Commentary – Upwork Blog https://www.upwork.com/blog Insights, info and updates about Upwork Thu, 28 Apr 2016 21:22:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Forbes: “Trim Costs Before Entering the Funding Winter” https://www.upwork.com/blog/2016/04/trim-costs-funding-winter/ https://www.upwork.com/blog/2016/04/trim-costs-funding-winter/#respond Thu, 21 Apr 2016 13:00:50 +0000 http://www.upwork.com/blog/?p=37123

Advice to trim costs and increase revenues may seem standard for startups and established businesses alike, but Upwork CEO Stephane Kasriel says too many companies have let this fundamental survival tactic slide.

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Advice to trim costs and increase revenues may seem standard for startups and established businesses alike, but Upwork CEO Stephane Kasriel says too many companies have let this fundamental survival tactic slide.

“The fact is, it’s bad out there,” Kasriel wrote recently on Forbes. “You can no longer count on raising another round. In fact, as a tech company, it’s safe to assume you’re not going to raise more money. You’re either going to become profitable, or you’re going to die.”

“Economically speaking, winter is coming.”
– Stephane Kasriel, CEO of Upwork

In “Trim Costs Before Entering the Funding Winter,” Kasriel calls on businesses to prioritize nimbleness and flexibility with smart budget decisions and meaningful measurements.

To do this, Kasriel covers some essential guidelines:

  • Focus on the right metrics
  • Use flexible cloud-based solutions
  • Reduce your standing monthly overhead
  • Remember that cash is king
  • Move to zero-based budgeting
  • Hold off on long-term investments

To review Kasriel’s insights in full, read the complete commentary on Forbes.

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Tips for Successful Web Design in 2016 https://www.upwork.com/blog/2016/04/tips-successful-web-design-2016/ https://www.upwork.com/blog/2016/04/tips-successful-web-design-2016/#respond Thu, 07 Apr 2016 13:00:51 +0000 http://www.upwork.com/blog/?p=37064

When it comes to specialized web design projects, like building a web presence or integrating ecommerce functionality into existing sites, companies look to the experts. Demonstrating current web design skills and a knowledge of what's fresh in the field are great ways to increase your chances of landing new clients.

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In the ever-evolving world of web design, keeping up with the latest trends and tech tips is helpful for any freelancer who wants to stay at the top of their niche. When it comes to specialized projects like building a web presence or integrating ecommerce functionality into existing sites, companies look to the experts.

Demonstrating current web design skills and a knowledge of what’s fresh in the field are great ways to increase your chances of landing new clients.

To catch up on best practices for online content and web design, check out these recent articles from The Hiring Headquarters—Upwork’s resource for entrepreneurs, executives, and freelancers.

Staying in the Loop with Responsive Web Design

The explosion of mobile devices has made responsive design—an approach that lets websites automatically adapt to fit the size of different devices—all but essential for businesses that want to stay competitive. Users expect a smooth browsing experience whether they’re using a smartphone, tablet, or desktop computer. Even this relatively new realm is changing, too, which is why it’s worth brushing up on the latest tips for creating an optimized browsing experience.

5 Responsive Design Mistakes to Avoid” takes a fresh look at the state of responsive design, offering tips to help overcome challenges that can pop up when working on adaptive web page layouts. Learn about mistakes to avoid and suggestions to help you create responsive website designs in 2016. Here are three ideas to consider.

1) Test the code early and often. Rather than waiting until the late stages of web development, it’s useful to thoroughly test the code and adjust as you go, especially if you’re working with third-party APIs.

2) Find the sweet spot for negative space. It’s tricky to design perfect layouts for all devices, but finding a balance between design elements and negative space can make for a much more engaging user experience.

3) Balance size and space with images. High-resolution images can take a lot of time to load on mobile, so it’s helpful to put a little extra thought into the file sizes and dimensions of any images to account for the capabilities of different viewing devices and screens.

Maximizing the Traffic Impact of Word Choice

Visual layouts and image selection may be top of mind when designing a website for a client, but the text on the page and choice of headings is equally important. Search engine optimization (SEO) is a powerful tool to attract visitors to a website, and the right word selection can make or break a client’s site traffic. If you’re in a position to create any written content for clients as part of the design process, it makes a lot of sense to know what’s working in the current landscape of SEO.

Your Guide to SEO Best Practices in 2016” covers some of the latest industry-wide trends to factor in if you want to get the most from your SEO efforts. From writing search terms in a more conversational tone to accommodate the rise of voice search to the value of optimizing your business for geotargeted searches, there are a lot of updates in this piece to consider applying to your to own SEO best practices.

You can find even more tips to help boost your SEO and web design chops in the Hiring Headquarters.

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Fast Company: “The Four Trends That Will Change the Way We Work by 2021” https://www.upwork.com/blog/2015/12/the-four-trends-that-will-change-the-way-we-work-by-2021/ https://www.upwork.com/blog/2015/12/the-four-trends-that-will-change-the-way-we-work-by-2021/#respond Thu, 17 Dec 2015 18:30:15 +0000 http://www.upwork.com/blog/?p=36447

In an article for Fast Company, Upwork CEO Stephane Kasriel explains four emerging work trends and what they’ll mean for professionals and organizations.

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From workplace demographics to the norms for when and where work happens, the past decade has brought significant change to the nature of work—and more is on the horizon.

In “The Four Trends that Will Change the Way We Work by 2021” on Fast Company, Upwork CEO Stephane Kasriel explains four of these emerging work trends and what they’ll mean for professionals and organizations.

  • “Second-tier cities” will claim their place. Urban centers like New York City, San Francisco, Paris, and Tokyo have long stood as beacons of opportunity—but that’s no longer optimal or even necessary. Cities like Denver and Austin are quickly becoming new hubs: “It’s just cheaper to live and do business there,” Kasriel said. Plus, he added, “technology is making it far easier for people to live in places other than the largest hubs and still have access to jobs they otherwise wouldn’t.”
  • Nanodegrees and nanojobs will become more common. The half-life of a skill is so short that Kasriel says workers can no longer specialize for life in only one thing. This is changing both the way we learn and the way we work. “If the need for greater specialized expertise is growing, it’s at least partly because the demand for those skills is changing more rapidly than ever,” he said.
  • Job seekers will be choosier. For various reasons, many people are looking for more than a big salary or fancy perks; they want work that aligns with their values, lifestyles, and goals. “Ultimately, companies will need to get used to the idea that professional growth means more than simply growth in income,” Kasriel explained.
  • The expansion of entrepreneurship. Kasriel says there’s a “growing segment of people who are turning into entrepreneurs in a different sense—without having a big idea or creating a product. Rather than founding a startup, they’re simply working independently as freelancers or by teaming up with one another.”

To learn more, read Kasriel’s full article on Fast Company.

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MOOCs: The Future of Higher Education is Flexible, Free, and Mobile Friendly https://www.upwork.com/blog/2015/11/moocs-higher-education-flexible-free-mobile-friendly/ https://www.upwork.com/blog/2015/11/moocs-higher-education-flexible-free-mobile-friendly/#comments Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000 http://www.upwork.com/blog/?p=36096

However you choose to navigate life as a working adult, one thing is clear: This isn’t the job market of your parents’ generation—and that includes your education. Massive open online courses (MOOCs) bring higher learning to the masses regardless of location or income, adjusted to fit your needs. Dr. Kristin Palmer, Director of Online Learning Programs for the University of Virginia (UVa), explains how MOOCs are changing education, admissions, and the way we learn essential new skills.

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Author: Dr. Kristin Palmer, Director of Online Learning Programs for the University of Virginia (UVa) | Editor: Amy Sept, Managing Editor, Upwork Blog

However you choose to navigate life as a working adult, one thing is clear: This isn’t the job market of your parents’ generation. Anyone in today’s workforce needs to have a growth mindset—an ongoing focus on trends and professional development to stay resilient, iterative, and responsive. In today’s market, you need to be learning new skills and preparing for new job opportunities.

As the cliche goes, change is constant. Technology has accelerated the rate of change. Education is changing and leveraging technology to provide new skills to the workforce.

Twenty years ago, university would train you for a field that would last your entire career. If you went back, it would be to pick up a new set of skills—or to embark on something entirely different.

We don’t have the luxury of being perpetual university students, or regularly dropping work to pursue further education—but we do have the option of online learning. Companies have augmented internal training teams with online systems such as SkillSoft and Lynda.com. Individuals have come to rely on “just-in-time training,” with Google searches and YouTube tutorials to learn specific tasks. Some people have subscribed to podcasts or YouTube channels like TED, Veritasium, or Crash Course to be inspired, learn about topics, or to stay current in their field.

Massive open online courses (MOOCs) are a tool used by institutions such as UVa, Harvard, MIT, Cornell, Stanford, the Smithsonian and hundreds of others to deliver content to individuals around the world, such as yourself.

Upskilling for the Masses

MOOCs make high-quality educational content available to the masses, leveraging videos, quizzes, and discussion forums typically within a four to six week course session.

