The Way We Work

Welcome to our first “Ask oDesk” column. We’ve selected questions from our Facebook community, chosen from a recent conversation about the most frequently-asked remote work questions. Community members whose questions were chosen received oDesk t-shirts.

Mary B. asks: “Can you explain how to calculate Greenwich Mean Time? If so, this would be very helpful for working with overseas employers. It would make it easier for us to make appointments for Skype interviews and chat interviews, etc.”

oDesk: Understanding Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) can help you deal with clients in distant time zones and make international appointments and deadlines. But, you’re gonna end up having to do some basic math or geography to translate various locations to GMT. The good news is that there are a lot of helpful tools for doing this, so that you don’ t have to figure it all out in your head.

  • Here is a map to help you discover someone’s distance from GMT — whether they are GMT +1, GMT -3, etc. — if you know which country they are in. (And, figure out your own country’s time distance from GMT, while you are at it.)
  • Then, you can use this calculator to fix your appointment time. When you give the calculator the desired time in your local timezone and tell it what timezone the other person is in, it will come up with the correct time in the employer’s timezone.

Ahmad W. asks: “How can I win the confidence of buyers looking for candidates only from English-speaking countries? I am competent enough in my field to compete with anyone, and these jobs are highly paid.”

oDesk: This can be a challenge. If an employer states that they are looking for people from English-speaking countries, it is probably because they feel that a language barrier would be a detriment to the project. To overcome this, you’ve got to convince them that your talent is worth the risk, and that your English skills are on par with native English speakers.

Address the fact that you are not from a native English-speaking country up front in your cover letter, then explain why you think that this will not be a problem. Have you studied in America or England? Worked for a major English-speaking company in the past? Once you’ve addressed the language issue, you can spell out what skills you would bring to the position – technical expertise, design savvy, management experience, etc. Give the potential employer reason to consider your application alongside their top candidates, no matter where you are from.

Even if you have exceptional English skills, make sure that your online communication (your online profile and any correspondence) is without fault in spelling, grammar and punctuation. Concerned about presenting your English skills as top-notch? Consider having an English-savvy friend proofread your profile and correspondence, using a free online translation tool or hiring a translator online to review these for you. If the jobs you are pursuing pay well, and you have the skills to get the work done right, then this investment might be worth it in the long run.

Got a question for oDesk? Let us know! You just might get your question answered–and receive a free oDesk T-shirt, too!


Tamara Rice

Freelance Writer and Editor

Tamara Rice is one of several freelance writers on the oDesk Blog team. She joined the oDesk marketplace in 2009, after more than six years on staff at an award-winning national magazine.