The Way We Work

I don’t work at oDesk, but I use it all the time. I start a new online business about every six months, and therefore need a lot of talented people to help me pull it off- 90% of the work for my companies is done through outsourcing with oDesk. I’m a buyer, and I want to share with you some tips to make yourself stand out from the crowd and command top-dollar for your skills.

Here are ten tips to make more money off people like me:

Applying for jobs

Exceptional Person Required

1 – Hide your (other) skills
When applying for a job, try not to copy/paste the same generic cover letter. A lot of times, I’m asking for something specific – like an ActionScript 3 programmer, and the cover letter I get would say “I’m an expert in HTML/CSS/PHP/FLASH”. That’s great, but I was looking for an AS3 pro, not anything else. Talk about the skills you have for this job specifically and you have a much bigger chance to get booked!

2 – Repeat the job
Almost always I hire the person that repeats back to me exactly what I want – in their own words. It makes me feel they are confident about their understanding of the job and I plan to interview with them right away!

3 – Good English skills don’t matter…
… when I’m not looking for a writer. On those types of jobs, tell me what variables you need me to define for you to come up with for a more accurate quote. I’m more than happy to reply using the interview feature. That hire button just got one step closer!

The interview process

4 – Talk timeline
Every buyer is a little nervous to go over budget. If you have enough information about the job, and can give an accurate timeline that you can commit to keeping, you will stand out from the rest. Follow through by sticking to that timeline? Five star feedback and re-hiring are now guaranteed.

5 – Present related work
I love a good portfolio, but don’t have time to go through a full list of work you did before. If you send me one link of something very similar to what I’m looking for, that’s enough for me. If your previous work isn’t directly related, give me a few items that combine to show the skills I need for this job. Still at a loss? Apply for a different job that is a more direct fit for your talents – this will let you command a higher rate and deliver phenomenal results!

Hourly jobs

6 – Work with a plan from the start
I’ve been a freelancer myself and my hourly rate was 70 EUR ($100 USD) while I was still in college. Not because I was a good programmer (I’m honestly not) but because I started every job with a plan. I used the four C’s (Cloud – Create – Contstruct – Control, which you can read more about in my book) with every client – and all of them were raving about the work, simply because I always started every e-mail with what ‘development phase’ we were in next.


7 – Please document
You’ll be surprised how few people document their work and how much more I’m willing to pay for someone who does. There are plenty of free scripts out there that you can use to quickly generate something that looks good. Explain what you did and the buyer will love you for it and fight to keep you on the team. I know I will!

8 – Say when you’ll work on it
Even if I trust you completely on the job and hired you 10 times before, I’m still a little anxious to know when exactly you will start on my job. If you specify when you’ll start working, I have some peace of mind, even if it’s close to the deadline.

Fixed price jobs

9 – Communicate about progress only
That’s all I want to hear about. Of course, too little communication is bad but too much communication is bad too. Keep in mind, every time you contact the buyer, you need to give a little update on your progress and you will become a keeper!

10 – Be honest

If you missed a deadline or did something wrong, be honest about it and I would still give you a 5-star rating. I love honesty more than anything and I love to give a second chance. (But not every buyer is the same. Get to know your buyer, build trust with them, and they are more likely to value you, your honesty, and your work.)

Don’t go yet: I want to be a better buyer, too! In your comments, please tell me: what makes a good buyer?


Ruven Meulenberg’s company is currently creating a video-game through oDesk. He is the founder of GuiMags, the author of “The Unplugged: Join a new breed of software developers that don’t use computers. Much” and he blogs twice a week on