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Want to get that first job? Then check this out...

Okay... there are a lot, and I do mean a lot, of posts asking about how to get that first job. I check these posts from new people who are asking "why can't I get hired" and when I go to look, their profiles aren't even filled out, no tests are taken, or what is filled out is just filled with mistakes. To top it all off, there are just as many contractors handing out bad advice.

That's not to say that my advice is the absolute best; nor will it work for everyone. But it's a system that works for me, and has been working for me since I joined oDesk. If you really want to get that first job, hopefully this will at least serve as a starting point for you.

My hope is that other oDesk freelancers will read and add to this posting any thoughts on what works for them that might be different from what I post here.

So, going through step by step to landing that first job...

1. Set up your profile! Yes, a lot of people come to online sources because it's easy and convenient - but that doesn't mean that they want to completely give up the personal experience as well. Your profile is what will introduce you as a person as well as an applicant to the people reviewing your cover letter. Make it count.

  • Overview - One of the most important parts of your profile is your overview. It should introduce you to the client and establish your objective. Use this to set you apart from other contractors. "I write fast and can get the job done quickly." So what! Chances are, 90%-95% of the other applicants can, too. So how are you any different? "I want to be the best provider to my clients." Again, so what!? This doesn't help you at all because everyone else says the same thing. Not to mention - it should be a given that you want to provide the best service. Your overview 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.
  • Picture - After all, they speak a thousand words, right? It's not a requirement to have a picture, but it does help. Make sure you follow oDesk's identity policy when choosing a picture to post - but in general, any picture of you with a smile on your face will do wonders for you. People like to put a face to a font... So give them one.
  • Hourly Rate - I hate to say it, but there are a lot of clients that will look at your hourly rate. I am not talking about whatever rate you bid on a project, but the rate that is displayed on your profile. 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 working for. Is there a difference? Of course! Can you expect to get paid the same amount of money for site scraping as you can for writing articles? Probably not unless you are the best darn web scraper in the world (and can back it up!). If you're not sure what to set your rate at, look through at other providers, or go through 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 and adjust that average to reflect your experience level.
  • Resume - Also important because your resume houses all of your skills. Are you a web designer? Great! Then post your CSS, PHP, Javascript, Drupal, Joomla!, and Wordpress skills! A lot of clients search for providers based on these skills - how will they find you if you don't have them listed anywhere on your profile? And your resume is the perfect place to showcase these skills because it allows you to also place a brief description of how you have used this skill in the past and display how long you have been using it.
  • 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? Go to the oDesk tests and search for tests that are relevant to your field and take them. Then make sure you show the ones you need. Tests you happen to fail will automatically be hidden, anyway; But those tests where you barely pass, hide them until you can retake them and try again. Everyone is entitled to a bad day, no need to display for all to see that you are in the bottom 20% of people who took the test. Retake tests as you get the chance to raise your scores and show off your knowledge.
  • Build a Portfolio - This may be easier for some than others... But 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, then throw together some logos and interface designs and place them up there. Writer? Post a link to your blog... Anything that will show examples of your work without violating any terms of service is good. Also important, once it's up - keep it updated. Check the links to those web sites to make sure they're still working and place up new examples of your work as you complete them.
  • Be Honest - If your English isn't a 5.0 - then don't rate it at 5.0... Clients will be able to figure it out and you will look like a liar. If you can't be honest about something like how fluent you are in English, why should anyone believe that you're being honest about anything else?

2. Once your profile is set, then it's time to sell your self to the clients. And by sell your self, I don't mean pay them for the privilege of working for them. I mean convince them that they should hire you and pay you what you want. So, how do you do this? Cover Letters. Write a cover letter that A) Proves you know what you're talking about, B) Proves that you've read the job description, C) Explains your costs and terms (such as how many hours it will take to complete, or how much money you will require upfront for a fixed rate, or any guarantees that you offer).

And for goodness sake - don't send the same cover letter to each and every job posting. The clients always know. You aren't fooling anyone - so just stop.

Never beg for a job... It makes you look desperate, not professional. Never lower your hourly rate to a ridiculous amount in hopes of landing a job (or worse, offering to work for free)... Again, it makes you look desperate and gives the impression that you don't deserve whatever amount you have posted on your profile.

Now, for me - and I know other contractors disagree with this (and that's fine) - I also include a paragraph within my cover letter that explains about the ability to contact me. I don't include my contact information - but I do let them know that I am available via Skype, email, and cell phone as well as via my oDesk message center. I also let them know that all of these messages are forwarded to my cell phone to help expedite communications (well, except calls to my cell phone - since that would be redundant). I include this because I would want to know how easy it is to get a hold of a contractor, or if I would be limited to just the oDesk message system.

