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A big thank you to all those who’ve taken our PPH Small Business Survey. To date we’ve had 410 respondents  with the following average demographics

  • 84% employ less than 10 employees
  • Average size by turnover: £314k
  • 20% based in greater London Area
  • 18% are both Buyers and Providers on PPH

Main findings from buyer (client) responses

  • 73% of respondents anticipate growth in 2010
  • 82% of respondents are investing in growth in the next 12 months
  • The main areas of investment are technology/web (39% of respondents) and marketing (40%)
  • Only 20% of respondents feel that business is still down due to the recession
  • 28% have said that the recession has helped them innovate and create new products and services and 26% have improved customer service to retain clients
  • 61 % of respondents have said that using freelancers has saved them over 10% of total staffing costs
  • The average cost saving per user is £17k per annum, 5% on an average turnover of £314k
  • 92% of respondents say quality of work through freelancers is same or superior to in-house staff
  • 98% have said they plan to carry on using freelancers

Main findings from freelancer responses

  • 48% are self-employed, 25% are operating as a limited company, 21% as sole traders and 6% out of an intermediary
  • 83% are based from home
  • 67% work alone and remotely to their clients
  • 74% started freelancing less than 5 years ago and 55% within the last 2 years alone
  • 51% cite wanting to be their own boss as the main reason
  • 85% say they enjoy a better work-life balance with 52% saying they spend more time with their family

If you haven’t taken the survey yet, your opinion can still be heard. Click here to take the survey >>

If you require more information on the survey please email stefani (at) peopleperhour.com

Further findings will be shared with you on PPH Economy (coming soon).

Small Business Survey

October 28, 2009

Please take our anonymous Small Business survey by visiting the following link:

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=quu2poy202Iomc6e5JRFbQ_3d_3d

You will receive a FREE listing in return for no more than 3 minutes of your time.

Upon completion of the survey, you will have the chance to put in your e-mail address and your account will then be credited with an additional free listing. If you are a provider, you can still receive a free listing by converting to a dual account. You will not need to re-register. All you have to do is activate your dual account when you next log in.

Whether you are a buyer or a provider, we can certainly benefit from your answers. Our goal is to understand more about our users so that we can work towards suiting their needs. This is part of our process of constantly improving PeoplePerHour.com.

If you have any additional comments to our survey, or if you would simply like to express your views, please feel free to do so.

Would you be interested in looking ahead to the year 2020 and finding out what the business world would look like? If you are, then visit the webcast ‘Freelancing: The Future of Work’ on Monday the 23rd of November. It is hosted by the PCG (the representative body for freelancers, contractors and consultants in the UK) to mark National Freelancers Day, and is free of charge.

Guest speakers include a select group of experts who will put together their views and explain why they believe that we are about to witness one of the biggest societal and working shifts since the industrial revolution. Just visit http://www.nationalfreelancersday.org.uk and register for the event. Moreover, if you decide to watch the webcast, you will also see a video of the CEO of PeoplePerHour.com, Xenios Thrasyvoulou, who is also participating.

So forget about desperately trying to foresee and analyze the future trends in business because they are now fact. So just start implementing them. The future is already here, staring at you in the face through your laptop and through the comfort of your living room armchair.

With an estimated 4.5 million freelancers currently in the UK, the concept of freelancing shouldn’t really be one needing any explaining. And as to why freelancing has evolved so rapidly, well I would say it doesn’t really take a genius to figure it out. At a time and place where everyone is sacrificing their life for their job, it came as a sudden burst of light at the end of that endless tunnel we refer to as ‘career’, that lo and behold, there is another route. Why work long continuous hours in a cold office, just sheepishly watching the minute hand tick by for no obvious reason when you can just be managing your time and work from the comfort of your own home?

And as for the business side, it only took yet another painful and quite embarrassing fall for businesses to realize that ‘yes, things can go wrong’. But we burn and we learn. We learn that we can never be too efficient in our business. We learn that cutting back on unnecessary costs is not just good practice. It’s also necessary. Why hire unnecessary full-time staff instead of only paying for what your business needs? Why not move to a smaller office and save so much energy and cost? Or better yet, why not work entirely from home and just buy the freelance services you need when you need and from your own living room?