  • Location doesn’t matter, as long as you have an Internet connection.
  • Financial status doesn’t matter, since MOOCs are available for free.
  • Classes are self-directed, so they can fit around your schedule.
  • Content can be streamed, so you can view it at your desk or on the go.

If you want to binge watch or listen to an entire MOOC on how to grow your business, you can—from your desk, while taking the train to work, or during your morning jog.

The potential for reach is reflected in the audience: Learners of different ages, cultures, professions, and educational backgrounds representing every continent and over 200 countries. MOOC providers have launched to meet this broad audience. Among the most prominent providers are Coursera, edX, FutureLearn, iTunes U, NovoEd, Udacity, and Udemy.

In 2012, the University of Virginia (UVa) began a pilot program with Coursera, a MOOC platform on a mission to provide universal access to the world’s best education. So far, Coursera has partnered with more than 130 top universities and organizations around the world, offering hundreds of courses on topics like Roman architecture, machine learning, and content strategy. Coursera provides content to over 15.5 million unique learners with a catalog that includes 550 active courses and over 70 Specializations.

Research conducted in September by a partnership between the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Washington, then published in the Harvard Business Review, found remarkable results. Among these results, learners self-reported that 87 percent of career builders received benefits, with 33 percent reporting tangible benefits such as a raise or new job after taking a MOOC. Eighty-eight percent of education seekers self-reported benefits, with 18 percent reporting tangible benefits such as improved admissions, receiving college credit, and preparing to go back to university.

“This was the first data report of its kind focused on identifying the real outcomes for learners in MOOCs,” said Kurt Apen, Coursera’s Chief Marketing Officer. “While we’re still in the early phases, we’re emboldened by these results that indicate the high potential of open online education to truly transform lives.”

(click for full-sized version)

MOOCs “Flip the Classroom”

The traditional classroom is also changing. MOOCs have been used as a tool to “flip the classroom.” Flipping the classroom is moving the traditional lecture so it’s done outside of class, then using class time to actively engage with fellow students on the content and clarify questions from the lectures. This technique allows the focus to switch from the “sage on the stage” lecture-driven classroom to a more student-centric model of students engaging with the content and the instructor as a “guide on the side.”

MOOCs have been used at UVa to deliver online lectures to on-campus students. Then, in the classroom, residential students engage in discussions with the professors to get a deeper understanding of the concepts—whether in business, humanities, or education. UVa actively engages with students, providing opportunities for pragmatic research and fostering strong relationships between students and faculty.

MOOCs are intended to be used beyond the university classroom. At UVa, for example, we’ve seen high school teachers use our MOOC lectures from the Kennedy Half Century to teach their units on American History. Of the three million learners who have enrolled in UVa MOOCs, most are people looking to learn new skills to build, change, or improve their career. We have had hundreds of learners personally tell us stories of starting new businesses, getting new jobs, and solving critical business problems after taking our MOOCs.

In addition to single courses, UVa is now working with Coursera to deliver specializations to learners. For example, the UVa Darden Graduate School of Business specialization is the Business Strategy Specialization, which includes five courses and a capstone project. Darden was recently ranked the #2 MBA program in the world by The Economist, and anyone can take the courses in this specialization for free—and as many as 50 top specialists in the course will have their application fees to Darden waived.

Online education attracts a broad spectrum of people because of the flexibility to participate independent of location. Typically online education has a diverse age range and demographic distribution with students at all stages of their career and life. MOOCs provide high quality educational materials so that anyone with a smart device and Internet connection can access the materials and explore the content together.

Free Tuition with Valuable Data for Schools and Corporations

As Sandler Research noted in a recent report on the MOOC marketplace, better access to education might be driving the market, but the data and analytics from learners will provide high value to educators and industry.

“Examination outcomes and assignment grading are made easy with MOOCs because of the online nature, which is otherwise a slow and tedious procedure with traditional data gathering techniques,” the report explained. “The records are easily managed with big data tools, giving educators the advantage of real-time data management.”

One benefit to institutions is that students can try before they buy. Motivated students can access the MOOCs from an institution to see if they would be a good fit for a program. For example, MIT just announced a new “MicroMasters” credential for its top-ranked Supply Chain Management (SCM) master’s program. For this new credential, students who take the MOOCs can use their successful completion towards university credit with reduced overall tuition cost.

“Learners worldwide with access to edX can take any of the first semester’s worth of courses online,” they explained, referencing edX, the free MOOC platform MIT uses. “Those who do well in each course, and then score well on a subsequent comprehensive proctored examination, can earn an MITx MicroMasters, and their performance will significantly enhance their chances of being accepted to the full master’s program, which they can then complete in a single semester on campus.”

Georgia Tech has a similar program for a Master’s in Engineering program, offered in partnership with Udacity. University of Illinois has a program for business called iMBA in partnership with Coursera. These programs have the potential to significantly reduce overall tuition and allow students to have more flexible access to the program content through the MOOC platforms.

Corporations have also picked up on the potential cost savings and valuable data, partnering with Coursera, NovoEd, Udemy, and Udacity to provide custom or curated internal training. They can then use skills-related data to help identify students who might make great candidates for different jobs.

Universities are using the MOOCs to develop flexible programs to address more adult learner needs of completing certificate or degree programs without having to relocate or be in class at specific times. This opens these programs up to a broader international audience. Within the residential classroom, universities can use the data analytics from MOOCs to improve the quality of the programs being delivered to students. Professors can quickly see which questions and concepts are presenting issues for students. Having this data immediately accessible allows instructors to then clarify content or add new content to help illustrate concepts.

A Revolution Is Coming—Gradually

For all their benefits, the MOOC model isn’t without its growing pains. Platform providers such as Coursera are still defining different models for revenue generation to ensure they remain in business. Universities are evaluating how MOOCs fit into residential programs and how they can be used to develop more flexible, broader-reaching programs. Within MOOCs, researchers and instructional designers are working to improve the peer-to-peer learning communities and incorporate more formative feedback, creating assignments and teaching skills that have value to the learners after the MOOC is completed.

MOOC proponents predict more formal recognition for MOOC completion and more flexible certificate and degree programs utilizing MOOCs. We see this already with the abundance of Coursera Certificates posted on LinkedIn profiles—Coursera Course Certificates are now the second most common certificate posted on LinkedIn. Companies are starting to recognize that skills acquired through MOOCs have value; learners know they have value and are proud of their accomplishments.

The advantages for anyone trying to keep up with the pace of change in business today are significant: MOOCs put real-world skills from elite educational institutions within easy reach for career development. Go ahead and move into the future, and explore a MOOC or two! Some of my favorite MOOCs are Learning How To Learn, Design Thinking for Business Innovation, Foundations of Business Strategy, and Personal Branding.

This story was submitted by Dr. Kristin Palmer and does not constitute the views or opinions of Upwork.

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Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends Report Highlights Work’s Evolution https://www.upwork.com/blog/2015/05/mary-meeker-internet-trends-report-work-evolution/ https://www.upwork.com/blog/2015/05/mary-meeker-internet-trends-report-work-evolution/#respond Thu, 28 May 2015 20:26:20 +0000 http://www.upwork.com/blog/?p=35043

The 20th installment of Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends report named the “evolution of work” as a key trend. In a commentary about the report, Upwork CEO Stephane Kasriel discusses how the Internet is helping evolve the way we work.

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The 20th installment of Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends report, an annual look at big-picture transformations that are being driven by the Internet, was released yesterday and named the “evolution of work” as a key trend.

Mary Meeker Internet Trends 2015 — slide 126

From Mary Meeker’s “Internet Trends 2015”

The Internet is empowering major changes in the way people work. Upwork’s CEO Stephane Kasriel shared commentary on the report’s insights on LinkedIn, saying “Our [work] habits are born of the Industrial Age, when people had to be in one place to work factory lines. But there is almost no need for that today.”

“We can all log on to ‘go to work’ rather than drive to an office. Furthermore, manufacturing jobs are going away and innovation-driven jobs are on the rise. This innovation-driven work is much more easily performed online.”

Read Kasriel’s full commentary on how the Internet is helping evolve the way we work.

 

feature image by Ken Lund (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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2015 Work Predictions: Virtual Is the New Reality https://www.upwork.com/blog/2015/01/2015-online-work-predictions/ https://www.upwork.com/blog/2015/01/2015-online-work-predictions/#comments Wed, 14 Jan 2015 22:10:28 +0000 https://www.odesk.com/blog/?p=34095

The freelance economy boomed in 2014. What's in store for 2015? We looked at Elance-oDesk's vibrant, global community for seven predictions that show how businesses will hire or work differently this year.

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What business trends are set to drive online work in 2015? Elance-oDesk’s vibrant, global community is at the forefront of making virtual work the new reality — and that community is thriving.

The freelance economy boomed in 2014, with businesses spending nearly $1 billion hiring through our online workplace. That space is also growing: a seminal study we conducted with the Freelancers Union found that 53 million Americans had freelanced in the past year.

