The Way We Work
April 26, 2011 by Erica Benton

Everyone has something beyond their expertise and skills that they bring to work every day. For some, it’s a nonstop positive attitude. Others, the ability to make everyone’s workload feel a little lighter. As a contractor, what “bonus” characteristics can you bring to be considered a valuable member of the team?

Here are snapshots of contractors who have displayed the most valuable “bonus” attributes, plus ways to take their winning style and make it your own:

The Super-Notifier: Layla is an excellent designer who we’ve tapped from time to time to work on marketing materials. While we don’t work together every day, she is diligent about communicating her availability. She let me know from the very beginning what timezone she is in and her usual working hours, but she took communication to the next level by emailing me in advance every time she takes time off. This allows me to plan upcoming work for times I know she’ll be able to get it done, and removes my anxiety about making deadlines. She gets work assigned when she is available, and I don’t stress when she isn’t. Win-win!

Make it yours: Set up a list of employer email addresses and a reminder on your calendar to email the list with your upcoming availability at least 2 days before any scheduled offline time.

The Educator: Mike has been a freelance designer for a long time – which means he knows exactly what he needs from me to be successful. He runs down a checklist of items necessary to the project, and he never hesitates to let me know when I’ve become the bottleneck to his best work. Blunt? Yes, but totally effective in moving our projects forward on time and on budget.
Make it yours: You can take a similar approach with our Getting Started Checklist. Don’t be afraid to tell your employer, in clear, detailed language, what you need from them to complete work on deadline and to expectations.

The Self-Assigner: Josefina has been a go-getter from the get-go. A writer by trade, we began our work together almost a year ago. I gave her the key topics we cover and told her I wanted to hire her for a test assignment to see her skills in action. Rather than saying “yes” and waiting for an assigned topic, she responded with 3 potential topics she thought would be compelling. Since that first assignment, Josefina regularly pitches me awesome ideas for articles. She takes work off my plate by making it easy to give her assignments. She gets more work assigned, and I get well-written, on-topic articles. Another win-win scenario!
Make it yours: Consider what work you can suggest to your employer. If you’re a writer, suggest ideas for blog posts. A designer? Maybe its time to update the look of the company Twitter profile. Your skills can be applied in so many different ways, so make suggestions that align with your existing work and skillset. The easier you make it for an employer to assign you work, the more work you’ll be given!

The Big Picture Thinker: Bob is a long-term contractor who has worked on-and-off with our team longer than I have. His favorite questions in a meeting are: “What are we trying to accomplish with this? How does that relate to our larger goals?” He reminds me to communicate goals alongside assignments so he can use his expertise to our best advantage. He’s a writer, but more than that, he’s a creative partner who understands the goals of my department and our projects, and who helps ensure that our efforts will directly impact those goals. Can you say “successful working relationship”?
Make it yours: Ask about the project goals during the early stages, and consider how the work you’re doing impacts those goals. What ideas do you have that might push the project to better accomplish those goals? What can you do in your role to help ensure success? Share your thoughts with your employer to show you’re going above and beyond just the basics of your assignment.

The Right-Hand (Wo)man/Jack of All Trades: Over the past two years, Therese has made it clear that she can handle anything I throw her way. She takes on proofreading and editing assignments, selects images, researches articles and writes some of the most-viewed content on our site – and almost never says ‘no’ when work is offered. By thoughtfully tackling every piece of work I give her, on budget and on deadline, she’s earned my repeat business.
Like my Right-Hand (Wo)man, Jack can handle anything. He came to us on assignment for a specific purpose, but parlayed that one-time gig into an ongoing work relationship with us that spans help documentation, product reviews, community forum moderation, QA testing–you name it, he’s done it, which means I know I can trust him to take on anything I throw his way.
Make it yours: Try to say ‘yes’ to work from your employer whenever you can – you never know where the experience will take you! Be honest about your skills and your own confidence level in being able to accomplish any new tasks, but be willing and enthusiastic to take on any work that comes your way. Becoming that person on the team that can handle anything will make you indispensable.

What “bonus” attributes do you bring to the team? As an employer or coworker, what characteristics do you value in your team members?

Erica Benton

Social Media Guru

Erica Benton joined oDesk in 2009, bringing with her nearly a decade of small business and freelance experience, and a love of all things social. Her passion for startups, technology and marketing was born during her tenure with Kulesa Faul Public Relations, while she learned the art of entrepreneurship firsthand through Equine Alternatives, a business she founded while earning her Bachelor of Science degree from… read more