Focus on the Problem Before Jumping to the Solution!

Albert Einstein once quipped that “education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.” I can recall few of the specifics that I was taught when I earned my business degree in the early 1990s, but some important concepts made a lasting impression on me. At the time, studying Japanese management techniques was all the rage, and one of the most intriguing claims I remember was that Western companies—and their managers—frequently fell into the trap of focusing on the solution instead of the problem. What does this mean? Simply that most of us in the U.S. and other Western countries tend to be in such a hurry to resolve issues that we rush into fixing a problem before we have completely analyzed it. We naturally want to deal with difficult situations as quickly as possible; it seems like a waste of time to pause to spend time reviewing the problem. But without taking that step, we can easily choose a suboptimal solution—or even worse, a solution that only addresses a symptom instead of the problem’s root cause. This danger is exacerbated when there is a discrepancy between the skill sets of the individual with the problem and the individual with the solution. Employers often turn to hiring freelancers because they need an expert to solve a particular problem, but rather than spelling out the problem and letting freelancers suggest the best solution, they put forth a proposed solution themselves. It is understandable why this happens; in most cases, the employer is (wisely) trying to be clear and specific about job requirements. But the end result this can still constrain potential proposals, and cause the employer to miss out on potentially superior ideas. One of my main lines of work is automated data extraction and processing,… Read Full Article

All Things Upwork

Accounting Made Easy – Import oDesk Financial Data into Outright.com

A while ago we started to hear some positive chatter about a new service called Outright that provides a simple, online accounting web site designed specifically for entrepreneurs, self-employed individuals and very small businesses.  We checked it out and were impressed with how easy the site is to use, especially if you’ve ever found yourself scratching your head when using more complicated products. Today, we’re excited to announce a new partnership with Outright.  As a result of the partnership, you can now manage your finances quickly and easily.  Export your oDesk financial activity using the CSV download provided on your Payments > Financial Activity page and import it directly into Outright.com.  Outright will help you stay on top of your business finances and taxes (US businesses for now) with a number of useful reports, tax reminders, and estimated tax liability. Regarding pricing, Outright offers the following from their FAQ: What does it cost to use Outright? Outright is currently free to all users and will most likely remain so throughout the Beta period. However, we do plan to charge for certain features in the future. But we believe every user should be able to try the service for free. Check it out and let us know what you think. Read Full Article

All Things Upwork

Employees vs Contractors – comparing the UPS & Fedex models

In the good old days, landing a job with a big, stable company and riding that horse to retirement was the way to go.  Employees’ lifelong loyalty was rewarded with generous pensions.  But that, as they say, was then and this is now.  Employee perks of the previous century, including holiday parties, company cars, and 401(k) matching are vanishing.  In fact, companies that were assumed to be unshakable and supposed to endure for generations are being absorbed and brought to their knees.  Both sides – companies and employees – have begun to question the assumptions of previous generations. One of the great things about capitalism is that it allows companies and individuals to experiment with new ways.  Take UPS and FedEx for example.  While both of their services may appear similar to the casual observer, their business models are as different as day and night.  UPS delivery personnel – the folks in the brown uniforms driving the brown trucks – are full-time employees.  The trucks they drive are provided, gassed, and serviced for them by UPS.  The drivers are unionized and their performance is carefully scrutinized by the company.  The company pays attention to every little detail of their activities to shave off even the smallest inefficiencies. FedEx drivers, on the other hand, are independent contractors.  They get no benefits, no overtime, no sick leave, and no insurance.  They pay for and maintain their own vehicles.  However, they are given independence in how they operate.  A successful independent contractor can even hire their own drivers and manage multiple routes, allowing them to grow their delivery business.  And FedEx provides very little oversight; so long as the customers are happy, FedEx is happy. FedEx is neither a young company nor a small one, but it has embraced a new model of… Read Full Article

