You just finished signing up on oDesk, added your chosen payment withdrawal methods, and are now applying for jobs. You're ready to start earning income and building your freelance business! Unfortunately, most employers prefer those with more experience, with feedback scores, and with at least 100 oDesk hours. So what does a newbie have to do to win his first oDesk project?
1. Complete and enhance your oDesk profile.
It could be that your profile isn't really standing out among the twenty other applicants bidding for the same project. With so many contractor profiles to sift through, you can't afford to be like everyone else.
Your first step therefore is to complete all of the necessary details of your oDesk profile. Enhance it right after with an appealing overview, a clean and detailed resume, and your best portfolio samples.
2. Take and pass skills tests with flying colors.
One of the best ways to prove yourself on oDesk is to pass two types of tests:
- The oDesk Readiness test, and
- Free skills tests that match your specializations
It's not enough that you take and pass these skills tests though. There are employers who are more attracted to shiny 10% and 20% badges, so do your best and aim for higher percentile rankings. (Psst: Hide test scores that aren't that great. You aren't required to display them.)
3. Learn how oDesk really works.
The Help Center is the best place to go to for information on how oDesk really works. Knowing how to log time, use the Work Diary, send messages, apply for jobs, and price yourself properly will help boost your chances of winning your first project.
How? For the simple reason that you're a self-starter who knows what you are doing. Employers will see just how efficient and quick you are to learn, and that you won't be a problem to work with. There won't be any need to file disputes for incorrect logged hours, misuse of the Work Diary, and the like.
4. Personalize and proofread every cover letter you send.
What could be more irritating and embarrassing than reading a generic cover letter full of spelling and grammar mistakes? If your cover letters are simply generic templates with blanks to fill in, the employer will simply discard your application and move on to others who can communicate his goals and requirements better.
With that said, spend about 15-25 minutes reading the employer's job post and noting down important details (answers to the employer's questions, for instance) that you should address in your cover letter. While writing, make sure that you either use your word processor's spell and grammar checker to proofread your cover letter, or re-read and revise it yourself. If English isn't your first language, ask a friend or family member who's more proficient to help you.
5. Apply for jobs that you are confident, knowledgeable, and interested in.
One of the most effective ways to win your first oDesk project is to go for those that fit your skills set, your expertise, and your interests. Imagine yourself applying for a job you had absolutely no experience for. How would you answer your employer's questions? How will you understand the terminology being used? Do you have the technology (e.g., software) needed to create the project?
Go for projects that make your eyes sparkle and your adrenalin pump. If you feel your hands itching to apply to a job post and your brain churning ideas for how to create this employer's project, don't ever stop yourself from trying.
6. Accept rejection and keep applying.
They say that a new oDesk contractor has to go through 60 rejected applications before winning his first project. I'm not saying you have to count to 60 before you can earn your first job, but you should be ready to accept rejections of all kinds and to never give up. Keep applying to jobs that interest you and that you're knowledgeable about. Who knows, your next application may turn out to be your first big break after all.
Bonus: One of my favorite tactics is to keep an eye out for newly posted job posts. Being one of the first 5-10 candidates to apply can increase your chances of winning the project, since the employer/hiring manager is pretty much awake and attentive when browsing through the first few applications. Just make sure to follow points 1-6 first before sending off an application.
What was your experience like when you won your very first oDesk project? Was it easy, so-so, or difficult? Go ahead and share your stories—and your advice on how to win your first oDesk job—in the comments!