Online Work Tips & Best Practices
January 27, 2014 by Melanie Feltham

Every other Tuesday, we pose a question about freelancing to the oDesk Facebook community. These questions allow the community to share their knowledge about working and hiring on oDesk, as well as other oDesk tips on how to become better freelancers.

Here is part one of our favorite Tip Tuesday answers from November and December 2013, featuring advice for getting interviews, keeping skills sharp, and the best ways to use skill tests to build your profile.

Editor's note: Responses edited for clarity.

Q: What are your strategies for turning a job invitation into an interview?

Reply with promptness, personality and professionalism. I like looking at the original job posting to see its visibility. Invite-only jobs give me warm fuzzies: this client has probably applied filters and then filtered through the resulting contractors. I always begin my reply with thanks. And then I respond to the job posting and oDesk tips: Tip Tuesday winnersany requirements the client has specified. I answer and ask questions. I confirm that I am indeed qualified for the skill set required. These not only show interest, but my understanding of the job posting. And I keep the letter short. We're all busy bees. Concise and catchy, that's my motto.
- Joanna Paula Cailas

Read the job instructions carefully, and comply to their requests (samples, links, etc.) Create a personalized cover letter highlighting your experience and skills needed for the job. Ask 1-2 appropriate questions — it lets your potential employer know that you are very interested in the job. DON'TS: 1. Lie, for the sake of getting employed. Your work output will surely speak for itself. 2. Make promises and sound desperate. 3. Accept an invitation that you obviously do not fit into.
- Daryl Serrano

Q: What are your tips for keeping your skills up-to-date?

oDesk tips: best of Tip TuesdaySubscribe to industry blogs for the latest trends and news in your field. There are also online webinars that provide more in-depth information and training opportunities. Keeping on top of industry news can be a good way to avoid being caught flat-footed in an interview when asked about an emerging trend.
- Roland Anjo Syfu

1. Join forums and other community websites related to your field.
2. Try to help others. It's a great way to learn new things as well!
3. Try to grow a reading habit. Read something everyday...blog, magazine or other reports.
4. Subscribe to the newsletter and RSS services of established websites.
5. Finally, practice what you have just learned.
6. Start a new portfolio project that you update whenever you learn new things.
- Saidur Rahman

Q: How many tests should a new freelancer take when building their profile?

I don't think there's a magic number. Rather, spend time thinking about the tests that will help support your value proposition. If you're a book keeper, I'd expect you to score in the top 5% of a Quickbooks test. I'll take quality over quantity. - Matt Keener

oDesk tips: Tip Tuesday winnersFrom an oDesk Recruiter's point of view: take as many tests as you can, preferably the ones relevant to your skills and post only those with top scores, especially when you are new to oDesk and starting to build your profile. Seeing a profile with those top scores gives a client the impression that you are a smart and intelligent contractor. Hide the "below average" tests, review further and re-take when you have the time. Below average test scores are an “eyesore” to clients and recruiters. - Melanie Castillo

Ready to learn more about freelance success from real oDeskers? Visit the oDesk Facebook page every other Tuesday and check out the Tip Tuesday question!

Melanie Feltham

Contributing Author

Melanie Feltham is a full-time freelancer who specializes in social media and search engine marketing. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and Linguistics, a Bachelor of Science Honors in Psychology, and a Master of Business Administration.