The Way We Work
July 18, 2011 by Guest Blogger

By: Ivana Taylor

I’ve been hearing about oDesk from my group of small business owners for months now and have only recently taken the plunge.  As a marketing consultant and online publisher, I’m usually looking for article writers, copy writers, transcriptionists and people who know WordPress and some SEO.  It’s not hard to find those people, but choosing the person that’s going to be a good fit for my project can sometimes be difficult.

oDesk has a fantastic database that helps people who hire narrow down the list of choices, but even then, there are often so many people to choose from at different price points, that the description that candidates write about themselves and a picture often become the items that drive a hiring decision.

The following are five easy-to-fix mistakes that are keeping you from getting hired or making more money — and how to fix them:

Mistake #1. Not thinking of yourself as a product. Even though everyone on oDesk is in the service business, you have to think of yourself as a product.  Think of your picture and profile as the packaging, your description as the package design (or the copy that gets the potential customer excited about the product), and your skills and knowledge as the features and capabilities of the product.

When your potential clients are searching the database and results pop up, it’s like looking across of grocery shelf filled with boxes.  So your job is to describe and design yourself in a way that attracts exactly the kinds of jobs that you are best at and clients will hire you for again and again.

Mistake #2. An unprofessional picture. You must have a professional picture as part of your profile.  It doesn’t have to be professionally taken, but it should be a headshot, meaning that it’s taken above the shoulders.  Dress as you would going into an interview.  In so many ways, when a client sees your pictures, it’s as if you just walked through the office door.  So look your best and have a friendly smile.  oDesk isn’t Facebook, so avoid using overly casual pictures with silly clothes or hats.

Mistake #3. Your description is about your goals and not my needs. As a potential employer, I’m coming to oDesk with a specific project.  If a description starts with your objective to grow your business or the kind of client you are looking for, I pass this by because it doesn’t match what I’m looking for. The way to get chosen is to focus on the keywords that best describe the tasks or skills that your ideal client is looking for.  For example, if you are good at interviewing and doing market research on the phone, write that down because that is the task clients would be hiring you for. Your goal is to describe the talents and tasks that you love to do and that clients would want.

4. Your description is too conversational or just a list. Your description is the only face-to-face conversation you will have with a potential client. Don’t count on them calling you for an interview unless the description sounds like a professional introduction.  The best and most appealing descriptions are those that are friendly, a little conversational (not overly so), and loaded with tasks, capabilities, and talents.  Great descriptions are written in full sentences and say things like, “I’m great at writing keyword rich articles that sell.” Or “I can complete an hour-long transcription in two hours from the time you give it to me.”

5. Too many different skills and abilities in the description. While it’s possible that you have many skills, talents and abilities, it’s best to focus on the ones you love to do most or the ones where you perform the highest quality work.  Placing too many skills in an overview description won’t attract more customers, it will attract less.  When potential clients see too many skills, they won’t know which ones you do best. Focus on what you want to be known for.  You can list the others, but don’t describe or “sell” more than five unrelated skills — especially when these skills are different such as programming and copywriting.  If that is your talent than only focus on those two and don’t confuse people with more.

These are the five top areas that I look at in helping me choose a contractor.  If you look closely, you’ll see that so many of the mistakes come from treating the profiling forms as forms and not conversations with an employer. When you treat your profile as a conversation with a potential employer, more ideal employers will be drawn to you.