The Way We Work
October 26, 2010 by Tamara Rice

Whether you are a software developer or a freelance editor, a few basic rules of thumb can make the difference between contract work success and failure when working remotely.


1. TALK to your clients. Without regular voice contact with your employers, you can gradually lose that personal connection that can keep communication solid and the work flow steady. Given Skype and other voice-over-Internet options, you don’t even have to pick up your cell phone to talk and the expense stays minimal. What’s more, you can get face time via the Internet too. Take advantage of it. If regular conversations aren’t happening naturally in the course of work, take the initiative to schedule them.

2. Set your own HOURS. And keep them. While being a remote worker gives you the freedom to make your own hours, it’s not always the best idea to make them up as you go. Having a routine and sticking to it is  key to productivity and vital to maintaining consistent contact with your employer or team. In fact, having your basic “office” hours on your voicemail and your email signature can be a huge help to the people who depend on you.

3. ELIMINATE distractions. Career contractors have to maintain a level of self-discipline that doesn’t come naturally to all of us. If the television, your cell phone, your neighbors, or anything else is distracting to your work, it has to be controlled. Take charge of your work environment during your office hours and eliminate the distractions. Having a designated space in your home — a home office — does seem to be the best choice for most contractors. Close the door to anything and anyone that does not contribute to your productivity.

5 tips for successful remote work

4. Have a COMFORTABLE place to work. We might not all agree on the best and most productive place to work, but being comfortable while you are working  should be at the top of your priorities. If working from the couch gives you a painful kink in your neck, it needs to stop. Work in an environment that feeds your senses in ways that make you productive. If you aren’t physically comfortable while you work, it will eventually catch up with you. Your work will suffer and so will you. It’s worth a monetary investment to get comfortable. Your chair, the height of your screen and keyboard, lighting, etc., will all affect your personal comfort.

5. Pursue excellence in your CRAFT. If you aren’t passionately connected to your specialty, you may find it hard to pursue success as a contractor. Subscribe to a trade publication, attend conventions, or simply keep up on trends in your field through the blogs and newsletters. But always stay on the cutting edge of knowledge and progress in your chosen career field. If you aren’t emotionally invested in doing a fantastic job for your employers it will become obvious to them rather quickly. Long-term success requires your long-term passion for excellence.

These five basic truths were the same in 2006, the year that oDesk Team member John D. first wrote about them. Read his take on remote work success here.

Tamara Rice

Freelance Writer and Editor

Tamara Rice is one of several freelance writers on the oDesk Blog team. She joined the oDesk marketplace in 2009, after more than six years on staff at an award-winning national magazine.

  • Eric Sutherland


    Thank you for the clear advice



  • Emelyn Sab-a

    thank you miss tamara for giving me an information, i would like to work in odesk that is why i ask yousince you been succesfull

  • Tamara

    PS to Emelyn. You can also go to oDesk’s Facebook page:

    A lot of oDesk users are active there and can give you advice.

  • Tamara

    Hi, Emelyn. The best resource for you to learn the oDesk ropes will be to search the blog under the “Freelance Focus” category, you should see above.

    In addition to those tips, if you need assistance setting up your profile, applying to jobs, etc., please check out the oDesk Forums, which can be found at And ask your fellow users specific questions. If all else fails, there is always oDesk Customer Service:

    If you are having a problem, they can offer you assistance. oDesk is a great place to find work, so please check out the forums and past blog posts for advice and assistance.

  • emelyn

    i will wait for your reply or you can email me at

  • emelyn

    can you teach me about odesk i want to work in odesk

  • khaled


  • Ernie Cordell

    I love your crisp style: It’s up-front with no beating around the bush.

    IMHO, 4 of these rules are absolute deal-breakers. I was just talking to somebody about the “friendly enemies” in life who think because you are home, you are available to them: “You don’t have to go anywhere, go to the store (watch the kids, paint my house) for me.” I’m not good with distractions: When I was a kid, my parents gave me a safe zone in which to study, and I liked it that way. And although it’s nice to make your own hours, I’m sure we all produce better in a regular rhythm of shift-work.

    But I don’t get this snuggly need to hear a human voice: When I consulted with the military, it could be a little frustrating for the specific guidance to be so rare, but we got by with very little face time and not a lot of phone chatter. Hand-holding make your clock time look bad, too: Many want it, few are willing to pay for it.

  • Janell Williams

    Thank you for this. This is great. Always a good reminder.