And who ever said we couldn’t change the world? Thanks to the technology we now have access to, everything is possible. We can now move towards a greener, more efficient and more sociable world. It’s not just about business. It’s about society.

So if you are keen on being part of this change, visit ‘Freelancing: The Future of Work’, and learn all about it from the experts. Futurologists, technology leaders and analysts will all be there to share their thought about the freelance work model and what its results will be. So don’t miss it.

In addition to ensuring that your PPH profile is as comprehensive and professional as possible, the other most important element of success in winning work on PPH is your ability to submit effective proposals (bids) to prospective clients.

Here are some tips on how to make your bids as effective as possible and make them stand out:

1. Tailor each proposal

While there is nothing wrong with having a proposal template as a starting point, you should always remember that templates are there to be customised. Sending generic proposals is one of the most common mistakes and it hardly ever works as clients can easily spot a proposal that has been simply ‘copied and pasted’.

Instead, put in the time to go through the project requirements properly, give thought to your proposal and tailor it to address all the points/requirements of the project.

2. Describe your approach/process

Clients often know what they would like to achieve (e.g. they need a company website) but not what is involved in the process or how it’s done. Giving a high-level outline of the process you will follow to achieve the result they are after is a quick way to build rapport and win the client’s confidence.

3. Highlight your strengths/experience

Do not be shy to highlight any relevant experience/projects you have completed and highlighting your skills – clients need to be convinced that you are qualified to complete their project successfully. Do not go overboard when selling yourself and if you are giving big projects as examples of your work, explain clearly what your exact involvement was.

4. Be concise

Clients usually receive many proposals, so it’s important to be concise and make each word count. Do not labour obvious points and use easy to understand language without too much jargon.

Bigger, more complex projects will probably require more detailed proposals but it’s worth keeping in mind that too much detail from the outset might make the project appear daunting to the client.

5. Ask questions – don’t overpromise

If you are not clear about any of the project requirements, ask questions instead of promising that you can deliver the world. One of the most common causes for problems during projects is poorly defined requirements.

While only the client can provide you with the necessary detail and information, it is up to you to ensure that you have gathered all the information by asking the right questions and filling any gaps in the requirements.

6. Show enthusiasm

Let the client know that you excited about the prospect of working together on this, and possibly future projects.

Clients are much more likely to hire someone who shows interest and enthusiasm about their project and business instead of someone that comes across as wanting to get the project done as quickly as possible and get paid.

7. Review your proposal

Always remember to carefully review your proposal. Proof-read what you have written to ensure that there are no spelling or grammar mistakes but always also review the proposal as if you were the client i.e. by trying to put yourself in the client’s shoes.

It is always a good idea not to review your proposal right after you have written it as it will be difficult to spot; work on something else for a couple of hours if possible and then revisit your proposal.

When reviewing your proposal try to determine if it’s engaging, if the benefits of hiring you are clearly stated and most importantly, if it makes a prospective client confident that you can deliver.

To help new buyers get up to speed (without having to learn everything by doing) and assist in and managing their projects suvvessfully, we have produced a list of useful tips based on the learnings/experiences we have obtained from the thousands of projects posted on PPH.

1. Communication, communication, communication

a. Write a clear, precise project description – writing detailed and comprehensive project descriptions will avoid problems down the line that may arise from ambiguities. If you haven’t provided enough detail when posting your project, make sure to send a more detailed description of your requirements to the provider prior to starting any work.

b. Be clear on project deliverables from the start – agreeing the exact scope of the project from the outset is key. If done correctly, the provider will know exactly what he/she needs to deliver and when. Be upfront asap if you have realised that something has been left out of the scope by mistake – certainly, bringing it up at the end of the project will only cause disputes and delays.

c. Communicate with providers during bidding – make sure to check on the progress of the project at regular intervals. Having frequent communication makes it easy for providers to ask you for any clarifications needed and provide you with updates on the project timelines.

d. Be proactive asking for clarifications – ask questions on anything you are unsure about to ensure that you and the provider are on the same page. Clearing up details early on will prevent misunderstandings and will save you both time and effort.

