elance-oDesk loves coworking. And it’s why we’re partnering with top coworking spaces around the globe to bring you exclusive discounts.
In every corner of the world, from San Francisco and London to Melbourne and Dhaka, we’re now teaming up with a growing number of coworking spaces to offer you special savings. These discounts range from free passes (giving you a feel for the ambiance of a place) to as much as 50% savings on monthly or annual memberships (offers vary by location). Check out the specific deals here.
Why make a local coworking space the center of your workday?
As mentioned above, work is changing. People around the world increasingly opt for startups and self-employment, and coworking is a great way to make the most of your workday and career. Elance-oDesk members who already cowork often mention these three benefits:
1. You’ll get energized.
At a coworking space you’ll get away from the confines of your home office, leveraging the vitality of a dynamic workspace. It’s a great way to ensure that you keep that fresh thinking going and those innovative ideas flowing.
2. You’ll collaborate.
When you network daily with like-minded entrepreneurs, you’re sure to cross-pollinate in a thriving ecosystem—all while rubbing elbows with freelancers and businesses.
3. You’ll grow.
Give yourself a huge competitive advantage as you attend valuable seminars, meetups, and other regular events. It’s your unique opportunity to draw inspiration from a growing network of colleagues.
To start tapping into the coworking energy and excitement, view coworking spaces we’re partnering with in your neck of the woods. See the exclusive offers available when you mention your Elance or oDesk user name during registration. Here are some coworking spaces currently offering discounts:
Mads Phikamphon is a Copenhagen, Denmark-based freelance programmer who specializes in online marketing projects. To help manage his complex projects, Mads recently hired a virtual assistant on Elance-oDesk. Highly impressed with his new hire, Mads looked at the qualities of his virtual assistant to see what made that freelancer so outstanding. Below are his top five insights into what makes a successful virtual assistant, along with insights on what to look for if you’re hiring for the position.
1. Perfect time management:
If you’re an aspiring virtual assistant looking on Elance-oDesk for virtual assistant jobs, or hiring a virtual assistant to manage your projects, then time management is the first skill you should pay attention to.
As a virtual assistant, you have to plan your own time effectively. Luckily, there are many tools available to help you make the most of every minute. Below are two favorite methods I’ve come across.
1) If you’re working on an hourly job on Elance, use the free Tracker tool and Work View™ to keep track of and document time spent on each individual job.
2) If your job is fixed priced, simply jot down the start time, end time, tasks you’re working on, and breaks you take on a notebook you keep with you at all times. Or use a timer app like Free Stopwatch to keep track of your working hours.
2. Don’t be shy:
As a virtual assistant you’ll need to do different tasks every day. If you’re having trouble understanding any task, don’t be shy. Ask your client to brief you on the task again.
By asking questions, you will save time that might have been spent trying to understand the task yourself. Often you just need to ask your employer to explain the goal in a different way. Similarly, for those hiring, be open to providing more information to your virtual assistant.
3. Never stop learning:
Don’t ever stop improving your knowledge. As a virtual assistant, the type of tasks you need to do can change at any time. Whenever you have time, use it to learn new things that relate to your job.
Continuously improving your knowledge will make all your future tasks easier. If you’re a client, look for a freelancer who is adding new skills to their profile and taking on additional responsibilities for teams.
4. Stay in contact with other virtual assistants:
If you’re having trouble with some area of your job, the best way to solve it is by asking an expert in that field. Ask for suggestions from other virtual assistants.
There are many forums and groups where you can connect with other virtual assistants to share ideas and business opportunities.
5. Don’t switch jobs midstream:
If you find a better job opportunity, it can be tempting to quit your current job without warning. But doing so will destroy your relationship with your employers and lead to poor feedback ratings—making it harder for you to get hired at a later date.
If you’re planning on moving to another job, inform your employers at least two to three weeks in advance. This will give them time to find someone to replace you and also help you establish yourself as a trusted and professional person to work with.
About Mads Phikamphon
A talented freelance programmer from Copenhagen, Mads hates cars. In fact, he hates cars so much, that he doesn’t even have one (or a driver license). Instead, he loves bikes. So much so that he’s now building a directory of bikes and bike prices.
Spaceship photo courtesy of Dennis Wong. All rights reserved.
As you pour that second caffeinated beverage and focus on your upcoming workday, add this article to the top of your “to-read” list.