All Things Upwork

oDesk & Assembla Accelerate Distributed Development

As anyone who manages a large distributed team will tell you, the complexities of managing and paying  your team grow with the team’s size.  Teams building more sophisticated software have needs particular to software development including things like how you protect and manage your source code and how you track tickets and bugs.  These tools are critical to successful larger software development efforts. oDesk is proud to offer integrated Bugzilla and SVN repositories with every Team Room, but we know that some oDesk buyers and provider companies want more control over their repositories and may prefer other tools.  To help satisfy some of this demand and give those of you that want more options, we’re excited to announce today that we’ve partnered with Assembla.  Assembla offers Subversion and Git code repositories enhanced with an integrated code browser, “view as web page” mockup rendering, email alerts, and fine-grain permissions through a Teams panel.  Assembla itself is the product of a distributed team and their suite of tools enables of lot of software development best-practices that we think are important to long-term success. As part of the partnership, Assembla is incorporating oDesk provider search into their application, so we’d also like to welcome Assembla users to oDesk!… Read Full Article

5 Annoying Things Freelancers Do to Destroy their Business

I have been working with freelancers throughout my career and recently, thanks to services like oDesk, I find myself doing it more often.  So you might think that I am happy with what I get, at least in general.  Well, one of the reasons I continue to stay engaged is my high tolerance for pain – I am prepared to go through piles of hay to find that needle.  And I have to tell you, looking for freelancers is very much like digging for gold – you literally have to go through tons of dirt to find it. Interestingly enough many freelancers who have skills, knowledge and maybe even talent often torpedo themselves, aggressively sabotage their chances of getting customers right in the begging of the process.  They make simple yet lethal mistakes that turn off clients before they got the chance to learn about freelancer’s ingenuity.  Below are some of those mistakes: Not reading my post before you reply to it.  Your three page long template proposal will get you in a recycle been faster than anything else.  At least adjust your opening statement, show me that you read the post… Not using proper grammar and spelling.  English is my second language and still work in progress; I still straggle with grammar myself, yet many responses I see push that envelope way too far.  Grammatically poor introduction screams in my face “Communicating with this freelancer will be a real pain!” Spelling mistakes are even worse – how can I entrust my project to someone who doesn’t even make an effort to turn on a spellchecker? Talking with me like I am a teenager.  Your slang (especially when combined with ESL marvels) comes across as complete lack of intelligence and class.  By the way, spellchecker is not likely to recognize… Read Full Article

All Things Upwork

Provider Spotlight (March 2009)

Each month we like to highlight 4 providers who’ve received exemplary feedback. Great job Denise, Fahd, Des, and Agus — you’ve earned this!   Denise R Excellent Writer & Editor. I only do top quality work. Total oDesk Hours: 63 Overall Feedback: 4.94 (Based on 8 feedbacks) Comments: “Pays attention to detail, above and beyond!” Fahd M (Universal Coders) Web Application Developer,Wordpress/Joomla/Drupal Expert Total oDesk Hours: 164 Overall Feedback: 5.0 (Based on 5 feedbacks) Comments: “He was absolutely exceptional in every way. The quality of his code is excellent, and his determination to solve problems second to none.” Des M **Email Marketing**Data Entry**Virtual Asst**Web Researcher** Total oDesk Hours: 263 Overall Feedback: 4.91 (Based on 12 feedbacks) Comments: “She increased my lead traffic within her first 24 hours and has increased our social network. She has a fun personality and does what needs to be done.” Agus R Professional Graphic Designer with Tons of Creative Ideas Total oDesk Hours: 992 Overall Feedback: 4.94 (Based on 16 feedbacks) Comments: “Agus does amazing work in a timely and economical fashion. He is our preferred provider.” 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 (March 2009)

1023 providers from 60 countries, including Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, and the Czech Republic got their first jobs in the last month. These 1023 providers have already racked up 33,749 oDesk hours and over $306,918 in just one month. Congrats to the providers who landed their first jobs in the February! 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

Buzzworthy (March 2009)

