Provider Voice: Bidding for Work – It’s Not About Price

October 28, 2009 by

Recently I’ve seen some tweets from those curious about the presence of extremely low bids on oDesk. My response is that it doesn’t matter. Or at least, it shouldn’t. Face it, if the only thing that makes you a viable candidate for a project is your price, then you’ll need to have the lowest bid. But is that the kind of freelance or contract work you want? This isn’t a groundbreaking thought, but perhaps I can offer the perspective of an active contractor and bring some of the philosophical arguments into the real world. I’m self-employed and manage the technology needs of small businesses, consult on various projects, and write software. I use oDesk to manage all of my contract web development work. In that field, you’ll find some jobs with hourly rates of $10, $5, and even $3, yet I have active and ongoing projects at much higher rates. Last November, in an interview with the BBC, I expressed that I was satisfied with the amount of work I had through oDesk, but was confident I could get more if I wanted. A little less than a year later, things have slowed down and I decided it was time to start bidding on work again. A few weeks ago I started actively bidding for new oDesk jobs. Here’s how I view the process – in some admittedly broad strokes: Understand that you’re not going to get – or even be considered for – some jobs. Some buyers are looking for the lowest bid – and for some jobs that is fine. Other buyers won’t be able to meet your rates, which may very well mean they can’t afford what they say they want. Don’t let a candidacy that ends with ‘rate too high’ shake … Read Full Article

Think you know proper online etiquette?

October 26, 2009 by

My faith in professional online etiquette was called into question last week, when I spotted a rather unflattering eBay auction—posted by a professional dealer no less—advertising a car. In a single run-on sentence devoid of capital letters, the auction promised heightened sexual attraction for anyone in the driver’s seat, contained several obvious spelling mistakes, and concluded with no less than 18 exclamation points. If ever there was an example of how not to conduct business online, this auction was it. Acting professional in online communications, whether through email, online postings, or profiles, should be a matter of common sense for oDesk providers and buyers alike. Unfortunately, the comfortable anonymity that stems from communicating through a computer keyboard can be quite deceptive. As a result, the automatic etiquette-check in our brain that separates professional communications from informal situations may never get tripped. Should this happen, lucky individuals will just eat a crow sandwich and move on. Those less fortunate could miss key employment opportunities or even lose clients. Blogs and guides for more detailed “netiquette” are everywhere, but should be a prerequisite for anyone venturing into a professional online career. Carol Bory’s daily blog on business etiquette and Marcia Pledger’s suggestions are also worthy reads. If you don’t have hours to study the finer points however, these six etiquette tips can help ensure you don’t commit a professional faux pas. Don’t use smiles or emoticons. These are fun, cute ways to convey emotions in an informal email or forum post, but they don’t belong in a professional communication. Good rule of thumb: if you’re not sure a particular passage will be taken correctly without a smiley or emoticon, don’t use that passage. Don’t get fancy on fonts or formatting. Formatting can … Read Full Article

Top 10 Must-Read Affiliate Marketing Blogs

October 23, 2009 by

To celebrate the recent launch of the new oDesk Affiliate Program, we’ve gathered a list of the Top 10 Must-Read Affiliate Marketing blogs on the web.  For each one of these awesome blogs, we’ve given you some information about who writes the content and why we think their blog is great.  We’ve also linked to one of their must-read articles. If you’re looking to get involved with affiliate marketing, why not learn from the best? Shoemoney: Skills to Pay the Bills Who writes it? – Jeremy Schoemaker, internet marketer, founder of Shoemoney Media Group Why it’s great – Jeremy’s informative posts, the Marketplace Must-read article – “How To Avoid Obvious Failure As An Affiliate” by Jeremy Schoemaker Zac Johnson: Inside the Secret Life of a Super Affiliate Who writes it? – Zac Johnson; affiliate marketer Why it’s great – Nice roundup of internet marketing tools, solid content Must-read article – “5 Simple Ways to Increase Click Through Rates” by Zac Johnson Murray Newlands: Affiliate Marketing Blog & Social Media Marketing Blog Who writes it? – Murray Newlands; internet marketer, blogger, ebook author Why it’s great – Useful news updates relevant to internet marketers, interesting interviews Must-read article – “Affiliate Marketing for Merchants” by Murray Newlands John Chow: The Miscellaneous Ramblings of a Dot Com Mogul Who writes it? – John Chow; internet marketer, founder of The TechZone and TTZ Media Network Why it’s great – John’s marketing wisdom & his sense of humor Must-read article – “5 Strategies to Make Money as an Affiliate Marketer” by John Chow Affiliate Tip: … Read Full Article