Jaleh Bisharat, Senior Vice President of Marketing at Elance-oDesk, pens a regular Huffington Post column about the ongoing evolution of work. This week, she looks at surviving and thriving in our new sharing-based economy. Here’s a sample:
“Corporate loyalty is dead. A recent survey shows that nine out of ten Millennials say they expect to stay in a job for less than three years. This translates into 15-20 jobs over the course of their working lives! Now it's about employability as opposed to employment. What does that mean? The concept of static roles is fading into the past. They will be thinking, "what skills do I need?" instead of "what role will I have for the next 10 years?" And will constantly ask, "Am I at the top of my game, or is the field shifting?"
Go here to learn more about the five disruptions that are driving the talent-sharing economy, and how they’re changing the way we work and live.
About Jaleh Bisharat, Senior Vice President of Marketing
Jaleh Bisharat, Elance-oDesk’s Senior Vice President Marketing, is a seasoned marketing executive with a history of growing startups into vibrant brands that inspire passion in their customers. Before joining Elance-oDesk, she was the Vice President of Marketing at several innovative companies including OpenTable, Jawbone, and Amazon.com, and also served on the Board of Directors at OpenTable and Homestead Technologies. Jaleh received a Bachelor of the Arts degree in Government from Harvard-Radcliffe and an MBA from Harvard Business School.
Elance was excited to sponsor a blog writing competition in South Africa, along with co-working space The Common Room. Bloggers from across the region competed for prizes and bragging rights, waxing poetic on a choice of topics from life as a digital nomad and reinventing work to achieving happiness as a freelancer. Below is the winning post, from Edward Chamberlain-Bell. Enjoy these words of wisdom.
Mankind has gone full circle from a nomadic existence to a digital experience.
Nothing defines our existence better than our activity on social media platforms, where we share everything from the mundane to the sublime with family, friends, fans, followers and cyberstalkers. We know who had burnt toast for breakfast in Peru, and we also know who is nursing a hangover in Afghanistan. Sometimes we know too much about people we don’t even know when we should be sharing those experiences with the people who are closest to us. Preferably something more substantial than burnt toast and hangovers.
Even the Bible refers to principals and principalities, but these are gradually being eroded as the digital revolution is rapidly becoming a digital revelation. The new god is not an almighty spirit in the sky, it’s wi-fi. Potential employers will scrutinise your online behaviour before offering you a job, future lovers will hunt you down and compare your previous partners, and it’s even possible that your parents are more inclined to believe what you post on Facebook before believing what you say. Perception is no longer based upon the truth, but how your life has become a digitalised representation of everything you share online.
Our economies are no longer based on gold but little bytes of zeros and ones forming a binary code of valuable information. Banks are more likely to trade your personal details than keep your money safe. We are more likely to burn plastic than ask for a cash discount. It’s no longer a cliché to tell a beggar or homeless person that we don’t carry cash because who has cash when companies stopped paying salaries in favour of the ever-efficient EFT.
As our world evolves, especially post-Web 2.0, survival of the fittest will determine how mankind survives the digital evolution. As children we were told that to get ahead in the world we needed to know how to read and write. Typing has replaced writing while search engine optimisation skills have replaced reading. Great writers would write for the love of expressing themselves eloquently through words. Today, we are more concerned if Google will like it.
This is not a criticism, just an observation, because once we embrace the existence of becoming digital nomads, it becomes quite liberating. Yes, we would all like to believe that one man can save the world or end global hunger simply by planting a trees, but the truth is that person is probably not going to be you or me. If it was going to be that easy, then why not all of us plant trees together? If we truly believed planting trees would become the almighty band-aid that could preserve our existence we’d be getting to know the names of our neighbors at weekly tree planting ceremonies. Ironically, as our cities become more densely populated, people are becoming increasingly more isolated. How many people know the names of their neighbours, or even the names of their neighbour’s children that their children play with? Oh right, they don’t.
We’ve become digital nomads in a world where our interconnectivity is defined by our broadband, and not by the people we connect with. There is still that human drive for human contact, which explains why we’re connecting through chat rooms, forums, blogs and social media platforms. We don’t write letters, we email. We don’t visit family, we Skype. And, we don’t stop to consider what is the next step in our digital evolution even though it has already happened. And, some people need to put down their pencils and stop swinging from trees to appreciate that unless they’ve upskilled themselves to function online they will face a life as redundant as an organ grinder selling pencils along the side of a road.
