Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Who cares about new leads? Certainly not Emtel!

I had previously written about Emtel's Airbox package and how they were now able to compete with Orange as a fibre optics provider in Mauritius. I signed up for the service on June 19 and was told multiple times that the installation would be done within 5 days as long as I was eligible for the service.

Emtel should seriously rethink their communication strategy as they have so far not even contacted me to inform me that the situation had changed. It turns out that tons of people are interested in the service and that they can no longer commit to the 5-day deadline due to the number of users signing up for the Airbox. They are now taking up to 30 days for the installation according to an article I found in a newspaper.

I would not have minded if Emtel had at least taken the trouble to inform me of this, but apparently this would take too much time to do. Considering I provided them with both my email and mobile number, it is amazing that they could not:

  1. send an email/newsletter to let people know they cannot hold their promise of installing Airbox within 5 days. This would normally be considered spam as I did not sign up for their newsletter, but I think such a situation can be an exception.
  2. or send an SMS. This is even more surprising since they do offer push notification packages as another service, yet cannot do so when engaging with their own customers.
Apparently, in 2015, a post on Facebook is more than enough for these kinds of messages. Why, Emtel, WHY???

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Emtel has launched its own fiber optics packages

Dubbed Airbox, the service is a direct competitor to Orange's much-advertised fiber packages in Mauritius. From my conversations with someone from Emtel, there are two main differences that I like compared to Orange:

  • It's already available where I live - pending an on-site test obviously but I'm fairly sure this should not be a problem. Compared to Orange which insists that their fibre optics will be available in November only in my area, this is a big deal.
  • All the packages come with unlimited data (fair usage policies of course apply). Not that I'm a heavy Internet user or anything, but it's still a factor.

Beyond that, here's the list of some other key aspects of Emtel's Airbox:
  • There are 3 different packages: 10Mbps, 20Mbps and 30Mbps, all of them with unlimited data. Of course, the key phrase here is "up to 10Mbps" and not just "10Mbps", but it's the same thing with Orange Mauritius anyway.
  • Each package includes a free fixed phone line with a certain amount of free calls to landlines per month. For the 10Mbps package which I'm signing for, I'm getting 60mins/month. Not that I actually make calls using my landline, but it could be handy.
  • An email address with 1GB storage is provided. Of course, nobody is actually going to use that but yay, free stuff!
I am currently waiting for the Emtel team to do the on-site survey and proceed the installation (which apparently takes 3-4 hours). I will post a review of the package after fully testing it.

Here's the video of Emtel's Airbox service:

Monday, June 22, 2015

Getting started on freelance sites - Tips for beginners

(Originally posted on my personal blog)

As a follow up to my previous post The top 3 freelance sites, I am going to describe how to get started on these freelance sites and to make a name for yourself until you can have money rolling in on a regular basis. I have seen many users sign up on freelance sites such as Rent A Coder, never manage to land a project, and quit after a couple of months because they think it's a waste of time. Or they will only have a couple of projects under their belt, even after being a member of that freelance site for almost a year. In either situation, this is simply because that user did not understand how to ensure his bids would be selected and thus could not obtain the one thing that would put him above the 30 other users bidding on the same project: feedback.

The first thing you should do is to choose a good username. This may sound obvious, but you would be surprised at the number of people who seem to forget this extremely simple concept. Would you consider handing a $300 project to a guy who goes around by the name of neroswdak345 or even I Am Legend, especially when it's someone you've never met and probably never will? Well, neither would the guy who created the project. Obviously, most people will just use their own name, but if you do not wish to do so, at least choose a reasonable name that will not have buyers smack their head on their desk in disbelief. Make sure your username comes across as professional and is not based on your favourite Game of Thrones character.

If the website gives you the feature to customize your profile page, it is also recommended that you do so and try to make yours as unique as possible since it's the first thing the buyer will see once they click on your username. Trust me, when someone's just visited 15+ freelancing profiles that look exactly the same, it makes a difference when they see one where the seller has given his layout a unique look. It also shows you are serious about freelancing  and that you are not just bidding on these projects for the sheer enjoyment of "bidding" (I've seen it too).

