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Archive for April 2011

Apr/11

29

Should You Work for Free?

It’s every freelancer’s dilemma: clients are all looking for experience, but none are willing to give you any. That’s what drives most newbies to work for peanuts, or even offer their services for free. But how far will this move take you?

On the one hand, working pro bono for the right clients will help you get your foot in the door and gather portfolio material—more than enough to get you your first paying project. On the other, you may come across clients who take the “free” in freelancing a bit too literally, and use your work for profit.

Exposure = Money?

These clients claim you get paid in exposure. Their site gets X million hits a day and could be the doorway to fame and greatness. But if they’re as established as they say they are, why can’t they pay for your work? Chances are they’re just starting out and don’t have the budget for professional design or content writing, so they’re trying to get it done for free. Not all clients are necessarily that way, but it does pay to be more discerning.

Working for free can be a good idea if it’s a one-off gig. Unless you live in a country where exposure can be traded for milk and eggs, you can only work free for so long. You don’t want to get sucked into a long-term contract where you don’t even get free coffee.

Go for the non-profits

The U.S. Department of Labor allows employers to accept free work only if the provider gets most of the benefit. Basically, they can’t make any money off your work, which limits your options to non-profit organizations. If a company is found to have made money out of work you did for free, they will be forced to declare you an employee and pay you accordingly.

Working for non-profits is also better for your resume. Volunteer work tells potential employers on GetACoder that you’re passionate enough about your job to do it for free, and that you care not just for the payment but also for improving your craft.

Don’t drag yourself down

There’s one other potential drawback to working for free: making yourself look cheap. Someone once told me that the day I agree to work for less is the day I accept that I’m not a good writer. How much you charge for your work directly reflects how much you value your own abilities. Dragging your rates down for the sake of one project is hardly ever practical. You may get that contract, but when other employers see that you can be had for cheap, why would they bother to offer more.

Bottom line: work for what you believe is a fair amount for your talent. The occasional good deed is fine from time to time, but remember, you need to earn your living and your reputation too.

June Ruivivar lives in Montreal, Canada, where she works as a freelance writer and editor. She volunteers as an English teacher and speaks French, Spanish, and Italian. Besides writing, she is also interested in physics, astronomy, economics, and photography. She also writes stories for EdemiaWorld.com, a web comic. June is one of several freelance writers on the GetACoder Blog team.

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Apr/11

28

Avoid Getting Scammed by your Employee

Many companies have joined the world of outsourcing due to the great demand of work that needs to get done. There are thousands of people online searching for freelancing work and many times they work faster and more efficient than permanent employees. Sometimes companies may need to hire people that are in a different state, country or region and it can be hard to choose the right employee without a person to person interview. Although this process may be hard, it is not impossible; you just need to know what to look for.

There are scammers everywhere you turn, but the majority of them are online so you need to be extra careful by paying attention to detail. There are certain things to look for when choosing someone to work for your company, the first is previous employer feedback and ratings. GetACoder is the best site for companies who want outsource work, the site has an option where employers can leave comments about previous employees, be sure to read this before committing to a freelancer. If the comments are mostly negative and include words such as, inefficient, undependable, and sloppy, these are obvious red signs!

You may not be able to conduct a face -to-face interview with your short listed candidates, but you can always do one online. Be sure to ask questions about their previous work history and experience. If the job requires knowledge about specific terms such as SEO and html ask the potential employees to explain their knowledge of these terms. If they have no idea what these mean, then they have misled you by applying to a position without the required skills outlined in the job -post.

Employers usually want to see examples of previous work in order to assess the candidate’s abilities. If someone states that they have been working as a freelancer for a long period and cannot show anything to prove this, then chances are, they are pulling a quick one on you. If the applicant is new, you can test their skill by asking him or her to write a paid sample, if the work shows absolutely no experience in the required position, this is not the right person for the position. If someone applies for a position they know they are unqualified for, he or she is a scammer. Once you are able to weed out the bad ones, you can find the perfect freelancer for your company.