WordPress for Everyone

October 8, 2009 by

WordPress is one of the top skills requested by buyers in the oDesk marketplace. CMS-based development, and specifically blog development, is at the heart of the Internet economy. Not only are blog developers important, but so are writers. It has bee said that “Content is king.” Regardless of what role your work falls into, it’s important to have some level of understanding of how WordPress, the current leading blog platform, operates. Getting Your Hands Dirty If you’re a writer or buyer, and don’t care too much for the nitty gritty, it’s okay! is an easy way to get started blogging. There you can sign up for an account, get a free blog (i.e.- Follow the directions in’s Getting Started Guide and you’ll be blogging in no time. For developers there is WordPress.ORG (sorry to use caps, but it’s an important distinction). is where you can find information on downloading and installing WordPress. The Installation Guide will walk you through downloading the package, uploading it to your own server, creating a mySQL database, and running the WordPress installer. Also, ProBlogger has a great screencast on the whole process. Developing Locally Okay, maybe you’re thinking, “but I just want to tinker around, and I don’t have a dedicated server for development.” Yes, you do (hint: you’re looking at it) and if you aren’t developing on your own local server, then you are missing out! Working this way allows you to develop offline, and it’s fast. However, I do not recommend using the software below to host your own website from home. Developing with minimal security can be dangerous online, and working locally reduces the hassle of securing the site during development. Just remember that these … Read Full Article

Contractually Speaking…

October 5, 2009 by

Contracts are most likely not your favorite part of freelance work. Hammering out a watertight, legally binding agreement can be a bit of a distraction when what you really need to do is get some work done for your clients. So your choices are: operate on a handshake, purchase an off-the-shelf contract, or employ a lawyer to draft a custom one. While we aren’t lawyers, and wouldn’t presume to tell you how to write your own work contracts, there are a few items that may be worth considering. Below are some of the terms that can cause heartburn when drafting a contract, and how we address them in the oDesk Marketplace User Agreement. Don’t Stiff Me (Services and Fees) – Determining what work is to be done, and how much to be paid is most likely the crux of your contract. oDesk’s take: oDesk encourages you to be upfront about your rates, and guarantees payment for hourly work. Providers should act in good faith to complete the desired work, and buyers are obligated to pay for hours spent (within the agreed upon weekly hours) or the agreed fixed price. I won’t be back. (Termination) – An escape clause can be a touchy subject. Addressing the possibility that the project or working relationship won’t work out can cast a dark cloud over an agreement, but it’s necessary that both parties be protected. oDesk’s take: Hourly assignments may be terminated by buyer or provider at any time, and the Buyer is obligated to pay for hours worked prior to termination. Fixed Price Assignments may only be terminated by mutual agreement. Who owns what? (Work Product and Buyer Deliverable) – Assigning ownership of Intellectual Property is important. Who own the source code? What happens if your client hires a … Read Full Article

The Key to Long-Term Success

September 28, 2009 by

Jasmine with oDesk friends, April 2008We’re always talking about building long-term relationships on oDesk, about building success for both buyer and provider. We practice what we preach in our customer service department. It has nearly doubled to 17 providers in five months — and performance metrics are growing faster, even as provider turnover drops to practically zero. That last stat, one longtime provider says, comes from having a strong team environment. “Things change when you love your work,” says Jasmine Sison, who has been with the team for two years. “I am always looking to find new ways of making my work easier and faster without sacrificing quality.” Jasmine quit her in-house job and has worked full-time for the oDesk team since January ’08. She notes that the posting that led to this great fit seemed perfectly suited to her from the start — it wasn’t just work she could do, it was work she wanted to do. “The position was something that interested me and I am very good at doing,” she says. “A nice combination of my education, acquired skills and experiences that I have gained from other work and work environments.” As director of customer service, Shannon Adkins makes sure the job stays interesting, and that her providers continue to feel engaged, with brief weekly training sessions in which they troubleshoot a recent difficult case. She also uses oDesk’s transparency to keep everyone involved. “All metrics are published to the entire team, and all team members know how they are doing relative to their peers, as well as how oDesk as a whole is doing.” And those who are doing well receive bonuses. But Shannon looks not just to the present, but the future: “We provide a clear guideline of how to … Read Full Article

Building a Website: What technology should you use?

