Online Work Tips & Best Practices
February 3, 2014 by Guest Blogger

By Bjarne Viken & Cameron Rambert, co-founders of Digital Mined

Are you struggling to find enough work on oDesk? What you may be lacking is not necessarily the skills to do the work, but the skills to get the job.

If that’s the case, you’re actually in a good position, because it’s easier and faster to learn how to get work on oDesk than it is to learn new professional skills. After that, it is just a matter of determining how to apply these methods to your circumstances. As you do so, you will increase your chances of getting hired, and get more opportunities to deliver high-quality work that clients will give you good testimonials for—thus creating a virtuous cycle of more hiring.

We actually just wrote a whole book called “7 Steps For Making Money On oDesk,” which can be downloaded for free on our website. But here are some excerpts of the seven steps, to help you get started quickly:

  1. Define your title. Creating a title for yourself is extremely important because, if done well, you can increase your chances of getting hired. Ideally, your title should be a two- to three-word summary of your core strengths, with maybe a few enhancing words on either side.

  1. Define your tags. Choosing skills tags is very important because it affects how you are found by potential clients as well as how you are perceived. Luckily, the process can be easily done by brainstorming 10-20 words that tie in with your freelance title and then cross-checking these with what successful oDesk freelancers in your field are using.

  1. Write a clear description. Writing a description can be easily done after you have made a headline and associated tags. When you write your description, try to present arguments for why someone should hire you by focusing on the best pitches first. Most clients are interested in arguments that focus on quality and bigger return on their investment.

  1. Take relevant tests. Taking a few tests that are relevant to the work you do is the best way to validate what you claim in your profile description. It can also be an interesting way to learn which skills you need to enhance (or learn from scratch) in order to get jobs in a certain field of work. If English is not your first language, you can use the English tests indirectly to prove your ability to communicate.

  1. Do 5-10 small assignments. Even when you’re just starting out, you have to think long term. Be honest, over-deliver, and grow your reputation. Start small by applying for assignments less than $50. Make sure they are given by clients with good feedback and who have spent a good deal of money on freelancers. You can then work towards a better rate of pay as you gain more experience and better feedback. To increase your chances of getting hired for these first projects, make sure to answer everything in the client’s brief and say why you should be picked by referring to your skills and experience.

  1. Create a portfolio. With the work you have done so far, see if you can add a few samples into the portfolio section of your profile so clients can get an idea of the work you do. Ideally, you want to showcase not only your best work, but your range of skills and project types. It’s also worthwhile to regularly update your portfolio with new jobs as your career progresses.

  1. Go for larger jobs. Larger assignments give you the chance to take on more jobs that are similar or to try something new. It’s largely a matter of being strategic and using your existing clients as springboards to get more work. If you have established yourself as a highly skilled freelancer, your future prospects could include continuing in that role, creating and managing an agency or taking your work offline, if you choose.

The above list might seem a bit overwhelming if you are just starting out, so if you only take away one point, here is the most important bit to focus on: When you’re applying for a project, read the job description thoroughly and reply to everything. Sometimes clients receive 30+ applications that aren’t even close to answering what they want. If you can be among the few applicants who reply to everything that’s asked, you have a much higher chance of being interviewed.

Hey freelancers, we’d love to hear your tips for how to make money on oDesk. Add them in the comments section below! And if you want to read the full book, you can download it for free here

Bjarne Viken and Cameron Rambert

Founders of Digital Mined

Bjarne Viken and Cameron Rambert are the founders of Digital Mined, one of the fastest-growing sites where freelancers learn how to earn. Through the Digital Mined site, Bjarne and Cam (among others) frequently share the unique insights they've acquired throughout their careers as both successful freelancers and employers of freelancers. If you would like to get in touch with either Bjarne or Cam, feel free to send them a tweet at @digitalmined.

  • Faisal Bashir

    I have spent more than 5000 hours on Odesk . I get invitation in start and get jobs through that but my friends said they never get any invitation . Can anybody tell me the reason ?

  • Faisal Bashir

    I have spent more than 5000 hours on Odesk . I get invitation in start and get jobs through that but my friends said they never get any invitation . Can anybody tell me the reason ?

    • Sapna kanwar

      The client can send an invitation to freelancers. There is an option on oDesk that filter the relevant(freelancer who have the same skill which is required for efficient fulfilment of a project) freelancer and client have an option to invite these freelancers which are suggested by oDesk.