Alicea James has been a part time freelancer for three years in which time she has written on a wide variety of topics including, yoga, weight loss, the environment, freelancing and outsourcing. She is  4 year honor student at Northern Caribbean University, where she is completing a Bachelors Degree in Communication Studies with an emphasis in radio.  She enjoys writing poetry, playing badminton and traveling. Alicea is one of several freelance writers on the GetACoder Blog team.

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Apr/11

27

Simple Ways to Retain Your Best Freelancers

There is nothing worse than finding and working with the best freelancers on GetACoder, only to have them drop you as a client.  Freelancer turnover has its costs, just like regular employee turnover does.  It means that you have to spend additional time finding new freelancers, training them, and even then you may not get the results that you want.  Fortunately, there are a few simple steps that you can take to make sure that you keep the best freelancers working on your projects.

Stay in Touch

The most important thing that you can do to retain your best freelancers is communicate with them after the project is over.  If want them to do more work for you in the future, make sure to let them know.  This is especially important if you are not going to have another project available in the near future.  Freelancers want to build a list of repeat clients; just let them know that you want to be on their list.

Create a Financial Incentive

Freelancers may love their work, but in the end most of them do it for the money.  If you want to keep your best freelancers, then giving them a financial incentive is always a safe strategy.  Offer them a bonus to complete another project.  If you plan on using them a lot, then give them a bonus every 3 or 4 projects that they complete.  When you give them the bonus, make sure to tell them that it is for repeatedly delivering high quality work.  This not only shows them that you appreciate their work, but also elevates their perception of you over other clients that may want their services at the same time that you do.

Provide Enough Work

If you want to keep the best freelancers that you find on GetACoder, then make sure to give them enough work.  A majority of freelancers keep multiple projects going simultaneously which means that every time that they accept another assignment from you, it gets placed somewhere on their schedule.  If you are sending them projects infrequently, then at best they will pencil you in – at worst they will let you know that they don’t have time.  Whenever you cannot provide them with consistent work, make sure that you contact them a week or two before you need another project started.  This will give them time to fit you into their schedule.

Create a Positive Work Environment

In the end, it doesn’t matter how much you are willing to pay them, if they don’t like working for you, then they won’t. Your best freelancers don’t want to feel like machine that is being used and abused.  Let them know that you appreciate their work and keep the lines of communication open.  The happier they are, the more likely they will want to stay.

There are a lot of reasons that you could lose your best freelancers, but by following these four tips, it will rarely happen.  The most common reasons that freelancers drop clients is either: financial, emotional, time restraints, lack of work.  By following these 4 tips, you can eliminate them all.

John Henderson has been a freelance writer for more than 3 years.  He specializes in creating content that is designed to provide various search optimization engine benefits while also engaging website visitors and boosting conversion rates.  He is continually expanding his portfolio with a variety of additional SEO services, while also cultivating an ever-growing stable of his own websites and blogs. John is one of several freelance writers on the GetACoder Blog team.

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Apr/11

26

Ergonomics

As a freelancer, you probably spend a lot of time in front of the computer doing jobs you found on GetACoder. You make your living on the computer, just as roofers make their living on top of buildings. While you don’t have the risk of falling from great heights as roofers do, you can be injured while using your computer – maybe to the point that it is difficult to continue earning your living by typing and moving a mouse.

Stress, strain and pain – how your workspace can harm you

Don’t dismiss the dangers of sitting in front of a computer for long periods of time. Pain from a poorly set up computer workstation can range from mildly annoying to severe. Chronic computer users are often fall prey to:

  • Musculoskeletal Injuries: These injuries cause pain and inflammation to joints, nerves, tendons and muscles due to repetitive movements and workstation setups that cause undue stress or strain on the body. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Tennis Elbow, Back Pain, Muscle Strain and Tendinitis. Severe enough cases can require surgery.
  • Eye and Vision problems: Eye strain can cause headaches, double vision and lessen your ability to see well.

Tips for creating a healthy work environment:

Think in parallels and right angles:

  • The top of your computer screen should be parallel to the top of your eyes.
  • Sit upright so that your torso is 90 to 110 degrees from your legs – slouching can cause back, shoulder and neck pain.
  • Your feet should be flat on the ground, your knees bending at a right angle.
  • Your keyboard should be close enough and your chair positioned so that your elbows form a 90 degree angle.
  • Your wrists should be parallel to your workspace – this means they should not be resting directly on your desk/table.
  • Light sources should come from the side – light from the front of you causes you to strain to see the screen; light from the back causes glare.

