The Way We Work
August 12, 2009 by Guest Blogger

I don’t work at oDesk, but I use it all the time. I start a new online business about every six months, and therefore need a lot of talented people to help me pull it off- 90% of the work for my companies is done through outsourcing with oDesk. I’m a buyer, and I want to share with you some tips to make yourself stand out from the crowd and command top-dollar for your skills.

Here are ten tips to make more money off people like me:

Applying for jobs

Exceptional Person Required

1 – Hide your (other) skills
When applying for a job, try not to copy/paste the same generic cover letter. A lot of times, I’m asking for something specific – like an ActionScript 3 programmer, and the cover letter I get would say “I’m an expert in HTML/CSS/PHP/FLASH”. That’s great, but I was looking for an AS3 pro, not anything else. Talk about the skills you have for this job specifically and you have a much bigger chance to get booked!

2 – Repeat the job
Almost always I hire the person that repeats back to me exactly what I want – in their own words. It makes me feel they are confident about their understanding of the job and I plan to interview with them right away!

3 – Good English skills don’t matter…
… when I’m not looking for a writer. On those types of jobs, tell me what variables you need me to define for you to come up with for a more accurate quote. I’m more than happy to reply using the interview feature. That hire button just got one step closer!

The interview process

4 – Talk timeline
Every buyer is a little nervous to go over budget. If you have enough information about the job, and can give an accurate timeline that you can commit to keeping, you will stand out from the rest. Follow through by sticking to that timeline? Five star feedback and re-hiring are now guaranteed.

5 – Present related work
I love a good portfolio, but don’t have time to go through a full list of work you did before. If you send me one link of something very similar to what I’m looking for, that’s enough for me. If your previous work isn’t directly related, give me a few items that combine to show the skills I need for this job. Still at a loss? Apply for a different job that is a more direct fit for your talents – this will let you command a higher rate and deliver phenomenal results!

Hourly jobs

6 – Work with a plan from the start
I’ve been a freelancer myself and my hourly rate was 70 EUR ($100 USD) while I was still in college. Not because I was a good programmer (I’m honestly not) but because I started every job with a plan. I used the four C’s (Cloud – Create – Contstruct – Control, which you can read more about in my book) with every client – and all of them were raving about the work, simply because I always started every e-mail with what ‘development phase’ we were in next.


7 – Please document
You’ll be surprised how few people document their work and how much more I’m willing to pay for someone who does. There are plenty of free scripts out there that you can use to quickly generate something that looks good. Explain what you did and the buyer will love you for it and fight to keep you on the team. I know I will!

8 – Say when you’ll work on it
Even if I trust you completely on the job and hired you 10 times before, I’m still a little anxious to know when exactly you will start on my job. If you specify when you’ll start working, I have some peace of mind, even if it’s close to the deadline.

Fixed price jobs

9 – Communicate about progress only
That’s all I want to hear about. Of course, too little communication is bad but too much communication is bad too. Keep in mind, every time you contact the buyer, you need to give a little update on your progress and you will become a keeper!

10 – Be honest

If you missed a deadline or did something wrong, be honest about it and I would still give you a 5-star rating. I love honesty more than anything and I love to give a second chance. (But not every buyer is the same. Get to know your buyer, build trust with them, and they are more likely to value you, your honesty, and your work.)

Don’t go yet: I want to be a better buyer, too! In your comments, please tell me: what makes a good buyer?


Ruven Meulenberg’s company is currently creating a video-game through oDesk. He is the founder of GuiMags, the author of “The Unplugged: Join a new breed of software developers that don’t use computers. Much” and he blogs twice a week on

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  • nora

    hi mr. ruven,

    Thanks for your effort in sharing this tips and experiences of yours.I’ll consider this in entering this new venture that i’m going to take.I think you’re already a good buyer.


  • Fey Lou

    Hi Ruven,

    Thanks for the inputs. I learned something in creating a cover letter, to hide some skills would be helpful enough to get hired.

    Cool! Just new to odesk and I find the site very nice too. Hope I can land a part time job soon.



  • martin jesudasan

    Hello Ruven Meulenberg,
    It is so nice of you to share the 10 points, highly valuable for a starter like me.
    Thanks a lot man,

  • ben

    Thanks for the wonderful 10 golden rules.
    I think you said it when you asked what makes a good buyer. You yourself was a freelancer when you were in college and I think that is very important. Like teaching a good teacher can put themselves in the students desk. A good buyer can put themselves in the freelancers shoes.
    Thanks a lot,
    I would choose you to work for any day,


  • Emdad


    You have provided lots of useful information for us. I have read your 10 tips and find the solution to what to do and not.


  • Sheila Alipio

    Hi Ruven,

    I’m new at oDesk and reading your tips will be a great help to me in applying for a job and getting one, too. Thanks for your help.



  • Masood


    Great tips. I am new to odesk and still trying to get some assignments but no success. Your tips will help me a lot for getting jobs.

  • floren bernardo

    Hi Ruven,

    I have been in the outsourcing business for several years now but not in environment. I and my group deals directly with the clients.

    The tips you gave as a buyer will benefit us freelancers in our pusuit for more business in the environment and others.

    Better Communications is the first thing that I think should be made between the buyer and the service provider to make the relationship fruitfull and long lasting.

    More Power,

    floren bernardo

  • Partha Pratim Bose

    Many many thanks for the information you shared in the blog. It is very a very useful for a very new freelancer.

    Partha Bose.

  • Sharaj

    I really appreciate your advises. I’m a regular provider to another reputed freelancing site, But Now I want to enhance my business to another Top class sites too, So I’m trying to enter Odesk. Your article is really helpful for me. Thank you again.

  • bernie

    enlightening, thank you!

    and i believe (based on what i’ve read here) you are already a good buyer.

    it helps when a buyer is also upfront with his/her requirements for the job (specifics/details). makes provider more accurate in targeting job applications.

    thank you once again.

  • Ramalingam Ganapathy

    Hi Ruven,
    It is very helpful and informative article.

  • K. Raveendran


    This was an eye opener and very informative. Thanks

  • dan

    Yes, this is a big help. Buyers have different taste but I like this. Good job, and thanks for posting.

  • Sid

    To be better buyer, first of all change that profile picture of yours.


    Hello Ruven,

    All the 10 stuff sound very useful as a beginner provider I quite belief that these tools among others in combination shall works well.

    However, it

  • Adofoli Edem

    I love your infromation, as a new provider and beginner, it a start up for me.

    I very good in learn a new things and very skillfull.

    Although I m new here, i want you to give me the chance to show you the great stuff i have.

    Thank You
    Adofoli Edem

  • Nasir Mahmood

    Hello, Ruven
    I appreciate your participation in such useful information.
    To be best buyer you should provide good information about you project and to give some references you liked. So provider will catch a quick introduction about your taste and approach.
    I am available for contact whenever you need to.

    Nasir Mahmood

  • Derge

    All that is valuable in human society depends upon the opportunity for development accorded the individual :)

  • Morbi

    All the 10 points given are really helpful. Thanks Mr. Ruven for this effort.

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  • Kelly Thomas

    A freelancer or freelance worker is a person who pursues a profession without a long-term commitment to any one employer. The Internet has opened up many freelance opportunities, expanding markets and helping to build it into one of the largest economic segments for many economies. Development for freelancing has been especially high for software development, website design, information technology, and business documentation.