The Way We Work

How to Build a Website – Tech-Savvy or Not!

There are thousands of freelance Web developers listed on oDesk who you can hire to build your site. But, how do you… …pick one for the job you need done? …keep costs down? …keep the developer from snowing you on time estimates? In my experience there is one key consideration that determines your best path to hiring a developer. The determining question is: Are you technical? This is a trick question for some people. I have friends that consider themselves technically adept. They enthusiastically read up regularly on geek blogs and forums. They can discuss expertly and in-depth about the latest developments in platforms and applications. However, they do not have any real world programming experience. So when they try to manage their oDesk programmers, they inevitably get into trouble. They think they are speaking the developer’s language, but in the end both parties get frustrated and confused. The work is delayed. They end up burning more developer hours than my non-tech-loving friends. In other words, my technology enthusiast pals know enough to be dangerous, but not enough to be useful in hiring and managing programmers. I am not technical myself but thankfully my business partner is, and he manages all hiring and communication with the programmers. Here is a quick litmus test he created to see what side of the fence you lie on. #1. What is the process that takes place when you upload a file in php? #2. The opposite of rel=nofollow is “followed”. True or False? If you understand the lingo but cannot nail the answers to the questions completely and coherently, then you are not technical. If you are technical: Test your applicants’ coding abilities. Ask each applicant to solve a programming problem. If they try to assure you… Read Full Article

All Things Upwork

oDesk Visitors from Near and Far

Here at oDesk, we really enjoy getting visitors. We have a nifty office space, lots of food handy, and you can challenge one of us to a game of ping pong or foosball if you’re feeling lucky. Recently, we had a nice visit from Paul Sedacove, one of our affiliates and principals at Oggetto Web.  The 17 providers at Oggetto have worked 9,000+ hours on oDesk in the last ten months with a handful of customers. Paul had great things to say about the help he received from our staff (nice job, Ron and Kendra!), and  Paul mentioned that our platform was ‘perfect’ and had a few very minor suggestions to improve. Paul left us with a book on Russia, which he signed, ‘from Russia with love’. We were also visited last week by Elliott Ng, Co-Founder, VP of Marketing at UpTake and founder of CNReviews.com. Elliott brought his video camera, and chatted with our CEO Gary Swart about outsourcing, oDesk, and the global impact of remote work. The video is also available at The China Business Network at: http://www.thechinabusinessshow.com/special-features/gary-swart-ceo-odesk/2009/07/ Going to be near Menlo Park? Want to stop by and tell us about your oDesk experience? Let us know – we’ll show you around (and maybe even let you win a ping pong game or two)!… Read Full Article

All Things Upwork

Buzzworthy (July 2009)

Every month, we highlight the most interesting discussions online of what we modestly call the oDesk Experience. Our favorite writers receive free oDesk T-shirts, which are so ridiculously fabulous, we don’t have words. (Send us links to your oDesk-related posts, and you might win one yourself.) Since our last check-in, there have been quite a few interesting blog entries about oDesk. Our favorite? Student, runway model, and new oDesk provider Paulette Quinto’s blog post describing her first three weeks on oDesk. It’s just one of several posts about her oDesk adventures. We’re assuming she’s really gonna know how to wear that stylish black T-shirt… We run across an awful lot of blog posts about the life of a provider—Katrine Sales provides a great one here—but this month we’ve got a fine piece for the buyers out there—headlined “How to Hire a Virtual Assistant,” it provides a lot of tips about how to hire a remote provider to take over all that clutter that keeps you from doing what you need to get done. It’s a fast-growing niche in our marketplace, so check out the tips and get on board now! If you’ve been buzy buzzing too maybe you’ll be featured here on the oDesk blog next month! Send us your links for a shot at those T-shirts—they’re so cool, even models are wearing them now. Read Full Article

All Things Upwork

Provider Spotlight (July 2009)

