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. *edited* 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.


Hi all,


This thread has been closed from further replies due to its size.

Check out these articles to help you create a profile that stands out and improve your profile title and overview. For some great tips on writing proposals that win jobs, check out this article.


Visit our Resource Center and sign up for upcoming events and webinars to learn more about how you can boost your success on Upwork.


Thank you!


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1,396 REPLIES 1,396

thanks a lot

Thanx Man! I think I sud follow these instructions..

Thanks Niomi, I'll try like this only as I have worked for 2 contracts but now from last 1 month I haven't got any job. Hopefully this will help me a lot

Hi Naomi thanks for the advice. I almost get hire but they are asking for my personal email because of big files to send as attachment. I did not give it to them and declined my application but in the future is it ok to give it away? Quite confused with the regulations of oDesk, maybe you can explain it to me. Best regards.

Hello there, here is my question. As far as you can understand i'm new in odesk family, but...i registered here 1 year ago. My profile was empty and only now i decide to make my profile, i pass some tests and decide to get first job. Is this a very important for employers that almost 1 year i haven't any projects? Or should i close my profile and starts new life on odesk? Thanks for reading and helping me! P.S. Sorry for my bad english - i work on it

How does one know how much to bid on a job? My rate on my profile is $11.11. Is this what I go by when looking for jobs?

My question is this: How does one know how much to bid on a job? Is the amount listed in my profile the amount I need go by when selecting jobs because some seem to have low hourly rates. Thanks, Nina

Thanks Naomi for the wonderful tips! I don't feel quite so lost on here anymore 🙂

I will follow the advice. Thank you. It makes sense.

thank you very much for sharing your experience with odesk contractors. I am new to the odesk and I learned lot of points to follow up. have some adjustment to do my profile. I believe those ideas will definitely help me to success on odesk.

thank you very much for sharing your experience with odesk contractors. I am new to the odesk and I learned lot of points to follow up. have some adjustment to do my profile. I believe those ideas will definitely help me to success on odesk.

Finally, i've received my first contract this morning. Thanks to everybody in this forum, your suggestions are very useful

My posted rate of $25 per hour (or page) has netted me $5,000.00 for 140 hours of book writing on a variety of subjects over six months. Obviously, I ignore 95 percent of the postings -- I cannot imagine a writer worth his salt doing those $5.00 per hour jobs. I would encourage people just starting on oDesk to pay close attention to the construct of their Profile. When I answer a query I refer to extracts from my Profile, encouraging the potential client to look at the Profile more closely. It helps that I have a 5.0 Feedback rating. But please, folks, may I suggest that you don't cheapen the profession by bottom-feeding rates. If you have a sense of worth, let shine -- ask what you are worth; you'll get better jobs that way.

Thanks a lot Naomi your advice truly helps.

thank you for the useful advice. it's useful for newbie like me

Thanks! Thanks! Thanks! Thanks (and one more) Thanks!!

Thanks Naomi, The article clears a lot of my confusions. Kindly go through my profile and tell me how I can improve it further. I was on the verge of losing all hope of landing a job when I read your article. Thanks for the guidelines. Regards, Mita

Thank you so much, this really helped me a lot to get more familiar with oDesk. One day i'll be a great contractor on oDesk. I've just joined this amazing site.

Thank you Naomi.. I'm from Malaysia... This info really helpful... Actually I'm newbie here.. Don't know which want to start... Hope you still update the info in you see something new...

Hi , Thanks a lot for posting such a nice article.This will helps as a spot light for those who are new to this area to make their way . Even I am a new bee to Odesk . I created odesk profile by following guide lines specified in article . Could you please visit my profile and suggest any changes required which helps me to move forward . Your help is greatly appreciated . Thanks, Aditya.

this helped a lot, I have 3 questions and want your advice please... 1. My hourly rate on o desk is $12. This rate doesn't reflect the level and quality of work I can provide. I have been working as a freelance graphic designer for 12 years. If you asked me what should your hourly rate be, I would say $25-30, but with no hours on o-desk you I don't have many chances to get a job with this rate. So I lower it a lot to attract clients. Correct? 2. When I apply for a job that I feel very confident, meaning I have the skills to do it perfect and I propose a higher rate, lets say $15-17/hour won't this give a negative impression to the client? Or the hourly rate that we all fill in is an estimated rate. 3. When a client writes in the qualifications: "hourly rates should be between $15-25. Lower offers will be canceled." Should I apply for this job and increase my rate, or not?? thank you Haris Nikolopoulou

Hi Naomi, I'm new to Odesk and appreciate the guidelines provided.My profile is 100% filled out but I'm still taking the skills tests because its pointless if you don't showcase what you're good at. Thank you for the feedback.

Cake is a lie. This tutorial doesn't help at all.

thanks for your advice

Thanks, This was very helpful. I am super new to the site and already I feel a bit out of place and wondering if i'll fit in with the big fish! But this post was extremely helpful for me thanks a bunch!

Hi, I would just like to know how come my name cant be highlighted when i check on list of applicants, together with a few others. Did i forget to do something? Appreciate your feedback. More power to you! Joanna

Ok, so I have two interviews set up. However, I am curious about why there is no place for the clients to give a reason for declining someones application. Or is there? If there is one Please Tell Me Where it is.

Well I did all what is mentioned in your post sent out tons of applications but no success. I am now really desperate and don't know what to do next.

hi, it was very helpful. I did fail the 1st test because I underestimated it so there's no point in starting to apply before I pass the test. Hope I'll pass...

Thank you so much

Hi everyone i have done my Master in computer application.I don't have any past experience to complete profile.. i really need job. can you please tell me how can i get it.. thank you

Appreciation! this is very helpful 😉

at any rate you enlighten newbies as me

Awesome!!! Thank you the advice you gave is priceless.

As a beginner like me, your post really helps. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and the detailed step by step methods on what should be done. nice

i have already reached my application quota and i still don't get any feedback's from them, what do you think is the problem?

A Big thank you.

I've done all of you've mentioned above but I find it very hard to get any jobs as a start-up to apply for the more skilled jobs simply because you have others who are offering silly prices of around $1.27 per hour. I honestly think that the price you sell yourself for dictates your professionalism and quality of work. But how can you offer someone a high quality of work when it's pretty much a race to get in and apply until someone comes along and offers to do the job for almost $10 for 10 hours. I don't understand it. Are there really companies out there that will pay that less money for low quality work? I normally charge $60 per hour in my own business for all my graphic design work, but I was just looking for something a little more and found this. Then I realised what everyone was charging so I'm now $20 per hour on here, it's a completed bargain if you ask me. But I'm

Again, thank you for the post. I am a bit intimidated by the number of clients looking for multiple articles within a fairly short period of time. I am wondering if there is a way to get your feet wet with perhaps an article or 2 in order to build some confidence, get some feedback etc. I just dont want to overcommit and fall short. Would like to build in a semi-conservative fashion and then dive in a bit more aggressively. Any advice would be great, and thanks in advance. Fitzy

Hello everybody, I would like to aks for your opinion on what is wrong with my profile. I had been trying my luck with Odesk for 3months now but have not had any Odesk contract yet as of this time. Would you please help me evaluate my profile. Thank you so much. 🙂 Rhoda