10 Excellent Design Blogs and Sites

Graphic design and the web were made for each other. With broadband access as ubiquitous as it is today, designers can really show off their skills and attitude like never before. Collected here are some of the most useful blogs on graphic design for graphic designers. They cover topics as diverse as how to use the latest in digital tools to managing your expenses as a freelance designer. ADOBE PHOTO SHOP KILLER TIPS: An amazing collection of tips and how-tos complete with video walk-throughs to show you how it’s done. While most of this is perfect for beginners, even pros may find a gem or two they hadn’t seen before. DESIGN O’BLOG: While Niki Brown does touch on the technical details like the Killer Tips blog, she also discusses more “real world” issues like what equipment you should have in your designers bag and how to land work. OUTLAW DESIGN BLOG: A well-rounded blog with diverse topics from tips/techniques to public relations and insurance. Coupled with DesignO’Blog, freelance graphic designers will discover what they must know beyond artistic skills. It’s extremely well-built and good-looking with useful tutorials and downloads. FUEL YOUR CREATIVITY: Clearly one of the most popular graphic design blogs, it’s maintained by a dedicated team who seem eager to promote the craft and encourage and educate newcomers to the field. Be sure to peruse their collection of designer interviews for inspiration as well as cautionary tales from those who have been there before… Read Full Article

Email Advice to Keep Clients Happy

Everyone knows that great communication is essential in any distributed team. I’ve put together my list of Do’s and Don’ts based on the last few years of working in and managing distributed teams. Add your do’s, don’ts or pet peeves about email communication. Do: Address the email carefully. People that are going to need to act on the email should be in the To: addresses. People that you’re just keeping in the loop should be in the CC: addresses. When in doubt, include people on the CC list. Suggest a call to action. If you need action on the email, state it clearly. Tell me what you want me to do with the email. eg, “Josh – please provide feedback.” Bullet point items. If you have a lot of things to say, try to make a nice bulleted list. Nobody likes reading long paragraphs in emails. Use highlights or bold type. If you’re sending an email to a team and need several people to do different things, call that out. Eg, “Elizabeth – please provide a final draft. Brian – please publish on the blog. Confirm action. You’d be amazed how far a simple email reply of “Done” can go. If a client asks you to do something, and you respond with “Done” shortly after, there will be a big smile on their face. Reply immediately. If you can’t immediately address the issues, you should still reply as soon as you can and confirm that you’re working on it and ideally a provide an estimated completion time / date. Send weekly status reports. Even if your client hasn’t asked you to, she will be impressed if you send a nice bulleted list of actions completed over the past week as well as actions planned for the next week. Include links… Read Full Article

All Things Upwork

Provider Spotlight (May 2009)

Each month we like to highlight 4 providers who’ve received exemplary feedback. Great job Paul, Olga, Varun and Shula — you’ve earned this!   Paul D English French translation | XHTML CSS | SEO Total oDesk Hours: 119 Overall Feedback: 4.8 (Based on 4 feedbacks) Comments: Good job done. Quick response, which in fact we really needed. Will hire back immediately. Olga K Fash Flex AIR Facebook PHP JavaScript AJAX Developer, Unix/Linux Admin Total oDesk Hours: 55 Overall Feedback: 5.00 (Based on 2 feedbacks) Comments: Olga was by far the best Facebook programmer we’ve had. Olga, you can be very proud of yourself – we know we are! Varun M Logotronics (High quality logos) Total oDesk Hours: 11 Overall Feedback: 4.98 (Based on 11 feedbacks) Comments: Varun is a top notch designer offering great value. I hired him due to his positive feedback and I was rewarded by his quality work. Shula K Published journalist, clear, compelling SEO copy for websites Total oDesk Hours: 28 Overall Feedback: 5.00 (Based on 2 feedbacks) Comments: Shula has been a great pleasure to work with. Get her on board while she still has some time slots available! 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 (May 2009)

1,165 providers from 67 countries, including Algeria, Argentina, Uzbekistan, Venezuela and Vietnam, got their first jobs in the last month. These 1165 providers have already racked up 44,588 oDesk hours and over $449,879 in just one month. Congrats to the providers who landed their first jobs in the April! 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 (May 2009)

