Pricing Skills and Services as a Freelancer: Part 3, Understanding CLV (Customer Lifetime Value)

July 16, 2009 by

Even big companies fall into the trap — pursuing market share and underestimating new customer acquisition costs. American auto makers such as GM fell into this trap, building cars and offering discounts in the pursuit of market-share. Eventually, the cost of acquiring customers was greater than the profit they generated. As a freelancer, it’s also easy to focus on the big numbers: hourly rate and total income. But are you measuring your customer acquisition costs? The body of marketing theory and research focused on the costs associated with acquiring a customer vs. the benefits of retaining them over time is known as CLV. Every freelancer should have a firm idea on their costs of acquiring new customers versus the costs of going above and beyond to further cement lasting relationships with existing clients. Do you calculate your time spent prospecting, interviewing, scoping and communicating to land new customers? Does it take you 5 hours to land a 40 hour job? That equals a 12% hit in your overall hourly rate for the week. What if you delighted an existing customer by investing an extra free hour or went above and beyond to deliver something amazing investing only 2 hours to do it? What if that subsequently landed you a 200 hour job? Suddenly you’ve gained a 12% hourly pay increase. Some good CLV resources on the web: An overview and introduction for small business owners to CLV; Harvard Business Press’ online CLV calculator; and CLV guide for consultants. Key takeaway: Giving your top customers occaisional free and delightful extra help can actually pay more in the long run! Keep in mind how much it costs to get a new customer vs. cementing a longer relationship with an existing … Read Full Article

Factors to Freelancing Success

July 15, 2009 by

A few months ago, we listed out the Top 100 Freelance Blogs. The blogs on that list are people who have found success through freelancing and are kind enough to share the tips and tricks they’ve learned with the rest of us. Many of the top blogs – Freelance Switch and Freelance Folder, among others – also tap into the expertise of many freelancers in diverse fields for a comprehensive view on the freelance experience. In the spirit of those blogs, we’ve asked freelancers to take part in a panel to discuss the factors contributing to their freelancing success. Thousands of people try to get started with a freelance career every month, but find that it’s hard to promote themselves, get jobs, and build a strong reputation for securing ongoing work. While many dip their toes in the freelance waters, only some rise to the top. These individuals surveyed below are some of the best from around the world – including freelance software developers, freelance designers, and virtual assistants. Top providers were surveyed on the following factors to freelancing success and the results compiled for you. Each factor was scored on a scale of 1 – 4 for importance to success and the consensus or standard deviation of answers is displayed alongside each factor. The freelancers that contributed to this post are from several different countries and include programmers, designers, writers, and virtual assistants. All of them have exceptional feedback scores and have been very successful in their freelance careers. Meet the Panel of Experts. Top 10 Factors to Success Bottom 10 Factors to Success 3.87 – Communication 2.00 – Low Number of Candidates on Job 3.81 – Feedback Scores 2.19 – Portrait 3.80 – Attitude … Read Full Article

The Unplugged: Developers Changing How the World Works

July 14, 2009 by

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by Ruven Meulenberg (author of “The Unplugged“) who had mentioned oDesk in his book and wanted to delve a bit deeper into our motto of “Changing How the World Works.” We had a very fruitful conversation, and you may see future guest posts from Ruven and his team on this blog, but I wanted to begin by introducing you to the book and some of the principles presented in it. There are some extremely powerful ideas addressed in this book, especially when  you consider the entire thing is only 95 pages long! The writing is a bit “rough” but the concepts are solid and definitely worth diving into. It starts by discussing the effect change has on a project (specifically a development project, but I think the idea can be almost universally applied.) As developers know, it is the change process in a project that complicates things. Freelance software developers feel this pain especially, as the specs for a project change and they may have to shift their contracts to account for additional time spent moving this item over there and modifying that background color from red to blue. The key to managing change, Ruven says, is moving all change to the beginning of the process. That’s right. All changes happen early on. In order for this to work, the second principle needs to be enforced. This is understanding that every development should be fundamentally the same and accepting the need to lay out a roadmap that can be applied to all development projects. Ruven asserts that all projects run the course of Cloud – Create – Contstruct – Control. (Essentially: brainstorm, design, build, test/tweak.) The book delves into this concept deeply, and I think … Read Full Article