Relax!

  • Don’t tense your shoulders and neck. This often causes aches at the end of a long day in front of the computer.
  • Lightly press the keys – banging strains the muscles in your hands.
  • Lightly grip the mouse – a light touch is all you need.
  • Take breaks to recharge your mind and reduce stress.

Disengage from the computer

  • Find parts of tasks you can do away from the computer. Sit somewhere else with paper and a pencil tobrainstorm ideas or to outline a schedule for your project.
  • Don’t use your computer as a dinner companion. Make it a habit to use meals as breaks from staring at the computer screen. You will be less likely to overeat, more likely to eat something healthy, and will better enjoy what you are eating.
  • Also consider drinking your coffee, tea or glass of water away from your computer. Not only will you protect your hardware from spilled liquid, you will have an excuse to move around and rest your eyes.
  • Even if you don’t have an excuse, stand up, move around and stretch when your body starts to feel uncomfortable and/or sore.

While sitting at a computer all day may seem harmless, it can actually lead to problems as debilitating to your work as falling off a roof. Look at where you work and how you position your body – are you putting yourself in the way of harm? It is easy to avoid such conditions as eye strain and tendinitis if you create a healthy workspace.

Jessica Underhill works part time as a non-profit administrator, and part time as a freelance writer. She enjoys freelancing because it gives her an opportunity to indulge in her love of writing. Her expertise is in international non-profit administration and community development with a B.A. degree from the University of Wisconsin and an M.A. from City University, London, but she is interested in, and knowledgeable about, numerous subjects. Jessica is one of several freelance writers on the GetACoder Blog team.

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Apr/11

25

The Ultimate Vocation: A Freelancer’s Perspective

Another day breaks and soon, the house is awake with the sound of a keyboard clicking. I am a freelancer and after boiling the kettle and making some coffee to remove the last remaining cobwebs, I devour my breakfast and review my email. Those who think freelancing is easy should try it on for size. If you don’t have the right mentality and work ethic, it can consume you quickly. Clients can be demanding, insulting and downright rude. There is nothing worse than spending an entire day on a project only to discover that your client has changed the rules.

The Great Rip Off

Even worse than this is the feeling of being ripped off or scammed as it has become known. I experienced this when $1,000 worth of work was performed during the week from hell and not one cent was recouped. It was an error of judgment caused by the stress of moving country. That week involved waking up at 3am to work on this project after approximately 2 hours sleep. A friend was drafted in and $320 was paid for her services from my own pocket. No sense in having two victims.

Yes, the world of freelancing can be cruel and difficult. The above example should serve as a warning. When on GetACoder, always be wary and report any suspicious activity to their staff. 99% of employers are legitimate but that 1% can really sting you.

Cry Freedom

So why am I a freelancer if it is so hard? This is an easy question to answer. It is the unadulterated freedom you have. Yes, you still work for clients and need to remain professional but the option is always there to tell someone to get lost. In a normal job, if you do that, say adios and start looking for new employment. With freelancing, not only can you fire a boss, (which is always fun) you can pick up several new ones in a day if you are skilled enough.

If I could offer some advice to my fellow freelancers it would be this:

  • Always try and end every contract amicably because that employer may want you back
  • Plan each day’s work out the night before and the whole week if possible
  • ŸYou may get a handful of well-paid jobs. Supplement this with lower paid gigs that offer consistent work
  • If you get overwhelmed, take a break. It is better to produce late quality than early garbage. If you give an employer enough notice, most of them will understand and not penalize you for it

Oddly enough, my rates have increased during the recession. I take freelancing seriously and want it to be a career. This is why I put 100% into every job regardless of how much it pays. A good reputation pays its own way eventually. After several years of bar and night security work, I value what freelancing gives me. How many other jobs allow you to call time at 2pm on a Thursday, go to the balcony in the glorious sunshine and sip a fine glass of Chablis if the mood takes you?