2. Selecting the right candidate

a. Define your selection criteria in advance – while it is tempting to post a project first and think about selection criteria later, it is better to do things the other way around. Deciding which criteria are important to you in advance (e.g. feedback, price, experience etc) will help you make better/quicker decisions once the bids are in.

b. Shortlist providers based on your criteria – use your initial criteria to create a quick shortlist of the bids you have received, eliminating any bids that do not satisfy the criteria. If the list is too short, perhaps it’s worth re-evaluating some of the criteria and reviewing the bids you have rejected; equally, if the shortlist is too long you will need to do a second round of screening so that you can narrow down the shortlist to a manageable number of proposals that you can examine in detail.

c. Check providers’ feedback & repeat buyers – while it might be tempting to look at the ‘price tag’ of each bid and decide based on that, looking at the providers’ feedback, experience and portfolio will save you money down the line. Repeat clients are a great sign you should look for. Make no mistake, hiring someone that charges half the price but does not have the right skills for the job will only end up costing you more in the end.

d. Interact with your shortlisted providers – once your shortlist is down to a manageable level, get in touch with the shortlisted providers and ask for questions to help with your due-diligence. Ask for concrete examples of previous work they have done and specifically what their personal involvement was. If anything sounds too good to be true (e.g. one provider states they can complete the work in half the time as anyone else) dig into the detail to understand if this is a sales pitch without much thought or if their estimate is based on solid assumptions/facts.

e. Ensure the candidate can commit the time you need – communicate clear milestones for your project in advance and ask specifically whether the provider is confident they can meet these deadlines. Set business terms that ensure accurate and timely delivery – there is hardly any point in receiving half-finished work on time!

f. Ask for an interview – before making the final decision, if appropriate, ask for a remote interview with your chosen provider. This can be done via Phone, Skype or even by online chat (e.g. MSN messenger). There is no point repeating the communication that you have had already – be prepared to ask more detailed questions to assess the provider’s suitability and commitment to the project.

3. Manage projects like a pro

a. Be clear on your milestones – have clear deadlines for delivery from the start, and ensure that you have the provider’s agreement to these milestones in writing. Make sure that milestones are not too far apart – this will minimise the risk of the project timescales not being met.

b. Set business terms to define delivery and payment – setting clear, agreed terms on when everything will be delivered and when payments will be made will avoid discussions and disputes further down the line.

c. Pay securely using Escrow – do not be tempted to pay directly; payments outside the PPH Escrow service are risky and you will have no control over the money once it has been sent. Instead, deposit the necessary funds into the Escrow account and only release them once the work has been completed to the agreed standards.

d. Pay on time – in the same way that you expect your project to be delivered on time, providers will expect to be paid on time. Paying on time sets the right example and incentivises the provider to complete the remaining milestones on time, as agreed.

e. Be upfront and fair – do not make last minute changes or try to add to the project scope, without discussing with the provider first. If you have additional requirements to those agreed, ask the provider for a quote. Never assume that the provider will undertake to complete tasks that have not been agreed; this will only cause delays to your project.

4. More tips

a. Know your requirements – the less you know about what you need, the higher the chance that you will not get what you want. Educate yourself by asking questions, understand the different options available and read up on anything you are not clear about.

b. Build great relationships – building a solid relationship with a provider requires a time investment but when you find a good provider, it is worth every minute of your time. Keeping your end of the deal (like paying on time) is an excellent start to creating a fruitful working relationship. Stick with providers you know can deliver; people are often willing to go the extra mile once you have formed a good working relationship with them.

c. Stay on top of things – do not shy away from proactively managing your projects. Ask for frequent updates and if you are not getting the answers you expect, it is time to start worrying. Never assume that things are going well because you haven’t heard anything to the contrary.

d. Walk first, run later – it’s always best to give smaller pieces of work to providers you have not worked with first, before moving on to big, mission-critical projects. If the first few weeks go well, give more responsibility and more work. Start with work that can be delivered in a few weeks at most, and if that is going well move to bigger projects from there.