Always Appear Professional: Learn from a Famous Media Prankster

July 13, 2009 by

Whatever you may think about the current fascination with obnoxious media pranksters (Ali G, Bruno), their results are somewhat stunning. They manage to hack their way through layers of PR consultants and access some of the world’s better known personalities for fake satire interviews. In this video, the farcically clad Ali-G (Sacha Baron Cohen) interviews the ex head of the CIA. While the whole scene is surreal, it is made possible by meticulous preparation on the part of the production company to make the interview offer look as official and legitimate as possible. When dealing with unknown companies and personalities – as we all do on the Web – we are conditioned to look for cues of legitimacy and signals of professionalism. We will often choose to move forward with a relationship if the right professional signals are in place, even if the company is otherwise unknown to us. An exposé into the snaring of these prank victims revealed the elaborate lengths the producers went to make the interview offer appear legitimate. “The letter is so thorough that the URL in the e-mail address at the bottom actually goes to Somerford Brooke’s fictitious one-page website. (Potential interviewees for Baron Cohen’s libidinous Kazakh persona, Borat, say they have been contacted by United World Television which maintains a suspiciously similar site.) The producers have even gone to the trouble to make sure Somerford Brooke and their other fronts are officially registered companies.” (Slate.com, 2004) When a proper and professional business appearance is in place, the prank unfolds. Despite the inane and sometimes insulting questions, the interview continues, all on the premise of its legitimacy. I can think of no greater proof of the power of professional appearance. So What? Before you dismiss this as a bizarre outlier, … Read Full Article

Pricing Skills and Services as a Freelancer: Part 2, Tips and Quotes

July 9, 2009 by

Last week I began my series on pricing with some heavyweight current theory. I believe it’s almost always worth the time to become a better pricing and negotiation expert as the actions taken in the few hours of settling on terms can affect the output of countless hours working under those terms. A big part of negotiation is confidence and mental conditioning–how you react and respond will signal how ready you are to do business. People found ZOPA a valuable topic and I’ll find a way to drill deeper into it in future posts – the gist to keep in mind with ZOPA is all about knowing your customer intimately. This is a topic many bloggers cover and, in that spirit, this week’s post is about exercise for the pricing mind. I’ve collected some of my favorite blogs on the topic of pricing programming and freelance services and extracted the quotes I found most useful. A web design service’s blog tips on pricing: “Some potential clients will think your prices are high no matter what you charge. Some clients will understand what’s involved with designing and developing a website and others will not. Because there are people out there willing to design a website for next to nothing, some clients will think that you should be willing to do the same, even if your service is completely different. Try not to worry about turning clients off, and focus more on proving a service that’s worth the price (and being able to explain why it’s worth the price).” A web design blogger’s top pricing tips: “Some jobs will present challenges and opportunities for you to improve your skills and your experience. If you are interested in learning a new aspect of design, … Read Full Article

Reviving your Website, Reviving e-Commerce

June 26, 2009 by

Is your website or online store not doing so well? Is it in need of a spruce up? One way to breathe some life back into your online store and get people interested and visiting your website again is to revive it. With time, all websites can become stale and outdated if we don’t pay attention to them, and we should make efforts keep them fresh and current. Here are 6 tips to revive your website: 1. Have your site checked for broken links and remove them. It’s a cardinal sin to have a site with links that don’t work, and its one of the fastest ways to alienate your potential customer. Whilst you are there, check all existing links, and update the information to ensure its current, relevant and details any specials you have. 2. Give your homepage a facelift by adding new graphics, text, and information. Consider adding a creative banner. Remove old and dated images, and add new, fresh ones. Research your keywords and revamp your text with some effective keywords. 3. Add a new area on the website filled with resources, information, and maybe even some special deals for your customers. Use relevant keywords to improve your search engine ranking. For example, if you own a web design company, offer web design and development tips and advice. Show other businesses how to make the most of their web presence, or what to consider when looking for an e-commerce solution. By providing information and resources along with your products, you are giving people a reason to keep coming back. This is how you build trust with your visitors and get more sales. If you haven’t yet tried blogging, learn how to blog and get one added to your website. WordPress is an excellent … Read Full Article

