The Way We Work
November 2, 2010 by Tamara Rice

Contractors can sometimes be a bit private, as few of us want to admit to solving a client’s website crisis while wearing footed pajamas and sitting in a recliner. However, there are a few things about our work life and work style that need to be communicated to clients in order to establish better trust and a better foundation for long-term work relationships.

Communicate Your Work Schedule. Let a new employer know your typical work week right away. Set the expectations up front, so the employer doesn’t assume unrealistic ones. If you never work in the afternoons, say that up front: “I am unavailable between 12 p.m. and 6 p.m. each day.” Having a somewhat regular schedule is important for your own productivity (more on that in a future post), but it also helps your client know when he can expect to reach you, hear back from you, and get results from you. Answer work calls during these working hours, but it’s a good work/life balance practice to let work calls go to voicemail during your off hours. This teaches your employer how you work: You are available during working hours. You are unavailable in your personal time. Be sure your client knows your time zone and general location as well — you don’t want to be getting work calls at 3:00 a.m.!

Why the employer needs to know – Here’s the deal: You are working for that person/business, if you are under contract. It’s good for the employer to know your general work routine. Imagine a dry cleaner in your town with unpredictable hours. You love their work, but you never know when you’ll be able to swing by and drop off or pick up, because they don’t have any sort of consistency to their schedule. It makes even the simplest task (picking up or dropping off dry cleaning) a huge headache. Share your schedule to set expectations and ease the interactions between you and your employer.

communicating work technologyCommunicate Your Work Technology. This is where the topic swings into more of a gray area, but it’s a good practice to be up front about a few things regarding your technology use. Does your employer need to know that your PC is five years old? No. But let her know what programs you use to accomplish your tasks. Are you available on Skype when you’re working? Say so. When it comes to your cellphone technology, the employer doesn’t need details on your carrier or plan, but you may want to mention whether or not he or she can expect you to be able to transfer data when you’re on the road. And do you use texting on your cell? Say so — especially if it’s a great way to get your attention quickly in a crisis or in case of an emergency during your personal time.

Why the employer needs to know – You don’t want to work hard in a certain program and then send the employer a file he doesn’t have the corresponding technology to open. You also don’t want him to be sending you text messages if you don’t pay for text service on your cell phone — reading them will cost you. You also need the employer to have realistic expectations of your availability when you drop a line like “but you can reach me on my cell.” Does that mean the employer can reach you and you can still accomplish tasks online? Or does that simply mean you can talk? Being clear about your technology use eases the communication between you and your employer, and helps set the groundwork for a great working relationship.

For some contractors, these more transparent work practices may be an adjustment or may require a new way of looking at what it is we do. However, transparency and honesty build trust, a requirement for establishing long-term working relationships. Such transparency is also valuable for you and your employer in times of crisis.

Tell us: How much about your work schedule and technology do you communicate to your clients and how do you feel about it?

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.

  • Tamara

    Ahhh … the links did not post. Trying again:

    And the forums:

  • Tamara

    Janell, it’s so smart to make sure the software is compatible!

    Saimarashid, I’m not completely sure what you are asking, but if you are applying for a job and the prospective employer asks for samples of your work in the job posting or in the process of your interview, send the prospective employer links to your previous work — even if you already have these links in your profile.

    However, a word of caution. Please read our post on shady employers who ask for sample work in order to use it without paying you. This is something you need to watch out for and report to the job board you are working on. Here’s the link:

    In a normal situation, have links to your previous work in your profile and also put the links in any applications to jobs that are related or jobs where the prospective employer wants to see your work. It’s possible they just skimmed your profile and didn’t take the time to check the links.

    For more help, check out the oDesk Forums: You can get a lot of questions answered by your fellow oDeskers.


  • saimarashid

    i’m just new there, have read allot, but im bit confused, Ive applied to a job basically its about article writing, and my contractor asked to give me three of my article in Job Posting, my question is that, what is this Job Posting is all about, either Ive to submit my articles in attachments while applying for that particular job, or Ive to mention these articles in my Portfolio?
    need reply

  • Janell Williams

    I let them know when I work and the version of the software I use. This helps them know what I am able to provide and makes sure we are on the same page. Being a stay at home mom and wife I mainly look for jobs where I have the flexibility to work around my families schedule while meeting my employers needs. As far as technology it helps them know if we are able to read each others work. If they say the want someone who can use Microsoft I let them know what version I have as some of the newer versions may or may not work with some of the older versions. Doing both helps both of us have open communication.