Have you heard the buzz? Let’s take a look at the latest online discussion of oDesk. Our favorite oDesk-related blog post this month is Rebecca Hayden’s explanation of how she fell into oDesk, from being motivated to sign up to please one client to letting her “oDesk days” expand until they were the source of most of her earnings. Who else said something buzzworthy? Daniel Gansle offers a step-by-step explanation of how oDesk works that’s perfect for sharing with anyone you need to make understand how our workteam marketplace works. Jeremy Martin takes on some criticism of oDesk — the difficulty of competing against providers in countries with much lower costs of living — and talks about how he has taken action to get jobs and steadily increase his rate, rather than sitting around moping about it. Abel Mohler presents his tale of oDesk success, which he sums up best here: “Yes, I never write invoices. I have a service which does all of that for me. I never take money up-front, am always paid on time, every week, and do everything by the hour. In addition, I am pretty much free to set my own hours. Also, despite the current economic slowdown, my earnings have increased, and my future prospects seem bright.” And over at Drupal.org, they announce the formation of the oDesk Drupal Group. Get the full lowdown from the Drupal site. Thanks to everyone who posts about their oDesk experience (for a shot at a T-shirt, send your link to buzz@odesk.com!), and here’s hoping all our prospects stay bright! Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter. Upload a photo of your… Read Full Article

All Things Upwork

You don’t have to be in one location…

…to make great music or do great work. Stand By Me | Song Around The World from Concord Music Group on Vimeo. We stumbled across this clip from the award-winning documentary, “Playing for Change: Peace through music,” and immediately connected with it, as we feel it speaks to our mission at oDesk.  It’s a cover of  the Ben E. King classic “Stand by Me,” by musicians around the world adding their part.  Every day, we have the privilege of bringing remote workers together to collaborate on oDesk, and seeing amazing products come out of it.  Enjoy!… Read Full Article

All Things Upwork

Message-Center Interviewing

Historically, interviews have happened outside the system – when you “interviewed” someone, oDesk just gave you their email address and Yahoo! ID. We left it to you to connect with them, and then come back in the system to make the hire. Not the ideal system: Both sides had to divulge their contact information immediately Interview communication happened outside the system, leaving no record about what was agreed to It was just clunky! Now, when the buyer clicks “interview”, they are prompted to “send a message”. The ensuing interview messages are private and take place in the oDesk Message Center – you’ll exchange contact info if and when you want to chat or talk via phone. We hope this will make the interview process easier and safer for all our users. Questions? Comments? Concerns? Please let us know what you think in the forum. Read Full Article

All Things Upwork

Python gaining on Ruby

Web 2.0 is still quite the wild frontier, and it’s not always clear which horse you should back in any race.  Take programming languages; Ruby has been dominating Python for some time now.  Things, however, may be changing.  Google recently chose to support Python first for the Google App Engine, and our trends seem to show this fight isn’t over yet. Ruby is a dynamic, reflective general purpose object-oriented language designed in Japan.  It supports multiple programming paradigms, and combines syntax inspired by Perl with Small-talk like features.  Founder Yukihiro Matsumoto “wanted a language that was more powerful than Perl, and more object-oriented than Python,” so he developed Ruby. Python is another multi-paradigm language conceived in the Netherlands.  Simplicity and flexibility are central to the design of Python.  Python was designed to encourage the creation of extensions, rather than having everything built into the language core, allowing programmers to customize it. Until recently, Ruby has been greatly outpacing Python.  Our oDesk job data shows that a year ago, Ruby jobs outnumbered Python jobs four-to-one.  Today, that lead has dropped to approximately two-to-one. There are 1,838 Ruby programmers and 1,175 Python programmers on oDesk. One possible reason for Python’s recent surge is Google’s choice of Python for implementing its Google App Engine applications.  Google’s App Engine allows you to run web applications on Google’s infrastructure, giving you stability and reliability, and also allowing you to utilize things like Google accounts. The momentum appears to be with Python for now, and is likely to stay that way so long as Google favors the language. And since Python’s author, Guido van Rossum, works at Google, that’s not likely to change soon.  This fight’s not over, as Python clearly has a lot of ground to make up on Ruby.  But… Read Full Article

All Things Upwork

New oDesk blog widget

Like our content & want to share with your own communities?  We’re excited to announce our new oDesk blog widget, which you can embed into: Social Networks: MySpace Facebook Ning Blogs: Blogger Typepad WordPress LiveJournal Other: Multiply iGoogle Netvibes Confluence Click on “Get Widget” and then “More” for the embed codes.  Enjoy!… Read Full Article