Online work global earnings

Elance-oDesk’s 2014 Global Online Work Report shows the upward trajectory of online work. How will that change how you hire or work differently over the next year? Here are seven predictions that show how working online is opening new possibilities.

1. Swift will overtake Objective-C as the primary app development language.

Many say that the jury is still out as to whether Swift, Apple’s new programming language, will win the hearts of developers and outshine more traditional choices. Infoworld says Swift isn’t so swift after all, SLATE calls the new language a “grab bag,” and InformationWeek isn’t convinced that Objective-C’s days are numbered.

Our data shows otherwise. Swift is one of the fastest-growing skills in history on our platforms—with consistent growth of more than 100 percent each month and 160 percent growth in December 2014 alone. We predict that the use of Swift will surpass that of Objective-C in 2015—just one year after it was launched.

2. Everyone will live large with their own virtual assistant.

There are currently 1.5 million virtual assistants registered across Elance.com and oDesk.com (Elance-oDesk) — a number equal to the population of Phoenix, AZ. Virtual assistants earned $50 million in 2014, and as one of the fastest-growing positions hired on Elance-oDesk, that number is expected to increase by 50 percent in 2015.

3. Virtual agencies will surpass the number of traditional agencies.

The soaring cost of maintaining a physical office is causing agencies to move online. Improvements in project management, communication tools, and a flexible work environment will enable virtual agencies to flourish.

Virtual agencies span a range of disciplines, but design led the way (with 15,000 agencies on Elance-oDesk’s sites and more than $75 million in earnings), followed by software development (11,000 agencies, $159 million in earnings), marketing (3,000 agencies, $13.1 million in earnings), and translation (2,500 agencies, $11.2 million in earnings).

4. Freelance management will become a core skill.

As the talent gap for technical skills increases, standout professionals will be those who are adept at managing freelancers and distributed team members. Developers on Elance-oDesk earned more than $486 million last year (the largest category of online work). These engineers are some of the best in the world, and companies that learn to tap into this resource will increase the speed and quality with which their new products are launched.

5. Neighborhood accounting will go by way of the bookstore.

Accountants can now look beyond their backyard for clients without going anywhere and, on the flip side, businesses have a much easier time finding these same accountants by hiring online. Accounting on Elance-oDesk is growing at 40 percent, a number we expect to increase as cloud-based accounting platforms like Xero take off.

6. Chinese-to-English translation will outpace English-to-Chinese for the first time in history.

As their domestic economy stagnates, Chinese businesses are looking to U.S. and Western European markets for growth. Translators who serve this market are in high demand, growing more than 50 percent in the second half of 2014 alone, and making it to the top 10 list of language translation requests.

7. World-class customer service will be the norm, not just for the Fortune 1000.

With increased adoption of cloud-based customer service tools and a larger-than-ever pool of premium freelance customer service professionals, 24/7 customer support will be achievable for all businesses, not just the Fortune 1000.

In 2014, customer service agent was the fastest-growing position on Elance-oDesk (92 percent growth), and Zendesk was one of the fastest-growing skills hired for (with 145 percent year-over-year in 2014).

 

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New Era of Work: Elance-oDesk’s Annual Impact Report https://www.upwork.com/blog/2014/11/annual-impact-report-2014/ https://www.upwork.com/blog/2014/11/annual-impact-report-2014/#comments Tue, 25 Nov 2014 12:45:24 +0000 https://www.odesk.com/blog/?p=33807

How are we changing the way the world works? Elance-oDesk's 2014 Annual Impact Report highlights stories from our community, new data, and a fresh perspective on how online collaboration is changing the world.

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Freelancers from around the world have helped 3.7 million businesses get work done this year through Elance-oDesk. They’ve tapped into their entrepreneurial spirit to carve niches, create fulfilling careers, and beat challenging economic times.

Our 2014 Annual Impact Report highlights the way we work with stories from our community, new data, and a fresh perspective on how online collaboration is changing the world.

Our vision — creating an online workplace for the world and, in doing so, reimagining work — is larger than the work itself happening via our sites. It aims to empower people to earn incomes, build their careers and businesses, and better their lives.

Did you know more than 2.7 million jobs are posted each year via the Elance and oDesk online workplaces? We’re grateful every day for the chance to help connect people to these opportunities. Thank you to everyone who is a part of our community — you are changing the way the world works.

Though the year isn’t over yet, if you take a look at the report, you’ll see how much we’ve achieved together already!

 

The Impact of Online Work, by the numbers. Data from the Elance-oDesk Annual Impact Report 2014. (source: http://try.odesk.com/annual-impact-report/2014/)

(click for larger image)

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Dear Reddit Employees: No Desire to Move? Let’s Talk https://www.upwork.com/blog/2014/10/dear-reddit-employees-desire-move-lets-talk/ https://www.upwork.com/blog/2014/10/dear-reddit-employees-desire-move-lets-talk/#comments Fri, 03 Oct 2014 13:50:49 +0000 https://www.odesk.com/blog/?p=33468

As Reddit reigns in its workers with a "relocate or be fired" decision, its remote workers aren't the only ones in shock. Why would a company reverse its remote work policy? Stephane Kasriel, Elance-oDesk's SVP of product and engineering, explains why he thinks the move is a step backwards—and invites Reddit employees who don't want to make the move to get in touch.

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“Relocate or be fired.” 

Can you imagine being told that? Reddit’s remote workers were this week:

It’s likely that remote members of Reddit CEO Yishan Wong’s team (@yishan) are still in shock. I’ll share my perspective here, but before I do let me say this: Some of you will very understandably decide not to move to San Francisco. Don’t worry. There are lots of opportunities. In fact, we’re hiring and I would love to talk to you.

Why would we be happy to hire Reddit employees?

Because this is a failure of an organization’s ability to set up effective management processes, not a failure of the remote employees themselves.

To the Reddit employees who might be reading this: Reddit wouldn’t have hired you in the first place if you weren’t good!

The fact that your management couldn’t make the arrangement you started out with work is sad. Reddit is a company based on connecting people via the Internet. They use tons of open source software, which is usually the work of self-assembled remote teams composed of passionate and talented developers.

Management of remote teams is a critical skill businesses need today. Reigning remote workers back into the office is a step backwards.

Why did Reddit hire remote in the first place?
(good question @swilliams)

A lot of really good talent happens to live outside the San Francisco Bay Area! In fact, most of the best talent in the world doesn’t live in the Bay Area, if we’re going to be honest with ourselves.

There’s an enormous skills gap. Our CEO, Fabio Rosati, puts it like this:

“Talent is distributed equally around the world; opportunity is not.”

The Internet, however, now allows businesses to find the best people, regardless of where they happen to be. Reddit started out with resources that were more constrained, and in order to find the talent they needed they no doubt had to search a broader talent pool. Obviously they think this need has now changed…

Why would a company reverse its remote work policy?

There’s the reason I already gave: A failure to make remote management a success. But there’s another: Being big and wielding the resources to be able to demand the convenience of “one roof over all.” Did I mention Reddit just raised $50 million?

As an example, per the book “How Google Works” (released last week), Google doesn’t believe in remote teams and only hires locally.

The Economist reviewed the book and said: “The experience of Messrs Schmidt and Rosenberg is so coloured by Google’s accomplishments that many of their recommendations best apply to managing teams of aces in lucrative, fast-growing markets, not to… the life of most managers.”

Sure, having the same quality of talent working under one roof is arguably better than having some people elsewhere, but that strategy is not realistic for the majority of businesses.

Who wants to be marched back into the office today?

No one really. Work today is about results, not about logging hours at a desk. Professionals expect respect for their accomplishments, not babysitting for their hours and location.

Forcing people to live a lifestyle they don’t want is ludicrous. Some of Reddit’s non-San Francisco team members will decide to stay where they live and, in doing so, they will choose to work for someone else. Some of Reddit’s San Francisco people may also decide to leave after this demoralizing decision. We’d be happy to talk to these people — there are plenty of openings at Elance-oDesk.

Why is Stephane so passionate about this conversation? He manages a team of 200+ spread all over the world and recently wrote this article about it. His tweets in response to Reddit’s decision to force employees’ moves are below:

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Elance-oDesk Shocks An Industry As First Ever Online Business Included in US Staffing Company Ranking https://www.upwork.com/blog/2014/07/elance-odesk-shocks-as-first-ever-online-business-in-us-staffing-company-ranking/ https://www.upwork.com/blog/2014/07/elance-odesk-shocks-as-first-ever-online-business-in-us-staffing-company-ranking/#comments Thu, 10 Jul 2014 18:55:42 +0000 https://www.odesk.com/blog/?p=32817

The business world is buying into online work, literally putting their money where the best talent is more accessible today: online. Elance-oDesk is the only online business—and the first ever—to be included in the annual listing of the top U.S. staffing firms by Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA).