The next extremely important thing that you need to realize is that you are going to have to charge extremely low when starting out on any such freelance website. You may be the best PHP coder around with 12 years of experience, but unless you have some sort of feedback to show for it, nobody is going to even consider hiring you on the bigger projects where deadlines are of the utmost importance. Unfortunately, it just happens that the only feedback trusted on freelance websites is the feedback given through that freelance website itself.

What you've done during your academic and professional years before hiring up on the website is mostly irrelevant. As such, your first step is to get feedback, and since you have no feedback at first, you are going to have to outbid the competition. In some rare situations, you may be lucky enough to be able to charge reasonable rates (from your point of view), but, in most cases, this is a phase you will go through until you build a reputation within the freelancing community. Once you've firmly established yourself as an excellent seller, you will be able to bid higher.

The way you present your bid also matters. When I was actively freelancing on Rent A Coder, I was simply amazed by the number of people who would just leave a comment such as

hi can do this accept my bid $15

In most cases, these are automatic posts set up by users for projects that fall under specific categories or that contain certain keywords, but I highly suspect that other users actually log in to post such comments, believing that the seller is going to be impressed by such a bid. You should always read the project requirements carefully and leave a comment based on those requirement, highlighting why you would be the perfect choice for this project, mentioning your ability to deliver high quality work quickly, and your eagerness to ensure the buyer is 100% happy with your work.

Of course, it sounds stupid to mention this, but out of 30 bids on a project, half of those will be one-liners written in dodgy English and with absolutely no indication that the seller understood what the project was about. There is a reason why many people simply quit freelance sites after some time or so many accounts go inactive. As you go along, you will without doubt pick up how to make your bids stand out from the competition and what makes it unattractive, depending on the project kind. Keep in mind that buyers do not always automatically look for the lowest bid. Many of them are quite happy to pay more if they feel that the coder is trustworthy and worth the investment and that the project will flow smoothly. Consequently, it is essential that you work on your bid comments, as buyers do spend time reading these, and if these are backed by outstanding feedback from previous buyers, your chances of being picked will substantially increase.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

GoDaddy sucks

(Originally posted on my personal blog)

There, I said it. Much has been said about GoDaddy and its reputation, but more and more people have voiced their frustrations about GoDaddy, and I am now officially one of them. Some will recall that I blogged about 1&1 and its atrocious technical support in January. However, I have recently discovered that GoDaddy is even worse, and in this case, I'm not only referring to the technical support but to everything about GoDaddy. However, rest assured that it does come with the inevitable useless and incompetent technical support that seems to come with most hosting services these days (except GoDaddy's technical support is much worse than 1&1's, which, by itself, is quite a feat).

GoDaddy's problems start no sooner than the home page:

GoDaddy sucks
Too much content, too little space, making the home page a real mess, and don't even get me started about the advertising.

Actually, screw that - I am going to rant about GoDaddy's annoying advertising schemes.

GoDaddy shoves advertising down your throat at every opportunity, and never ceases to tout all its special offers and shamelessly spends all its time and poorly-designed pages convincing you to buy packages and options you will absolutely never need. I went through the domain purchase process (not that I actually needed to buy one, but just to verify how bad it was), and the amount of times GoDaddy tried to get me to buy tons of useless features is truly flabbergasting.

GoDaddy sucksHoly crap, I sure need all these packages, domains, and features! For some reason, GoDaddy would not let me do a domain search for f***godaddy.com or even godaddysucks.com and ihategodaddy.com. What the hell just happened to my freedom of free speech? Thankfully, I was able to make awesome domain searches such as thiswebsitesucks.com and aborttheinternet.com. Due to my inability to make any domain search with "godaddy" in it, I reckon it would be pointless to use it should I ever want to register letmegodaddy.com or dontgodaddy.com although the latter have absolutely nothing to do with GoDaddy.

