Signing Up & Making Money Online With oDesk Jobs
Your Guide to Starting Your Freelancing Journey on oDesk
If you’re reading this, you’re at least considering trying your hand at freelancing. Whether it be after many years of schooling, the result of on-the-job training in the past, or merely a knack for something, freelancing can be both a challenge and an absolute blast
Being a freelance writer, I’ll concentrate on that end of it as we go along and teach you how to get signed up with and utilize oDesk to further your career or just make some extra cash online.
To prove that this is solid advice, I have zero college, hated school altogether, and have no formal training whatsoever. I’ve just had a knack for writing most of my life. What I lacked, however, was the courage to put myself out there; to take a chance and face rejection in order to fulfill my dream – writing for a living.
I gained that courage in late December of 2011. In early January of 2012, I applied for my first oDesk job…and I got it. As of early August, 2012, I’ve now made a healthy $2,834.22 (USD). I did so spread out over 27 contracts for hire.
While I can’t promise that oDesk jobs will lead to you “making a living online,” I can promise you that it’s not near as hard as you might think. Remember – I have zero formal training! If you do have formal training, you may well command much more money and have your qualifications backing you up!
Getting Started With oDesk Jobs
While there are multiple web sites out there on the World Wide Web for freelancers, we’re going to concentrate on oDesk.
As you may well have guessed, oDesk’s web site is located at oDesk.com.
If you’re on your computer or other Internet-connected device, open a browser window or tab now and follow along if you’d like.
If you’re in the right place, it should look like this:
If we zoom in, we can see that there are two places you can click to proceed:
Click on either Sign Up or Want a job? Sign up! Both will take you to the same place.
You’ll then see this:
You’ll now be given the choice to sign up as someone looking to hire freelancers or to become one. For the sake of this guide, we’re going to choose the one for becoming a freelancer. Click on I need a job
You’ll then be taken to a page where it gives you two more choices:
A button: or Sign Up Using Your Email, with a form below it. For the sake of this guide, we’re going to choose the option that uses email.
All of the fields marked with a * are mandatory in order to proceed.
Mandatory Information: First name, Last name, Email, City, Country, Username, Password, Re-type Password, and Enter the code shown. Fill out all of those fields with your information, and then type the letters and/or numbers that are show in the box below the form, into that field.
Optional Information: How did you hear about oDesk? If you would like to fill out this portion as well, there is a drop-down list of choices. The choices are things such as Search Engine Ad, Search Engine Results, Friend, Blog or Forum, and so on. Choose the one that most closely fits your case. If none of the choices fit, choose Other.
Then click on the button:
You’ll then be taken to a page that says, Please verify your email. oDesk sends a message to the email address that you put into the Email field earlier.
Go to your email and you should see one that shows oDesk Notification as the sender, and Please verify your email address as the subject. Open the email. If you don’t see it, be sure and check your spam folder.
Once you’ve opened the email, you’ll get a “thank you” message from oDesk and a link to click (or copy and paste into your browser) that will verify that you’re coming from the email address that you entered earlier. Click on or copy and paste the link provided.
You’ll then be automatically logged in to oDesk. Congratulations! You’re in!
Click on this button:
Creating Your oDesk Profile
Your profile is extremely important! It will be your first impression to the entire world. Treat it as such.
After you’ve clicked on the button shown above, you’ll be taken to a page where you will choose or fill in the following things:
Display name as: Here is where you’ll choose to either show your name full first and last name (John Doe), or your first name and last initial (John D.)
Portrait: This is where you have the choice of uploading a small photo of yourself or some sort of graphic or icon. My personal advice is to upload a photograph and make it feature (at least your) face. You don’t want a full-body shot here as it will be entirely too small. This isn’t a place for family dog photos either. If you don’t have a photo that suits you yet, this option can be come back to later.
From here, again, all fields marked with a * mandatory.
Title: In this field, what you’ll want to put is what you’re on oDesk to be hired for. For example, you might put, “Freelance Writer” or “SEO Guru” or “IT Consultant” – whatever your skill set is. This field likely has a character limit, so try and sum it up in a few words.