An excellent writer, proficient in a variety of topics, Patrick Lynch has four years creative writing experience, which began in the National University of Ireland, Galway where he received a grade in the top 1% of his writing seminar.He is an editor for the University journal, ROPES, and is also a content writer for venusdatingmagazine.com, thirdage.com and kenetixcreativecontent.com. His fluent writing style has received high praise from several quarters. This, coupled with his attention to detail and propensity to complete a project well within any deadlines set, ensures that whomever hires him will be an extremely satisfied customer. Patrick is one of several freelance writers on the GetACoder Blog team.

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Apr/11

22

Health Insurance for Freelancers

Two things can make you think twice about quitting the rat race and going freelance. The first is job security: as a freelancer, you’ll be alternating between lean and busy days on a regular basis. The second is insurance—the fact that you won’t have the bosses to pay for every X-ray and extracted tooth. That’s what keeps most people from leaving their nine-to-five jobs for their first GetACoder contract.

Can you go freelance and ditch the coverage? Statistics show that it’s not a good idea. Not being tethered to cubicle means that freelancers get around more than the average office employee—and are thus more likely to pick up viruses or get into accidents. Unless you don’t mind owing $50,000 in medical bills, a good health plan should be on top of your priorities if you’re just getting started. Here are some of your options.

COBRA: In the U.S., the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 allows you to keep your insurance benefits for at least a year and a half after leaving your company. You may have to pay a larger premium, but it’s much easier—and often cheaper—than taking out a new insurance plan altogether.

Independent agents: Start getting quotes from independent agents—they don’t charge as much as mainstream brokers and are usually more familiar with freelancers’ needs. Search within your area so you can talk to a real person and get your questions answered face to face.

Group insurance: Insurance costs a lot less if purchased in bulk, since the risk is spread out to a larger group. Try to join a writer’s guild or a freelancer’s union in your area. Some of the most well-known are the National Writers Union and the National Association for the Self-Employed in the U.S., and The Writers Union of Canada if you’re north of the border.

If you end up with a health plan that’s slightly more expensive than average, an option worth looking at is a Health Savings Account (HSA). It’s not a health insurance plan per se—it’s just a place to set aside money for out-of-pocket medical expenses when you already have a high-deductible health plan. The money you place in your HSA can be written off your taxes, so it makes up for the high deductible while giving you a good buffer for emergencies.

June Ruivivar lives in Montreal, Canada, where she works as a freelance writer and editor. She volunteers as an English teacher and speaks French, Spanish, and Italian. Besides writing, she is also interested in physics, astronomy, economics, and photography. She also writes stories for EdemiaWorld.com, a web comic. June is one of several freelance writers on the GetACoder Blog team.

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Apr/11

21

It Really is a Small World

One of the most popular rides in Disneyland in the mid 1960’s was It’s a Small World. It opened officially there in 1966 after being transferred from the 1964 World’s Fair held in New York City. This wonderful ride, which is hardly as high tech as newer ones, has been an important addition in all of the Disney parks worldwide since. If you have had the pleasure of taking this adventure you probably could not help but smile and feel a little bit attacked by warm fuzzies. The main theme, unity and peace around the world, is displayed with over 300 dolls, representing everywhere on the planet, dancing and singing It’s a Small World After All. Actually, for its time it was pretty high tech, and it certainly is a delightful treat for both children and adults.

Around this same time period, a social psychologist named Stanley Milgram went to work conducting studies to enhance previous research concerning “six degrees of separation” and the idea of “small world” phenomenon. This of course was way before the internet, social networking and outsourcing, at least in their present forms. From these concepts, movies and games even manifested, and although some “experts” dispute the findings, most of us have experienced this phenomenon many times in our lives.

When we landed in cyberspace, the steps or degrees between all of us just might have decreased.  Now we can meet people from all over the world through Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, and yes, it’s true, with outsourcing.  Not only will you meet new people, but you will most likely be amazed at how often your paths cross. You can be teamed up with someone for different assignments or hired by a buyer through GetACoder, who lives thousands of miles away, and the next thing you know you will be wishing them Happy Birthday or asking them about their family. You will also notice names appearing over and over in spots where you hang out, or should we say “lance out.”

