Online Work Tips & Best Practices
August 27, 2013 by Alexia Nielsen

In our weekly Tip Tuesday posts on Facebook, we ask our community about working and hiring on oDesk and invite them to respond with their top tips. We have been amazed by the wealth of knowledge and expertise we received; thank you all for your great comments!

Though it was difficult to choose our favorite responses among so many valuable tips, below are this month’s winners. If you’d like to be featured here next month, make sure to keep an eye on our Facebook page for the next Tip Tuesday questions!

Editor’s Note: Responses edited for clarity

Q: What are the most important things to include in a cover letter?

  • A clear understanding of the project posted and an ability to communicate what you bring to the project that sets you apart from others. Correct spelling and grammar are a given. – Corri Byrne


  • When reviewing applicants, we always read the cover letters to see if the prospect is taking the time to actually sell themselves to us. Too many applicants forget that their cover letter is their way of advertising their skills and abilities to the prospective client. Do you represent yourself well? Do you use proper spelling and grammar? Do you tell the reader why you would be the absolute best person for the position? Your profile and your cover letter tell clients how seriously you take your business and how seriously we should take you as well. – Kinzer Projects, LLC

  • First off, read the entire job post. Specify what position you are applying for. And then write a unique cover letter for each job post by responding or mentioning what the hiring manager is looking for, like your availability. When writing your cover letter, sit with the job description and include your qualifications, link to relevant work experience and describe your future role in the team. Some hiring managers require a phrase filter, which is one of the reason why you have to read the entire job post—make sure you don’t forget to put that phrase in your letter. Keep in mind that your goal is to catch the hiring manager’s interest. – Ma Estela Pulgo-Yabo Villaruz

Q: What is the one piece of technology or software that you could not work without? (excluding your computer and mobile devices).

  • Technology, Internet connection, electricity, bright lighting, a good working headset, Redmine project management software, Google Drive, Dropbox, PrettyMay Call Recorder for Skype. – Mariel Camposano Colambot

Q: What are the most important materials to include in your oDesk portfolio?

  • a) Proper title for portfolio item
    b) A brief description of the item (to the point)
    c) URL to where they can see live demo
    d) Relevant image
    e) Include attachment if necessary
    f) Client’s feedback if available!
    Saidur Rahman

  • It’s important for writers to show a wide range of styles and formats, beyond the neutral professional tone you may often need to use. The piece that gets you the job tends to be the piece that both impresses and entertains the employer, and shows you can do more than be straight-laced professional. Comedy with perfect grammar gets you noticed more than anything. – Rebecca Kerr

  • The oDesk portfolio is sort of “Valid Entry Card” in “The Job Land.” It must remain updated at all times. If the cover letter is your first impression, the portfolio is your second. It must contain three things:
    1) Wisely chosen title of the project
    2) Clear snapshot of the project
    3) Keyword-rich description and link to the product
    A well-organized oDesk portfolio does attract the clients.
    Farooq Hussain Shah

Q: What is the most important question to ask in an interview?


  • Communication is very important in our line of work. Freelancers should ask, “How would you like us to communicate? Should I email you everytime I have a concern or should I make a summary by the end of the day? Should it be daily or just as needed?” Of course, you should both be aware of your time zones. – Bai Tender Sinsuat

Q: What is the ONE piece of advice you would give a new oDesker?

  • Always put yourself in the shoes of the client and consider whether you will hire yourself or not. What qualities you consider in an applicant? This homework will help you write high-quality proposal letter. Once you have touched the heart of client, nobody will resist your letter and more chances you will have get of getting hired. – Hannan Ahmad

Q: Other than your home or office, where is your favorite place to work?

  • In coffee shops. Coffee helps get your ideas flowing. After you have an initial idea or a plan laid out, a cup of coffee can help you execute and follow through on your concept faster without compromising quality.
    John Vincent Teatro

Ready to share your advice with fellow oDeskers? Visit the oDesk Facebook page on Tuesdays and answer the Tip Tuesday question!

Alexia Nielsen

Social Media Marketing Manager

Alexia Nielsen is the social media marketing manager at Upwork, overseeing social media engagement initiatives. Prior to Upwork, Alexia managed online and social media marketing for advertising startup Crowd Science and spent six years in various marketing and production roles in the video game industry. Alexia holds a B.A. with honors in Communication and an M.A. in Media Studies, both from Stanford University.