Objective: This field is where you can elaborate on your skill set. As the name implies, you’ll also want to state what you hope to accomplish through oDesk or have to offer to clients looking to hire you. Treat this very seriously. It’s yet another very early impression of you. Make sure spelling, grammar, and punctuation are correct! If you’re a freelance writer, this is especially critical. Even if you’re forte isn’t writing, take the time to make sure and get everything down correctly. If you’re not all that great at it, write what you want to write there, and then have a friend or family member check your work.
Hourly Rate: This is another very important one. If you’re like I was and have little to no experience or examples, don’t go putting $20.00 for an hourly rate. Put something reasonable, such as minimum wage where you live, or something maybe a tad more. On the other hand, however, if your qualifications would make a client’s jaw drop, you stick to your guns and put your going rate! Use your best judgment here.
English Level: This is yet another extremely important field. Be honest! Not all oDesk job listings require impeccable English. This field contains a drop-down list that ranges from 5 (Fluent in both written and verbal skills) to 1 (Basic written skills, no verbal skills). Choose the one that most closely fits your level of English writing and verbal fluency. It is possible to be turned in by prospective clients for false information or exaggerated skill sets.
Job categories of interest: This is where you’ll choose up to 10 categories that match your skill set. As oDesk says here, “Choosing carefully helps clients find you in the marketplace.” The marketplace refers to the area that the clients, the ones doing the hiring, see you and a link to your profile. Some clients will invite you for interviews, while the majority will post a job listing and leave it up to you to find and apply for it. More on this in a bit.
There are 9 main categories: Web development, Software Development, Networking & Information Systems, Writing & Translation, Administrative Support, Design & Multimedia, Customer Service, Sales & Marketing, and Business Services.
Each of these main categories has multiple sub-categories. You have 10 choices that you can make. Choose wisely. If you happen to be amazing at more than 10 of them, well, click on the ones you’re most skilled at and/or most enjoy doing.
Click on the button:
Profile Visibility: This field has 3 choices and is where you’ll decide how visible you want your profile to be. The 3 choices are:
- Everyone – Anyone can see your profile whether or not they are logged into oDesk.
- oDesk Users only – Only oDesk users who are logged in to oDesk can see your profile.
- Hidden – Clients can see your profile only if you have applied to their job.
Choose the option which best fits your desired level of privacy. This field isn’t mandatory, but the choice of Everyone is pre-selected by default.
All of the fields in this section are mandatory.
They are Address, City, Country, State, Postal Code/Zip, and Phone. Simply fill in your information in the appropriate fields.
Click on this button:
You’ll then see this:
1 Complete your oDesk Jobs profile
Right about now, you’re probably thinking, “But I just finished my profile!” If you click on the blue text coming in at number 1, you’ll see that you’ve only just begun. Don’t despair. You don’t have to do all of this in one day if you don’t want to, but the sooner the better, right?
You’ll see links to change or add anything that you’ve already passed, as well as links for the following:
My Account Summary:
If you haven’t skipped over anything we’ve covered up to this point in the guide, then you’ve already done everything in the My Account Summary section…except see the level of completeness of your profile as a whole. Note: You’ll see both Hourly Pay Rate and Hourly Bill Rate, both with “change” written beside them. Clicking on either of those will simply change the Hourly Pay Rate. The Hourly Bill Rate is what the person hiring you will pay after oDesk’s fee is added to your rate. You have no control over this fee, so I’m not real sure why they have it there.
You’ll also notice the Job Application Quota listed in this section. If you haven’t taken the oDesk Readiness Test, this will likely say 2. If you have, it should say 20.
My Public Profile:
If you need to change or add anything here, click on the little yellow Edit button () at the upper left of that section’s box.
Here is where you can change or add the main category or subcategories you saw earlier. To do so, simply click on the Add or Edit button () at the upper left of that section’s box.
Click on the Add button () in the upper left of the Skills section’s box.
You’ll then see this:
Here is where you will have to think a bit. In order to fill in this area, you have to start typing in specific skills. For example, if your forte is writing ebooks, you’d start typing in “ebook” (without the quotation marks) and you’d see a list of possible choices come up as you type. In the example, ebooks and ebook-writing come up, among other things. Choose the most relevant one.