Building on the Cloud

June 23, 2009 by

Salesforce.com has helped build a group of certified Force.com developers on oDesk, making our marketplace one of the best resources for buyers looking to use Salesforce.com CRM solutions on the Force.com platform. And we’re hearing from the providers offering Force.com skills that being part of this latest certified group on oDesk is paying off as “cloud computing” reaches new heights. Rakesh Aggarwal is a salesforce.com-certified developer in India who says demand for Force.com implementations has brought him a steady stream of customers since a buyer brought him onto oDesk last summer. “I was already developing applications on salesforce.com when one of my clients insisted on working through oDesk,” he says. “After my first successful job through oDesk—now I insist that my clients work through oDesk!” In its first three weeks, the salesforce.com/Force.com group on oDesk has grown to about 60 programmers. Jobs were already on the rise—a year ago, about 10 jobs involving Salesforce CRM were being posted each month on oDesk. Today it’s between 40 and 50. Rakesh says the technology has a lot of appeal. “I knew this was the future of technology because it’s the fastest, most trusted and most complete platform for building and delivering applications in the cloud.” The cloud idea is simple—offering the full software platform as a service, so that the applications and data reside on the Internet (conceptualized as a cloud of servers), where a business can access them. This keeps in-house IT costs down and allows more flexibility and faster rollout of new services. Rakesh says a wide range of companies are taking advantage of the concept. “I’ve worked with individual developers who wanted to push their applications to Appexchange, and also with companies with more than 200 licenses, … Read Full Article

Blogroll: Technical Writing for Work and Fun

June 11, 2009 by

Since the start of 2009, technical writing has enjoyed an upswing in interest from buyers - technical writing jobs posted on oDesk have climbed rapidly to reach nearly three times what they were a year ago! In honor of this tremendous growth, here are some of the best technical writing blogs we've found - high education value, tech-savvy and even humorous! Read Full Article

Build it in the Cloud

June 2, 2009 by

Got a great idea and wondering how to turn it into a company? The increasingly popular answer is to build your app in the cloud with freelance software developers. We’re pleased to announce that Salesforce.com and oDesk have partnered to launch a Salesforce and Force.com Group on oDesk that allows you to do just that. So what is Cloud Computing anyway? “Cloud computing” is a new model that dramatically changes how people build and run business applications. It eliminates the costs and complexity of buying, configuring, and managing the hardware and software needed to build and deploy applications. Instead, these applications are delivered as a service over the Internet (the “cloud”). The Power to Innovate The Force.com cloud platform is changing the way startups and small businesses build their applications and scale their businesses. By eliminating the problems of traditional application development, the cloud-computing model frees you to focus on developing solutions that deliver real business value. The Force.com platform lets you innovate while avoiding the costs and headaches associated with servers, individual software solutions, middleware or point-to-point connections, upgrades—and the staff needed to manage it all. Finally, the convenient pay-as-you-go pricing schemes are designed to provide you with the flexibility of paying only what you need and expand as your business grows. The Talent Repository oDesk hosts a variety of developers who specialize in application development in the cloud and more specifically, the Force.com platform. With our partnership with Salesforce, we can identify the best talent in the field and help small businesses and startups hire the right person for the job. The group is moderated by the Salesforce.com and membership is available only to oDesk salesforce developers who are members of Developer Force, … Read Full Article

Top 25 Project Management Blogs

May 14, 2009 by

These project management blogs carry wisdom from around the globe—from agile best practices to navigating office politics—and we think project managers will find each voice uniquely helpful. If you aren't already on these RSS feeds, you probably should be. UPDATED LIST: November 11, 2013. Read Full Article

How to give your website a quick SEO check-up

May 13, 2009 by

If you have a website that hasn’t seen any change in a while then it’s time to give it an SEO (Search Engine Optimization) checkup. There are some simple tasks you can perform that will significantly assist the success of your website in search engines. Google Analytics: Google Analytics is free, easy to use and incredibly useful. If you are not paying an SEO company to optimize your website and get it ranking in search engines, then this is for you. What do you get: Google Analytics will tell you how many people are visiting your website, what keywords brought them to your website, what websites referred them to your website, where they are from, how much time they spent on your website, what page they entered your website, what page they left your website and much more. The information is fantastic. However, ensure you analyze it and act on it. There is no use having so much relevant information and not taking any action on it to ensure you are tweaking your site the right way. One of the most important pieces of information you will gather from Google Analytics is what type of visitors you are attracting to your website. Are they the right type of visitors and potential clients? If not, tweak your Title meta tag and your content to let the search engine know, for example: you want people who were searching for “web design” not “web development“. Check your links: There are many tools available today, free to use, that will tell you if you have any broken links. Be sure to use these, and correct any broken or missing links you may have. Meta information: Examine your Title meta tag on each page. Is it reflective of the content on each … Read Full Article

