The Way We Work

A note from oDesk about our guest author: Last month, oDesk CEO Gary Swart received an invitation to present at a World Bank-sponsored event (Digital Jam 2.0) in Jamaica about the opportunities online work provides. But who better to present on this opportunity than an oDesk contractor? And so we extended the invitation to Marcel Morgan, who started working online in 2010, but left his corporate job this February to work full time online. Marcel told us: “It was a real shock to my friends when I decided to walk away from the best-paying employer on the Island to start my own business on oDesk, but I knew it was the right thing for me to do. I couldn’t be happier.” Marcel is on track to earn more this year than he did at his corporate job. We commend him on his success and thank him for sharing his experiences here.

Finding new employment opportunities for the youngest of the population is a great challenge in many countries, but particularly in Jamaica. The country has a high youth unemployment rate — it hit 27.3% in 2009, almost three times the national average of 10.3%. The government has recognized the need to provide innovative solutions to tackle this significant problem, and consequently collaborated with the World Bank and various private-sector companies to host a three-day event called “Digital Jam 2.0 – the Future of Work is Online.

Held from June 28 to 30 in Kingston, this event featured a 24-hour hackathon, an apps contest, seminars and a marketplace/job fair. The goal was to promote employment and entrepreneurial opportunities available in the online economy to the youth of Jamaica, by demonstrating the success of others in this market.

Being rated amongst the top oDesk contractors from Jamaica for Q1 2012, I was kindly invited by oDesk to give a presentation at this event, sharing my successful experience with oDesk and giving guidance to young people on how to achieve similar success through online work.

Here is a recap of some of what I shared. (To view my presentation slides, click here.)

The Great Opportunity

In Jamaica we have a wonderful opportunity, as a native English-speaking country that is in close proximity to the United States. At this stage in online work’s evolution, the majority of clients that hire online are English-speaking, so a huge market is available to us. By working with multiple clients through online platforms, we have the opportunity to gain a greater wealth of international work experience without leaving the borders of our island.

Love The Way You Work

“oDesk — my wonderful online office!” This is my definition of the oDesk experience, as I expressed at the Digital Jam 2.0 Conference.

Often when working at a regular 9-to-5 job, you do not get to work on things you love. Working online through oDesk, you can apply for jobs in your own area of expertise that you love and have a passion for — also enabling you to get better at what you love to do as well. There is no need for a 9-to-5 time constraint on your job; you can basically be your own boss, and you can actually enjoy the work you do while earning money in the comfort of your own home!

Tips for Success

In order to stand out among millions of contractors on oDesk, we contractors need to ask ourselves: What will make a prospective employer choose me over other similar or lower-rate contractors?

Objective Message

One way I learned to stand out on oDesk is through my objective message.

Having a good objective message in a cover letter goes a long way, and its importance cannot be underestimated. Long before I had very much online work experience, I received an invitation to interview for a Ruby on Rails development job. After a successful interview, I asked the client why he chose me. His response was that my objective message resonated with him. It turns out he felt as passionate about Ruby on Rails as I did, and I had expressed this in my objective message.

Take the oDesk Tests

Because most young people do not have much work experience, the best way to provide some proof of your abilities is by taking the oDesk tests and doing well. Having a score in the top 10 percentile will distinguish you from the rest of the applicants when applying for a job.

Be Professional

The importance of being professional cannot be overemphasized. This includes being on time for meetings; trying to adhere to mutually agreed-upon timelines (within reason); and using professional language in all communications, even while chatting online (e.g. through Skype or Google Talk) — it is important to remember that you are not speaking with friends online, you are at work.

Feedback from Digital Jam

Since my presentation, I’ve received a lot of feedback and several people approached me after the presentation with keen interest in actually getting started on oDesk.

For example, a schoolteacher who travelled a great distance to attend the conference remarked:

“…a very informative presentation that you did this morning as it was very simple, clear and very direct to the point. I believe that I was greatly impacted by all that you said and it has certainly contributed to the expectations I came initially with at the conference. I feel I am totally in your debt for such a cutting-edge kind of presentation in that I was not aware that such a company existed which can contribute to one’s entrepreneurial aspirations.”

He has since created a profile on oDesk to pursue these aspirations.

A young lady emailed me afterwards with her very own business idea, seeking advice on how to make it a reality. I received another email requesting tips on creating an oDesk profile, and making it “stand out” among the rest.

I was overwhelmed by the positive response I received, and am happy I was able to make my fellow Jamaicans aware of the possibilities out there in the online economy. There is a saying, “those were the good old days!” — but I prefer to say, these are the “good now days!”

About Marcel

Marcel Morgan, a software developer since 2004, is passionate about technology and loves the work he works on oDesk since it allows him to choose the programming work he wants. After working online with oDesk on a part-time basis since 2010, he made the switch to full time in February 2012. He holds both a BSc. and an MSc. in Computer Science from the University of the West Indies, Mona in Jamaica; and currently in his spare time, he works on an online version of the popular Jamaican domino game, which is particularly unique to the way Jamaicans play.