If you’d like to add more than one skill, which you should take the time to do, click on the Save and Add More button () and repeat the above process. Once you’ve finished adding all of the skills you wish to add, simply click on the Save button (). The box will close and return you to the page.
If something you start to type in doesn’t bring up relevant results, try thinking of other common terms or phrases for what it is you’re trying to find. Alternatively, there is a link right below the field being typed in that allows you to suggest categories to oDesk.
Here’s where you would list any schooling relevant to your experience or knowledge. Click on the Add button () and the rest is self-explanatory.
This, like the objective you typed earlier, is extremely important. It directly shows what you’ve accomplished within your field, but lets the prospective client see it for themselves…or at least know about it. When possible, include at least portions of the finished products. The more (relevant) items that are listed in your portfolio, the more weight your overall image on oDesk commands.
Click on the Add button () and you’ll see this:
Project Title: This is where you would write, for example, eBook Discussing Botany. Think of it as more of a project description, but a less wordy version. That section is just below.
Image: You can upload an icon or small thumbnail image to represent the project.
Attachment: Here is where you would attach a sample portion of the project or something similar.
Date: Put the ending date – at least the year. Display the month and year if you can remember them both, and the specific (full) date if you can remember it.
Category: Click on the drop-down list and choose the main category in which your portfolio item fits. This will be choosing from the 9 main categories we discussed earlier. It will then give you the option of choosing a sub-category as well.
Project Description: Here is where you describe who or what he project was for and any other relevant information.
Project URL: If the project is located online, you can place a link to it here.
When you’re all finished, click the Save button ().
If you’re so inclined, you can go to Brainbench.com and take some tests to become certified in a whole list of things, as well as list any other certifications you may have and then list them here the same way you have been.
List any other relevant experience(s) you can think of.
2 Take a free test to show off your skills
Clicking on this blue text will take you to a lot of tests you can take. Which ones you take directly depend on your desired jobs, your desire to prove your knowledge in a particular field, and all sorts of other things. Note: As with any test, it’s possible to fail or get a result that is rated as Below Average. If this is the case with you, you can rest easy in knowing that failed tests don’t show up on your profile. The bad news? You have to wait a specific amount of days to retake that particular test. Another Note: If you rate as Below Average on a test, be sure and hide that test’s results! Below Average test results, unlike failed tests, do show up on your profile. Hide every test that you rate Below Average. Not doing this will be like trying to convince someone to hire you (in person) while having your pants on backwards and your tie around your waist. Clients will likely not even acknowledge you if they take the time to look at your profile and see substandard results on tests. You’re given the option to display or hide any tests you complete.
3 Take the oDesk Readiness Test
Clicking on the blue text here will, you guessed it, take you to the oDesk Readiness Test. While this test isn’t necessarily mandatory, treat it as if it is. Why? Well, because doing so will increase the amount of jobs you can apply for every week – from around a whopping 2, to 20. Take the time. Besides, it’s insanely easy and the obvious answers are the right answers. You didn’t hear that from me. Okay?
Finding Work on oDesk
You’re now ready to look for work!
Now, you should be seeing a screen with this at the top:
When searching for the first time, I’d recommend typing one of the 9 main categories into the search box. For this example, I’ve typed in Writing & Translation. Then just click on the yellow Search Jobs button.
You’ll then see something like this: (Red lines added by me)
The image above shows an example of what will be showing just above the list of results.
Following along above, we see that this particular search brought up 6227 possible matching jobs. Just below that figure, you can see a drop-down list where you can then sort the list in the following ways:
Newest Jobs First – The list of results will show the jobs most recently posted, first.
Oldest Jobs First – The list of results will show the jobs most recently posted, last.
Most Client Hours – The list of results will show those clients who have the most oDesk hours hired/paid for, first.
Least Client Hours – The list of results will show those clients who have the least oDesk hours hired/paid for, first.
Most Dollars Paid – The list of results will show those clients who have paid out to freelancers the highest dollar amount, first. (Usually means they’re either a larger business, or simply have more money to spend on contracts).