Each month we like to highlight 4 providers who’ve received exemplary feedback. Great job Christopher, Stacy, Oleksii, and Daniela — you’ve earned this!   Christopher M Flash Ninja/Actionscript Assassin! AS3/AS2/XML/HTML/CSS Total oDesk Hours: 188 Overall Feedback: 5.00 (Based on 1 feedbacks) Comments: The perfect developer: Highly skilled, fast, accurate with timeframe estimates, passionate, pays attention to details. Chris is a pleasure to work with. Stacy C Web Development, Design, Consulting, HTML, CSS, Joomla, Writer/Editor Total oDesk Hours: 17 Overall Feedback: 5.00 (Based on 6 feedbacks) Comments: Your work was excellent, thorough and complete. I appreciate what I learned from you in our close communication and I am delighted with the outcome. Oleksii M (Affiliated with RusCoder) PHP/MySQL/Javascript/AJAX/DHTML/C++/Win32API Total oDesk Hours: 730 Overall Feedback: 4.72 (Based on 3 feedbacks) Comments: His coding abilities are excellent, his code is clean and well documented, and he is very good at finding solutions to problems. All around, Oleksii is top notch. Daniela D Professional Graphic Designer specialized in Print Design Total oDesk Hours: 0 Overall Feedback: 5.00 (Based on 7 feedbacks) Comments: Truly wonderful designer and a pleasure to work with… So creative! Thank you Daniela! I would work with her on any assignment! Spotlight Providers must have earned a 4.5+ feedback score with a glowing comment on an assignment in the past month, have a 4.0+ overall feedback score, an impressive profile, and a high quality individual portrait (not too blurry, no avatars). Only oDesk Ready public profiles are eligible. Read Full Article

All Things Upwork

Round of Applause (July 2009)

1,383 providers from 75 countries, including Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden and Switzerland, got their first jobs in the last month. These 1,383 providers have already racked up 53,690 oDesk hours and over $484,997 in just one month. Congrats to the providers who landed their first jobs in the June! Want to get in on the earning action? Get oDesk Ready, fill out your profile, and apply to job openings!… Read Full Article

All Things Upwork

Top Ten #oTip Twiveway Tweets

Whew! Do NOT try to say that title aloud ten times fast! Last week, we had asked everyone to submit their best “Remote Working” or “Remote Management” tips for a chance to win a $100 Amazon Gift Card. We received many wonderful responses, and we managed to narrow down the list to our top 10 tweets. It’s a good thing we drew the winner randomly, because all of the tips we received were great! We had a hard enough time picking our top 10, let alone a single winner! Thanks to @chaviebugsey on Twitter (our unofficial random number generator), our winner of the $100 Amazon Gift Certificate drawing is: @tjlytle (Tim Lytle):Make sure you (and your client) know the difference between an employee and a contractor.Tim Lytle is a Technology Consultant & oDesk Contract Web Developer. Owner of timlytle.net ltd since 2003, his oDesk adventures have been mentioned on the BBC’s Click and in Forbes Magazine. Congratulations, Tim! Here are the Top Ten #oTip Tweets (in alphabetical order) and our responses to them: @AnneSemana (Anne Semana): That’s simple. Use oDesk!!! – Best tip ever! Our response: Yes, we like shameless self-promotion! Who doesn’t? @arronguy (Arron Washington): Don’t friend clients on Facebook. Ever. Our response: Funny, but true. We doubt you’d want your buyers knowing which Twilight character you should marry, or the top 5 people you want to punch in the face. @CrystalsQuest (Crystal Woods): Silence ISN’T golden. New clients need reassurance of you checking to clarify anything unclear BEFORE you go ahead and do it… Read Full Article