September 24, 2009 by

Should your next website or software app use PHP, ASP, AJAX, JavaScript, Flash, or another technology that you’ve just heard about? Should it be hosted on your LAMP or Windows server, or reside in “The Cloud?” I recently had a friend pursuing his entrepreneurial spirit who wanted advice on how to create a new interactive website. He has a fantastic idea and some basic understanding about current Internet technologies and asked if he should use a wiki, blog, HTML, custom PHP, or an out-of-the-box solution to run his website. Over the years I have had many clients come to me with technology questions. Some people read an article and get very excited about the “Technology Du Jour” when their time would be better spent focusing on the user experience and scope of the project lifespan. Others get very involved in the technical details, when defining the big picture would address their concerns. As a rule, I steer clear of potential clients who know that they want to use Flash, or AJAX. The success of the project rarely depends on the type of tools but rather on the expertise of the person using them. I learned this from my father – he was a successful auto mechanic who guaranteed his work and would be cautious of a customer that brings his car in and asks for a new brake master cylinder to fix the squeak in the front end. It is always best to fully evaluate the best outcome and then look for the best solution, rather than try to make the solution fit the desired outcome. When approaching a new technology application, as developers, we always keep the user experience in mind. We first focus on what the project is trying to accomplish and determine about how to get it … Read Full Article

Are You a Consultant on the Go? There’s an App for that…

September 23, 2009 by

I was on the road last Thursday, after a Client meeting, and I had an oDesk conference call in 3 minutes. I pulled over at the nearest strip mall, parked, pulled out my iPhone and dialed into the meeting just as someone on the call said: “OK, I just e-mailed out the agenda. Everyone please let me know when you have it open” So I muted the call, and pressed the home button on the iPhone, which switched me back to the main menu (the call remained connected). Cool… Then I launched the E-mail app, and found the e-mail containing the meeting agenda. I was able to open the MS Word Document and view the agenda while still on the call. Very cool…. About two minutes in, someone on the call asked me a question: “Henry, are you available next Tuesday at 2:00? “ So I tapped the yellow bar at the top to switch back to the call, unmuted it, then pressed the home button, launched my Google Mobile app (review, review) and pulled up my Google Calendar. “Yeah, I’m free. Want me to go ahead and send out the meeting invite?” I created a new event, invited attendees, and sent the request out with just a few swipes of the finger. No sooner than I did that, I got an incoming call from a Friend, so I switched back to the phone, and with one click was able to put the conference call on hold while I took the new inbound call. “Hey, I’m on a conference call, can you text me?” I hung up the phone, and switched back to the MS Word Document, and a few seconds later I got a pop-up window with a text message: “Hey … Read Full Article

(Non-Technical) Freelance Jobs to Boost Income

September 21, 2009 by

So, you’re one of the lucky ones who has weathered the economic downturn and has held on to your full-time gig. Unfortunately, thanks to mandatory furloughs and benefit cutbacks, that full-time work may now have part-time pay. Here’s some areas we’ve seen that offer opportunities for non-technical professionals to boost their income with online work: Say “Hire Me” in multiple tongues. For the multi-lingual among us, translation jobs are a great way to keep your language skills sharp while feeding your piggybank. With nearly 500 active translation jobs in a variety of languages – and more openings getting listed every day – you know translators are in demand! Do you speak legalease? Congrats are in order if you do – legal jobs are one area where business is booming and there are plenty of opportunities to earn some extra money writing contracts, doing legal research, or providing advice to young businesses. Pitch us! As companies tighten their belts, the budget for PR jobs gets tight. But there are opportunities for folks with the right skills to save the day by providing freelance press release writing, event coordination or strategy consultation. Content is STILL king… There’s opportunities for people in a wide range of fields to write articles for print and web use. If you have free time, mad writing “skillz” (and know enough not to use the word “skillz” in your professional writing), you should check out some of the blog & article writing jobs. Got other ideas for part-time freelance work? What are you doing to make extra money this fall? … Read Full Article

First Impressions Online: Make your written communications count!

