The Way We Work

Future Skills: How to Match Professional Growth with Industry Demand

As freelancers we're afforded a lot of perks–everyday is casual Friday, and we don't have to "pretend laugh" at our bosses jokes–however, we definitely have our fair share of burdens too. One of those being, forecasting demand for our skills, and continuing our educations to meet future demand. Any kind of forecasting has a certain "crystal ball" factor, but hopefully the tips below can help ease the stress of forecasting. Read Full Article

The Way We Work

How to Maintain a Steady Income: Addressing the Top Freelancing Concern

A recent oDesk survey showed that the top concern for 76% of freelancers is maintaining a steady income. Of the other worries considered, no other single concern netted over an 8% response. As a freelancer, I know that this is my top worry as well, especially during the holidays when my personal life begins taking a progressively larger and larger chunk of my schedule. When it comes to managing my current workload, marketing myself for future work, and continuing to develop my skills, I subscribe to Aesop’s fable about the tortoise and the hare, “slow and steady wins the race.” Managing Your Time The essence of the “slow and steady” metaphor is time management. Setting your own schedule can be overwhelming, and having the flexibility to say “I’ll get to that later” is both an empowering perk of working for yourself and a serious pitfall. Learning to stagger your workload and devote enough time to marketing yourself can be a difficult balance. I prefer to work at least an 8 hour day, from 9am to 5pm. You know yourself best, whatever your prime hours are, schedule those to be your work time. If you have a lot of assignments on your plate, schedule the majority of the day for your current workload, but be sure to leave at least 1 hour to marketing yourself, and 1 hour a day to further developing your skills. Don’t be rigid, this schedule should be flexible as your workload, marketing needs, and educational demands grow and change. For example, if you only have a sinlge project on your plate due in one week, projected to take 20 hours, don’t wait to complete it. Conversely, don’t work the entire 20 hours over a couple of days, either. Think slow and steady. This is when it… Read Full Article

All Things Upwork

Trend Spotlight: Microsoft Silverlight

Microsoft Silverlight is a browser plugin that allows the delivery of rich media experiences over the web. If you’ve ever watched a movie on Netflix using “Watch Instantly” then you are familiar with the power of Silverlight’s video streaming capabilities when coupled with Microsoft’s IIS Media Services Server. While streaming video was Silverlight 1.0’s main focus, iteration 2.0 expanded upon that, offering the ability to run programs written using any .NET language. Version 3.0 has been out since July (notice the spike on the trend chart for Silverlight developers below) and boasts the ability to stream 1080p HD video, as well as a slew of upgrades that speed up performance and improve the development process. Silverlight on oDesk There are currently 520 programmers on oDesk with Silverlight experience. oDesk’s data on the trends for Silverlight developers shows a significant increase in demand over the past six months. While this isn’t as impressive as oDesk’s data on recent Flash developers trends, Silverlight 3 offers some fantastic new features that should keep the demand for talented Silverlight developers on the rise. Key Features Highlighted below are some of the key features that Silverlight offers. See Scott Gu’s article on Silverlight 3 for more in depth reading. GPU accelration – Processing of video and graphics can be offloaded to the client’s graphics card, making streaming of 1080p and rendering of 2D and 3d graphics less CPU intensive. Smooth Streaming – Microsoft’s IIS Media Services Server can vary video streaming bit rates on the fly to insure smooth playback, regardless of client’s CPU load or network congestion. Codec Support – H.264, MPEG-4, and AAC formats are now supported, as well… Read Full Article

The Way We Work

WordPress for Everyone

WordPress is one of the top skills requested by buyers in the oDesk marketplace. CMS-based development, and specifically blog development, is at the heart of the Internet economy. Not only are blog developers important, but so are writers. It has bee said that “Content is king.” Regardless of what role your work falls into, it’s important to have some level of understanding of how WordPress, the current leading blog platform, operates. Getting Your Hands Dirty If you’re a writer or buyer, and don’t care too much for the nitty gritty, it’s okay! WordPress.com is an easy way to get started blogging. There you can sign up for an account, get a free blog (i.e.- YourBlogTitle.Wordpress.com). Follow the directions in WordPress.com’s Getting Started Guide and you’ll be blogging in no time. For developers there is WordPress.ORG (sorry to use caps, but it’s an important distinction). WordPress.org is where you can find information on downloading and installing WordPress. The WordPress.org Installation Guide will walk you through downloading the package, uploading it to your own server, creating a mySQL database, and running the WordPress installer. Also, ProBlogger has a great screencast on the whole process. Developing Locally Okay, maybe you’re thinking, “but I just want to tinker around, and I don’t have a dedicated server for development.” Yes, you do (hint: you’re looking at it) and if you aren’t developing on your own local server, then you are missing out! Working this way allows you to develop offline, and it’s fast. However, I do not recommend using the software below to host your own website from home. Developing with minimal security can be dangerous online, and working locally reduces the hassle of securing the site during development. Just remember that these… Read Full Article

All Things Upwork

Magento vs. osCommerce – Online Stores Mean Business

The past year has been a roller coaster ride for the economy, but tracking open source e-commerce programs over that same time period shows that online sales are still serious business. Here, we take a look at how programmers with skills for two popular choices in open source e-commerce have been faring on oDesk. osCommerce osCommerce has been around a while and  there is a very well established and responsive community to offer support. There are also innumerable ‘modules’ to be found on the OS site, which allow for increased customization and osCommerce’s simplicity and flexibility means these can be easy to add. But the appeal of osCommerce is in its ability to be translated and localized into any language. The structure of the site, written in php and using clear definitions, means all the text seen on an osCommerce store is handily stored in reference files which contain only plain text for translation – minimizing the risk of file corruption by a web page translator. osCommerce has been around a while, but those versed in this area have seen a dramatic increase in job availability over the last year. The number of jobs posted each month requesting knowledge of the platform has risen to over 5 times the number of osCommerce jobs available in July of 2008. Magento This newer store scores highly for its look and overall features. The backend is well organized and most items of concern are thoroughly covered from the get-go, including re-writable URLs (a must for a well optimized online store). Magento also has ‘Store View’ which allows online shop keepers the ability to set up multiple stores – with the same products, at different prices, and even in different languages – from a single admin area. This also… Read Full Article