This month, our favorite post is from programmer and social media specialist Micah Lacsamana, who offers the first half of a detailed two-part post that explains how providers can best fill out their profiles. Getting into the nitty gritty is a real service, not only to the newest providers, but to old hands who might want to give their profiles a once-over. Thanks, Micah! Writer Misti Sandefur tells providers how to make the most of oDesk. In three words, “readiness is all.” But she’s got seven tips that’ll serve any provider, not just writers. Mylene Sereno is a brand-new provider who offers this quick report on getting her first job on only her third application, and what she has learned in the process. This could be the beginning of a beautiful relationship … Data entry specialist Ambrosia Venus talks about her first experiences on oDesk, and how it’s helping her earn money in an area that, she says, is short of jobs even when there’s not a recession. Welcome to oDesk, Ambrosia, and best of luck! Finally, last month we told you about the changes to our job categories. Pothi blogs about some of the new opportunities, particularly in customer service and related areas. Want to see your blog highlighted in the newsletter (and win a free oDesk T-shirt)? Submit your posts at buzz@oDesk.com!… Read Full Article

All Things Upwork

A Tweeters Guide to Twitter Scams

With Twitter’s monumental growth, there has been an increase in the amount of scammers looking to exploit individuals for profit either by the technology itself or by “social engineering“. Many of the same security disciplines required when using email or the web in general now apply to Twitter. Sounds Phishy: Just like in email, getting a direct message or invitation to click a link has to be judged before following it. There have been many instances of scammers inviting tweeps to follow a link with a phrase such as “Who posted that pic of you on Twitter!!!!” Any Tweep following the link will be directed to a fake twitter logon page or other similar data gathering page. With enough data, any scammer can fill in the rest. Give me your security question answers: This was an excellent example of social engineering. The recent twitter porn names scam was simply a hashtag trend started inviting people to create a twitter porn name by adding various common security question answers such as your pet’s name. Once someone tweets this info the scammers had the username and a selection of common security question answers. A few trips to Yahoo mail or Gmail would probably get you into someone’s bank account. Sure buddy, just send me your credit card number: Tweet about how much you want product X. A certain scammer will befriend you as an employee of the company that makes Product X. After he builds up a little trust, he will offer you Product X at a special, insider price. Email him your credit card or bank info, game over. Phone Home: “You have just won a free cell phone!” the tweet says. Clicking on the link and after filling out you cell number and basic details,… Read Full Article

All Things Upwork

It’s collaboration video time, and oDesk needs you!

We’re turning the oDesk Provider Manifesto into a video showing off the heart and soul of oDesk: our providers Send us a video of yourself reciting all or part of the oDesk Provider Manifesto in your own way. Get creative, show us your culture, speak in your own language. Your video will be used in our oDesk Provider Manifesto Video! You can view more information and submission guidelines on our oDesk Video Upload Site. There are three ways to submit a video. You can use our private submission form, post a video to our Facebook Wall, or submit a video response on YouTube. Video submissions will be accepted from Wednesday, May 20 – Monday June 15… Read Full Article

All Things Upwork

oDesk Milestone: 100,000 Support Tickets Resolved

Last week, oDesk crossed more than $70M in dollars billed through our service, and surpassed 13k online hours/day. But we also passed another important milestone – we resolved our 100,000th Support Ticket. Customer Service and Support is an important priority for oDesk. Our stellar team has tripled in size, from just four team members to 12 this year. With this investment, we have been able to launch Chat Support from the hours of Midnight to 5:00 PM PST, and hope to expand to 24 hours Chat within the coming months. Our commitment as a team is to help all customers be successful and thriving members of the oDesk Ecosystem, and as such, our team has been renamed the oDesk Customer Success team. To celebrate this important milestone, we have gathered a few anecdotes to share with you that demonstrate our commitment, and might just give you a laugh. While chatting with a new provider, I learned that the first assignment she was rewarded was not legitimate. She was being hired now for the 2nd time, but she was concerned by a request to register on an outside site. I advised her to hold off and email the buyer asking for more information, but after we disconnected, I did a little more digging. I was relieved to see that the buyer was legitimate, and a GREAT buyer. I quickly called the provider back and advised her to go ahead and accept the work. A few hours later I got an email that the assignment had begun, but that the provider was looking for a little help getting started on oDesk Team. I asked her to call me on my cell phone during my commute, and we were able to walk through all of the best practices for ensuring success. I learned… Read Full Article