Commercially, the advantage of embracing a digitally nomadic lifestyle is that you are no longer bound by location, nationality or currency. You don’t even need a computer anymore because with any laptop, tablet or smartphone, your business can be transacting in twenty-four time zones a day while simultaneously earning multiple foreign currencies- while you are sipping Pina Coladas on an island resort somewhere that the NSA doesn’t even know about. When we were kids we’d mention how we enjoyed going to the beach to surf while becoming a digital nomad allows you to add that you enjoy surfing the internet while at the beach.
If you’ve never heard of the term ‘Digital Nomad’ you should Google it. It’s not a change to be feared but one to be embraced. You’re probably already more of a digital nomad than you think.
For much of the world, summer is officially here. Woo hoo!
Which means it’s time to grab your sunscreen and hit the road for a much-deserved summer break. Whether it’s that white sand beach, a cultural hub, your dear ol’ hometown or wherever you go to unwind, the great news is that you can now enjoy a wonderful getaway without the guilt trip.
How? Simply hire freelancers to work on your business while you relax.
You’ll get some great “me” time in, while keeping the ball rolling workwise. Ditto for filling in for your staff, as team members head off to points unknown for the summer. To fill the gaps just hire teams or individual freelancers to tackle projects while they’re out.
Here are our 6 top tips for a productive and relaxing summer:
1. Attract new customers via your blog or website.
Build momentum while you’re out by enticing new customers to come check out your business. Hire a content writer on Elance to create articles for your blog or website. You’ll be catching rays while new customers are introduced to your business through engaging content.
2. Get fresh eyeballs on your enticing new content.
Hire an SEO expert to assess whether that new web content is earning you love from Google and other search engines. A freelancer will make sure your posts rise to the top of search results when potential customers are surfing for information.
3. Keep the home fires burning.
As well as enticing new visitors to your website, summer is also a good time to make sure existing customers are having a positive experience. To this end, hire a customer service specialist to offer technical support and take incoming orders. Your freelancer can also schedule meetings so you can hit the ground running when you’re back from that getaway.
4. While you’re mobile, think mobile.
Your summer escape is also be a great time to hire a mobile app developer. An impressive mobile site will modernize your business and help you attract active and tech-savvy clients. For more help, view our tips on creating a mobile app with no prior experience.
5. Prepare for your well-rested return.
While an endless summer may sound inviting, the truth is that you’ll be back to work in no time. Hire a marketing research professional to assess your margins, analyze competitors and pricing, sharpen your differentiators, or suggest fruitful avenues for expansion.
6. Bring in admin support to keep you focused.
Once you’re rested and recharged, you may find yourself ready to pack more into your day. Hire a virtual assistant to help you manage operational tasks, or to keep your calendar organized. This allows you to focus on critical strategy and razor-sharp execution.
So pass the sunscreen. But don’t pass on the opportunity to keep your business growing all summer long (or all winter long, if you’re in the southern hemisphere). Go ahead and take that much-needed trip, and keep the work flowing by hiring freelancers to build on your strengths.
Rest assured you’re in good hands, as a world of talented freelancers are ready to lend a hand. Have a great summer and bon voyage!
No surprise here – the world is changing fast. This is especially true in the startup world, where competition is increasing as timelines shrink.
That’s why it’s more important than ever for Elancers to stay on top of your game. Or better yet, on top of several games at once. Yes, today’s most-successful entrepreneurs have multiple skills beyond their “core competencies.”
It’s no longer enough to be a programming whiz who leads a startup. You also have to have graphic design chops and a working knowledge of the financial books. Ditto for the “big idea” person who dreams up the next world changer. As well as being that marketing genius, you also need to know your way around a NDA document and the difference between Ruby and Ruby on Rails.
Hence it’s no wonder those in startups are following in the path of the freelancers, and freshening up their skills and learning new ones. This includes taking classes and courses to broaden knowledge. Again, taking a cue from freelancers who understand the importance of staying sharp, you’ll find a plethora of skill-building opportunities at Elance (many available for free).
Here’s food for thought on why you need to enroll in an online video class or two:
1. Better understanding of your projects
It’s impossible to successfully manage a project when you only grasp certain parts of the job. A case in point is a mobile app. If you’re not a technical whiz, how can you make informed decisions about whether to focus on Java or Cocoa. By taking a quick online class on mobile design and development, you’ll see mistakes before they happen.