Top 10 Online Resources to Learn and Master Microsoft Excel: Training and Tutorials

May 5, 2009 by

So you want to master Microsoft Excel, but don't know where to start? Do terms like Array Formula, VLOOKUP, User Defined Functions, ODBC, VBA and PivotCharts make you cringe? Is the transition from Excel 2003 to Excel 2007 giving you a double migraine headache? Have no fear! There is a vibrant community of Excel Experts online who are willing to take you under their wing...you just have to know where to look! We've compiled the top 10 places online to find help and get trained for free. Read Full Article

7 Things Every oDesk Employer Should Know

April 21, 2009 by

We’ve been using oDesk for a while now to subcontract out programming, data entry and virtual assistance services. We’ve been pleasantly surprised with the quality of people, but it took a while for us to get into our groove and figure out how to best use oDesk to our advantage. Below are 7 steps that we’ve learned while using oDesk, should make your employer experience a lot easier and more useful. 1. Establish Clear Objectives and Talents When looking for an hourly hire, make sure you know what you’re looking for. Don’t just put up an ad for “PHP Programmer”. Instead, establish what skills you are looking for: PHP Developer with 4 Years Experience, extensive knowledge of XML and PayPal integration. Not only does this help you attract more experienced candidates, it will help you figure out what you’re looking for. 2. Keep Clear Lines of Communication Just as you want to hear from employees, they want to hear from you. Keep them informed of anticipated work, project completions, and even why you let them go. This makes it a much more beneficial experience for everyone involved. 3. Test before Hiring If you’re not sure about a potential hire, hire them first for a small fixed pay job. That way you can judge their skills without committing to a long term project. You can also limit their amount of hours initially to get an idea of a skill level. For certain jobs, like writing, you can ask for specific samples from potential hires. 4. Know the going wage I see this one a lot – You can’t hire competent programmers from North America for the same price you would someone from overseas. Cost of living and taxes just won’t tell you. So if you’re angling for the homeshoring angle, be … Read Full Article

Break it Down: 8 Steps to Better Management

March 18, 2009 by

A new feature coming in the next few weeks inspires us to discuss a key technique for project management. It’s relevant to any kind of remote work, but at oDesk the ideas grew out of managing software development workteams. Our co-founder and CTO Odysseas Tsatalos is a firm believer in breaking the development process down to the smallest tasks, and our new task code feature will let buyers and project managers who adopt the technique to more accurately track the time and costs dedicated to each task. So for those inspired by the new feature, we offer eight tips that can make you a better manager: Think small: Break a larger assignment down to manageable tasks. Each takes a few hours—sometimes, a few days, but the larger the task, the harder it is to manage and track, so break things down as far as logic allows. Examples from an engineering environment: “Add landing page to production trunk,” “update the What’s New section on homepage,” or “add fields to database.”  Go high level: Keep your task description (or codes) to a high-level concept. This way, your reports will be more meaningful. Example: “Write a newsletter article,” “Edit the newsletter” and “Format and email the newsletter” may be tasks for three different providers, but they form a “Newsletter” component owned by your marketing manager. When reviewing the communication efforts at the end of the month, your reports will immediately show how much effort was spent on the newsletter.  Automate: Tasks should be automatically queued to their correct owners. There are many project management tools available to do that; these days we’re using Bugzilla, which is available in every team room. What system you use isn’t as important as finding one that works for you.  One thing at … Read Full Article

Take Smaller Bites: 4 Reasons to Break Down Big Jobs

March 18, 2009 by

We’ve got this new feature coming in the next few weeks: Task codes. Buyers break jobs down by small tasks, and a provider logging in selects a code indicating the kind of task she’s working on. That way, the buyer can plan and budget better. We haven’t come up with a version just for the provider’s personal recordkeeping (yet!), but it occurs to us that this is a great way for a provider to approach a job even if the buyer hasn’t embraced the feature. A buyer might hire you to “build an online store,” but approaching the job in that giant-sized chunk is a recipe for failure. You know you have to approach it one step at a time, and making this process visible to the buyer is a way to ensure solid communication and a smooth workflow. Go back to your buyer with a list of the specific tasks — “build database,” “populate database with product info,” “implement Yahoo shopping cart” — and time estimates for each. If your buyer creates applicable task codes, use them when you sign in. If not, just specify the task at hand on your work memo. Why go through all this nitty-gritty detail work? Here are four reasons: Manage expectations. Showing each step can make sure the buyer understands why the job will take the time and money you estimate it will take. It prevents misunderstandings or disappointment down the line.  Involve other team members. If your breakdown includes functions other team members will perform, this helps the buyer organize the team, and raises your stature as a key member. For example, your time may be best spent on building the database but not keying-in the information. Have a data-entry specialist do that while you are focusing on your … Read Full Article