All Things Upwork

Break it Down: 8 Steps to Better Management

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

All Things Upwork

Take Smaller Bites: 4 Reasons to Break Down Big Jobs

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

All Things Upwork

Demand for .NET Developers Remains Strong

Last week we looked at PHP in our ongoing coverage of hot skills in demand on oDesk.  This week, we’re highlighting Microsoft’s .NET software framework. In spite of some strong growth by Apple’s Mac OS X operating system in the last few years, Microsoft Windows still rules the roost with nearly 90% market share.  This doesn’t seem likely to change in the near future.  The ability to write code for computers running Windows continues to be a valuable skill and the .NET software framework is a key component of many applications. A major reason the .NET software framework is valuable is that it was designed with Windows in mind.  This means, among other things, that installing an application built on .NET is simplified, since issues such as potential conflicts with other software and security are largely handled for you.  .NET programs also run under the Common Language Runtime, which means you don’t need to jump through a lot of hoops to optimize your code for all sorts of different memory configurations.  Programmers also have access to a large library of .NET classes that manage common functions like manipulating files or handling graphics.  And, since .NET is the backbone of many popular programming languages, like C#, VB.NET, and Cobra, .NET coding skills can improve your ability to code in these languages. Now, let’s take a look at .NET jobs on oDesk. As you’d expect from a bedrock skill like .NET, demand has remained steady, despite the difficult economy.  Over 225 .NET jobs are posted each month on oDesk, for the over 4,300 .NET Developers on oDesk to apply for.  In good times and bad, we all rely on our computers to get our work done.  So long as Windows maintains its dominance in the businessplace, .NET should… Read Full Article

All Things Upwork

oDesk attends PubCon South

oDesk attended PubCon South in Austin, TX for the first time this week. The keynotes were delivered by digital entrepreneur and author Guy Kawasaki and Google lead quality engineer Matt Cutts. Matt launched Google’s new Friend Connect API on Thursday. Attendees included leading search and internet marketing gurus from around the South. oDesk CEO Gary Swart spoke on a panel titled “Career Gut Check” and delivered this presentation on the SEO/SEM Career Landscape, using oDesk’s wealth of job data to draw conclusions on the state of the internet marketing industry. Career Gut Check: SEO/SEM Employment Landscape View more presentations from Amit Bakshi. At our exhibitor booth, the reception of oDesk’s product continues to be strong. It was great to interact with current and prospective customers, understand their needs, and show them how they can use oDesk to both find work and do more with less by managing a team of remote professionals. Read Full Article

All Things Upwork

WordPress: The Number One Blogging Platform

Today we continue our coverage of hot skills in demand at oDesk by shining a spotlight on WordPress.  WordPress is the most popular blogging platform on the net, especially for corporate blogs.  A combination of flexibility, ease of use, and reliability has led many, including us at oDesk, to choose WordPress to power their blogs.  Yep, the blog you’re reading right now is run on WordPress. WordPress is open-source and free.  One of WordPress’s major strengths is the variety of widgets available for the platform. Widgets are small programs that add extra features to your blog.  Many of these are behind-the-scenes sorts of things to make life easier for the blogger, but others, like the animated tag cloud towards the bottom-right of this blog are fun toys for readers to play with.  And since WordPress was designed with a such a flexible plugin architecture, bloggers and developers will continue to improve upon what is already available as blogging continues to evolve. Now, let’s take a look at WordPress’s growth on oDesk. In early 2008, there were just over a hundred WordPress jobs posted per month on oDesk.  A year later, it’s grown to over 500, and the growth seems to be accelerating.  This growth seems recession proof, likely because as budgets get tighter, and companies are looking for ways to stretch every dollar, they are realizing that blogging is a cheap but effective way of furthering a company’s marketing goals.  But, to make the most of a blog, companies need someone who can infuse it with their style, branding, and look-and-feel.  That’s where WordPress developers, like the 3,351 on oDesk, can provide value. The best way to learn more about WordPress is to start your own WordPress blog.  The official WordPress site has almost everything… Read Full Article

