30 Days as Geek For Hire – Day 2: Profile Pain

profile-completeness-screenshot

Profile completedness: unlocked

Having set up a profile on Elance yesterday, it was currently sitting at 70 percent complete. Apparently freelancer profiles with less than 100 percent completion get very few views, let alone jobs, so it was time to expand that profile and bring it up to 100 percent completion.

To achieve 100 percent profile completedness (is that even a word?) on Elance requires the following:

  1. Verify Identity
  2. Upload Portfolio Items
  3. Join Groups
  4. Take Skills Tests

1. Verify Identity

My identity verification interview was scheduled for between 9 and 10am this morning and I was pleasantly surprised to receive my Skype call about 9.20am. The verification process lasted all of 2 minutes and involved simply switching on my web-cam and speaking a few words to the authentication agent. Perhaps being presented with someone in a lime green bathrobe and no make-up made him speed the conversation up. I’m not sure. But within a few minutes, I received an email stating that my identity verification was complete.

2. Upload Portfolio Items

The Portfolio section of your Elance profile is where you can upload samples of your work to create an online portfolio of sorts. Once you’ve uploaded work samples, you can attach them to any job proposal you submit.

For freelance web designers and graphic artists, this is a pretty straight-forward concept, as you can simply upload web designs, images and artwork you have created. For a digital marketer, it requires a little more thought, especially when you have signed NDAs for nearly every client.

I suddenly wished I’d thought to record a recent meeting with a new client who slapped me on the back and exclaimed “Holy S**t that’s impressive. Those *bast***s over at [ill-performing agency name] are in for a grilling when I get hold of ’em!”. On second thoughts. Perhaps I could upload a picture of the giant box of chocolates another client couriered over following their web site audit?  Hmmm.

I finally decided to upload a sample web site performance audit (with all client references removed), a recent Google AdWords audit, a search ranking report, a pretty chart showing post-SEO traffic growth and some sample articles I’d written for SiteProNews.

3. Join Groups

According to the 75 emails I received from Elance since registration (kidding!), I would have more chance of finding employment if I joined as many industry groups as possible. Immediately. These group had names ranging from WordPress Experts, to Microsoft Certified Professionals, to Facebook Developers to something with the rather concerning anagram of PIMP. (Turns out it has something to do with project management. But I digress).

I finally narrowed down my preferred group selections to:

  • SEO Experts
  • Google AdWords Experts
  • Google Analytics Experts
  • Google Webmaster Central Experts

To join these groups, I would first have to take a Skills Test in each discipline to prove my knowledge level.

4. Take Skills Tests

So I took some skills tests. Oh boy. These deserve an entire blog post. Actually, I think they deserve an entire blog. But you’re going to have to wait until tomorrow. Day 2 done and dusted.

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30 Days as Geek For Hire – Day 1: Registration Frustration

elance-logoFollowing on from my lack of cash revelation, I’ve decided to try my hand at being a freelance geek-for-hire for 30 days to see if I can earn enough income to compensate for a full time job.

I’ve decided to start my search for work on Elance. Setting up a profile with Elance was mostly painless. The one positive aspect of registering with Elance is that they’ve partnered with LinkedIn, so you can simply import your entire CV and employment history if you connect your Elance profile with your LinkedIn profile.

However, the one aspect of Elance registration that was not straight-forward was the identity verification process. After fleshing out my profile, it was suggested that I verify my identity by completing an online form and registering for an identity verification interview via Skype. The only problem was, there seemed to be a bug with the Skype interview section of the verification request form.

elance-Screenshot1When I chose my time-zone (Wellington, New Zealand), no available interview times were shown and when I clicked *view more*, nothing came up and then the *view more* option disappeared entirely. No matter how many times I refreshed the form, there were no available interview time slots available. If I tried to submit my verification request, even if all other fields were completed, it wouldn’t let me submit because it said I have to choose an interview time slot. Le sigh. Different browsers triggered the same bug. I even tried at different times within a 24 hour period, with no luck. It was like a mini Ground Hog Day.

How was I supposed to verify my identity if I couldn’t select an interview time slot? In desperation, I lodged a support ticket and was informed that identity verification for Elance was performed by a third party, Aristotle, and that their technical support team was working to solve the error.

True to their word, the problem was solved within a few hours and I was able to set up my Skype interview and pass the identity verification hurdle at last.

Day 1 down. My next goal is to flesh out my profile completion to 100 percent. Catch you on Day 2.

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30 Days as a Freelance Geek for Hire

geek-for-hireI came to a dramatic conclusion today. I need more income. As you all know, I’m a digital marketing consultant and trainer.

My contractual consulting work has dried up for the year and the exciting new IT start-up that had offered me 3 months work has been dismantled by their board and abandoned. Bye, bye guaranteed income.

So here I am, a self-employed geek, in need of consulting work in order to pay off a very large tax debt and keep me in coffee and French doughnuts for the foreseeable future. What’s a girl to do?

I had heard that marketing and IT specialists could make a nice little income on the side of their *real* job by using sites such as Elance, oDesk, Freelancer and Guru.com. I immediately thought “I can do that”. I’ll just have to take on enough freelance projects to provide a full-time income.  How hard can it be?