Also, for me, I will ask all sorts of questions in my cover letter. Some contractors view this as unprofessional, and that's fine. Like I said - this advice won't work for everyone. But if there's a discrepancy in the job description, or if I just want to know more details than was given, I ask then rather than waiting for the interview. What does this do for me? In a lot of cases, the clients want to answer the questions, which gives them more of a reason to place me into an interview, which gives me a better chance of talking to them and convincing them that I am the best candidate to hire for their project.

This doesn't mean just start asking any stupid question you can think of. "What's your favorite color?" will probably get you rejected. But asking a question like "Do you think you might also be interested in having Twitter integrated onto your site?" will raise an eyebrow.

How else can you sell your self? Glad you asked. You don't have to rely on oDesk's search function to find jobs. Nor do you have to rely on the idea that a client will find you and invite you to an interview. Do you have Facebook, MySpace, or another site that you use? Find the little badges in your account and post them up! Chances are, one of your friends on Facebook might see that you are available for hire as a writer - and they might know someone who just wrote a book that needs editing.

And finally...

3. Bid often and Bid Reasonably Earlier I spoke about the hourly rate that is posted on your profile - now I'm talking about the hourly rate or fixed price rate that you enter onto the little application form that will accompany your cover letter. This bid can be different from what's posted on your profile - but it should still be reasonable. What do I mean by reasonable?

  • Make sure it is worth your time
  • Make sure it will cover your expenses (such as cost to withdraw)
  • If it is fixed price, make sure it reflects the amount of time you will be working on that project

Remember, it looks bad if your hourly rate on your profile says that you charge $10 per hour if you then bid on a project at $1 per hour... And you shouldn't let a client's budget dictate the level and quality of professionalism that you can provide.

And bid often! I still continue to fill out my quota of 20 applications per week. If a client is not responding to my application after a couple of weeks, I withdraw that application so I can apply to another job. The only time I slow down on my bidding is if I am beginning to get overloaded with projects. Don't send out just 2-3 applications and then get disheartened that neither one has accepted you yet.

This doesn't mean sit down and apply to 20 jobs all in one day - spread them out. I read through just about every hourly job posted (I always filter out the fixed price jobs), but I probably apply to only 4-5 jobs every day, if that many. Be discerning - if the job isn't worth your time, wait a couple more hours and see what new jobs have been posted. It won't do you any good to apply to a job that you're only semi-interested in only to find a great job that you would love to work on but can't apply because you've reached your limit already.

Okay - wow, this is really long. Hopefully this will help to get some of you started. But, long as this is - you also need to remember that this is not the most complete listing of advice, and it's not meant to be the end-all be-all or any sort of guarantee that following these steps will get you hired, just a system that works for me. Remember to find your own niche - whatever works for you.

Vote Result

Score: 8.7, Votes: 2452
Best post

Thank you man its the best post here. And it was really helpfull

Thank you! I'm so glad it

Thank you! I'm so glad it helped!




Find the following...selected interview question related c#, and c# interview questions and answers. Hope it will help you to find a job.


Thanks a lot!

Thanks a lot for such a long write-up which is very informative and of course, helpful. Direct to the point!! Will take your advice by heart.

hello sir,

hello sir,

i am new in odesk and i dont know how it is works. so please help me.

Thanks & Regards
Sandeep Jaiswal
*removed by admin*

take the odesk ready test. it

take the odesk ready test. it will help you complete your profile as well as educate you about odesk. At the bottom of each question there is a link that will give you information about the question.

I'm a newbie but ready to learn

Thanks! I took notes! That was informative. I will take a lot of test to get a good feel for what's going on. Oh, I have a question; what is a bid? How do I bid for a job. Well, I have not completed my profile yet because there is so much to learn and I am learning but I just want to get it together before I start posting things that I don't need. Thanks in advance!!!


In the freelancing world,

In the freelancing world, your job applications are called your 'bids'. If you have 10 job applications left it means you've 10 bids left. I hope it's clear for you now.

Thank you for this post. This

Thank you for this post. This is very helpful to starters. Laughing out loud You just need patience and dedication in order for you to get your first job. Smile
*removed by admin

odesk businness

i want to transfer my cash through wire transfer method, but when i am asked a security question about my car then clicking on submit it could accept . what is the solution to that?

Noami's Comments

Hi Noami,

Well done! I am new with oDesk and your article seems really good tips for me to get started at managing my profile and how i can work with oDesk.