Many studies have shown that the social interaction requirement we have as human beings can definitely be filled by online sources. The quantity of acquaintances discovered online possibly does more to stimulate, not hinder friendship.  It is not unusual for people to open up and draw new friends in when they are not meeting face to face. And, the whole global community of freelancers can also inspire individuals to meet in person locally based on a common reality. The world of outsourcing and freelancing not only provides a great place to exchange fair money for work that is assigned; it also offers a social arena that is large and expanding.  Who needs an office water cooler anymore?

Even though Toddy Dieckman just recently started writing as a freelancer, she has been a writer and entrepreneur for over 35 years. Along with that she raised and home-schooled 5 kids. Now she enjoys some business consulting, running an e-commerce site, blogging and submitting articles along with taking on writing assignments that fit her experience. Toddy is one of several freelance writers on the GetACoder Blog team.

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Apr/11

20

What can a Project Manager do for You?

There is a growing trend among buyers in the GetACoder community to utilize online project managers or virtual assistants.  Outsourcing is not something that everyone can effectively manage, so why not turn the responsibility over to someone who can.  If you know what you’re doing, outsourcing is fairly straightforward task, however if you don’t know what you’re doing, it can be a huge drain on your time and money.  If you haven’t considered finding a project manager on GetACoder, here are a few things to consider.

Streamline Hiring Process

One of the biggest benefits to hiring an experienced virtual project manager is that you get immediate access to all of their experience.  People pay thousands of dollars for seminars that teach them how to manage a remote team of freelancers.  By leveraging the experience that a quality virtual project manager can offer, you can use their skills to streamline your hiring process because they can do it all for you.  Plus, because they have experience using networks, they know how to find the best freelancers at the best rates.

Create a Central Hub

If you were to manage all of your freelancers, you would probably try to centralize all of your communication, allocated finances, and projects (both planned and completed).  The problem is that you have to communicate with all of your freelancers separately.  With a project manager or virtual assistant, they can be your central hub.  You can tell them everything that needs to be done and it is their job to relay that information to all of your freelancers.  They provide you with a single focal point for everything related to your outsourcing.

Manage the Daily Grind

The final benefit of using a virtual project manager on GetACoder is that they can take care of all of the daily tasks.  While none of these tasks are necessarily difficult, they can be time consuming.  The whole point of outsourcing is save time and money.  By allowing a project manager to manage your virtual team, you eliminate all of the detail oriented work that you would normally do.  This includes things like creating position posting, making payments, making sure the projects are on time, communicating with freelancers, etc.  Just like you delegate in the office, you can delegate online.

Using a project manager to oversee your virtual staff of freelancers, you can end up saving a lot of time and money while also increasing your teams’ productivity.  They can make sure that the job postings are accurate and attract the right people.  They will act as your central hub of information and of course they will take care of the daily tasks that you don’t have time for.  Just like a manager in the office, your online project manager is there to delegate projects, meet your goals, and remain within your budget.

John Henderson has been a freelance writer for more than 3 years.  He specializes in creating content that is designed to provide various search optimization engine benefits while also engaging website visitors and boosting conversion rates.  He is continually expanding his portfolio with a variety of additional SEO services, while also cultivating an ever-growing stable of his own websites and blogs. John is one of several freelance writers on the GetACoder Blog team.

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Apr/11

19

The Best Ways to Receive your Income

Companies generally outsource jobs to freelancers from many different countries. It usually depends on the type of freelancing job you are involved in, but for the most part all you need is internet access.  This is important because it is the main way in which freelancers and employers can connect and clear up issues regarding assignments and of course related to payment. Many sites have different options so freelancers can choose the most convenient payment method. GetACoder allows their freelancers payment with options such as Wire Transfer, MoneyBookers, PayPal, Pecunix or the GetACoder Debit Card.

As a freelancer you can choose whichever is more convenient depending on your location. PayPal is available in many countries; customers must sign up for a PayPal account and receive payment through this service. The next option is MoneyBookers and this online service allows users to receive payment via wire transfers, Visa credit card or Check. Pecunix is an unusual payment option that freelancers may be unfamiliar with because it is a currency that is primarily based on gold. This option is supported in all countries and offers withdrawal methods such as Money Order, Check, Debit cards, Wire transfers and Western Union.