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The business world is buying into online work, literally putting their money where the best talent is more accessible today: online. Elance-oDesk is the only online business—and the first ever—to be included in the annual listing of the top U.S. staffing firms by Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA).

Ranked 29 out of 124 companies listed, Elance-oDesk’s position is remarkable not only because of the innovation in staffing it indicates, but also because it already outranks 75 percent of the traditional firms.

“Staffing Industry Analysts changed its 2014 U.S. staffing and talent engagement market share report to include online staffing companies. Based on revenue managed through their system, Elance-oDesk is the U.S. market leader in the online staffing category,” stated Timothy Landhuis, senior research analyst.

According to SIA, companies spent $1.3 billion on online staffing last year. Elance-oDesk accounted for more than half of that at $750 million.

Online work lets businesses find talent when they need it, hire on demand and work directly with these professionals—a change from traditional staffing firms, which act as intermediaries between organizations and the freelancers they want to engage.

This gives businesses of all sizes control and flexibility. SIA predicts the online staffing industry could grow to $47 billion by 2020.

This shift is making it faster and easier for businesses to hire for the skills they need, when they need them, while freeing professionals to work anytime, from anywhere.

“An average job on our platform fills within three days and about a quarter of jobs fill in 24 hours or less,” said Jon Diller, VP of Enterprise Solutions at Elance-oDesk. “Our customers are delighted by this efficiency because it helps them get to work faster.”

Click here if you’d like to learn more about how to get started hiring online.

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More Lessons From a Bootstrapping Disaster https://www.upwork.com/blog/2014/04/lessons-bootstrapping-disaster/ https://www.upwork.com/blog/2014/04/lessons-bootstrapping-disaster/#comments Thu, 03 Apr 2014 16:00:34 +0000 https://www.odesk.com/blog/?p=32120

Bootstrapping wisely means asking tough questions and prioritizing activities that are essential to your business development. oDesk VP Matt Cooper describes his early efforts with Soggy Bottom Canoe and Kayak Rental — a venture started with his uncle in the backwoods of Mississippi — as "an unmitigated disaster." But it was an experience with valuable lessons that stuck, which he recently explained in a post for Inc. magazine.

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Bootstrapping wisely means asking tough questions and prioritizing activities that are essential to your business development.

As oDesk VP Matt Cooper learned from his first startup experience, testing and feedback are steps that entrepreneurs ignore at their peril. “You’ve got to test whether the business you’re building is what customers want,” he wrote in a post for Inc. magazine last year.

Cooper describes his early efforts with Soggy Bottom Canoe and Kayak Rental — a venture started with his uncle in the backwoods of Mississippi — as “an unmitigated disaster.”

But it was an experience with valuable lessons that stuck, and he expands that list in the follow-up post, “More Lessons From a Bootstrapping Disaster.”

Acknowledging overly optimistic financial projections, poor understanding of the local market, and the tricky business of working with family, Cooper admits it was a poor business choice.

“I didn’t do my due diligence and knew very little about the location, competition, or anything else for that matter. As my father put it, the decision to help out my uncle, who was going through a rough time, may have ‘earned points in Heaven, but not on earth.'”

Despite the disappointment, Cooper says the memories were worth it: “Despite our long string of mistakes, when it was good, it was magical.”

Read more about Soggy Bottom and smart lessons for startups here!

feature image by Xavi Villalvilla on flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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How to Close the Tech Industry’s Gender Gap https://www.upwork.com/blog/2014/03/close-tech-industrys-gender-gap/ https://www.upwork.com/blog/2014/03/close-tech-industrys-gender-gap/#comments Mon, 17 Mar 2014 19:00:20 +0000 https://www.odesk.com/blog/?p=31937

A survey oDesk conducted last year showed that the perception is that the gender gap is closing — especially among Millennials. You would think that the tech industry, saturated with Millennials, would therefore be at the forefront of employment opportunities for women. It’s not.

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Women in the workforce still face gender-specific challenges: just 4 percent of CEOs at Fortune 500 companies are women, and their salaries are — on average — 33 percent less than men’s.

However, a survey oDesk conducted last year showed that the perception is that the gender gap is closing, especially among Millennials.

You would think that the tech industry, saturated with Millennials, would therefore be at the forefront of employment opportunities for women. It’s not. According to the survey, tech-related jobs are viewed as the third least inviting to female talent.

“I eventually concluded that we’re seeing the gap between what people wish to be true and what they actually believe to be true,” wrote Jaleh Bisharat, oDesk’s VP of marketing, in her column for the Huffington Post.

“Perhaps respondents don’t want to admit that in 2013, gender still impacts career potential — but when it comes down to it, they recognize that the business world is not the land of equal opportunity.”

How can we shift this reality? What measures can we take to encourage young women to focus their study in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) areas?

Read three remedies that could help close the gap here.

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Why We—Uh, I—Freelance https://www.upwork.com/blog/2014/03/why-freelancing-andrew-karpie/ https://www.upwork.com/blog/2014/03/why-freelancing-andrew-karpie/#comments Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000 https://www.odesk.com/blog/?p=31694

When it comes to why we freelance—in other words, why freelancing has become a more and more popular choice across the country—I cannot answer for everyone. The fact is, there are many different reasons why people freelance. Some of these reasons include flexibility; work specialization; finding one’s optimal trade-off between money and other non-pecuniary values; even “sticking it to the man.” Deciding to go freelance is a very personal decision (one, I believe, that a freelancer makes almost every day). Therefore, I can only really speak about myself and my own journey into freelancing. So here it goes.

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When it comes to why we freelance—in other words, why freelancing has become a more and more popular choice across the country—I cannot answer for everyone. As someone who has worked as a research analyst at Staffing Industry Analysts (“the global advisors on contingent work”), I should know better than to broadly generalize.

The fact is, there are many different reasons why people freelance. Some of these reasons include flexibility; work specialization; finding one’s optimal trade-off between money and other non-pecuniary values; even “sticking it to the man.”

Deciding to go freelance is a very personal decision (one, I believe, that a freelancer makes almost every day). Therefore, I can only really speak about myself and my own journey into freelancing. So here it goes.

Why me?

Some of it is in my DNA.

  • I like consistency, but not bureaucracy. There can be amazing benefits to working as an employee of an organization—but for me, the bureaucratic side of organizations can become a tremendous distraction and even a downer. Being buried in bureaucracy is not for me.
  • I tend to be more project-oriented than job-oriented. I’ve always liked to get absorbed in projects and not get distracted. In a job, there are always many different demands on your time and concentration. Few jobs allow one to choose and sustain focus.

Some of it has to do with practicality.

  • When I was an employee, I could only engage in what was circumscribed by my employer’s business. I found I wanted to do things that were natural extensions of my work, but did not fit the business model of my employer. The answer: become a freelancer (not an employee).
  • My employer was willing to work with me to determine a way for me to transition from employee to freelancer. Many freelancers get started with this practical path, which is often beneficial for both parties.

Lots of freelancers are driven by an entrepreneurial streak—and when they are, I think this is a very positive motive that can lead to truly great things. Though I am fiercely independent, I do not have the DNA of an entrepreneur, and I find that my primary reason for freelancing is simply to be able to work in the way that I work best, in a structure that suits me.

So how’s that working for you?

I often get this question, and I find it difficult to answer in detail. My usual response is “pretty well,” and that does truthfully sum up all of the pluses and minuses, without having to speak to each of the items on either side of the ledger. But this post is an opportunity to go a little bit deeper, so here’s how I do my reckoning of some of the top items.

On the plus side:

  • As an analyst, I am now completely free to roam and graze wherever I please and on the terms I see fit. This is incredibly beneficial if your job is finding out what is going on, and analyzing and synthesizing that information into industry perspectives.
  • I (pretty much) only need to do projects that are related to what I am specializing in, so I don’t get distracted by other areas of work (or by bureaucracy, or its ugly cousin—office politics).
  • I find the flexibility advantageous. My hours are my hours; I can take on a heavy workload or keep it restricted to a lower level when I need to.

On the negative side, there are issues, but they can be mitigated:

  • Uneven cash flow is a perennial issue for freelancers, even if there is plenty of work. Working through a platform with an escrow system can help this a lot. In addition, accepting a client’s offer to be paid by a third party as a W2 worker (including withholding taxes) is nothing to be ashamed of—you are still a freelancer (and payments will be less of an ordeal).
  • If most of your work is done remote/offsite, I find there are number of issues to contend with:
    • What I call “Remotitis.” I mean, I love my dog and his companionship. But remote work can lead to this freelancer malady, which is caused by insufficient human contact and interaction. The cure is easy though: mix up your schedule with outings, outside meetings, trips to the gym (ok, bring your tablet), errands, etc.
    • If you thrive on collaboration, like I do, then remote work can be a bit limiting. Yes, it is free of distractions, but it doesn’t really maximize collaboration and its benefits. I know, though, that collaboration platforms and tools are on the rise, and I suspect that their support of real collaboration will improve over time.

