The Way We Work
September 20, 2010 by Brian McDonough

A remote contractor needs to be able to hit the ground running.  Though in-house hires are often given multiple days of orientation briefings, a remote contractor is expected to take an assignment and get to work right away.  Unless they’ve read our blog lately, your managers might not have thought through what you need from them to do the job, and days-long delays or endless, seemingly random questions won’t endear you to them.

Larry Stone, a user interface designer who joined oDesk after years as an independent contractor, says employers often forget to give you key details up front.  “As a web designer, you might find out the client has some other system in place, like a shopping cart, that your work has to accommodate,” he says.  “So you need to know what it is and where the help documentation is for it.”

To that end, here’s a checklist that any remote worker should be able to take and adapt to the specifics of your own job or skill set.  It covers five areas and is thorough enough to get you up to full speed right away, but concise enough to be handled quickly.  You can download the full checklist here, and this overview should help you customize it to fit your own specialized skill set.

1.  Job Specifications:  The job posting and interview process cover most of this, but you should tick off the information you know to figure out what details have been missed, so that you don’t have to redo work to make it conform to the employer’s expectations.  For a writer, it can mean grasping the client’s core messaging and getting a copy of the in-house style guide.

2.  Communications:  Who do you talk to, and for what issues?  Often the hiring manager isn’t the person to go to with technical questions. In some cases, the hiring manager might be a contractor, too.  The employer may have one person to talk to about getting your hourly limit increased, and another for more technical questions about the work.  Make sure you know who, how and when to reach out, and what kind of turnaround you can expect.

3.  Collaboration:  In addition to the chain of command, there may be colleagues to coordinate with — fellow developers, a product manager, a graphic designer.  Your work may need to closely coordinate with theirs.  They may be waiting for you to deliver something, or you may end up waiting for them.  Understanding who you’re working with and how the team fits together lets you stay on top of your work and makes you a more integral part of the team.

4.  Technology & Access:  Do you need administrative privileges on a client’s server?  Do you need a login to post directly to the company’s blog?  Are you set up on their Dropbox account?  Are you sharing the right Google Docs?  Do you have the right code repository or FTP access?  Do you need VPN access?  If you’ll be using any of the employer’s proprietary software, make sure to asked for logins and training materials.

5.  Crisis Management:  We’ve been talking lately about getting ready for inevitable disasters, whether you’re a contractor or an employer.

Don’t be afraid to discuss how to handle major problems, such as their corporate server crashing or your entire neighborhood suffering a power outage.

Julie Ladd, whose A La Carte Business Services has been working through oDesk since 2009, says she’s particularly detailed when it comes to writing and marketing assignments.  Her checklist reads more like an interview, asking the client to detail the company’s elevator pitch, the core value it’s offering, the nature of its customers—the kind of things that let you really do a professional, top-notch job.  But she notes that clients sometimes find a full questionnaire to be daunting.

“I’ve learned to get the information I need in the way the employer wants to give it to me, whether piecemeal as questions come up or all at once up front,” she says.  “In the end, it’s less important how I get the information than that I get it, so rather than trying to force employers to do things my way, I work within their preferences to get what I need.”

The first step is knowing what information you need to know, and it’s an important one.  After all, Julie says, “It’s much easier to keep an existing client happy than to get a new one.”

Take a look at our checklist, and let us know in the comments whether it’s useful to you, and what changes you’d make to customize the list for yourself.

Brian McDonough

Freelance Writer

Brian McDonough has been a writer and editor for more than 15 years, and has managed teams of in-house and freelance writers for newspapers, magazines and web sites.

  • Idewa David

    Very new in odesk please assist where possible.with thanks and respect

  • Yen Le

    This is excellent. I never thought to make a detailed checklist like this..

    Thank you.

  • Samuel Udochukwu

    Thanks you so much, it so detail,

  • Il’dar

    Thank you Brian, I am happy to this is

  • Hudson J

    It’s really helpful. I read it and honestly it’s complete.

    • Mohammed Alim Ullah

      Above tips are really much helpful for new contractors

  • Md Habibullah

    I am trying and getting my first job here . I like to give many many thanks to our ODESk for giving such opportunity. And at the same time , I would like to have any kind of assistance from ODESk for me and for the new applicants who are seeking jobs withing a short time.

  • mwendwajk

    The information has given me insights am i feel more confident as i prepare to start my first job in oDesk.Am printing the checklist and i know it will be useful even in other areas.
    Thank you very much.

  • gayfleur

    I am currently working on my first job. Thank you ODesk for the opportunity.. I appreciate any tips and advice that you will be sharing for a newly hired contractor like me.

    • expertonseo

      I also thanks oDesk support team to give freelancer this kind of facility.

  • Nazmul Haque

    I am trying to my best to get my first job please help me.

