Gordon Burgett’s Newsletter
for writers, speakers, publishers, and product developers
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Are you using elance.com?
Or would you like to make money through them?
I have used elance six times and plan to at least double that in the next few months, so let me address whether it might work for you in this newsletter. (Its use and how one can write for it are among the most asked questions you send me.)
What is it? A kind of brokerage that puts your project need at their not-so-easy-to-use-anymore website called www.elance.com. It’s an electronic sort of bulletin board that lets freelancers worldwide perform the services you need for a cost that you agree upon. It charges you no fees (except patience and faith that the bidder you choose isn’t lying through their missing teeth).
I used it once for book writing, twice for marketing, twice for quick editing, and once (rather disastrously) for proofreading. (I have friends with much more elance experience, and I’m drawing heavily from their advice as well.) Actually, there are very few business needs it can’t address, so if you aren’t familiar with it let me suggest you study its write-up, current format, and offerings.
Incidentally, Elance isn’t the only such service of its kind. The only other one I tried was www.guru.com, which was almost rabidly praised by a reliable friend. I couldn’t quite figure it out.
So why am I dwelling on elance here? I think there are two ways it could be extremely helpful to all of us.
(1) Done right, it can be a virtual partner in all (or many) of the things you do poorly or not at all—or where you need outside help and guidance,
(2) It can be a fairly low-paying but steady work-generating godsend finding you early writing assignments that will sharpen your skills and give you a solid publishing background.
Let me deal with (2) first because for $29 you can buy an excellent guide called “Making Money as a Freelance Writer Through Elance,” by a hugely successful Elance writer named Lindsay Zortman. It honestly lays out the strengths and weaknesses as well as how she successfully bids on jobs, promotes herself to Elance buyers, receives fair recompense, prices her worth, sets up clear and unambiguous work agreements, and gets repeat business—all the things you need to know to get going almost immediately. I wish I had known about this in my newspaper days!
Check the link below to get you the needed details to see if this book is for you, your kid just out of college, or a struggling buddy who couldn’t find a client in an envelope!
Back to where I see it as most helpful in our empire-building or product-creating quest:
(A) Book covers. If I didn’t have a gifted nephew who begs to undercharge me, I would put each book cover up to bid here, and would get not only the covers ready to send to the printer(s), I’d have the promo copies in various sizes and formats, even postcards and business cards ready to use. (Just be sure to see other work that the bidder has done and make sure the work for you is work-for-hire. The elance process will help with all of that.)
(B) In fact, help with all visual or complex graphics can be bought here—even book design.
(C) Books. I plan to follow the Bob Bly example at elance with a series of very specific empire-building books in the near future. I will bid out the topics with clear, precise outlines, then follow up with a final, thorough edit or partial rewrite before releasing them as e-books. For books, I’ll stick with U.S./Canadian bidders. A bias, yes, but much less rewriting too. The cost, maybe $400-800 each. More, maybe much more, for a 100-page-plus book for bound format that requires more research.
An example. I had a program that was designed to help folks like us create solid, reliable, techie-simple (read doable, in layman’s tongue) audio CDs, to expand our product base. I wanted to update it a few months back, make it even clearer, add DVDs, further reduce the audio CD creation costs for the buyer, and include the most current production software now available. That was what I sought in my elance product description. I got five responses. I chose a young, hip, clever lass who got me the book in several weeks. I double-checked all of the steps, streamlined the prose, cut out some jargon, and out popped a solid 59-page, $39 product called “How to Quickly and Inexpensively Create Your Own Audio CDs and DVDs.” (Incidentally, I did it in e-book fashion because I would want the instructions written and at hand as I tried them.) You can see this at
(D) Computer stuff. Since I can get around fine with Word and needed apps, and can create a book from start to finish and get it printed, and so on, what I would farm out to elance would be almost anything beyond that, particularly software. But first I would explain everything I think I need to make a project bloom, and hire someone from elance to bring back a prioritized list of all the software that currently exists, and how it can be integrated to do what I need and be run from my office. Plus any ideas for doing it better than I envisioned.
(E) Simple projects I haven’t time to do nor anybody I know and trust to do them as an independent contractor. A perfect example might be sending info e-mails with free digital book downloads to grad school deans to forward to instructors in specific fields for textbook consideration. I currently have a list of 900 from a 2010 guide (don’t ask) that isn’t available in mailing list format—it needs one-by-one selection by stipulated criteria. Hence, a person. A perfect farm-out job.