On the whole, I almost always feel like I net positive, though I think no freelancer can expect to have their cake and eat it too. On the freelancer journey, there is no free lunch—you eat what you kill.

At this time in my life, I choose to be a freelancer and not to be an employee, because that seems to allow me to do the work that I want to do. There are other challenges and barriers to getting the work done, but they come from the terrain itself—not from an organization that is mapped to a different purpose and set of objectives.

I always come back to the well-known quote from Andrew Carnegie: “My heart is in the work.” That is why I freelance.

Your turn: Why do you freelance? Share your experience in the comments section below!

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Witnessing Tragedy From Across the World: Typhoon Haiyan & Online Work https://www.upwork.com/blog/2014/03/witnessing-tragedy-across-world-typhoon-haiyan-online-work/ https://www.upwork.com/blog/2014/03/witnessing-tragedy-across-world-typhoon-haiyan-online-work/#comments Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000 https://www.odesk.com/blog/?p=31708

Chris Madden and the team at Chicago-based Matchnode had just started working with Patrick, a freelancer in the Philippines, when Typhoon Haiyan hit. Suddenly the distance between them shrunk. Chris and Patrick share what it was like to connect through the disaster from a world apart.

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By Chris Madden, co-founder and digital marketer at Matchnode

The first we heard of Typhoon Haiyan—a powerful cyclone that devastated parts of Southeast Asia in November 2013—was from Patrick, a videographer we had just hired to help us with an “explainer video” to promote our company, Matchnode.

We’d been drawn to Patrick based on his past videos, reviews from clients and strong communication during our first interactions. The quality and professionalism of his work stood out, so we weren’t concerned about our project when he informed us that a large storm was bearing down on his home in the Philippines. But we were concerned about him.

That conversation happened on a Tuesday, and he told us he would likely drop out of touch as the storm hit—which he did, when Haiyan arrived just two days later.

In the following days, we watched from Chicago as the tragedy unfolded, the distance shrunk because of our connection with Patrick. Our little video faded out of importance, replaced by our concern for Patrick, his family, and the victims of Haiyan.

We were relieved to hear from Patrick the Sunday after Haiyan struck; he was unharmed in Manila. After a few tense days, even relatives in areas that were harder hit were able to join his family in the capital.

Just a week or so later, Patrick was back at work and delivered a video that was exactly what we needed. We were happy to be able to help his family and friends recover not just by paying him for the work he did, but also by making a donation directly to him—which oDesk facilitated by waiving their fees for direct donations to Filipino freelancers in the aftermath of the storm.

We also gained an appreciation for the real value of fair pay, regardless of where people call home. Because Patrick’s rate is fair but competitive, he’s able to provide stability and quality of life for himself and his family—even in the face of such destruction—by working online for clients around the world.

In the face of Typhoon Haiyan: A letter from Patrick

Here’s what Patrick had to say about being in Manila during Haiyan, how being an oDesk freelancer affected his life during and after the storm, and how we can still help the victims.

Patrick Mabanta

Patrick Mabanta

I live in the capital and was very lucky that the only effects were electric and communication line disruptions. My Internet was gone for a few days. Power was going on and off. I had a few client deadlines that I missed due to this. I was very grateful that oDesk automatically sent a message to all my clients. (They do this for all ongoing contracts with workers in the Philippines, whenever we have a bad storm affecting us.)

We had a hard time communicating with our relatives due to the damage to the communication lines. It was difficult to bear because we had no clue what was going on in their region. Even the news wasn’t able to reach us for a week. Fortunately, they were fine. Their area was hit by the storm but it wasn’t as bad as [the city of] Tacloban, which was entirely devastated by strong winds, water and storm surges.

During Haiyan, I created an online fundraiser to help feed the survivors of the great storm. Fortunately, I had good-hearted clients like those at Matchnode who contributed to the drive through ad budgets and actual contributions. I was able to raise $400, which was doubled by the Canadian government to $800. It was able to feed several families for a week, which was a big help considering this is for their immediate survival.

Right now, Tacloban City is slowly rebuilding. It will take about 6-12 months to be able to get back to normal, aside from the thousands of lives lost. Fundraisers are still ongoing.  For more details on updates and on how people can contribute, visit the Philippine Red Cross Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/phredcross.

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The Digital Nomad Revolution https://www.upwork.com/blog/2014/02/digital-nomad-revolution/ https://www.upwork.com/blog/2014/02/digital-nomad-revolution/#comments Mon, 10 Feb 2014 20:52:55 +0000 https://www.odesk.com/blog/?p=31271

With the advent of new technology and growing Internet access, a rising percentage of the workforce is embracing the digital nomad lifestyle. They are no longer confined by geographic location or the need for a traditional office space—instead they use the collaboration tools at their fingertips to communicate with their employers from almost any remote corner of the globe.

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Would you rather spend two hours idling in traffic to get to and from work…or complete your projects from whatever corner of the world you’re exploring that month? If you could break free of the grievances traditionally associated with a nine-to-five job, but still maintain gainful employment, would you do it?

Until recently, these questions seemed rhetorical. However, with the advent of new technology and increasing Internet access, a rising percentage of the workforce is realizing that this type of career is more than possible. These digital nomads are no longer confined by geographic location or the need for a traditional office space—instead they use the collaboration tools at their fingertips to communicate with their employers from almost any remote corner of the globe.

In his recent Inc. column, oDesk VP of International Matt Cooper writes about his own experience spending 25 percent of his workdays on the road while staying actively connected with the office. He argues that the digital nomad lifestyle is beneficial not only for the employee, but also for the bottom line of the company:

“Helping people live the lives they want will make them grateful, but to be honest, it’s simply good business. People fulfilled in their careers tend to be stronger performers. Another finding from our survey was that of professionals who became digital nomads, 79 percent were more productive, compared with those who felt 9 percent less productive and the 13 percent who said there was no change in their productivity.”

Read the rest of Matt’s thoughts on this change here!

Photo by Nate Kat on Flickr

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How To Hire An Awesome Developer on oDesk: Part II https://www.upwork.com/blog/2014/01/hire-awesome-developer-odesk-part-ii/ https://www.upwork.com/blog/2014/01/hire-awesome-developer-odesk-part-ii/#comments Fri, 24 Jan 2014 14:00:20 +0000 https://www.odesk.com/blog/?p=30844

Yesterday I shared tips 1 through 3 of how to hire an awesome developer on oDesk. But I’m not done yet! Here are the other three tips I’ve learned from my experience hiring on oDesk.

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By Antoine Martiano, Strategy & Business Development Consultant

Yesterday I shared tips 1 through 3 of how to hire an awesome developer on oDesk. But I’m not done yet! Here are the other three tips I’ve learned from my experience hiring on oDesk.

4. Validate skills during the interview

The skills listed on a freelancer’s profile are important to look at, but they are not the whole story. A freelancer may have all the skills you’re looking for listed on his or her profile, but you should still investigate, evaluate, and check reviews.

Keep in mind that, due to cultural differences between countries, freelancers might not introduce themselves or present their skills and achievements in the same way as you do. Plus, when looking at qualifications, keep in mind that some applicants are prone to exaggeration.

It really comes down to this—you have to conduct proper interviews with the applicants, as much as you would if they were visiting you at your office.

Use Skype to conduct the interview, but don’t be surprised if most of the time, freelancers use it to exchange written—instead of oral—messages. Many people are shy and introverted, especially developers.

Here is a list of typical and some less obvious questions you might want to ask the applicants:

  • “Do you have other current assignments?”
  • “How many assignments have you worked on?”
  • “What are your regular working hours?”
  • “Have you done something similar to what I need before?”
  • “How stable is your Internet connection?”
  • “What is your English level?”
  • “Can you work full time on my project until completion?”
  • “What is ambiguous or unclear in my job post?”

Some cultures are very uncomfortable with confrontation, so you have to gain some level of trust before they say to you that they did not understand something. One way to do this to give applicants a sense of your background during the interview. They can’t guess what you didn’t say, such as the country you are based in, your time zone, etc.

You should also remember to set clear expectations. If you are expecting your team members to send a daily report of their work, tell them. Emphasize the following critical point: that you expect them to ask for help if they get stuck on something, rather than just vanishing.

5. Implement a test period

Once you have conducted proper interviews, you should have a shortlist of a few candidates. I would advise testing them with a real work task they can perform in a couple of days.

Be honest with them. Tell them you are considering a few candidates and ask if they would be okay with performing a fully paid short assignment. Most of them would be happy to do so. On oDesk, create a new private job offer related to this test job, and invite only your shortlisted candidates. As a show of goodwill and to build trust, I’d suggest prepaying the test assignment in full, which should not last longer than a few days.

At the end of this process, you should have a much clearer idea of which candidate you want to hire.

6. Respect the freelancer’s listed rate

At first, you will try to locate freelancers from your home country. Soon enough, you’ll find that there are many other countries where the cost of living is lower, so highly skilled freelancers can afford to charge less. And it is tempting to run after the best possible deal.