2. Better understanding of your workers
Being a great team leader is being an understanding team leader. When you’re asking a freelancer to code your new landing page or design a new logo by end of day, you’re not understanding the amount of work behind that project. A quick class or two will do wonders for grasping the intricacies (and help you build a great relationship with team members).
3. Help your team advance their careers
As your startup gets larger and larger, you’ll have bigger and bigger shoes to fill. By sharpening your talents and learning new skills you’ll have the knowledge to understand what it takes for others to flourish in major roles. You’ll also know what’s on the horizon for your business, as well as for the industry as a whole.
4. Advance your own career
Judging by the number of business books in your reading queue, you know that knowledge gives you an edge over others. As your startup grows and thrives, and you look for more opportunities to satisfy your personal and professional growth, multiple skills will play a major part in your success. Whether you’re starting another startup or sitting on a board, rounding out your know-how is only going to help you.
Keep in mind that this sort of continuous learning doesn’t have to be time consuming nor expensive. There’s no need for a 6 month sabbatical, second mortgage on the home, and graduate level classes at Stanford. Here at Elance you’ll find many online courses you can tackle on your free time at a very low cost, through our partner Skilled Up. There’s a good reason why the best freelancers continue to evolve and grow, and by borrowing from their playbook you’ll continue as a game-changer for years to come.
Elance CEO Fabio Rosati was featured in a recent Wall Street Journal article, “Elance Taps Growing Demand for Freelancers.”
The profile highlighted the evolution of Elance, today’s skyrocketing growth of freelance work globally, and Fabio’s vision of the future of work. Among the many topics discussed were Fabio’s insights into emerging job security, as well as what will most-likely be required of tomorrow’s workers.
Focus on remaining employable, as opposed to remaining employed.
One of the many highlights of the article was Fabio Rosati’s distinction between work today and work in the very near future.
“If I had to give advice to anybody about their careers, I would say your number one priority should be to remain employable as opposed to remaining employed,” Fabio explained in the article. “Because your employer may terminate you, you may be acquired and restructured, may go bankrupt; and if you’re not employable, you’re in big trouble.”
The Wall Street Journal coverage also included an accompanying video with Fabio, in their popular Boss Talk video series. To read the article itself, just pick up the Feb. 5 print edition of the publication. Or if you’re registered with the WSJ, you can read the article online.
A great working relationship is the key to successful online work. However, given the crazy and stressful environment startups often find themselves in, it’s not uncommon for startups (and businesses of all size, actually) to fail to follow best practices. When this happens, your client-freelancer relationship can go down the drain fast.
Here are some tips on things to avoid – unless you want freelancers pulling their hair out and mumbling your name under their breath:
1. Post a vague project description. Freelancers need specifics to be successful. If your online job post is wishy-washy on everything from the scope of work to delivery dates and final deliverables, you’re well on your way to some name calling. “Loser” is a term you may hear a lot.
2. Lowball the price. A website for $100 bucks? A blog article for $5? A mobile app for $50. Go for it! Some sucker will eventually take the bait and run with it. But once reality sinks in, your freelancer will realize that it’s easier to make money selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door. And the door will get slammed shut.
3. Never give concrete examples. When discussing the project, speak in generalities at all times. Even if you know of a company that’s doing exactly what you want to do, there’s no need to pass that information on. It would only make their job easier, and that’s not your goal now is it?
4. Ignore your freelancers. Ignore their emails, phone calls, texts, pings, payment milestones, questions, you name it. Ignore your freelancers and, pretty soon, they’ll ignore you too! It becomes sort of a fun game … until they want payment for work to date. Oops.
5. Ask for “Oh, one more thing.” Sure, freelancers are paid for their time, experience and knowledge. But just because you wouldn’t ask your attorney for “Oh, one more thing,” that’s no reason not to ask your web programmer or graphic designer to sweeten the pot.
6. Assume you got yourself a Jack-of-all-Trades. Web design? Web development? Web optimization? They’re all the same – web stuff. Save a few bucks by expecting that your highly specialized professional does a little homework and goes the whole 9 yards for you.
7. Expect a freelancer to be your 24/7 Employee. If they value sleep, they can go work a “9 to 5” job, eh? Good thinking. Ditto for Saturday afternoon fire drills. If you really, really want to drive your freelancer mad, make a habit of disturbing their sleep patterns and home life.
By avoiding these 7 “worst practices”, you’re well on your way to building a great working relationship and getting great work done.