It's exciting. No, thrilling — isn't it? Your brand new oDesk username sparkles in your eyes, your dashboard is now filled with possible jobs to apply for, and your profile is just waiting for all the wonderful goodness of your background and experience as a professional.
You're ready to sweep the oDesk market off of its virtual feet with your valuable knowledge and skills!
... Now what?
Let's take a walk, shall we?
Get to Know oDesk First
First things first, don't just jump in and start applying to your heart's content. You're up against 800,000 other contractors, some having been around since 2008 and with much more oDesk experience. In other words, the competition's going to be dead fierce.
As a newcomer, you must prepare. And the best way to prepare is to first understand how oDesk works.
Here are the first few pages to visit:
- The Contractor's Map Through the World of oDesk
- The Learning Center: Contractor Video Tutorials (if you're not fond of reading)
- Contractors 101: The oDesk Essentials (if you love to read)
- oDesk Team 3: The Contractor's Manual
Your Profile: The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread
Now that you're familiar with how oDesk works, your next step is to turn your oDesk profile (yes, the yellow oDesk card with your photo in it) into the best thing employers have ever seen.
While I can't promise that it will bring in jobs in a matter of days, a good profile will certainly keep your chances of finding and winning work on oDesk high. Naomi N. offers helpful tips for newbies on how to improve one's profile, so let's take a look at some of her profile tips:
- Overview - It should introduce you to the client and establish your objective. It should answer the question, "Why you should hire me over the other guy?" If it doesn't answer that question, it's not a good overview.
- Hourly Rate - This rate should reflect the level and quality of work that you provide, and should be a fair reflection of a going rate for the field/category you are interested in. If you're not sure what to set your rate at, look through other providers, or the oConomy pages, figure out how much you would be paid for the exact same job at an office, or do a search to see if you can find out what the average going rate is for that field.
- Take and Show Tests - Some clients won't even look at you if you're not oDesk-ready -- so take that test! Beyond that, take any other test that will help show just how good you are at something. How is a client going to know that you're the best web site designer if the only test you took was an English skills test and a telephone etiquette test?
- Build a Portfolio - A portfolio is a great way to display your work. If you build web sites, place some links in there to web sites that you've built. If you're an artist, throw together some logos and interface designs. Writer? Post a link to your blog. Once it's up, keep it updated.
The Quest for The First oDesk Job
You've learned all there is to know about oDesk and are equipped with an impressive profile. Excellent!
The next step will be the deciding factor of your career on oDesk. It will open the gates to freelance opportunities, experience, and will pave the way to freelancing success.
Your next step is to find and win your first oDesk job.
There are heaps of advice all over the oDesk website to help you land your first oDesk gig, but all would depend on how you handle each and every application. If you write personal cover letters that address the employer's needs and requirements, if you provide relevant portfolio pieces, and if you can prove that you are a contractor he (or she) can rely on, I'm sure your future employer will want you to be a member of the team.
But, if you simply send generic cover letters that don't make sense, if you never respond to interview invitations (rare as they may be), and if you feel like quitting because no one's giving you a chance ... well, my friend, your actions will speak for themselves.
Before you head back to your desk, here's 15 Tips for New Freelancers for a good dose of inspiration and a quote for encouragement:
"Everyone who got where he is has had to begin where he was."
– Robert Louis Stevenson
How did you get your first job on oDesk? Tell us about it in the comments below!