Wire transfers are another viable option that is quite popular among freelancers simply because it is supported in all countries. With this payment method the funds are directly transferred to your bank account. The GetACoder debit card is provided through the website to make it easy on freelancers who may have difficulties with the other options. It is extremely convenient because the card can be used at ATMs anywhere in the world, or used to purchase items online or in stores.  It is best to get adequate information on all the available options in order to know which one will work best for you. There are different timelines for each option and you must also understand the user fees that are involved with each.

There will of course be advantages and disadvantages for each payment method. Some of these options may require you wait a while before the funds are delivered to your account, others may take a few days or a few hours. If you are unsure what to do, ask other users on the site about their chosen payment method and have them explain their experiences with them. However, keep in mind that your location may restrict you from certain options.

Alicea James has been a part time freelancer for three years in which time she has written on a wide variety of topics including, yoga, weight loss, the environment, freelancing and outsourcing. She is  4 year honor student at Northern Caribbean University, where she is completing a Bachelors Degree in Communication Studies with an emphasis in radio.  She enjoys writing poetry, playing badminton and traveling. Alicea is one of several freelance writers on the GetACoder Blog team.

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Apr/11

18

Beyond the star rating

It is a well known fact that sellers with many stars on their profile have a better chance of scoring the best jobs. Accordingly, buyers with many stars can attract the best sellers. But for many GetACoder users, feedback is more than just a series of stars. Truly conscientious buyers and sellers want to know more. That is where descriptive feedback is useful – a few descriptive sentences about the buyer or seller’s performance lets people know why they received the amount of stars that they did, and why they should be sought out – or avoided.

Why bother with descriptive feedback?

Descriptive feedback can achieve many aims, a few of which are:

  1. Communication to future buyers: If your seller is really worth the money, let other buyers know!
  2. Communication to future sellers: By giving specific feedback, you are showing future sellers that you value your employees, and that you are fair. If you have given a low ratings in the past, other sellers will be able to see how it was justified.
  3. A reward for good work: If your seller delivered on their promise to you, reward them with something more than just payment – make sure they can get their choice of jobs in the future.
  4. Constructive criticism: Is there something your seller can improve on? You can use feedback to let them know.

How do you write descriptive feedback?

Now you know why feedback is important. But to meet some or all of the above aims, what should you say? You can start by evaluating some of the following:

Communication: Did they let you know if they encountered any problems? Did they ask questions about any issues/uncertainties?

Responsiveness: Could you contact them when needed? How quickly did they respond to any communications from you? Were they online when they said they would be? Was there a reason for their tardiness in responding?

Timeliness: Did they deliver on time? Was there a reason they could not make the deadline?

Follows Direction:  Did your seller do as he/she was asked? Did you need to ask for a revision because they didn’t follow your instructions?

Quality of Work: Was the finished product satisfactory? Did it meet your standards?

Skills: Did they accurately describe their skills in their profile? If your project contained multiple parts, did they excel at one over another? What types of projects would you recommend them for?

Take an example. Which would you rather see, both as a potential buyer or as a seller:

9 stars:

Did a great job, thanks.

Or

This seller delivered high quality work on the agreed upon time schedule. I did have some trouble reaching him at times, but overall his work was excellent. I highly recommend him for graphic design projects.

1 Star:

Horrible. Don’t hire this seller.

Or

The seller first sent me a copyrighted image. I let him know that it was unacceptable and gave him a chance to send me something original. A week later he sent me an image obviously done by a novice Adobe Illustrator user. He is not proficient in Adobe Illustrator as he stated in his profile, and he is overall untrustworthy.

Use the above guide to formulate descriptive feedback: giving quality feedback is a benefit to everyone, including you!

Jessica Underhill works part time as a non-profit administrator, and part time as a freelance writer. She enjoys freelancing because it gives her an opportunity to indulge in her love of writing. Her expertise is in international non-profit administration and community development with a B.A. degree from the University of Wisconsin and an M.A. from City University, London, but she is interested in, and knowledgeable about, numerous subjects. Jessica is one of several freelance writers on the GetACoder Blog team.

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