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oDesk Review – Top Places to Bid on Freelance Web Projects

My fellow freelancers and I are proof that you can make a lucrative fulltime living garnering work from online job sites. There is nothing quite like waking up and not having to rush to work just to have to deal with being micromanaged, but simply being able to turn on your computer and get to work on projects you love. But how do you get a hold of these jobs?Among the various freelance job sites, oDesk is my second choice after Elance. As far as functionality, profile features, and payment guarantees for hourly work, oDesk rates very highly in my book. Unfortunately, many of the employers are not willing to pay what most of us are worth. In particular, some of the writing job postings I’ve run across pay as low as $1.00 per 600 words. Fortunately, there are some reasonable paying jobs mixed in with the nominal paying ones.

Provider Fees

When you apply for a job you will specify the rate of pay you want to receive. oDesk then adds a fee of 10% on top of your bid. For example, if you bid $20 per hour then oDesk will charge the employer $2 an hour on top of this amount. With this in mind, be sure to consider the 10% the employer pays, so your rate is commiserate with what they are willing to pay. When applying for a position, oDesk will add in the 10% automatically so you can decide right away if your bid fits within the employer’s criteria.

Your Profile
Your oDesk profile can make or break your success on the site. During the application process, employers review contractor profiles before interviewing or hiring. Profiles act as your voice, telling potential employers about you, your work experience, and your skills through an online resume, portfolio, and the feedback you receive from previous oDesk employers.

The portfolio section is a great way to show off your expertise. Be sure to only show your best work. If you aren’t niched in a particular industry, show a variety of different samples. For example, if you are a writer who doesn’t target a particular industry but writes across many genres, then you’ll want your portfolio to reflect this.

Your oDesk profile also allows previous employers to communicate their thoughts about your skills, quality of work, availability, meeting deadlines, communication, and cooperation. One bad review can drag your feedback scores down considerably. I experienced this recently.

In the case where I received a bad review, I was hired for a well paying hourly writing job for an online business. The employer required 7 sales pages, all keyword rich. We spent the first month researching and having them send me all the  information I would need to write the pages; we had over 100 emails sent back and forth. I made one fatal mistake: While we had ironed out the hourly rate, I failed to ask them about their total budget at the beginning. So when we got to $200 and they only had two sales pages, they cancelled the job. They felt they didn’t want to pay over a $1000 for their sales pages. I tried to explain to them the process and why creating effective sales pages takes significant time and money. It was too late. They had already made up their minds. When they posted feedback, they gave me a rating of 4.6. This dragged my stellar 5.0 recommended provider rating down to a 4.79. So you can see, you have to be very aware of how you are performing the jobs you are awarded and make sure you both agree and understand the process. Your ratings are everything on oDesk or, for that matter, any online job site.

oDesk has a reputation for low paying employers. As I mentioned, many jobs pay as low as $1.00 an hour. It is common to see a major project awarded to a non-native English speaking provider for minimal hourly pay. It is interesting to note that outsourcing to India is very common on many U.S. based job sites. It takes the average Indian worker 24 years to make $18,000—what an American worker makes as minimum wage in the U.S. Thus, Indian workers are used to much lower rates than U.S. citizens. This disparity creates a big deficit in potential job candidacies for U.S. workers who are competing with Indian workers who can live off of much lower wages.

Be sure not to accept any of these extremely low paying jobs (even if you are just starting out) because it will show up on your profile and may lessen your value to employers willing to pay reasonable wages in the future. It may also encourage future employers to try to lowball you.

When you apply for a job, you will be informed if you meet all of the employer’s criteria such as ratings, skills, and previous work experience on oDesk. Most employers are very firm about the criteria they set for a candidacy, so don’t apply for any jobs you don’t match the criteria for; you’ll more than likely be wasting your time.

When applying for a job which is appropriate in pay and matches your experience, your cover letter is your introduction to the employer. As always first impressions are everything. Make sure you have created a generic cover letter which you can quickly edit to match this particular employer’s requirements and shows how you are a perfect fit for the job. Pay close attention to what the employer is looking for and try to read between the lines. A thorough cover letter speaking directly to each employer’ requirements will win jobs over a standard cover letter you use every time without any tailoring.

Have you had any experience with oDesk or Elance? What have you thought of the products?


RACNicole October 5, 2010 at 9:11 am

An unfortunate feature of Odesk now allows both workers and employers to hide bad profile comments. When services do this, their users are duped into thinking they’re looking at qualified candidates when they really might not be. That is isn’t fair to the site’s employers nor to the site’s workers and it’s why so many people prefer vWorker (formerly Rentacoder). vWorker doesn’t allow this — a bad comment stays as is at vWorker, so that its users are (sometimes, painfully) aware of who they’re facing. Sure, some people may not like that, but when it comes to spending a significant amount of money or investing time and effort into a project, it’s a feature vWorker users come to appreciate in the long-run.

Jackie October 7, 2010 at 8:48 am

Wow $1 for 600 words? That’s super low no matter where they’re hiring someone from!

I’ve used both sites, but only to hire folks. I found the Odesk site easier to use, but I seem to have better luck finding the right people with Elance.

AJ October 25, 2010 at 12:07 pm

I’ve used odesk to hire and found it to be brilliantly simple.

I did not know about the hidden comments though! Interesting… and something I will have to be careful about.

Aftab Alam Siddiqui May 10, 2012 at 1:38 pm

If you want to start your career as a freelancer at oDesk – Then checkout our Short Course – This will help you to get started in the world of freelancing. The Completion is very fierce and if you are not prepared with bidding techniques, how to handle clients interviews etc…then you will get lost in the crowd.

This course will help you to stand out from the rest.

Shara July 4, 2012 at 10:20 am

I have been with odesk for quite a while. I have been getting succesful applications with it rather than on elance or freelancer. is also good. They focus more on full time positions, giving a freelancer some sort of job security.

Aftab Alam Siddiqui September 9, 2012 at 6:23 am

Great site for Freelancing ….

k mehaffy March 28, 2013 at 11:36 pm

I have been ripped off twice in 7 days by odesk contractors, and the site admin refuses to do anything about it. Once by a contractor WHO DID NO WORK, used his timelog to check his emails, shop online, and browse the web. Odesks response?

“oDesk has reviewed the work diary for this contract and determined that all time was logged in accordance with the oDesk Payment Guarantee.”

and once by one who just took the money and ran. BEWARE ODESK – there are a few good programmers there I am sure, but alot more thieves.

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