This review is of a company that has been around for quite some time. The company, oDesk.com is one of the oldest freelance sites out there and it’s still going strong. Several of our readers here have mentioned using it with varying results. I’ll get into some of that later but for now, we should take a look at the site.
Applying to oDesk
You don’t actually apply to be a writer at oDesk; you open an account. After you head over to oDesk.com and open your account you will need to complete a profile. Be sure to complete it as much as possible and include the best samples that you have.
Before you ignore the site as one that lets anyone write, this site does have barriers in place to help weed out poor writers. There will be more on that later so keep reading.
After you fill out your profile you can take a look at the various jobs that are available. They have a great search engine that allows you to break down the jobs so you are only shown those that you might be interested in as well as are qualified to take.
It’s important to note your skills when setting up your profile. You will select from lists within categories. This will help streamline the search possibilities later.
You need to be as detailed as possible in your profile and be sure to include a photo. Prospective clients have nothing else to judge you by other than your proposal and your profile. The more you include, the better the results are likely to be for you.
Finding Jobs on oDesk.com
One of the first things that you will notice is that the pay range is all over the place. This is because there is no set rate via oDesk. Each client has a budget range and will post what they are willing to pay for the job. If that isn’t acceptable to you then you should move on to the next job listed. As with any multi-national job site such as this, there are going to be low paying jobs offered. Just move on from them and let those who find that pay rate acceptable have them. The best clients looking for great writing are going to come from the European, Australian, Canadian, Asian and United States markets. They want native English writers and will not settle for anything less than outstanding grammar and spelling. One thing you will find here is that a large number of clients are looking for only writers in the US/UK. If you are a native English speaker, feel free to apply but note this in the proposal. The clients don’t really care where you are physically located; they are trying to weed out the non-native writers.
You can apply for 25 jobs per week with oDesk but clients can reach out to you as often as they like. When you find a job that fits, apply for it simply by clicking on the button and then you will need to complete a proposal. This is not a bidding site; the amount of your fee is fixed. What you are doing in the proposal is pitching your ideas for the work to a potential client. If they like them then they will hire you. As I was writing this I popped over to oDesk and checked: There are currently over 1,000 open writing assignments.
In the beginning, you may want to take a few lower paying jobs and do them well to establish a reputation. One reader said that she has many clients reaching out for her and rarely has to apply for jobs.
There is an interesting aspect of oDesk that I will allow you to judge for yourself. They use software that you can download (free) called Time Tracker. This is useful if you are hired on a per hour basis for a client (I do not recommend this) and it allows the client to monitor how much work you have done for the project. It also takes periodic screen shots while you are working within the software. This software was designed more for website design and coding projects but some clients seem to like using it. They do not get to use it with me.
The reason that I don’t recommend being paid on an hourly basis is that it actually punishes you for being a fast typist. It’s better to be paid per assignment. The idea of a client monitoring the process just strikes a sour note with me. It might be fine with you but I have rejected several clients who wanted to employ that option. Interestingly, I have not lost a client as a result; they all agreed to work without the Time Tracker and on a per assignment basis.
To be honest, I have a real problem with the Time Tracker because I find it insulting and limiting. I absolutely refuse to work on a per hour basis. If you are comfortable with that, fine. I personally find that this kind of thing removes many of the benefits of being a freelance writer so I refuse.
One really great aspect of oDesk is the skills assessment tests. The skills assessments are quick little exams that you can retake every 30 days to improve your scores if necessary. The better your scores, the more valuable you are and the more likely you are to be hired by the client. These tests are free. High-end clients want only the best writers and these tests weed out a lot of people very quickly.
Working in oDesk
Once you have been awarded a job through oDesk you have a deadline as with any other client. After you have completed the work and the client is satisfied then you will be paid. Also after completion of the job, the client will rate you and the client will be rated by you. This helps future applicants and future clients know the kind of person that they are dealing with. No matter what else happens, keep it professional. No matter how justified you might be, it’s not worth the risk to your reputation to be seen as vindictive.
There are several things you need to clarify with your client from the beginning. Things such as what word processing program they prefer you to use, length and any keywords or specifics that they want mentioned. There is no writing platform in oDesk; you upload the completed document to client on the workspace. The oDesk site maintains control over it to ensure that your work is protected.
Editing on oDesk does not exist. Once you submit your final project it will go directly to the client who might ask for some changes. This is not unusual and should be accommodated unless the requests are unreasonable. Even then, until the client is satisfied you are not going to get paid. This is yet another case where it pays to self-edit and be detail orientated.
The oDesk Dashboard
There is an oDesk Dashboard and I haven’t mentioned it sooner because it is really only useful after you have started working for oDesk. The Dashboard is your home page and it will show you what projects you have ongoing, which ones are finished and waiting for the client to approve and which ones have been completed. It will also show you your latest ratings and that type of thing. It’s designed to display a lot of information at a glance and it does this fairly well. It’s also where the search function is located but until you have actually started working with oDesk that’s basically the only thing on your Dashboard.
There is outstanding communication between the writer and client through oDesk and you can contact each other with questions and comments whenever you like. This is important because so many writing sites don’t allow you to communicate with the client directly and that makes difficult to give the client exactly what they want.
Payment procedures are a bit different with oDesk than other sites. The oDesk site holds the money from the client until the transaction is complete. You have several options for payment including Paypal and direct deposit to your bank account. Payment is generally within 24 hours. Skrill and Payoneer are also available.
Payment is pretty basic. The client pays oDesk and oDesk adds the money to your account. There is no hassle of invoices and such as with some sites. You do have to initiate the withdrawal. Once it posts to your account you can choose where it is transferred to so that you can access the money.
The oDesk site is a great site to find decent to outstanding clients and one time writing jobs. You may have to wade through a few low paying jobs until you get the search down pat but in no time you will be scanning the list and applying for high paying jobs. If using the Time Tracker bothers you, tell the clients you don’t use it and go from there. Or try it a few times to see what you think. I’d be interested in the opinions of those of you have used it for 5 or more jobs.