So I’ve decided to spend the next 30 days totally immersing myself in the seedy online job market and pimping my services as a freelance geek-for-hire. I thought my experience might make for entertaining reading, or at the very least provide an example of what not to do for future freelancers. So I’m going to blog about my experiences right here. Watch me as I fly or fail. Or quite possibly both.

If you’ve got any burning questions about freelancing in the digital / IT space, please post them in the comments and I’ll make sure I cover those off during the month. Any words of advice (warning?) for me would also be welcomed.

Wish me luck!

 

 

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Q and A: What are some ideas for SEO lead generation?

QuestionHello Kalena

I’ve recently struck out on my own as a search engine optimization freelancer and I’m finding it really difficult to get new leads.

I can’t afford to pay per click the amounts that the big players are paying on Google AdWords and I’m not confident enough with Bing Ads to try that. I did experiment with some Facebook advertising, but the response wasn’t great so I don’t think it’s really where my market is.

I know you recommended in the past to try some freelancing sites, but I was on Elance for a month and was out-bid by a lot of SEO crews based in South East Asia, who seem to low-ball everybody and win most of the projects. I know my work is higher quality than what they are offering, but it doesn’t seem to matter to the client.

Any creative ideas for how I can generate new leads and find genuine SEO clients who are willing to pay fairly for quality?

Thanks
Anthony

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Hi Anthony

I feel your pain, I truly do. Having my own SEO consultancy, I am fully aware just how challenging it can be to secure a steady flow of new business and compete with rivals after the same clients.

Here are my tips for gaining new SEO leads:

1) Install MySiteAuditor on Your Main Sales PageMy Site Auditor is a custom-built lead generation tool for SEO professionals and freelancers. You simply install the code somewhere prominent on your site and it allows visitors to generate a one minute SEO audit for a URL of their choice, for a particular keyword or phrase. Visitors need to enter their email address in order to generate the audit, creating automatic leads to follow up.

You can see it in action over at Site Audit NZ. There is a 10 day free trial and two low cost monthly subscription plans, depending on whether you want to embed the tool, white-label the audits and have leads emailed to you.  We use it and it’s a great way to increase SEO sales and leads by simply embedding a useful tool on your site.

2) Utilize Keyword Alert and Social Monitoring Tools – Services like Google Alerts and the fairly new Talkwalker Alerts allow you to track mentions of your target keywords or search phrases across the web without lifting a finger. You simply choose the search terms you want to be alerted about and then the service will email you whenever it finds a new mention of those terms in Google search results (for Google Alerts) or in news sites, blogs and discussion boards across the entire web (for Talkwalker). Klout, Social Mention and HootSuite all offer a similar service to track real time mentions on social sites. Raven Tools used to offer the same, but have sadly discontinued it.

What this means is that you can pin-point potential leads by what they are searching for / talking about. So, for example, we are always looking for new students to join Search Engine College and a great way to find potentials is to see who is discussing topics like “I want to learn SEO” or “Teach myself SEO”.  We can then (tactfully) approach those persons directly on the sites where the discussion was found to see if our courses might be a good fit for them.

You can do the same thing by creating alerts for phrases like “Need help with SEO” or “SEO my site”. Just make sure you follow up fast though, because discussions can become stale quickly, especially on social networks. Also be super careful that you take a helpful approach rather than dive in with a sales pitch, or you’re likely to frighten off any genuine potentials.

3) Give Bing Ads a Whirl – You can teach yourself how to use it fairly quickly and the CPC is much, much cheaper than Google AdWords in my experience. If you want to contact me directly, I can even send you a USD100 voucher for ad credit (as I’m a Bing Partner).

4) Give Stuff Away – Got an ebook or a white-paper lying around? Turn it into a free give-away on your site, in exchange for a visitor’s email address. Companies like HubSpot do this type of incentive-based lead generation exceptionally well. With a little forethought, any client case study or interesting SEO research can be turned into a downloadable incentive to part with an email address. Just make sure you have their permission to contact these visitors with your marketing messages later on.

These tactics may not work for you, but they consistently work for me, so I’m confident you will get some good results.

Best of luck :-)

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Like to learn SEO with a view to starting your own business? Access your Free SEO Lessons. No catch!

 

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Common Questions Asked at SEO Job Interviews

hiring-staff2Based on conversations I’ve had recently, many of my students and blog readers are either seeking a new job in the SEO field or looking to switch existing SEO gigs this year.

Inevitably, the subject of potential interview questions will arise. How exactly should you prepare for a SEO interview? What type of questions can you expect to be asked? Will they be highly technical? Scenario-based? Or will they be all about your past experience? In a nutshell, how will you know the type of SEO knowledge benchmark a new employer is expecting you to meet?

Well, wonder no more, because online training provider EDU Pristine has collated a series of the 13 most common SEO interview questions (and answers!) to help you brush up before you walk into that nerve-wracking interview panel.

The questions are pretty solid, apart from Q9 — most SEO pundits agree that the Google Sandbox has failed to be a thing since the advent of Everflux indexing — and Q10 which is ambiguous, depending on your personal interpretation of the term Search Engine Marketing.

So study up and go get that new SEO gig.

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