Common Mistakes Made by Freelancers

Whether you are new to the world of freelancing or are a seasoned veteran, there are a number of things to be considered when bidding on an assignment. I have conducted many interviews through oDesk, and have seen some rather appalling behavior from potential providers that have cost them their chance to ever work on an assignment for me, while others don’t even make it to the interview process. I will briefly review the proper etiquette for providers to adhere to when applying for positions through oDesk. Cover Letters. This is the first impression you will have on a prospective employer.  Bidding on an assignment through oDesk is no different than applying for a job.  Your cover letter should highlight requirements or duties mentioned in the job posting.  One of the quickest ways to get your application rejected is to send a generic cover letter that does not focus on any of the posted job requirements.  I will not consider a provider for an assignment if they do not take the time to mention what qualifications they possess that pertain to the project I am hiring for, or why the position interests them. If you have questions regarding the assignment, it is OK to ask as long as it is done respectfully and tastefully.  I have seen questions in cover letters that read more like  insults or police interrogations rather than a simple inquiry. Qualifications.  If there are tests available for your skills, take them, and apply only for positions that you are qualified for.  If a project requires that you are proficient with Linux, but all you know is Windows, do not apply.  You will be wasting the Buyer’s time and they will remember you for doing just that.  This could cause you to be immediately rejected for future… Read Full Article

oDesk Visits Laid Off Camp

As the economy dwindles and layoffs continue, job fairs are becoming increasingly popular. But what happens when there just aren’t enough companies hiring at these job fairs and the results turn out to be more depressing than the recession itself? People turn to each other for support and that’s what Laid Off Camp is all about! Technology enthusiast and freelance consultant Chris Hutchins decided to hold an “unconference” to lift spirits and discuss alternative means of income. Instead of paying large sums of money to attend a conference only to have someone talk at you, the idea behind the ad-hoc “unconference” is to let everyone have a chance to speak. The inaugural Laid Off Camp was held in San Francisco on March 3rd, with the Dallas Laid Off Camp following closely behind on March 6th. oDesk had the opportunity to both sponsor and participate in Laid Off Camp at both the San Francisco and Dallas gatherings, which brought in over 500 participants combined. Freelancing and Social Networking While countless people shared tales of woe, there were also some very inspirational success stories were told that gave many of the recently laid off participants a glimmer of hope: self-employment. In light of the recession, many people have been able to earn income outside the traditional workplace. Some have gone on to form consulting agencies, while others have turned to freelancing (including me). From software developers to writers to marketing professionals, many have been able to leverage the setbacks from layoffs by working for themselves. Whether they used online job boards or word of mouth to obtain work, one thing was obvious: social media plays a big part in it all. In fact, the camp itself relied… Read Full Article

Expanding Employment Opportunities for Women in Low-Income Countries

Samasource, a nonprofit that markets the skills of socially disadvantaged workers in low-income regions, recently partnered with oDesk to launch a group. One of our first members is a Pakistani woman named Maria, who hails from a Pushtun family in Peshawar, in the North-West Frontier Province currently occupied by the Taliban. Maria holds a Master’s degree and was earning $120 a month as a high school teacher before she got pregnant with her second child. Her school’s policy for maternity leave was four weeks off without pay—that, coupled with her conservative family’s wish that she not work outside the home, led her to consider remote work. See complete interview of Maria: Maria, a Samasource oDesk Group Member in Islamabad, Pakistan She landed a content writing job on a local freelancer site, but pay was low. (While in her eighth month of pregnancy, Maria wrote 196 articles for $200.) Then, she stumbled upon oDesk and managed to make $400 in her first month of work. Her main challenge was building up her reputation, which required doing low-priced work to start.  Maria believes that the partnership with Samasource might make it easier for Pakistani women on oDesk to find work, since Samasource helps attract clients and train women to use the site: “I know many women from lower-middle class families that cannot spend time looking for opportunities that might not pay off. If they knew that finding clients would be a bit easier, they’d really like to earn some extra income while at home.” Maria’s story illustrates how a partnership between Samasource and remote work sites like oDesk can create jobs for people in areas with very high unemployment and few opportunities. Leila Chirayath Janah is the founder and CEO of SamaSource,… Read Full Article