  • shining student
  • Probir Mridha

    I want to join, but i do not no what i have to do first or what kind of work i have to learn.

    • shining student

      Hi Probir
      Just make a profile in Odesk. Then know about the site. You will find some easy job like data entry, web research etc. But if you want to be a online professional, take some training on article writing, SEO, Photoshop, Web design etc. For more information you can visit .

  • manojkumar reddy

    i have been with odesk from past 2months…but i cant even apply for a single job even after qualifying all the tests required by that project …..i raised the same problem for many time bit even till now i dint get the exact solution…so that i can apply job from the odesk,my friends even have the profile lesss than me have started working with the o desk but i cant…so plz help me from this problem….

  • Eiman

    I am a freelancer at odesk. in the start i use to get a lot of work but now i am not getting any job!
    please help me how to handle this?

  • harun rashid

    helpful article

  • Squiggles

    I have recently joined oDesk after being laid off from my job and I cannot get any work from there and I have over 8yrs design experience. I have a good profile with all my experience and examples on it and for some reason I cannot land anything. I dont think people are going to hire someone who is new and dont have any feedback, but you cant get feedback if no one will hire you.

    I have tried all the things listed but still nothing.

    • Bjarne

      Hi Squiggles

      Could you please send me your profile URL to I would not mind having a look at your profile to look for areas of potential improvement.

      Personally I don´t mind hiring designers with no feedback, if they just have a good portfolio. I can imagine that with 8 years experience you just need to improve how you sell yourself online. It could just be a matter of making a few adjustments.


      • Squiggles

        Hey Bjarne,

        Email has been sent, I appreciate your time.

  • jhinherbs

    I’m new here in oDesk, I had two interviews already for Customer Care but they haven’t updated me yet if they’re still interested in my application.

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  • Susan Brown

    what sort of portfolio sample can a virtual assistant offer (email management, calendar management, coordinating meetings, flights – that kind of stuff)?

  • Mahesh Walatara

    I have over 180 jobs on oDesk but lately I am sick and tired of it. They have this utterly stupid, time consuming additional questions crap that has to be answered on top of the cover letter that makes me wanna throw up.

    • Ram Venkatesh

      Then stop working with Odesk-What happened,you can’t do that?
      My friend,you will get results only with hardwork…if you have problem then don’t do it-nobody is forcing you to.So pls stop bitching about the wonderful service they give you..

      • Mahesh Walatara

        Its because of Indians such as yourself who keep spamming the place that they been forced to implement such a procedure. So if you lot go stick your noses elsewhere we’d all be far better off.

        • Bjarne

          As an employer the additional questions can be really handy because they can remove the need for an interview and show at a glance if the candidate is qualified.

          • sikandar52

            Hi Dear Sir i am sikandar i need your help kindly tell me how to find work on odesk i am good in Data entry and i am excel specialist kindly help how i find work on odesk i make profile already i done every thing

    • TJ Fretwell

      I believe that Mahesh has a valid point, even though it is delivered with a bit of attitude…

      Applying for oDesk jobs is in fact extremely time consuming.. largely because of the default questions that are included in the job posting template.

      I have experience as both a freelancer and a client, so I understand the dynamics of both.

      Clients do not want to get spammy or “canned” responses from freelancers because it wastes their time, and this makes perfect sense.

      Mahesh is trying to point out that freelancers also don’t want to always see the same spammy, canned, time draining questions from clients over and over again in applications. I totally agree.

      I also agree with his description of the additional questions (at least the default ones). They are in fact useless… and quite difficult to answer seriously. How, for example, is a freelancer supposed to answer the cookie cutter question about giving recommendations for improving a project – when they have very little or no background information on that project?

      I sincerely believe that this dynamic causes undue friction in the process of clients and freelancers finding each other. We all have limited time. Anything that is perceived as wasting that time causes frustration.

      So I hope that oDesk will rethink the way they create default applications, and also encourage Clients to come up with their own original questions which are actually applicable to the position and (most importantly) respectful of the freelancer’s time.

      This could make oDesk and even more wonderful service (and they are in fact quite wonderful).

      • maan81

        Truly agree on the fact — “How, for example, is a freelancer supposed to answer the cookie cutter question about giving recommendations for improving a project – when they have very little or no background information on that project?”

