First off oDesk is a freelancing site that primarily is for outsourcing. You can see that most of the jobs started are from the US, Canada, UK, and Australia and are looking to get cheap work done. This is different for each category but I am just going to cover web development with WordPress since that is what I primarily do on there. At the time of writing this I have completed 67 jobs with a 5.0 feedback on oDesk (my profile). If you are from the US and you are looking to get into freelancing on oDesk then you do have your work cut out for you but at the same time it is pretty easy if you know what you are doing.
Never bid with an upfront payment. Most overseas freelancers always request an upfront payment and a large numbers of employers have already been screwed over by paying upfront and never receiving the finished product. So separate yourself from a scammer instantly by not requiring an upfront payment. Just to note, out of 67 jobs I have only completed 1 job that I didn’t get paid for. That’s pretty good considering most of my jobs are fixed and oDesk can’t guarantee those payments.
Read The Job
Sounds funny saying this but 100% true. As an employer you will receive 90% of the applications as spam cover letters that is basically a resume. Since this happens many employers will put certain words in the job to see if anyone actually read the job description. That being said, you greatly increase your odds of getting the job if you read the entire job description and in your application you respond directly to the job.
Read Client’s Work History
You can usually instantly tell if an employer is here for cheap labor. Just look over their work history real quick and look at the hourly wages they tend to pay. If it is below $5 do not waste your time submitting an application because they are not looking for you.
Read Clients Feedback
I pride myself on getting and maintain 5.0 feedback. When looking for new jobs I will not work for someone that consistently gives below par feedback. Working for people like this is too risky for me because you never know who you are going to end up working for after you get hired. For example, I have had some employers that request additional work at no cost and if I wasn’t going to do then I was going to receive a bad rating. I did the work and made them happy but I want to always avoid that situation again if possible.
Buy Initial Feedback
It is hard to get jobs to start with if you have no work history or feedback. The easiest way around this is take on the first few jobs for less than what you would normally charge. You are pretty much working for free to get your foot in the door, kind of like an intern. This is not necessary but if you want to speed up the process then this is a must.
Always Bid Low
Typically there are 50+ applications for each job that come in very fast. In order to set yours apart do not bid the max for their budget. This is where plenty of people always make a huge mistake. Even if you don’t plan on working for that cheap it will get you talking to the client and that is what matters. You can always raise your bid after you received more details from the client. The best way to do it is bid about half of their budget and ask them for more details in your bid, then after you review the details and talking to them then raise your bid to a fair price. The more time invested you have with the potential client the better chance you will have getting hired. Finally the obvious, you will never get hired if they never contact you in the first place; this is the main reason to bid low to start.
Tell Them Where You Live
If you are a freelancer from the US and the client is from the US tell them the City and State where you live. This will immediately draw a connection between you and the client. Put this in the first or second sentence in your application, make sure they see that.
There are some more tricks to the trade which I will not be telling you because I don’t want you stealing all my jobs but for the most part this is the core knowledge needed to land some oDesk jobs. If you follow these rules it will greatly increase your chance for getting hired. Last piece of advice, if you see my name as an applicant, don’t apply.