All Things Upwork

PHP Job Search Success with Certification

We’re going to start blogging about the skill sets that are really hot in our marketplace. The demand for tech skills evolves rapidly, and a smart freelance professional is always looking for the next step in his or her growth. We think the best way to kick this series off is with PHP. PHP, a scripting language that delivers customizable content on web pages, is all in sorts of popular sites — Yahoo, Digg, Facebook … If you’re on the web these days, that’s probably PHP in the background. It’s flexible, stable and free — and extremely popular with Web 2.0 developers. The language was developed in 1994 and has relentlessly expanded ever since. These days, PHP 5, powered by Zend Engine II, is no longer the up-and-coming iteration – it’s now fully mainstream. In early 2008, there were just over a thousand PHP jobs posted per month on oDesk. A year later, it’s 2,000 and climbing, a 75% percent year-over-year increase. There’s not a lot in today’s business world growing at that rate, is there? But the global economic meltdown doesn’t seem to be turning this growth curve around. We’ve been talking about PHP for a while now — back in December, we listed PHP as the web developer skill in most demand, and highlighted its meteoric rise: from 800 jobs posted in November 2007 to 1,800 last July. Clearly, PHP is a skill with legs. If you’re a PHP developer there is every indication you skills will remain marketable for the next decade. As with any technical skill, maintaining and increasing your skill set should be part of day to day living. PHP training is available online and in formal classes if you are not one to learn as you go. The… Read Full Article

Proofread your freelance writing!

As a long-time English teacher, I’ve read more than a few poorly written essays, most before the advent of the spell checker.  Some people may advise the poor spellers out there to hire a freelance writer to either do their writing for them or to do a bit of judicious editing.  Freelance writers can certainly help if you’ve got a big job, like a brochure or a book, but can also help with smaller tasks like resumes. One of the most common grammatical problems I’ve seen in freelance writing is forgetting which of a set of homonyms to use.  Take all those words that sound like “too.”  If you wrote that one, try using “also” in its place.  For example, if you wrote, “I went too the store,” try: “I went also the store.”  That’s horrible!  Obviously, you need a different version.  There’s also “two,” but that one is a number.  You only use it when there are a couple of items.  The one that’s left is “to,” so that’s the one we need in the phrase, “I went to the store.”  You knew that! If you hire a freelance writer, there are a few other minor things you can check.  For example, take the compound subject.  Most people don’t know when to say “He and I” versus “him and me.”  They assume the second one is always wrong because their English teachers always seemed to correct them.  Some people simply substitute “myself” for the second pronoun all the time, hoping to avoid the situation entirely.  Don’t do that.  The easy way to figure out which pronoun to use is to take the other guy out, temporarily. For example, let’s take “Joe and I prepared the reports together.”  Is that correct?  Take Joe out and see :  “I prepared the… Read Full Article

The Way We Work

oDesk: Time Study & More

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

The Way We Work

5 Agile tips for completing a successful project

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

All Things Upwork

We are pleased to announce oDesk Groups!

We’ve launched new Groups on oDesk – each one is a special marketplace within the oDesk network. Many providers advance their careers and reputation by counting on industry and professional certifications, alumni groups, or developer networks. Groups allow providers to join communities of professionals who share a common interests, skills, certifications or passions. For providers, joining Groups offers the benefit of enhanced reputation with a Group logo in their individual profile and access to exclusive jobs that are posted to the Group. For buyers, posting a job to a Group allows them to reach a highly qualified group of providers that specialize in a skill set. For partners, Groups allow companies with certification programs or developer networks to strengthen and expand their brand’s reach by promoting their Group on oDesk. You can take a look at our new Groups Directory. A special thanks to all of our initial launch partners: Check out the Directory, apply to Join a Group if you’re interested, and stay tuned for more Groups in the near future. Keep in mind, membership in a Group is solely at our Partner’s discretion, so please check the criteria for joining a Group before applying. Read Full Article