Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Online Freelancing on oDesk Pt.2

This is a follow up post to Online Freelancing with oDesk.

So you singed up. Completed all your profile details and are now ready to apply.
Unfortunately you are unlikely to get your first job very soon. Or a good paying one anyway. Pulling off a good job straight after you register is very rare and is a feat that normally gets you an article in the oDesk monthly newsletter.
There are certain tricks, however to getting ahead of your competition. Read on.

Landing a job:
Finding the first job is always the hardest. When I started fist time back in 2007, I only applied to the smallest project. Less candidates are interested in these which means less competition for the freelancer and less risk from the client's perspective.
It took me roughly 20 different applications before I got my first tiny job. Since then there were more once-in-a-while minuscule projects. I gave up on freelancing for about a year after that. Bad move but luckily I had enough skill to pull me back up. Only thanks to that fact, I started getting bigger jobs when I came back.
Here's my provider profile.

Learn from my mistakes. Do not ditch freelancing - keep on at the small projects until you have built up some reference, then start applying for the real stuff. If you give up half way through, coming back is NOT easy. Buyers start wondering why you haven't had a job in so long. Active users are much more preferred.

I specialize in Design and Multimedia. Usually, over 15 new jobs will surface up everyday. Every job receives an average of 15-20 candidates, before the client makes his/her choice. There are three main things that will contribute towards persuading the potential client that you are perfect for the job. They are:
1. Your genuine skill
2. Your first impression
3. Your price bid and turn-around time.
You need to be better than your competition on all three. (Keep in mind these apply to working online. Dealing with real-time clients is some-what different.)

This is most important. Put together a portfolio of work and present them as an example. Physical examples are no use here, as you cannot see the client in person. The best way to go about this is to create a web-site that showcases your best relevant work. You need not pay for a web-site if you're just starting out. Plenty of services give you space for free. Your URL however will be in a form.
These are just some websites that will host your web page for free:

An additional feature on oDesk is a section on your profile, where you can physically add work pieces. This has been introduced about a year ago and is proving worthy. Having a web-site however shows you are more dedicated and professional than people that don't.

First impression.
This will almost always be determined by your cover letter, which you write every time you apply for a job.
I used to write long letters about how suitable I am for this job when I was introduced to freelancing.
DO NOT do this.
Clients have 20 cover letters to read and if you write an essay you are more likely to bore them. Say as much as you can, in as little as possible. Briefly introduce yourself (where are you from, what you do). Mention your achievements, and link to your previous work examples. Let the client know about the ways of contacting you, and spend the rest on stating relevant facts that prove you are perfect for the job.

NEVER copy and paste the same cover letter to multiple job openings. It's amazing how many people do this without realizing that it just doesn't work.
I keep records of my successful cover letters. Unfortunately I cannot share them on this blog. However, if you e-mail me personally (contact details on the LoveColour Homepage), I will send some over.

Now, to writing the actual cover letter. Clients are different. Some will want a formal letter. Some will want to see you are open-minded, well spoken and good at communication. (By the way - communication is critical here, as you are dealing with people miles away). I even came across clients who will only reply to cover letters that show a strong sense creativity. Learn your client before even making contact. Read their job opening. Is it brief or in-detail? Pay close attention to things like punctuation, writing style and capitalisation. These are tell-tale signs about the client's tolerance levels.

Never make loose promises. While it may be tempting or may make you sound more professional it's generally a good practise to not do so. I personally stay away from promising things I'm not completely certain about. Remember this simple rule: Underpromise andOverdeliver. (DNA 2nd edition).

Price bid and Turn-around time.
If you cannot compete on the first two principles then you have no qualitative advantages over any other person. This is known as a commodity. You don't want to be in this situation because now can only compete on price or how fast you can deliver.
If you are in this situation you'll want to take a look through your competition's rates. You have no other choice but to compete with them on price if you want to succeed and this almost certainly means dropping your rate below what you are comfortable with.

It takes effort and time before the real $ comes in. But until then you really gain something more valuable through the process of learning and gathering experience. For beginners, oDeskwould indubitably be a great start to your career as it was to mine and even for the seasoned freelancers it really does pay to look out for new job posts now and then - you never know the next big gig might just be waiting for you!

Thanks for reading, please don't forget to comment.
And be sure to subscribe for further posts on Online Freelancing and more!

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