(F) Any function an employee might do but can also be done by an independent contractor. Like order fulfillment, product return processing, bookkeeping, phone answering, you name it. Create a one-month project to see if they work well, and if they do, you can then make your own deal outside of elance.
These come quickest to mind, but I know several very successful friends (almost all speakers) who have most of their staff on a virtual basis, with a lot of those having begun on elance projects. Some continue to work through the elance structure; others are direct-feed now as independent contractors.
Incidentally, I very much like Lindsay Zortman’s example (see 2 above, pp.23-4) of what she calls “Sample Statement of Work.” It’s a detailed, step-by-step clarification of what she will do to earn the stipulated payment (and a critical top-rank review). I like it because it’s almost parallel to how I describe what I am putting up to bid. (Elance provides good bid-creation instructions.) Lindsay breaks it into these segments: Project Summary, Project Objectives, Project Goals, Project Scope, Project Phases, Technical Requirements, Deliverables & Key Milestones, Communication Plan, Acceptance Criteria, Rights to the Final Work, and Feedback. (Don’t be frightened by the terms or complexity. Most categories are only one item or two long and the process of proposing and bidding will pretty much walk you through the steps. Your first project submission may take an hour or two, but that speeds up quickly.)
That’s it. I hate having employees but I love having smart, experienced, eager helpers and workers. I do too much myself, then rely too much on dependable folks I know. I’m turning mostly to elance to get that balance as my project scale grows One of the people I will seek is an organizer through elance who can dice, slice, delegate, oversee, and help create an ideal at-distance “staff,” all independent and all paying their own taxes. Sound good? Give www.elance.com a close look.
How is our earlier posting at scribd.com doing?
Remember that we put up four items on Scribd.com to see if anybody looked there or actually paid (in this case $3) for information worth knowing? For the original report or for specific product details, you can check www.scribd.com (search for Gordon Burgett) and/or the 6-1 newsletter at www.gordonburgett.com/NLarchives.htm.
Here’s a quick three-month (or so) check.
The “101 Niche Marketing Ideas Report” that you got free to register for this newsletter sent to the business/law Scribd readers has now been seen by 290 people, while 197 of the how-to guides and manuals folk looked at it. Some may have even read it!
The “Selling Your Booklet, a Layout Format” selling for $3 has been looked at by 101 daring souls. And 54 inquisitive creatures looked at the “How to Plan a Great Second Life” booklet, also a $3 bargain. But nobody bought a damn thing!
So I checked with friends with items at Scribd to see if it was just lousy stuff on my part. They said, in essence, if that were so, then their stuff must be lousy too—not a one of five had made a dime. But most thought that enough readers (or scanners) might have jumped to their website or newsletter, so it wasn’t a total loss. And if Scribd really has six million viewers…
Their logic made me feel less foolish: That’s 642 probing lookers who walked on my path. (I know, not really 642 because some of them looked at two items or more, but the reality already hurts enough.) Which provokes another thought: I could post all three of the free reports there and tell them that what they were reading leads to an equally scintillating free newsletter if they just went to www.gordonburgett.com/free-reports. Thus if one free report drew 487 peekers, would three bring 1,461—or maybe 23,000? Am I feeling foolish again, or delusional?
So here’s an invitation: if Scribd is working for you, why not comment at my blog www.gburgett.wordpress.com) so we all know? (I’ll run a short item about scribd in a few minutes.) No news and I will assume it’s a great idea that just isn’t very lucrative. (Like having kids, if on those rare occasions they weren’t so darn sweet or funny.) Maybe Scribd will become sweet, funny, and a money-churning late bloomer. If any of that happens, I’ll sure let you know.
Get 5 publishers to sell your book in one week—free?
I’m in the process of doing that right
now, and I’ll be explaining how you can do the same in a four-hour seminar here
Incidentally, while researching this topic I ran into a dandy website at www.aprillhamilton.com, where April offers two free downloads directly related to the process that I’ll explain. One report tells how to create your own book cover (for CreateSpace). The other, a solid guide about using Amazon’s DTP with MS Word 2003 or higher to publish with Kindle. I’ll integrate them into the process next month, but if you want or need some quick help with either topic right now, just go to her website and download—or read them at your leisure.