The Way We Work

How to give your website a quick SEO check-up

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

All Things Upwork

Anatomy of a Viral Twitter Blog Article: How to Get a Lot of Retweets

Last week we had somewhat of a coup with our “25 Writers You Should Follow on Twitter” Post. We got it out and it enjoyed over a week of twitter traffic based upon hundreds of retweets, some from the royalty of Twitter. Analysis of the article and the manner in which it spread reveals the following: 1. It was a list post: Minimal search on the web finds plenty of evidence to back up the fact that lists posts are not only popular but highly “bookmarkable”. Problogger’s own Darren Rowse recently made the case for the list post and it held up here. One other point to note from experience is that naming a list with a number “Top 25 …” as opposed to “Top ….” Also seem to be more attractive. 2. It was about Twitter: Tweeps love Twitter and love to talk about Twitter. This is in itself an indicator of the health of this social network – the users promote and defend it. This is not to say that you can’t go viral on Twitter without talking about Twitter, but it helps. A look at Twitturls.com gives you a look at how much the topic of Twitter is a popular topic on Twitter. The subject of Twitter is a topic common to all Tweeps so, as a topic, has a great chance of success on the platform. 3. It was a good article: Yes, self praise is no praise but Danalyn, who sculpted the piece, spent a lot of time actually finding good writers and really looking for quality. She spent the time and effort to find not only quality writers but make the case as the… Read Full Article

All Things Upwork

Dollars earned on oDesk soared, and so did the team

This was another big week for oDesk. Just three months ago, we were thrilled about crossing the 10,000 online hours/day mark.  This week, we passed 13,000 hours, meaning 6.5 man years of work are done through oDesk each day.  We also crossed $70M earned on oDesk: With these soaring numbers, the only appropriate way to celebrate was with an afternoon of indoor skydiving.  The 25 people working in our Menlo Park office enjoyed flying with the assistance of only a jet engine blowing at ~150mph.  See Brian, our VP of marketing, soar. Thanks again to our 300,000 buyers and providers in 150 countries – you are the ones that make these milestones possible.  Each day we have the privilege of bringing you together to collaborate through oDesk, and seeing amazing products come out of it.  Let’s all keep on changing how the world works!… Read Full Article

All Things Upwork

Business and Project Management Through Disasters: Disperse Your Operations

Thankfully, swine flu does not appear to be a repeat of the waves of influenza pandemics that swept across the world in the early parts of the 20th century. Still, as with other natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunami, and volcanic eruptions, there will eventually be another one. The businesses that thrive through the disaster will be those that are hardened against it. The easiest way to harden your business is to spread it out geographically. With most natural disasters, simply not being there is enough. An earthquake in San Francisco, for instance, has little effect on an office in Chicago. Pandemics are different beasts entirely. They spread rapidly across continents and while they don’t hit everywhere at once, they do hit everywhere eventually. The infamous 1918 influenza pandemic killed between 20 and 40 million people world wide, making it even deadlier than the entirety of the first World War. Dispersing your operations gives your organization a flexibility to roll with these sorts of punches. It also gives you a wider talent pool to draw from and makes you less susceptible to regional economic fluctuations. Even if you’re not facing down a plague more virulent than the Black Death, a dispersed organization is healthier, more flexible, and more robust. The key to making this sort of thing work is communication. oDesk provides the tools to organize a scattered team and insure that everyone is working towards the same goal without wasting resources by duplicating the same effort in multiple places or working at cross purposes. This opens up a wide array of options for companies. It means no longer being tied to the skills and labor pool of a single geographic location. It means having input from different regions and cultures. It means being able to organize and unify… Read Full Article