oDesk: Time Study & More

March 2, 2009 by

If you are ineffective during any part of your workday and cannot determine why, then you need oDesk to help you track the use of your time and increase your throughput. oDesk is an extremely useful site due to the increasing use of contingency workforces, rise in telecommuting and growth of independent contractors. This suite of time management tools, job boards, and contractor payment services is surely to become indispensable to project managers in today’s global economy. During the past month, I have used the oDesk utilities, especially the Team Room, with several contractors and internal employees with incredible success. Time management, tracking of billable hours, team collaboration & communication  all are among the many capabilities of the Team Room. These features have increased the turnaround of team projects and improved the communication among staff members. Additionally, I have been able to use the Team Room’s work diary to track my time spent on various tasks and produce a weekly time-study. The work diary allows a user to identity time spent on various projects during the day, track productivity levels with an activity meter, and store screenshots of work being completed. The combined information can be used to evaluate use of work hours, evaluate employee performance, and review the use of resources across a team. The work diary can also be very useful to anyone working for several departments because the capture time and task tracking can be used to calculate chargeback time. Regardless of the chosen use of the work diary and other team room features, all of the mentioned features are extremely easy to use and can be seamlessly worked into the normal routine of almost any position working from a computer workstation, especially administrative, technical, and data entry positions. The clean and well organized interfaces of … Read Full Article

5 Agile tips for completing a successful project

February 26, 2009 by

Here are 5 agile tips for completing a successful project, in general and on oDesk. 1) Work from a prioritized list – There are always going to be features that are more important than others. I know clients like to say that it’s all important and that they needed it yesterday. But, assure them of the importance of prioritizing. Work with your client to prioritize their list of items. Tell them that it is important because you want to make sure you’re working on the most important items first. And, working on the most important things will assure that you are always delivering value to your client. 2) Get feedback early and often – If a project is going to last a month, break it up into deliverable chunks. Establish a delivery schedule e.g. “I will deliver small pieces of the application every Friday evening for you to try out”. This does several things: First, it creates trust with your client. Second, it gives you valuable feedback that you need throughout the project instead of finding out you were doing something wrong after it’s too late. In the end, you final delivery will be more in line with what they want than if they hadn’t seen it until the end. 3) Time-box your work – Do you ever notice that a task that should’ve taken you an hour to do expands to several hours and sometimes a day? Tasks tend to shrink or expand with the amount of time allotted. Set a realistic, but aggressive goal for each task, then re-evaluate when you hit your deadline. You’ll be surprised as to how much more you can get done. 4) Make your work visible – Always make your work transparent to your client by pushing your status instead of … Read Full Article

10 Ways to Tell the World About You

February 23, 2009 by

  A lot of businesses think of public relations as the province of enormous corporations, but it’s more—and less—than a fully staffed in-house department. PR is the function of presenting your business and its message in the clearest and most positive light, and motivating the prospective client to see you as a go-to authority. In an increasingly competitive economic environment, every business needs to work harder to get its name out there. And you’d be surprised how far you can get on only a little effort in this digital age. Example? Sure: We issued a press release about iPhone developer stats, submitted it to a press-release aggregator or two, inspiring post on an Apple blog that got about 800 hits on Digg. That’s not even all the reads, that’s just people who read it, had a Digg account, and were motivated to vote it up. Underlying every PR campaign is the idea of “owning” your category. When people think of what you do, you want them to think of you. Your public relations campaign is simply the process of getting other people to agree that, yeah, you do own that category. You can reach that goal, and there are talented oDesk providers to help you with specific PR tasks quickly and efficiently. We have experienced publicists and marketing writers, journalists and sharp-eyed editors, plus experts in search-engine optimization (SEO), social networking, business research and more. Here are 10 focused PR goals and tips on what to look for in a provider:   Do it yourself: You will need certain expertise, but remember that you’re the face of your company. This list of DIY PR tips will help you get a handle on being your own chief marketer. You … Read Full Article