September 16, 2009 by

Here’s the scenario: You just got a callback on a job interview for a big league position, and you have a meeting with the hiring manager tomorrow afternoon. The ironing board immediately comes out to press your suit into a flawless statement of power. A quick visit to the hair salon turns the mop on your head into an executive-level style. That evening you review your resume and portfolio, making sure both are updated with your latest and greatest accomplishments. You make every conceivable effort to absolutely knock the socks off the interviewer, because everyone knows the cliché: You never get a second chance to make a first impression. And yet, when it comes to written communications online—be it for freelance work, full-time positions, or even general inquiries—folks haphazardly shoot out emails or post profiles with nary a proofread. The fact is, sloppy online first impressions are the equivalent of showing up to an interview—or conducting the interview—wearing ripped jeans, a dirty T-shirt, and a baseball cap advertising beer. And yes, these E-impressions matter just as much as the real thing. Like it or not, the text you type isn’t just your flawless business suit, it’s also your perfect haircut, friendly smile, attentive posture, and firm handshake all rolled into one. If that sounds a little frightening, well, it should. If anything, text-based first impressions are even more important than their in-person counterparts, simply because so much rides on so little. On the flip side, introductions though an email or online posting can be immensely advantageous, in that text-based impressions can be endlessly reviewed, revised, and polished beforehand. As such, there’s no real excuse for a poorly-worded first impression, and if you send just such a communication to someone like Jerry over at, don’t expect to hear anything … Read Full Article

Landing a Web Development Gig

September 10, 2009 by

Okay, so you’re hip to the World Wide Web and all the techno-programming required to build the coolest virtual environments in E-town. You’ve got game, you’ve got the software, but you’re missing the most vital ingredient of all: Clients. Even the best web-design mojo is merely untapped potential unless you have an A-list of clientele eager for your efforts, and since you’re eager to earn a few greenbacks for your skills, simply showcasing your talent isn’t enough. Successful freelance web developers aren’t just outstanding programmers, they’re outstanding communicators as well. This part of the job can be easily overlooked, but it’s vital to landing a contract, establishing clear objectives, and following through to a successful conclusion. If communication makes you nervous, don’t sweat it. There’s no special method to making it happen, just be open, honest, ask questions when you need to, and don’t be afraid to speak up if something concerns you. If it all sounds a bit intimidating, here are some good tips to help you establish some good freelancing habits. Getting the callback: Regardless who initiates first contact, remember that less is better. The biggest mistake people make when it comes to a first contact situation is going overboard trying to impress. Sending paragraphs of programming languages and software suites you’re familiar with usually just frustrates clients, especially in the current economic climate where your project inquiry is one of 600 billion sitting in a manager’s inbox. Consider what the client is looking for and answer that SPECIFIC need, keeping your inquiry to a paragraph and offering to discuss the project further at their convenience. A portfolio is good, but so is reputation. For developers just starting out, having some sort of portfolio will be the only way you can demonstrate your ability. Read Full Article

Health Insurance Advice for the Independent Consultant

September 3, 2009 by

As a licensed health insurance agent in all 50 states, I work with self-employed people every day. Whether I’m working with someone who’s new to the world of self-employment or a seasoned pro, I tend to need to reassure them that a little education can go a long way. When it comes to buying your own health insurance, a good understanding of the basics can be the difference between coverage that does what you want, and coverage that leaves you hanging out to dry. If you’re in relatively good health, the individual and family plan market (typically called “IFP”) can be a very good option for you. If your health is an issue, it can be much more difficult to find affordable health care, but not impossible. There are a lot of organizations out there, including mine, that can help you. But, before you start to shop there, you need to know some of the basics: 1. Explore COBRA and alternatives to COBRA: If you’ve become self-employed after leaving a full-time position, you were likely offered COBRA continuation coverage. And, if your health is an issue, COBRA may be your best short-term option. If COBRA’s price tag was a shocker for you, you should know that the government is currently offering a nine-month subsidy that covers 65% of the cost of COBRA for those who qualify. A good primer on COBRA, the subsidy, and your alternatives to COBRA is available COBRA typically provides very comprehensive benefits to satisfy a broad audience, but they may be benefits you don’t need. A relatively healthy person may be able to find less-expensive coverage, even after the 65% subsidy. 2. It is possible to get health insurance with some pre-existing conditions: Don’t assume your health will disqualify you. Read Full Article