The Way We Work

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

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

All Things Upwork

Twitter Job Growth Accelerates

If this is the first reference to Twitter you’ve come across, surely you must have been living under a rock. Twitter is the new online phenom, the new killer app of Web 2.0.  Breathless gushing aside, Twitter is the real thing, a surprisingly useful and fun tool that has already proven to be extremely popular. And the Twitter wave hasn’t even crested yet. Tech journalist Michael S. Malone has said of Twitter: The real social breakout – 100 million U.S. and 500 million world-wide users and all of the social transformations that will come in their train – has not yet occurred. Remember the frenzy surrounding eBay when just about everybody you know started buying and selling on it? It’s going to be like that for Twitter six months to a year from now. Twitter’s not just for fun, but is also now making a splash in the world of big business. Dell recently announced that they’ve moved more than one million dollars worth of merchandise through their Twitter groups. And again, if Malone is correct, this has only really just begun, with bigger things still in store. So it’s no surprise to find that Twitter is creating jobs. Like the rise of Twitter itself, the trend points towards meteoric rise. There are 105 new twitter jobs posted on oDesk per month, and 282 twitter professionals. Many of these jobs are traditional SEO services, simply adding Twitter to the battery of tools which can drive traffic and increase Google page rank. Others are programming jobs, creating automated services that create a tweet reporting activity elsewhere from the web. Twitter’s also becoming a part of other, more traditional services as well. Saying something useful in just 140 characters is a skill, and we’re beginning to see… Read Full Article

All Things Upwork

Congratulations to NeedInstructions, oDesk’s Site of the Month!

Congratulations to NeedInstructions.com, who won oDesk’s first Site of the Month contest. NeedInstructions.com has a rapidly growing library of Instructions, Manuals and How To’s created by NeedInstructions.com members. They actively promoted their contest submission on Twitter, which helped them receive 1407 votes and won them a $1,000 oDesk credit and an Apple iPhone. Meet the Team: Ava, Philippines Dana, United States Edison, Italy Poonam, India Rampalli, India Stacy, United States More team members: Abderraouf, Tunisia | Bappi, Bangladesh | David, United States | Keshav, India | Prashant, India Runners-Up: Ozzietel Ozzietel enables its customers to make unlimited calls within Australia and abroad, all for a low-cost, set monthly fee DVDCorral Organize your DVD Catalog, Share with Friends, Enhance your Collection! OnTrackArabia On-Track Arabia is dedicated to enabling small and medium enterprises in the Middle East develop their IT strategies oDesk buyers who completed websites via 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 inaugural Site of the Month contest. Thanks to your… Read Full Article

Online Work Tips & Best Practices

25 Writers You Should Be Following on Twitter

We’ve said it before: Twitter is the wave of the social media future! With Ashton Kutcher reaching over 1.5 million followers, and Oprah gaining over 700,000 followers since her Twitter debut on her show two weeks ago, Twitter growth is increasing exponentially! New users are signing up by the boatloads every day. Because the second most frequently asked question by Twitter newcomers is, “who should I follow?” we decided to put together a list of the writers we follow on Twitter…and why you should probably follow them, too! @problogger (Darren Rowse): Full time Blogger, Author, Social Media Participant. Sharing Blogging and Twitter Tips (and a little life). Why we follow him: If you haven’t read his blog, Problogger, check it out. He offers excellent tips for writers and people aspiring to be professional bloggers. @skinnyjeans (Stephanie Quilao): Deliciously creative blogger of Everyday Tweet. Founder. I share stuff I think is awesome and helpful. Healthy living, Work, Food, Design, Photography, Twitter. Why we follow her: Her documented journey to becoming a professional blogger on her website, The Everyday Blogger. @daivrawks (Daiv Russell): Super-caffeinated Ninja-Nerd, Foodie, SEO/Copywriter, Husband, Project Mangler, Vegetarian, Software Process junkie, and Org Psych, Marketing & Statistics Why we follow him: With a blog named Ninja Nerd, how could we not? Plus, he’s got great SEO writing tips on his blog. @copyblogger (Brian Clark): I create new media content for fun and profit. Why we follow him: He offers great writing tips on his blog, Copyblogger, from how to write catchy titles to how to overcome writer’s block. Read Full Article