Least Dollars Paid – The list of results will show those clients who have paid out to freelancers the lowest dollar amount, first. (Usually means they’re either a smaller business, an individual, or simply have less money to spend on contracts).
Highest Feedback Score – The list of results will show those clients who have received the best feedback from freelancers who have worked for them, first.
Lowest Feedback Score – The list of results will show those clients who have received the worst feedback from freelancers who have worked for them, first.
Refer again to the image above and you will see Job Status with another drop-down list. This will allow you to list jobs with the statuses of:
- Open Jobs – Jobs where the client is still looking to fill the position.
- Closed Jobs – Jobs where the client has closed the job…usually due to hiring someone.
- Cancelled Jobs – Jobs where the client has cancelled his or her search for a freelancer.
- All Jobs – All of the jobs on oDesk, regardless of status.
You’ll see that I drew 2 red lines below Save this search. I did this because it saves a lot of time, especially if you’re going to perform the same search over and over again. It keeps you from having to type in key words each time you wish to look for work.
If you do click on Save this search, you will then see this:
Simply choose a way to describe the search in a way that you will remember, decide whether or not you wish to receive daily emailed notifications of these search results, then click the Save Search button.
Filtering the Results of Your Job Search
On the far right of the results list, you will see a box that looks like this: (Only a portion shown)
This list of filters allows you to narrow down your search according to the parameters listed. See your results for the full list of filters.
There are 2 types of jobs you can land on oDesk: Hourly and Fixed-Price. These are basically self-explanatory. Choose which option is best for you.
If you’re not filtering one or the other type of job out of your search results, here is an example of each:
Aside from the obvious Hourly and Fixed-Price labels, another way to distinguish between the two is that hourly jobs give an estimated duration the job is expected to require. Fixed-Price jobs simply estimate how much the client is willing to spend for the contract. Note: These are not always hard and fast rules by the clients. Some clients simply throw an estimate out there. They can and do sometimes accept much more – even if you’re the highest pay rate. Trust me on this one.
While the image above is still nearby, let me point out a few more things. Below the type of job and the estimated time or budgets, there are descriptions of the jobs. Some clients will type out a very well-explained job listing. Others will be extremely vague. It’s up to you to apply for the jobs for which you feel most comfortable with or most qualified for.
Below the description, you’ll see Client with a small rectangle, a row of 5 grey and/or yellow stars, and Skills. Here are explanations of each:
Client, a small rectangle, and 5 grey and/or yellow stars:
The small rectangle simply refers to how much oDesk experience the client has. This can show as New, meaning they’re new to oDesk and either their payment method isn’t verified yet or they haven’t hired anyone yet. The more green you see, the more they’ve spent on oDesk.
The stars are what you might expect; their feedback score. Grey stars are representations of lower feedback or no feedback. Think of them as lightbulbs turned off or on. On equals good and off can either mean new, or bad.
This is where the client chose the categories and sub-categories for the particular job they’re posting.
Applying for a Job
To apply for any given job, simply click on either the blue title of the listing, or click on more at the end of the description. Note: My advice is to right-click and open it in a new tab or window. This allows you to apply for multiple jobs and not risk having another job that you plan to apply for get refreshed to another page and having to find it again.
On the page you reach after clicking one of the above, you will see:
Click on it. The other information shown on that page is essentially what you’ve already seen, but make note of it.
You will then be taken to the page that starts your oDesk’s lifeblood pumping.
What you will see are the following:
Job Posting: This is a repeat of what you’ve already read. If you need to refresh your memory, this is a good feature. Be sure and click on more if required to see the entire listing again. Note: Many clients will require a specific word or phrase be included somewhere in your cover letter (application), having the listing above while you’re applying will remind you of this. They do this to weed out those who simply copy and paste the same ol’ dribble to any and every client, caring very little about the quality of their cover letter.
Job Application Quota: This is the number of applications you have left that you may submit for that particular week. The more you do, the higher this number becomes over time.
You will see one of these two boxes:
Hourly: When applying for an hourly contract, you’ll see that the rate that your profile shows has already been filled in for you. You can change it here, however.