The Way We Work

The Themes of Structure ‘09

It’s everywhere you look in IT media these days–cloud computing. This constant news and analyst cycle has a downside though–figuring out what the heck is really going on in the cloud space has become complicated. That’s why I went to a premiere event for cloud computing a few weeks back to get the latest directly from the sources: the world top cloud computing companies. I learned a lot, but the number one takeaway from the event was how important cloud development skills will be for developers in the next few years. Today, there is a solid barrier between development and operations, but new platforms such as MS Azure, Amazon‘s AWS, Google’s App engine and others make developers the front line of IT operations. Freelance software developers who want to command top dollars a year from now need to be paying attention to these markets and reading their expertise and skill. It may be an amazing opportunity to differentiate yourself from the pack and increase your billable rate. The following are my notes from the conference, and I will be paying close attention to the cloud space and checking in as major developments unfold. (excerpted from Siliconangle.com) Primitives The two biggest web technology players at the event (Facebook, Google) used this term often in referring to their programming discipline. The Register has a nice piece covering a passionate exchange between Microsoft and Google engineers on adherence to consistent primitives. Google said MS would fail at matching its speed because they lacked discipline around programming simplification. Google forces developers into narrow development frameworks driven by GFS, map-reduce and big table. If you want to create a service it must be built on those–end of story, game over. Read Full Article

The Way We Work

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

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

The Way We Work

Factors to Freelancing Success

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 Way We Work

The Unplugged: Developers Changing How the World Works

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

The Way We Work

Always Appear Professional: Learn from a Famous Media Prankster

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

All Things Upwork

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

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

All Things Upwork

Humor at the Corporate Layoff Gallows

With US unemployment hitting almost 10% this month, the number of awkward, jarring, painful, surprising and horrific layoff moments at work have hit an all time high. These are the moments in corporate relationships of high emotional tension and dark humor. I saw this phenomenon firsthand; at the end of a spring internship, one of my friends stuck a “hire me” sign on his back (an homage of sorts to a “kick me” sign). He walked around all day pretending to be oblivious to it, provoking laughter wherever he went. It was gallows humor; after six months his run was ending without an offer to stay full-time. I scoured the web to see just how awkward it can get… Sequoia’s Mystery Scrooge When you care enough to send the very worst… “Which startup laid off some folks recently, but had planned to make much deeper cuts? They went as far as having their outsourced HR firm send out final paperwork and checks to a number of employees — and then changed their mind. The CEO was so spacey he wasn’t sure who got sent the paperwork. So he sent an email out to the entire company saying, “Please ignore any package and letter you might get from our HR firm – you’re not fired.” Ouch. Squidoo’s Layoff Queen I can’t imagine she was that professional before the lay off… “I yelled, I ranted and raved, I threw my badge across the office, and I cried. Then I began to beg, much to my chagrin and humiliation. I said I would take a demotion or admin work, anything to keep my job. After about a half hour of enduring what has to be the worst layoff in my entire life, I was ‘escorted’… Read Full Article

All Things Upwork

Interesting Trademark Controversies

Trademark and copyright is an important topic to many freelance writers, developers, and graphic designers (among many others). Below is a collection of various and interesting trademark controversies – remember to educate yourself and tread carefully when uncertain of ownership rights! Burning Man This case is particularly interesting in that the entity of “Burning Man” is open source, for lack of a better expression, in that it is near impossible to determine or prove who, if anyone, really “owns” it. The danger of no one owning it is that it now becomes open to outside interests adopting this orphan since no one is really parenting it. When there is money to be made, this is an immediate danger. Burning man sponsored by “Taco Bell” anyone? Chris Messina over at FactoryJoe does an excellent write-up on the topic , saying: “What’s so interesting and didactic about this controversy is that it embodies, on a grand scale, the kind of micro-controversies that open source communities have faced for a long time around intellectual property and trademark matters.” (Photo credit: Original uploaded by Sterling Ely and shared under a Creative Commons License.) Podcasting A few years ago, Apple tried to flex their muscles to own the term “podcasting”.  In fact they seemed to be after anything with the word “pod” in it. This, of course, is interesting in that we are now getting into the contentious “common terms” area. What if Coke wanted to trademark the term “Cola”? Adwords Google has tried to dump its responsibility for ensuring that a competitor of a company cannot advertise using Google Adwords the trademarked terms of another company. In other words Coke cannot have Adwords advertising on the term… Read Full Article