      • sikandar52

        hi dear TJ fretwell what can i do for find job on odesk kindly help me

  • Md. Raihan Mondol

    Hi,thank you sharing 7 steps to make money in Odesk.I am a new freelancer.I have decorated my profile according to your 7 steps.I don`t know where is my lacking.Give me some advice to success in Odesk. please share some idea for new user like me…

    • Bjarne

      Hi Raihan

      I would suggest you read through this article on the most common profile mistakes;

      Otherwise I would suggest re-evaluating how you write cover letters. Simply replying to everything that clients ask for and indirectry referring to your strengths tend to be effective.

      Hope that helped.


  • KM Lee


    Thanks for sharing the 7 steps to making money on oDesk for free.

    I’ve written a post in 2013 sharing my 7 secrets to making money as a freelancer:

    #1 Identify a profitable niche

    #2 Start with a reputable freelance platform (I recommend oDesk)

    #3 Complete your profile (with real picture)

    #4 Build your reputation doing work that you can deliver

    #5 Responsiveness plus impressiveness to job application

    #6 Bid LOWER than your client’s budget (esp. when you’re new)

    #7 Sharpen your skills (keep yourself up to date)

    You can find the full written instructions here →

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  • erniecordell

    Thank You for your relevant and significant contribution. Just the summary steps gave me something about which to think. I’ve been struggling, but not really with a way of working with oDesk, but more with steps to build my own infrastructure (which may be a way of saying, “some of the things you suggest”). I look forward to applying more from the ebook.

    You did bring something out that had bothered me, but something which I’d not yet considered a significant obstacle — but it’s a barrier to some of the important intelligence-gathering I’ve done in the past. There is a major employer on oDesk that really obscures the view of other employers: Nobody can complain about a good customer because that customer does a lot to support the whole enterprise — but I can’t even determine who’s the second-largest employer on oDesk because the largest impedes visibility. If that were the only problem, I’d just accept an assignment from them, but in addition to being large, their contractor-targeting isn’t very precise. A lady in a forum said they keep “offering her things for which she was not qualified.” I didn’t dismiss her thought altogether, but I wondered whether her confidence were a factor. While I am qualified for many of the positions they propose, I’m often not the best match, nor am I in a position to accept many of these posts (for reasons as broad in variety as the assignments). Do you have any suggestions as to how to drill down into the detail to find those ideal employers (for each stage of one’s venture)?

    • Bjarne

      Hi Ernie

      We touch on finding employers in the book. Basically there are no sure ways however the following indicators might help;

      – Feedback history. What is the average rating? In particularly are there any raving reviews that appear to be genuine?

      – Their brief. Is it clear and specific? This is an indication of how well the client knows what they want. If they don´t they might be unprofessional, new to freelancing or simply unprepared.

      – Their spend. Have they spent a lot of money on oDesk? This is not an indication of quality but ability to pay, and experience.

      Apart from that make your own judgement based on how you are treated. Smart employers focus on the relationship more than that work because they know the full cost of rehiring.

      In regard to being invited for jobs, that probably has a lot to do with the hiring process. You have the option of automatically inviting 10 freelancers to bid for your work after you have posted the brief. It is possible that the automatic suggestions are not always that accurate.

      As an employer I have clicked the button without looking at the list. From seeing some of the applications from it they don´t all appear to be qualified. So that might answer your question from my side.

      Hope that answered your question.


      • Artyom Kostandyan

        I am new to oDesk. first of all thank you for sharing important and helpful information online for new users – it gave me much to think about….
        I am legal adviser, advocate, actually freelancer and would like to work and render legal services online. Can anyone give me some tips regarding my profession how to handle it online?

        • Bjarne

          Hi Artyom

          Since you have legal expertise I would suggest that you use that to identify a niche. Spend some time looking at which jobs are available and then use that to choose what to specialize in.

          Personally I think there is a market for an internet law specialist.

          Kind Regards

    • Cheryl

      Hello Ernie

      I also have the same problem and I believe it is with the same client on oDesk – I receive loads of offerings from them and many of them are for jobs I would never consider.

      The main thing that holds me back from accepting any of them is that they always ask you to apply to them outside of oDesk and I try extremely hard not to disregard oDesk rules (of which this is one).

      However, when I approached oDesk about this client, they came back to me saying that they were one of their best clients. So a bit of a contradiction in my view.