Thank you to everyone that has provided us with useful feedback, positive or negative, on the Premium membership scheme that will be launched in September.

We have collected and analysed all the feedback (from the blog and also from your emails) and have used it to identify the main concerns about the scheme and modify the scheme to address them.

Below are the highlights/main points from the feedback and how we have modified the subscription scheme to address them:

  • The bid allocation for the standard and gold membership was too limiting
  • o We have increased the bid allocation for Standard members to 15/month and for Gold to 40/month.
  • o The bid allocation to Gold members has now been doubled to 40 bids/credits.
  • o Also, we have decided to keep the cost of each bid to 1 credit regardless of the project value, which means that essentially everyone will on average be able to bid for double the number of projects with the same credits.
  • It would be more fair to ‘refund’ the bids if the project does not get awarded
  • o We see this point and do agree that it would be fairer to have such a system but unfortunately it would not be possible to ‘refund’ bids because everyone would have to buy bids, then wait until project expiry to before the bids can be refunded.
  • o We decided that it would be more practical to give more free bids (see above) to everyone that will in practice neutralise the effect of some wastage.
  • The number of categories allowed were too restricting
  • o We can see the point that a lot of providers have skills that span two categories so have doubled the free categories for both Standard and Gold members to 2 and 4 respectively.
  • It would be very difficult for new providers to win work
  • o Again, this was one of the major factors behind the big increase of the free bids for the Standard membership.
  • o Also, we are working on a new system to allow providers (new and existing) to ‘import’ feedback from projects they have completed outside PPH. We’re hoping that this will help new providers start with some feedback and win work.

On another positive note, from the buyers asked separately about the scheme, the feedback was almost 100% positive about introducing some type of premium accounts for providers and also to limit the number of free bids to increase quality.

We expect this to improve the percentage of projects awarded, as the common complaints by buyers are that they have often have to go through a large number of bids from providers that do not necessarily have all the skills needed and also that some providers do not respond to the buyers during the bidding stage (and sadly, some don’t even respond after they have won the work!).

It’s worth stressing again that the main drivers behind this is to increase the bid quality and number of projects accepted, as well as provide an avenue for those who wish to benefit from lower commission fees. Without wishing to spark a debate about this (and you’ll have to take our word from it or just ignore this comment!), it’s worth noting that we actually estimate (based on the figures so far) that any financial gains from the bidding will be offset by the reduction in commission, so there will actually won’t be any significant direct financial benefit for PPH – we are however hoping that the increase in the number of projects awarded will benefit both PPH and our provider community.

In summary, the new scheme will be as follows:

 

Standard

GOLD

PLATINUM

Monthly Fee

Free

£7.95

£14.95

Monthly Credit allowance

15

40

80

Additional credits (per bundle of 10)

£5.95

£4.95

£4.95

Service Categories

2

4

Unlimited

Max No. skills listed in profile

10

15

20

Profile listing

Hosted portfolio

2Mb – 5 files

10Mb – 10 files

20Mb – 20 files

Additional service categories

£5.95/mo

£3.95/mo

Free

Service (Commission Fee)

10.00%

8.50%

7.50%

Minimum service (Commission Fee)

£15.00

£10.00

£10.00

       

Project Value

Credits/bid

 

 

Less than £250

1

   

£250 – £500

1

   

> £500

1

   

 Some other amendments to the scheme include:

  • Longer expiry period for purchased bids – this has been increased and instead of expiring at the end of each month, the bids purchased will only expire at the end of the following month e.g. if purchased on 10th of September, the bid credits will expire at the end of October)
  • Free period when upgrading to the premium accounts – the period between the date of upgrade the end of the current month, will be free of charge for those who choose upgrade to Premium accounts e.g. if the upgrade takes place on the 7th of September, the rest of September will be free and the firstly monthly fee paid will be for the month of October.