All Things Upwork

Bing: The Buzz, Microsoft’s Expensive Gamble, and SEO

Microsoft’s $100 million ad spend seems to have done a great job so far in attracting interest and search queries to their new search engine, Bing.  In terms of recent market share, many search industry data sources are reporting as much as a 50% gain in market share for Bing, from about 8% of search queries to about 12%.  According to figures from Compete.com, that equates to roughly 550 million additional queries.  If we use standard web ad metrics, this equates to a cost/click of $.20 (divide $100,000,000 spend by 550,000,000 queries).  Nice job on the ad buy, Microsoft. You’ve generated buzz and also driven a very significant amount of searchers to Bing. Can this trend hold? We think not. Microsoft’s history in online, in our opinion, is one of playing a game of catch-up, and generally playing it poorly.  When it comes to the Internet, Microsoft copies others’ efforts, and usually does quite a mediocre job of it. Bing is no different – they have copied Google’s search page almost exactly.  Even the color of the premium sponsored ads at the top of the page are shaded orange, just as Google’s are.  But one doesn’t need to look for long to see the silliness of Microsoft to shine through.  A sponsored ad goes to three lines long and looks amateurish (screenshot at right).  The #2 organic result for the query ‘php developers’ is for the Yahoo! Developer Network, which is billed as “your source for information about using PHP with Yahoo! Web Services APIs.”  It would be a very, very small minority of searchers for this phrase that would care about this specific topic, yet it’s the second result. We think that the buzz will die down, and Bing’s market share will trend back… Read Full Article

Pricing your skills and services as a freelancer: Part 1, Negotiation Theory

Pricing is the outcome of a negotiation between buyers and sellers on the value of a service to the buyer, versus the value of the service to the seller. It is a dialogue between the two parties with subtle value-cues and signaling, even if they never speak. While we are all innately wired to seek value for ourselves both as buyers and sellers, negotiation theory can be a powerful intellectual back-drop and help you understand what’s really going on in the process. One of the hottest new trends in negotiation theory is “mutual problem solving” which has – to some extent – replaced the more basic bargaining-based approach. The key to mutual problem solving is looking for hidden benefits or creative possibilities for both parties when working together. The classic example is two parties asked to split a pie 50/50. At first, it seems only a simple act of cutting the pie directly down the middle will be feasible. But mutual problem solving theory asks the parties to look further into their real needs beyond their primary sense of fairness. What if one person enjoys crust more than the other? What if the pie were to be cut in half but with one person receiving more crust and the other more middle; suddenly a volume not only equal but also more mutually beneficial outcome springs to life from the simple act of splitting a pie. Great pricing negotiations manage to get to this level. Perhaps one job offers a higher and more appealing pay rate, but the client has a lower volume of work to offer. Do you need maximum income or maxim income per hour. Looking deeper, do you have unique skills fit specifically to the customer? What are the creative ways you can work together… Read Full Article

All Things Upwork

Congratulations to June’s Site of the Month Winner – SafeTek USA!

Congratulations to SafeTekusa.com, the winner of oDesk’s June Site of the Month contest. SafeTek USA is the nation’s leading safety services company, providing consulting, technologies, and supplies that make workplaces safer while reducing costs. They actively promoted their contest submission, bringing in a whopping 350 votes and helping them win a $1,000 oDesk credit and an Apple iPhone 3GS. Runners-Up: MyConferenceTime.com MyConferenceTime facilitates parent-teacher conference sign-ups. Teachers create their conference schedule online, and then parents reserve their desired time using the site. Email confirmations are sent to the teacher and to the parents. Moving Services Moving Services brings users free moving companies information. Visitors can compare movers in their area, get free moving quotes and find useful moving tips. The Mamasphere The Mamasphere was created to assist mothers in quickly accessing the information they need to navigate through their lives as women, wives, partners, co-workers, friends, sisters, daughters, and, most importantly, mamas! All oDesk buyers who completed websites through oDesk were eligible to submit their sites to the contest. Winners were determined entirely by oDesk community voting. We’d like to thank all of the participants in our second installment of the Site of the Month contest. We plan on running even more exciting and innovative contests in the future, such as “App of the Month” and “Blog of the Month”.   As always, we’d love your feedback so feel free to submit your suggestions within the comment section below for future consideration. And please join us in congratulating our winners for June!  Keep up the great work!… Read Full Article