That being said, don’t forget that you are not buying a product. You are hiring real human beings, and more often than not, they will use the money you are paying them to pay for their basic needs, such as food and housing—sometimes for their whole family. While a couple of dollars on an hourly rate is not much for you, it can make a tremendous difference for them.

Once I gave a $150 bonus to a graphic designer who did tremendous work for me—and he later told me he bought Christmas presents for the kids in his hometown thanks to the money.

So, it is normal that you look for the best possible deal; just remember that you get what you pay for, and it can create some significant rifts in goodwill right at the beginning of a contract if you try to negotiate the rate too low. At some point, a good deal is just good enough.

And don’t forget you are reviewed too by freelancers; and with better reviews, you will attract better applicants.

Ok, that’s all for today. I hope these six tips will help you get the most out of oDesk. Happy hiring!

Do you have any additional tips to share? Add them in the comments section below!

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How to Hire an Awesome Developer on oDesk: Part I https://www.upwork.com/blog/2014/01/how-to-hire-an-awesome-developer-on-odesk-part-1/ https://www.upwork.com/blog/2014/01/how-to-hire-an-awesome-developer-on-odesk-part-1/#comments Thu, 23 Jan 2014 14:00:52 +0000 https://www.odesk.com/blog/?p=30825

I've been using oDesk for almost two years now—hiring for various types of profiles and skills, from multiple locations around the world—and it's been filled with a lot of ups and a few downs. When I was new to oDesk, I didn’t really know how to properly evaluate freelancers. What's more, it's always difficult to evaluate a skill you don’t have yourself. As a result, my turnover rate was pretty high. After a lot of trial and error, I fixed my process. I can now say confidently that most of the freelancers I'm hiring are awesome, and I believe they enjoy collaborating with me. After all, hiring the right people and managing them well are skills that only become more important when hiring online. So how can you have the same result? Check out the steps below for guidance on how to hire an awesome developer on oDesk. Today I'll go through the first three tips, and stay tuned tomorrow for the next three.

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By Antoine Martiano, Strategy & Business Development Consultant

I’ve been using oDesk for almost two years now—hiring for various types of profiles and skills, from multiple locations around the world—and it’s been filled with a lot of ups and a few downs.

When I was new to oDesk, I didn’t really know how to properly evaluate freelancers. What’s more, it’s always difficult to evaluate a skill you don’t have yourself. As a result, my turnover rate was pretty high.

Some freelancers quietly vanished in the middle of an assignment; others didn’t actually possess the skill set they said they had or were always behind schedule. But at the end of the day, it was all about me—how I described the project in the job post form, how I screened and evaluated profiles, and how I responded to applicants. Long story short, my screening process was broken.

After a lot of trial and error, I fixed my process. I can now say confidently that most of the freelancers I’m hiring are awesome, and I believe they enjoy collaborating with me. After all, hiring the right people and managing them well are skills that only become more important when hiring online.

So how can you have the same result? Check out the steps below for guidance on how to hire an awesome developer on oDesk. Today I’ll go through the first three tips, and stay tuned tomorrow for the next three.

1. Decide whether you need an agency or an independent freelancer

oDesk allows you to choose between hiring an agency, an independent freelancer, or a combination of the two. Agencies are teams or companies of freelancers; you have one point of contact at the agency and he or she delegates the work to freelancers from the agencies. Independent freelancers are just that—independent. You will only work with the person you hired. Both agencies and independent freelancers have their pros and cons, so I can’t really advise you to choose one over the other—it depends on your project and goals.

In general though, agencies tend to be more cautious with their reputation, so they might go the extra mile to make sure you are completely satisfied with their work. They might also have a broader skillset, so if you have a project that requires multiple skills (such as graphic design plus JavaScript, etc.), you can avoid the hassle of hiring multiple specialized freelancers. Personally, I found a lack of a one-to-one connection with agency freelancers. This lack of a personal relationship was a real con for me, so I tend to favor working with independents.

2. Write the world’s most detailed job description

If you are not familiar with technical development, your first job posting might be too vague for a developer. You just can’t be too specific here.

“I need a Windows app that will help my child with their homework”—a job posting like this one really ain’t going to work, and you will attract a lot of freelancers whose skills are totally out of the realm needed to perform the job properly.

So first, decide and describe what needs to be done. Be as specific as possible. If you have constraints, mandatory skills or particular demands—such as a delivery date—don’t forget to mention them.

This might be counterintuitive, but the best developers hate to guess what you want. They love when real specifications are available (and yes, at some point, you will have to write detailed specs, otherwise, they just can’t deliver what you were expecting).

If you are a beginner (at what you want to be developed) and lack a clear idea of what needs to be done, then your first task is finding a freelancer who can help you define your needs. You should not be hiring a developer to develop a concept that is not clear to you.

On the other hand, if what you need is advice on how to best build a page or app, put it in the job posting, stating that the first part of the assignment will be for the freelancer to define the exact specification for you. This way, freelancers will know there is a consultative aspect to the project. Some like that while others don’t, so stating that upfront will go a long way in attracting the appropriate candidates.

Additionally, try to give potential applicants a sense of the workload, how many hours per week you expect them to work (if this is a hourly assignment), how much you’ll pay, etc.

3. Include a secret word

Now that you have spent a fair amount of time on your job posting, you want to make sure the people applying to it have at least read it.

There are a fair number of less-than-strategic freelancers who seem to apply to every single listing; it can become pretty annoying. You’ll spot them easily—they usually start with “Dear Recruiting Manager” or “Dear Mrs. or Mr. Recruiter.” (Side note: I hate that! I can understand how someone on the other side of the globe may not guess my gender based on my first name, but it would be much more effective to at least write my full name to greet me.) Then they will write how great they are, how the list of skills they have is enormous, and they will also add a list of numerous similar projects they have done previously. Unfortunately, most of the time, the competencies are not the ones you are looking for.

Do these two things. Please. Trust me—you will save yourself a lot of time and hassle.

  1. Disqualify applicants who don’t meet your criteria. That includes budget, language proficiency, or whatever other constraints you have added to your posting.

  2. Add a secret word at the bottom of your offer along with the phrase: “Please write this secret word in the subject of your answer and as the very first word of your message—so I can make sure you are not a robot.” Disqualify ALL applicants who don’t follow this simple step.

The idea behind the secret word is two-fold. You want to make sure the answer you are receiving is not a spammy one from agencies that are just “fishing,” and you also want to make sure the freelancer is able to follow some simple instructions.

Want more strategies? Don’t forget to read tips 4 through 6!

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How to Sell: Finding the Right Approach for Your Business https://www.upwork.com/blog/2014/01/sell-finding-right-approach-business/ https://www.upwork.com/blog/2014/01/sell-finding-right-approach-business/#comments Fri, 17 Jan 2014 14:00:15 +0000 https://www.odesk.com/blog/?p=30784

Now more than ever, companies need to understand the nuances of how and why people buy products or services. Is an as-simple-as-possible buying process the best way to convert prospects? Or do they need a full consultation with an expert before making a decision? In his recent Linkedin column, oDesk CEO Gary Swart advises businesses to answer these fundamental questions before creating a sales plan.

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These days, there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all buying cycle or consideration process. Now more than ever, companies need to understand the nuances of how and why people buy products or services. Is an as-simple-as-possible buying process the best way to convert prospects? Or do they need a full consultation with an expert before making a decision?

In his recent Linkedin column, oDesk CEO Gary Swart advises businesses to answer these fundamental questions before creating a sales plan. He also discusses the differences between implied and explicit needs, and how that should factor into your selling strategy:

“With an implied need, you are not happy, but you do not have a strong desire to change (it’s a nice to have). An explicit need, however is something you want to fix today (it’s a must have). Sales reps who jump in with features (characteristics of their product) or advantages (which tell how these features are useful) prior to uncovering explicit needs will likely annoy the potential customer and waste time.”

For the rest of Gary’s tips on how to sell, read his full LinkedIn column here!

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Making the Leap From Freelancers to Digital Agency https://www.upwork.com/blog/2014/01/making-leap-freelancers-digital-agency/ https://www.upwork.com/blog/2014/01/making-leap-freelancers-digital-agency/#comments Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000 https://www.odesk.com/blog/?p=30758

How can a few entrepreneurial friends—each doing their own thing—take a leap and launch a digital agency together? Making such a big change is a lot easier when you already have paying clients and a full pipeline of leads. When it came to getting Matchnode, our Chicago-based digital marketing agency, off the ground, we already had both—thanks in large part to oDesk. Learn how Matchnode evolved from an idea among friends to a viable business.

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How can a few entrepreneurial friends—each doing their own thing—take a leap and launch a digital agency together?

Making such a big change is a lot easier when you already have paying clients and a full pipeline of leads. When it came to getting Matchnode, our Chicago-based digital marketing agency, off the ground, we already had both—thanks in large part to Upwork.