This down-your-throat advertising is made even worse by the fact that it NEVER STOPS. Indeed, some advertising at the stage of the domain search would come across as normal. Most hosting providers do it albeit not as obtrusively as GoDaddy. However, GoDaddy goes way further by relentlessly throwing its "special offers" at every step of the registration process.

GoDaddy sucks

Wow! SFAMILY.ME is available? It has absolutely nothing to do with my purchase of aborttheinternet.com, but I might as well forget the recession and buy a domain name that bears no relevancy to my original purchase. Think that's enough?

At the checkout option, GoDaddy automatically selects the 2 year registration length instead of the more logical 1 year option. This is of course accompanied by several Economy, Deluxe, and Unlimited package offers, which basically equal throwing your hard-earned money down the gutter.

GoDaddy sucks
Thankfully, the shopping process is something one completes fairly quickly unless you like buying domain names and hosting space by the dozen. Unfortunately, this is where the real problem starts. GoDaddy's control panel is an ill-conceived piece of trash whose sole purpose is to annoy users.. However, this deserves its own post, so stay tuned for this post for my foul-mouthed rant on GoDaddy's atrocious control panel.

Bottom line? I even forgot what the bottom line is.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The top 3 freelance sites

(Moved from my personal blog.)

Freelancing is becoming more and more popular and it's important to know which websites are actually worth investing time in as many of those websites fail to protect the seller and often results in work being unpaid. This is only one side of the coin though, as other websites cannot also protect the buyers with the latter paying for work that does not correspond to their initial requirements. As such, when stepping into the freelance market, it is important to identify which websites provide all those safety aspects for both sellers and buyers while having a big enough userbase with a variety of projects since it would serve little purpose to join a website where only a handful of projects are posted each week, and none of those are in your field of expertise. As such, this posts focuses exclusively on those websites that are secure while providing enough projects.

Rent A Coder

With Rent A Coder being one of the first freelance sites around and essentially starting and defining the market, this is without doubt the place where you should start. In addition to having an enormous database of both buyers and sellers, Rent A Coder boasts a multitude of features that make this freelance website one of the best places to sign up. Its escrow system protects both the buyers' and sellers' interests, and its internal communication features, which include weekly reports for projects exceeding a certain bid amount, and feedback system guarantee projects run smoothly. Rent A Coder is definitely the best freelance website, and numerous projects get posted on a daily basis, ranging from beginner projects with bids averaging $10-$100 to more complex projects requiring bids around $5,000. Due to the high number of users on Rent A Coder, newcomers may have to place extremely low bids to win projects and first build a reputation, but once you've made a name of yourself, Rent A Coder is the place to be.

Rent A CoderoDesk

oDesk is another famous freelance marketing website and was founded in 2004. Since then, it has been acclaimed for providing a formidable place where buyers and sellers can quickly get projects started. oDesk however essentially caters for more complex projects, with bids averaging $3,000 to $5,000, so it may not be the place to start for a newcomer. It is nevertheless a great place to sign up for small businesses. oDesk has however received some criticism for its intrusive system.

oDeskFreelancer.com

Freelancer.com, formerly known as GetAFreelancer, is another website that has been around quite some time, but it initially failed to be successful due to a low userbase and its inability to protect sellers against fraudsters and the high number of cancelled projects. However, with the boom triggered in the freelance marketing, it has grown in recent year and Freelancer.com now definitely ranks among the best freelance websites. Although inferior in size and reputation to Rent A Coder and oDesk, it is easier to get started on Freelancer.com. The site however has a higher ratio of scammers, so it is essential that you pay close attention to their feedback and history before embarking on a project.

Freelancer.com
As mentioned earlier, these are just the best three websites. There are several other great freelance websites such as Elance, Guru, and Scriptlance, which are also worth checking out if you are not satisfied with the three mentioned above.