Hello Mohd

Hello Mohd , i am new to this site. pls help me to get some work


Very nice post. I'm applying in odesk for 1 years an still getting no satisfactory outcome. I'm offering reasonable rate & bidding regularly. How can I get a job in odesk.

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Al raji


Thank you! very helpful.

Best advise ever

thank You Naomi N.
this really helps me alot

Great advice!

Great advice!


Smile Thanks


Naomi N. wrote:
:) Thanks

Thank You For Your Post

Hello Naomi, I am completely new to odesk. I read you post It was really Helpful.
I also wanted to as a fresher what kind of work are there which I can do?
I mean can you suggest some Type Of work that a fresher can do who has knowledge MS Word,Excel,Internet.

Thanking You,
Yogesh I.

great advice,

great advice, naomi. i can never emphasize the importance of a cover letter. i am a buyer myself and i really cringe at the kind of letters i get. how will contractors expect to get a job if they just copy and paste cover letters without bothering to change them?

for example, i had a job post for a transcriptionist. i received this application saying she is good in social media marketing! i mean, that's an automatic turn off. so yes, individualize your cover letter and make sure you refer to the job post.

as a contractor, i ask questions in my cover letter too. usually just one or two, and pertaining to the job, clarifying the scope of the project (e.g., how many pages is the ebook).

i don't maximize my job application. i have learned that sometimes when it rains, it pours, so i don't want to get a deluge of new assignments. it'd be a good idea for newbies though.

again, this is a good thread to answer those contractors asking for advice to get a job here.


Thank you You reminded me of

Thank you Smile

You reminded me of a couple other points I meant to place in but completely forgot at the time I was writing this up, so I went ahead and added new points...

I was worried before that maxing out my application quota would bite me in the posterior end, but I realized that (at least in my experience) no one ever seems to hire all at the same time. Of course, as I'm typing this I am desperately seeking wood to knock on (wouldn't you know it, all pressed board and veneer). But one guy will interview me for 2 weeks while another will interview me for 2-3 hours. SO - at least thus far - I have never been hired for all 20 jobs all at once... Though I was pretty scared at a couple points that I would be!

At one point in time I was near heart attack level, I had all 20 applications set out, and I was involved in 17 interviews. Panic city that they would all start at once, LOL. But, in several cases, they took too long and the jobs expired.

Can't win them all, though, right?

Need your help!


Your post is really useful. I got lots of thing. It will be a great help if you please visit my profile and let me know where I am doing mistakes. I am trying very hard but not even getting a single job.

Thanks n advance,

It looks fine

Hi Shalini,

Your profile looks fine, but you may consider the following:

-There are few minor errors in your objective, consider correcting them.
-Hide the scores that are below 3.5 and/or below 70%. Retake them later and try to improve them.
-You are not doing yourself any favours by taking contracts for $1, reconsider the need to do it.

Your skills look good, but try and justify them with good scores in relevent tests and having some examples of relevent work in your portfolio. Self- assesss your worth, and stick to it.

Keep a good hold on your patience, you should be fine.

Best wishes and a happy new year.Smile

Thanks alot!


Thanks alot for your reply!
Actually those contracts are gDev tests. I will work on your advice to make my profile better.
Happy new year to you too!

Thanks and Regards,

Please take a look

can somebody take a look at my profile too. Any advice is greately appreciated. thank you all.

Please see my profile

Hi I am almost a year in odesk but I still have 2 jobs since i start. THe client always reject my application. Please give some helpful advice on how to get more jobs. here is my link
Thank you.



HELp;plzz plzz

PLzz need your help i wanna start work on odesk ..

***removed by admin***

plzz plzzz

Please help


I am also a member since February 2012.I have not been selected for any job yet.Can some one experienced have a look at my profile and guide me further.

With regards,


Also Chris
your profile picture to me is not professional. I am being honest
with you cause I am not a contractor I hire people here.

It looks like you woke up and decided to take a picture.
I would take a picture of my self wit a suit and tie or create a professional logo.

but I think the suit and tie is a better idea.


Hello Poonamji, Can you please guide me to get started in odesk. I am completely new. I am pursuing my degree in Mechanical Engineering.
Can you suggest me,As a student what can I jobs I'll be able to do?

Thanking You,
Yogesh I.

fantastic advice, while

fantastic advice, while follow all especially since am one day old at Odesk

Helpful advice

Hi, Please check my profile too and let me know what changes i have to do, so that i get my first job thru Odesk. i am taking the related tests in the very near future. Please advice me apart from taking tests what are the other things to be done to get the first job. I am very much thankful to you for your advice.