Fixed-Price: When applying for a fixed-price contract, you have to come up with the figure you wish to bid. To remind you of the client’s proposed budget, it’s stated just below the box.
All you have to do in either case is fill in the field marked Paid to You. The rest will self-fill as you do.
What you see below the box above will depend on whether you’re applying for an hourly contract or a fixed-price contract.
If applying for an hourly contract, what you will see next is Cover Letter. This is the area where you will either shine or flop. Here is where you’ll send your direct words to the prospective client.
What you’ll need to write in the text box will vary with each prospective client. You want to tailor your cover letter to each job. Never copy and paste the same exact cover letter to every single prospective client! Most can see this from a mile away and ignore you.
Furthermore, it shows a serious lack of effort on your part to even get the job, much less other jobs.
If the prospective client asked for a specific term or phrase, put it at the top of your cover letter. This will show them immediately that you actually read the job description.
Briefly introduce yourself and then begin addressing the contract being applied for.
If the prospective client asked applicants to answer specific questions, answer those questions now.
List your qualifications. Only list the qualifications that are relevant to the job you’re applying for.
I usually include a brief closing message of thanks for their time.
Note: It is best to make the tone of your cover letter the same tone (especially if you’re applying for a writing job) as the job will call for. Regardless of the type of work you freelance out, prospective clients are humans and prefer hearing from humans. Don’t come across as overly “robotic.”
If the job you’re applying for is fixed-price, what you’ll see after the Propose Terms box (shown above) will be Upfront Payment (optional). Here is where you would type in a numbered percentage that you require upfront in order to accept the contract.
IMPORTANT: Don’t abuse this! What do I mean? Well, some employers flat refuse to give upfront payment. Some won’t because of having past freelancers take their money and never produce results. Others are simply too careful or untrusting. Still others will accept your upfront requirement if kept within reason.
Note: My own personal experience has proven that you can usually tell by the tone of the prospective client’s job description whether or not to ask/require an upfront payment. If they sound demanding – or even upset – forego the upfront requirement. They’ll pay for a job well done.
If you do choose to ask/require an upfront payment, good practice is 10% – 50%. Any more than that and you’re likely not going to be taken seriously. If it’s a contract that isn’t going to take you much time, I recommend foregoing the upfront payment. If it’s extremely long-term, there’s a much better chance the prospective client will understand and agree…or at least negotiate.
Note 2: IMPORTANT: oDesk does NOT guarantee payment for fixed-price contracts. While this is considered strange to some, it is indeed the case. By continuing to apply for the job, you acknowledge the risk and accept it.
Continuing with the application for a fixed-price contract, the next thing you will see is Estimated Duration. This is how long you expect the proposed contract to take you to complete.
This field has a drop-down list where you may choose either of the following: Less than 1 week, Less than 1 month, 1 to 3 months, 3 to 6 months and More than 6 months.
Be honest! If you simply choose the option that you think the prospective client wants to hear, you risk severely negative feedback – even with exceptional actual results. If you’re simply not sure what the duration will be, choose your best estimate and address this in your Cover Letter. Explain that you’re not entirely sure, but will strive to complete it within a reasonable amount of time. Your honesty will be appreciated.
Regardless of whether it’s an hourly or fixed-price contract, from this point forward, both types feature Attachment next. Here is where you’ll click the Browse button (), find a relevant file on your computer, and attach it to your application. Not all applications will require one.
Next, you will see Agree to Terms. In order to do so, you must type the word ACCEPT into the field provided (if shown), and then click the Accept and Apply to this Job button ().
Once you have done this, simply check any checkboxes that may appear (which, if shown, will be more Agree to Terms-type material), and then you’ll be taken to a page showing a list of your submitted applications.
You’ve just applied for your first job. Good luck!
I truly hope this guide has helped you to feel more comfortable in the process. While all of this may seem a bit overwhelming from reading it, it becomes second nature in a very short time.
You can make money on oDesk. I’m living proof. All it takes is a little time, a little effort and a passion for doing things right. So go on over to oDesk & create your free profile, and start making money online.
The best of luck in your new oDesk jobs venture!