  • marc anthony pascual

    thanks odesk . :)

  • Theresa Davis

    It would be nice if you could make the check-list available as a PDF file rather than a JPG

    • Amdadul Haque

      i am just starting my job right now. i would like to give thanks to odesk to giving me the chance to do job here. i wish to give the better and high performance in the odesk.

    • Laura Schneider

      I agree with Theresa Davis–a PDF FORM (where the checkboxes are actually “check”able), specifically, so that I can save a copy of this form in the same folder with each job’s details and click off each item as I get/know it. The JPG is still very helpful, however: thanks!!

  • muklis nasution

    Thank to brian, Iam happy to this is

  • Satish

    Really nice structured and informative stuff.

    just think the second sentence in point #3 “Your work may need to closely coordinate with yours” should be “Your work may need to closely coordinate with others/them”.


  • ptdugan

    I appreciate having this information available as I get ready to start my first assignment with oDesk. It has helped me focus on what I will need to know and given me the confidence to feel competent to handle the job. Thank you!

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    i want to do a typing job

  • Aya Ahmed

    Very Nice to have it .. it’s good for me :)

  • Sidur

    Hi there,

    At first of Thank you Odesk to get this opportunity of Working to us. I have been looking for a job in Odesk Since June ,2012. Unfortunately i am not that smart enough to get a job yet. However, day my day my necessity requiring at least a job for me. Still i didn’t give up and trying to make me more organized to get a Work for me.

    During my tenure of searching/looking for a job I would like to share my few feelings of Idea with Odesk Authority.

    – If An Applicant gets a job right after passing Odesk readiness test would be Highly appreciable .
    – Even the payout would be very less but it will not bother i guess.
    – Day by Day Odesk becoming a trusted partner which is extremely necessary for in this freelance industry.
    – Odesk should organize few jobs for the beginner by themselves with minimum payable amount.

    Thank you.

  • Jayde Delano

    I just did the download of your checklist & realized it’s a jpeg. Although useful to set up my own list, it is not really a checklist.

    I would like to suggest an actual checklist down load that is compatible for contractors to have on their desktop, and make notes for themselves when confirming details with the client.

    I have all the questions and things set up into a file for this purpose with a few additional questions added that are tailored to the work I’m doing with audio and writing projects.

    I believe this kind of checklist (on their desktop or printed out for their notes) would be helpful to them.

    • Mark

      Thank you for the big opportunity Odesk. yes i will agree to (Jayde Delano) cause the checklist is a big part of our job industry. thank you and god bless.:)

  • Gopal Chandra Sarker ( Newton)

    Dear Sam,
    To download the Checklist……you have to click on words blur color full checklist here or the image in the right site.
    Then click on right button and get the option save image as.


  • http://yahoo Malou

    It was indeed a great help for me. Thanks for this information.

  • Sam

    I was unable to download the checklist. Would you be able to email it to me?

  • Muhammad Kawsar

    A very detailed check list which I have ever seen.
    As a fresher in the horizon of free lancing market I expect support and assistance from you.

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  • Lee Beetles

    Thanks for this check list, it will come in very handy.

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  • Mae Elaine Pabon

    I’am currently working as a data submitter in one site also a home based job. I hope I can also work with you. Thanks!

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  • Sreerekha L.S

    I have 10 years experience in Data entry field. I wish to do your work. Please consider me.

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  • Jason

    That’s a fantastic check list for Contractors.
    Does anybody have a similar check list specifically for Employers that they would like to share.

  • Not looking for a job

    Oy… it’s a BLOG post about tips to GIVE YOU INFO, not a job posting. Comment and apply where you should, that’s just as bad as the endless string of “ReTweets”.

  • Deepak SImha

    I am an Advertising & Marketing professional. I have done about 85 hours on 0Desk with a good feedback. I would like to be a part of your agency doing some quality work. Please invite me to join.
    Thanks & Best Wishes
    Deepak Simha

  • Gaylord Delgado

    Thanks this is very helpful.

  • Sreerekha L.S

    Good Afternoon

    I am sastisfied with your site. I think I have the ability to work with you. My experience starts since 1996. I wish you must joining your team.

    Hope you will accept my request and reply me as soon as You can.

    Thanking You
    Yours faithfully

  • Socorro Fabor

    This is very helpful. I will go share this with my team. Thanks Brian!

  • Walaa

    It’s great …. your hard work in this sheet is highly appreciated …

  • Sreerekha L.S

    I wish to do your work. I have 10 years experience in MS-Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Pagemaker. Plz consier me.

    Thanking you
    Yours faithfully

  • Stefan V

    This is excellent. I never thought to make a detailed checklist like this..

    Thank you.

    Stefan V

    • Shazni

      A good list of checklist for newcomers. This will be helpful for sure.

      Thank you

      • iluminada

        Thank you Brian for your sharing this message,
        and i will apply into my team, and share it also.