Thanks and regards.

Hi, I think its very useful

I think its very useful for new oDeskers like me. I have more or less followed your advise till today. However I will appreciate if you take a look at my profile and see if I need to tweak it to get more interview calls. Also will be glad if you can tell me how one view another contractors profile on oDesk. I am reachable on or on Skype.
Looking forward to your reply.

Best Regards
Deepak Simha

Hi Deepak; I think that your

Hi Deepak;

I think that your profile looks really good. The overview you've written is good, though a little complicated? What I mean is, you usually want to use the smallest words possible. I was always taught to explain things as if you were talking to a Third Grader... Keep it simple Smile

Other than that, as far as your profile is concerned, you could probably just use the jobs that you are interested in to help fill it out.

For example, one of the jobs that you have applied to is for public relations via telephone and email; you've taken the telephone test, but you've not yet taken the email etiquette test ( Of course, it's not required to take it, but it might help for that specific job.

Beyond that, I'm not sure what other factors I can help you with because I can't see them (like your cover letter or how you bid on a project). I'm going to write up a post about how to write a cover letter, though; so once that's posted you can compare yours to that one Smile

Checking out the profiles of other contractors...

Hi Deepak,

I, too, am new to oDesk and decided to look at other profiles to see what was perhaps missing from my profile. To do this, go to the top of your page, click on Find other Contractors & Jobs. If you hold your curser there, a drop-down menu will appear. If you select Find Contractors, a search box for keywords will appear. Enter a relevent keyword (perhaps the same area of work you are looking for)...a list of contractors will populate...from there, you just select the one you want to view. That's how I did it, but there may be another way...hope this helps.

Same problem

I am facing same problem.Anybody can help me to get a better project.Advice considered.

Proofread and spellcheck

- You need to proofread all the writing on your profile for mistakes.

- If your English skills aren't great, you also need to run the text through a spell-check program.

- Remove the logo and the references to web design from your portfolio; they have no relevance to data entry.

- You did poorly on the MS Excel and Office Skills tests, so hide the results.

- Don't just write, "I have got 5 on point 5"; include the actual oDesk test results.


Can you help me in improving my profile? any suggestions? Smile

This is an excellent post for

This is an excellent post for freelancers new and old with tips that can be applied to those working inside and outside of oDesk! I'm so glad someone has taken the time to give excellent advice like this so that more and more quality freelancers will thrive on this site.

And I totally agree with the last step, which is to bid and to bid reasonably. It's really not worth your time and energy working at a rate or price that can't even pay for your electricity and DSL bills. And with hourly rates, I wrote a post last night that talks about setting the proper hourly rates based on how much you would like to earn, how much can cover your costs, and the like. I thought it was an issue that needs to be addressed since a lot of newbie freelancers don't really have an idea at first on how to set an hourly rate that they'd be happy working with.


fab advice...

Great post Naomi!



Thank you And that's so

Thank you Smile

And that's so great. I had planned on writing a post about how to choose a reasonable hourly rate so that I could go into that portion in more detail Smile But I'm glad you beat me to it!


I hope to write more posts in the future about the many aspects of working on oDesk. But anyway, this is your shining moment so thanks again for these great tips! Smile

thank you

thank you so much for the tips you have shared. I totally agree with the ideas that is shared in this thread. I'm new here and I hope I can help to our employers and earn some money. I'm a bit of a newbie of this kind so just here to read some helpful tips and hints regarding this system. Thank you so much.

Post link not working

Hi Stephanie,

I'd love to read your post about setting a good hourly rate, but the link took me to a blog that Wordpress said had been deleted by the authors. Would you be able to repost what you wrote in this forum?

Many thanks,



Naomi you did an excellent job of this one. Would you be interested in posting it on a blog? We could name it "Finding Success with oDesk" and you'd get a byline of course. I think it's too valuable not to share outside of the vacuum of oDesk.


Absolutely I'd be interested

Absolutely I'd be interested Smile

I already have so many blogs written about the Internet, I don't have another spot to place this one yet. But I would love to start collaborating on one that focuses on oDesk! Smile


very helpful

thanks a lot for your fine words

Naomi, I need your help.. I'm new on ODesk.

Dear Naomi,
First, I'd like to thank you for your dedication on helping new users to find a job. This is the first time I look for a job by submitting on a website like ODesk, so I feel a little lost and I don`t know whether my profile is propperly done. Will you please take a look and send me your suggestions to my e-mail address? It is:
I would like to have your point of view on my profile and job searching.
Many thanks in advance.