Matchnode’s evolution from an idea among friends to a viable business followed these four phases.

Phase 1: Get your first client and help them achieve their business goals

Creating our profile on Upwork turned out to be one of those rare moments in which a couple hours of work paid off in a big way. When we added our first Upwork clients to others we’d found through existing networks, we were soon too busy to handle all the work ourselves.

How do you make your Upwork profile work for you? Here’s what we’ve learned:

  1. Take as many Upwork tests as possible, getting high marks to prove your skills.
  2. Make communication a priority. Actively listen to ensure you clearly understand their needs, respond quickly, and when in doubt, let them know!
  3. Consider charging less to your first Upwork client; your priority is to start building your profile.

Phase 2: Formalize your new agency and use Upwork to build your new business pipeline

We officially launched Matchnode in August of 2013 and vowed to focus on our big-picture goal—helping as many small businesses as possible—rather than getting lost in day-to-day tasks or constantly putting out mini-fires. Easier said than done!

Upwork has helped us balance our priorities, not just contributing to our client pipeline but also allowing us to efficiently find contractors who can manage things like small design projects, posting to our Twitter account, and keeping our financial books up to date.

A couple strategies have helped us focus our efforts:

  1. Align your first possible pieces of infrastructure—like office space, team members, website development, and accounting tools—with your goal and vision, and prioritize them.
  2. Save your Upwork job searches and check them twice daily for new opportunities. Responding quickly (i.e. within two hours) has had a disproportionate impact on our success rate.

Phase 3: Use freelancers to support your growing client base

Beyond building our business, we also wanted to create jobs and develop people—whether they were working with us in Chicago or as a virtual teammate. As our workload expanded, it became clear that finding people who are a good fit is extremely important.

We’ve had a lot of success following Upwork’s test hiring practice; the unexpected benefit isn’t just that we quickly see which freelancers are a good match, but that we’ve been able to develop a profile to help us improve the screening process for future hires.

How can you build a better profile for your own team?

  1. Expose your business to multiple freelancers by hiring them for short-term jobs, to increase the chances of finding a great long-term fit. This will help you add a great variety of freelancers to your network, but you can also note which features mark a successful hire.
  2. Building on that experience, create a list of characteristics that you value within your team. Make these general; for example, we’ve founding hiring for attitude and lifestyle works well for us. If you hire the right people, you can train for specific skills.

Phase 4: Learn and cycle

Our business continues to grow, and oDesk has allowed us to scale our capacity at the same time. We continue to question all our assumptions and learn more about our craft every day—something our contractors are also part of.

For example, our existing team is highly knowledgeable about Google AdWords, a nuanced and robust platform that changes regularly. When we hired Harshal, an Indian freelancer, to analyze and expand a client’s AdWords account, we had a “hockey stick” learning moment: He taught us many things we hadn’t tried, deepening our knowledge and providing insights that we now apply to other clients.

Running a digital agency is an ongoing learning experience, one that will evolve as we continue to grow our client base, expand our team, and adjust to the always-changing marketplace.  Upwork will continue to be a big part of that success because of its practicality, cost-effective hiring, and opportunities for human development.

What are your strategies for using Upwork to grow your business? Share them in the comments section below!

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The Next Silicon Valley is Closer Than You Think https://www.upwork.com/blog/2014/01/next-silicon-valley-closer-think/ https://www.upwork.com/blog/2014/01/next-silicon-valley-closer-think/#comments Tue, 14 Jan 2014 00:59:12 +0000 https://www.odesk.com/blog/?p=30748

Researchers found that cities known for supporting “anchor institutions” like large companies and well-funded universities (e.g., Boston, Mass.) employed significantly more technology inventors, but they were not producing a proportionally larger amount of citation-weighted patents. What’s the takeaway of these findings? The best cities for technology innovation have a varied ecosystem, with at least one large institution and many smaller companies. oDesk’s own VP Matt Cooper takes this discussion one step further in his Inc. column, arguing that the rise of online collaboration tools has rendered geographic location all but moot.

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It’s no secret that certain US cities are known as technology hubs, while others seem to be getting left behind in the tech sector. But do these perceived discrepancies actually relate to innovation potential? Would a programmer in Dallas, Texas, really struggle to find employment without moving to the San Francisco Bay Area? In other words: what makes certain tech economies more productive than others?

The Atlantic recently reported on a study out of the University of Toronto measuring this very concept. The researchers found that cities known for supporting “anchor institutions” like large companies and well-funded universities (e.g., Boston, Mass.) employed significantly more technology inventors, but they were not producing a proportionally larger amount of citation-weighted patents. Meanwhile, cities with fewer technology investors but a much higher rate of patents per inventor (e.g., Portland, Ore.) usually had many more small, entrepreneurial tech firms.

What’s the takeaway of these findings? The best cities for technology innovation have a varied ecosystem, with at least one large institution and many smaller companies.

oDesk’s own VP Matt Cooper takes this discussion one step further in his Inc. column, arguing that the rise of online collaboration tools has rendered geographic location all but moot:

“By breaking down the ‘set-time, set-place’ barriers of Industrial-Age work, businesses can innovate and grow regardless of where they happen to be located. This is fueling startup growth around the world, to the tune of more than $1B spent hiring on oDesk so far. And as remote work becomes increasingly mainstream, startups that were entirely virtual from Day One are staying that way even as they grow to big companies—just look at Stack Overflow and Auttomatic.”

Click here to read the rest of Matt’s thoughts on online work’s potential!

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For Productivity, Stop Crushing It & Be the Tortoise https://www.upwork.com/blog/2014/01/productivity-stop-crushing-it-and-be-the-tortoise/ https://www.upwork.com/blog/2014/01/productivity-stop-crushing-it-and-be-the-tortoise/#comments Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000 https://www.odesk.com/blog/?p=30719

Here we all are at the beginning of 2014 with shiny new backpacks full of resolutions, goals, plans, and projects. What thought process and workflow will you use to meet your goals? What if you started hitching your creative pursuits to the habit of consistency not flashes of brilliance? What if you invested only fifteen minutes a day, six days a week, regardless of how you felt? What if you gave yourself permission to be the humble tortoise, not the glamorous hare? The industrious ant, not the swashbuckling grasshopper.

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By Austin Church, founder of Bright Newt and co-founder of Closeup.fm

Exactly six months ago, I was in Portland, Oregon, for World Domination Summit 2013. One of the speakers, professional photographer and blogger Darren Rowse, shared his hilarious zero-to-hero story and later talked about how he wrote his first guide.

Rowse’s writing process was simple and guilt-free: he gave himself permission to write only fifteen minutes a day.

He and his wife had just had their first child, so the only way he could make time was to set his alarm clock for fifteen minutes earlier each day. Those readers with children of their own will recall being jarred awake by those impossibly loud cries, trying to comfort your child with your teeth gritted, stumbling around bleary-eyed while mixing a bottle of formula. You remember waking up, already bone-tired, with your patience plastic maxed-out. Such sweet times.

But after three and a half months of unsexy, incremental progress, Rowse finished his e-book. A few weeks after that, it had generated six figures in revenue. The numbers are compelling:

  • 15 minutes a day
  • ~ 105 days
  • 27 hours of writing total (and 27 hours less sleep)
  • Over $100,000 in profits

Now before we go any further, I’d like to make one thing clear: Rowse didn’t just get lucky. Every morning he had to overcome the temptation to hit the snooze button. He exercised great discipline in making the choice to take another small step toward a lofty goal.

Stop Crushing It.

Darren’s story flies in the face of a popular productivity schema—that is, leaping forward with huge bursts of creativity, burning up the workday with focused productivity, getting drunk on the wine of inspiration, feeling bulletproof with passion, bulldozing through any obstacle. Crushing it!!!

I can just hear Dr. Phil skewering me with his favorite question: “How’s that working for you?”

Honestly, not very well. So while listening to Rowse speak, I decided to try something different and expect different results. I gave myself permission to spend only fifteen minutes a day working on a new app marketing guide for iOS developers.

The Path to Appiness

Appiness guideAfter two years of developing iOS apps, I’d begun to notice that a major challenge for indie developers is smart marketing. Their apps end up dying a slow death in the App Store, and most of them feel powerless to do anything about it.

I wanted to do something to change that, and Rowse inspired me to write out my story, bit by bit, as well as step-by-step instructions for app marketing tactics that have helped me turn duds into profitable apps.

This project is the epitome of what oDesk makes possible: my programmers who coded the apps I wrote about live in Ukraine, Russia, Vietnam, India, Pakistan, and the U.S. My editor-proofreader lives in Colombia. The virtual assistants, who helped with research, live in the Philippines. The designer lives in Knoxville, Tennessee.

What a world we live in!

The guide is finally finished. It’s called Appiness: An Unusual Guide to Doubling Downloads, Minting Money & Finding Freedom. If you’re interested in making or marketing iOS apps, you can check it out here: http://brightnewguides.com/appiness/.