All Things Upwork

Skilled Technical Hourly Rates Rise or Remain Flat; Other Categories Decline – Good For Developers, Bad For Writers

With the economy as it is, one would assume that hourly rates would be declining across the board.  We’ve certainly seen a faster increase in the number of providers than buyers, leading to increased competition for jobs. Let’s look at some real numbers to see what’s happening to hourly rates. This data for providers goes back over two years.  The top line on the graph, the average hourly rate for developers, is actually up from $13.17 to $15.59 over that time, an increase of 18%.  Network Administration is flat over this period.  Data entry work and technical writing, however, have seen steep declines of -39% and -53% each. Thus, providers in skilled technical categories are seeing rising or flat rates, whereas technical writers seem to be taking a bath.  However, this next graph helps to complete the story for writers. The number of writing jobs posted in the last year has seen an incredible explosion of over 500%.  There are 380 open writing jobs and 20,372 freelance writers on oDesk today. How can demand for writers increase so dramatically while rates decrease? The number of lower hourly-rate writing jobs jobs has increased over time. This chart shows the number of jobs at each hourly rate over the past calendar year. You can see that while the bulk of the jobs are clustered at the left end of the rate axis, there are still jobs on the far side, including jobs that pay as much as $110.00 per hour. The high paying jobs are still there.  Thus, even in the sector that showed the largest decrease in average hourly rates over the past two years, top performers are still commanding exceptional rates.  However, these jobs are… Read Full Article

I can do that!

I can do that. No, really, I can! And I can do the job as cheaply as everyone else. I’m an every-man. Whatever you need, I can provide it. Whatever you want, I can do it. Whatever you say, I’ll jump to it. You and everyone else. But hey, wait before you run away from me. I’m special! Different! Much more different than all the other different people, and more special than the most specialist. I specialize, you see? Take a long, long, long look at what I specialize in. Can’t see what you want? Wait, I’ll add it to the list. Can’t you see how versatile I am? I’ll work exclusively on your project, and everyone else’s. I’ll be available night and day, as long as I’m not doing my other job. I’ll answer your every query, as long as I’m not off learning other skills. I’ll deliver my work speedily, just as soon as I’ve read a tutorial on how to do it. Does the above sound familiar to you? It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of the fat kid in the free candy store, grabbing everything, and having no time to enjoy anything. The internet has allowed us not only to reach a geographically greater audience, but also to be all things to all men. In seconds we can change our profile, or add something to our portfolio. We can be who we want to be today, and someone else tomorrow. And this might seem great, empowering even, but it’s not. If you say you can do everything, you will appear to be just anyone. A nobody. I saw a sign written white van on the way to work today. It said: J. Bloggs, building foundations I thought, “If I ever need to lay… Read Full Article

All Things Upwork

New Job Categories!

oDesk is not just for geeks, anymore! Of course, we’ve known this for a while which is why we have been frantically working behind the scenes to accommodate our non-techy providers. Over the years we’ve seen oDesk grow exponentially, and it was all thanks to you! In response to user demand, we’re proud to announce that we’ve vastly improved the way we break jobs into searchable categories. We’ve combined some job categories, added others – bringing the total from 51 to 74! The biggest highlight is the addition of three new non-tech categories: Customer Service Sales & Marketing Business Services What does this mean? Providers in these service areas can more easily find the right jobs. Buyers can craft more accurate postings that will attract exactly the professionals they need. It’s all about finding the right person for the right job. Some of you may find your jobs changing categories (don’t worry – we’ve done all the migration work!). We suggest all providers double-check their preferred profile categories in Profile & Settings > My Provider Profile > Categories & Job Alerts. This is especially important if your skills are in any of the areas listed above, or the newly-combined Design & Multimedia category. Buyers may want to double-check open jobs to make sure there isn’t a new sub-category you’d prefer to move it into. Questions? Comments? Concerns? Please let us know what you think in the forum. Read Full Article