In other words, fifteen minutes at a time works.

Be the Tortoise.

Here we all are at the beginning of 2014 with shiny new backpacks full of resolutions, goals, plans, and projects.

austin church pull quoteWhat thought process and workflow will you use to meet your goals?

What if you started hitching your creative pursuits to the habit of consistency not flashes of brilliance? What if you invested only fifteen minutes a day, six days a week, regardless of how you felt? What if you gave yourself permission to be the humble tortoise, not the glamorous hare? The industrious ant, not the swashbuckling grasshopper.

Yes, I’m mixing metaphors, but I think you get my point.

For fifteen minutes a day, work on your book, your EP, your new website, or your top-secret business venture. Then move on to your day job.

Try it once. You just might find that being the tortoise leaves you feeling strangely fine.

Want more words of wisdom from Austin? Check out his chapter in the oDesk eBook: “Make It Work: Smart Advice from Real-Life oDesk Clients Who Found Success Using Online Work.”

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7 Habits for Successful Women in the Future of Work https://www.upwork.com/blog/2014/01/7-habits-successful-women-future-work/ https://www.upwork.com/blog/2014/01/7-habits-successful-women-future-work/#comments Thu, 02 Jan 2014 14:00:42 +0000 https://www.odesk.com/blog/?p=30613

It’s no secret that females in the corporate world come up against some unique challenges, and there’s no better resource for us than other successful businesswomen. oDesk VP Jaleh Bisharat offers her own advice to women in this article from her Huffington Post column, writing about general best practices as well as tips for how to keep yourself relevant in an ever-evolving marketplace.

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The beginning of a new year is a natural time to make resolutions about your success, both personally and professionally. For women, achieving the latter can present some unique challenges.

In this pursuit, there’s no better resource than other, successful businesswomen. oDesk VP Jaleh Bisharat offers her own advice to women—in the form of 7 habits—in this article from her Huffington Post column. She writes about general best practices as well as tips for how to keep yourself relevant in an ever-evolving marketplace:

“It used to be that you attended university and then you went to work. Now, the demand for skills is changing fast. No matter how experienced you are, you need to be nimble. With options like Coursera, General Assembly and more, successful people view education as a continuous, lifelong pursuit.”

Read the rest of Jaleh’s 7 habits for successful women here!

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Big Idea 2014: More SMBs Will Be Started Than Ever Before https://www.upwork.com/blog/2013/12/big-idea-2014-small-businesses-will-started-ever/ https://www.upwork.com/blog/2013/12/big-idea-2014-small-businesses-will-started-ever/#comments Tue, 31 Dec 2013 14:00:42 +0000 https://www.odesk.com/blog/?p=30600

In his recent LinkedIn column, Gary predicts that more small businesses will be launched in the upcoming year than ever before “because it’s easier than ever to do so.” Citing more accessible, on-demand technology, as well as a positive shift in investors’ attitudes towards entrepreneurial endeavors, he makes a compelling case for an uptick of small business growth.

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Many of us will spend today making resolutions and predictions about 2014, and oDesk CEO Gary Swart is no exception. In his recent LinkedIn column, Gary predicts that more small businesses will be launched in the upcoming year than ever before “because it’s easier than ever to do so.” Citing more accessible, on-demand technology, as well as a positive shift in investors’ attitudes towards entrepreneurial endeavors, he makes a compelling case for an uptick of small business growth. He even offers some advice to anyone thinking about embarking on that path, such as the importance of carving out a niche for your company:

“The flip side of a world in which more businesses are starting than ever is that there’s also more competition. In order to be successful, having a point of differentiation is critical. To help out here, develop a business niche in which there will be less competition. Especially for those creating online businesses, you’ll have access to a larger global market so it’s easier to create these highly-specialized businesses and take advantage of geographically dispersed demand. Figure out where current gaps are in supply and step up to fill them.”

Read the rest of Gary’s article here!

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Year in Review: Insights From oDesk Execs in 2013 https://www.upwork.com/blog/2013/12/year-review-insights-odesk-execs-2013/ https://www.upwork.com/blog/2013/12/year-review-insights-odesk-execs-2013/#comments Mon, 30 Dec 2013 17:00:26 +0000 https://www.odesk.com/blog/?p=30458

From the controversial Yahoo remote work announcement to new research on the next generation of workers, we’ve found plenty to talk about in 2013. Over the past year, oDesk executives have shared their thoughts on these topics and more, many drawing from their personal experiences to explore the rapidly shifting world of work. In revisiting 2013's archives, we've pulled together this list of articles; glance through to see the discussions we’ve shared this year!

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From the controversial Yahoo remote work announcement to new research on the next generation of workers, we’ve found plenty to talk about in 2013. Over the past year, oDesk executives have shared their thoughts on these topics and more, many drawing from their personal experiences to explore the rapidly shifting world of work.

In revisiting 2013’s archives, we’ve pulled together this list of articles; glance through to see the discussions we’ve shared this year!

Trends shaping the way we work

Women around the world

Advice for startups

Millennials: The newest generation of professionals

  • In Defense Of Millennials: LinkedIn Influencers, September 2013
    A quarter of new businesses are started by people between the ages of 20 and 34. In this column for LinkedIn, Swart stepped up in defense of Millennials, writing that ”never before…has there been such an entrepreneurial generation.”

  • It’s Not What You Know, But What You Can Do: Vator TV, June 2013
    A new job market reality is emerging—one where career prospects are determined not by educational pedigree, but by skills. In this post, Swart outlined what this shift means for recent graduates.

Talent and business expertise

Did we miss any of your favorite oDesk articles from the past year? Share them in the comments section below!

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Looking For a Client Holiday Gift? Try This First. https://www.upwork.com/blog/2013/12/looking-client-holiday-gift-try-first/ https://www.upwork.com/blog/2013/12/looking-client-holiday-gift-try-first/#respond Mon, 16 Dec 2013 19:00:43 +0000 https://www.odesk.com/blog/?p=30509

It’s the most wonderful time of the year… unless you’ve been tasked with finding a suitable holiday gift for your company’s high-priority clients. oDesk VP Matt Cooper recommends forgoing a physical gift and instead treating clients to a meal. In his recent column for Inc., he explains that a holiday lunch will not only help strengthen the trust between you and your customers, but it will also give you a chance to hear first-hand opinions from your most valued clients.

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year… unless you’ve been tasked with finding a suitable holiday gift for your company’s high-priority clients. Get something too generic and they will barely register the effort, or go out on a limb and you risk offending someone; spend too little and the gesture will look insincere, or spend too much and you’ll make your customers wary of ulterior motives.

To avoid all these pitfalls, oDesk VP Matt Cooper recommends forgoing a physical gift and instead treating clients to a meal. In his recent column for Inc., he explains that a holiday lunch will not only help strengthen the trust between you and your customers, but it will also give you a chance to hear first-hand opinions from your most valued clients:

“Taking your clients out to a meal gives you an opportunity to get to know them through dynamic conversation. You can learn what makes them tick and get valuable feedback to put toward your business. Perhaps there’s a pain point you’ve yet to address or a feature they wish you’d roll out. Use this time to get in their head—but don’t forget to be yourself.”

 Read the rest of Matt’s article here!

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Discovering the Truth Using Team Culture Surveys https://www.upwork.com/blog/2013/12/discovering-truth-using-team-culture-surveys/ https://www.upwork.com/blog/2013/12/discovering-truth-using-team-culture-surveys/#respond Thu, 12 Dec 2013 22:15:49 +0000 https://www.odesk.com/blog/?p=30488

Any manager worth their salt understands that they must create a work environment that empowers their employees to succeed.The more puzzling question, however, is how to best measure something as abstract as that organizational environment. In this LinkedIn column, oDesk CEO Gary Swart discusses how a mostly anonymous team culture survey is one of the best way to gauge employee satisfaction and ability to be effective.

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Any manager worth their salt understands that they must create a work environment that empowers their employees to succeed (our own oDesk CEO has written some advice on that very topic). The more puzzling question, however, is how to best measure something as abstract as that organizational environment.

In this LinkedIn column, oDesk CEO Gary Swart discusses how a mostly anonymous team culture survey is one of the best way to gauge employee satisfaction and ability to be effective. Additionally, culture surveys with a consistent scale (e.g., a 1 to 5 rating) allow you to measure progress (or lack thereof) across time, as well as track which departments are doing poorly in specific areas. He shares oDesk’s own survey, explaining the rationale behind each question. For example, regarding the question ‘oDesk fosters a culture of transparency and honest communication,’ he writes:

“Each team has a different level of honest communication. It’s a manager’s responsibility to lead by example on this front, by being transparent in what’s happening, how progress is tracking, and how any developments will impact employees. Companies vary widely on this ability, and I’m extremely proud of the environment we’ve established at oDesk because we typically perform very well here. As a leader, your perception that open communication is happening may not be reality, so it’s very important to measure this one.”

Read the rest of Gary’s survey questions here!

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