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I see many Linkedin group discussions in which new oDesk contractors express difficulty in finding consistent work. To address these concerns, I’ll be writing a series of posts aimed at helping the newbie find consistent success.
You might consider it logical to start with a list of “how to” tips for navigating oDesk job postings. In reality, that would be a waste of your time unless you have a firm foundation on what employers are actually looking for. Regardless your specific skillset, there are three key characteristics that any oDesker must possess prior to seeking employment.
1) Be overly available (like Dwight Schrute)
2) Be accountable to your word
3) Be willing to act as a manager – even if you’re not “management material”
Let’s take a closer look at each.
For those of you not familiar with The Office series on NBC, Dwight Schrute (played by Rainn Wilson) was a quirky, extreme character who loved his job as a paper salesman. In fact, he loved it so much that he once said the following:
Here’s my card. It’s got my cell number, my pager number, my home number and my other pager number. I never take vacations, I never get sick and I don’t celebrate any major holidays. ~Dwight Schrute
Now obviously I’m exaggerating here, but the Dwight Schrute example gets at a bigger point. In a virtual work environment, you must be overly available. Every day I get dozens of unannounced chat sessions via Skype, Microsoft Link, and Google Hangout (I have 5 Google accounts), each of which require my immediate attention. In addition, clients have my office and cell number in case they want to talk on the phone. I even have a few clients that text me. By making myself overly available, I’ve instilled a level of trust with my clients. Unlike Dwight, I do take vacations and celebrate holidays; however, I make a point to inform clients when I’ll be gone. Also, I don’t have a pager. 🙂
Now, here are a few more helpful tips from Dwight.
For some reason, many contractors find this one difficult. I’ve hired countless oDeskers who said they’ll do one thing – and then do the exact opposite. Unfortunately, in a virtual setting, you only get one shot at winning a client’s trust. If you fail, the bond is quickly broken. Plus, the client is likely to give you a negative oDesk feedback, which can have a ripple effect.
Here’s my simple equation for success on any oDesk contract:
Now, this is all contingent upon you picking good clients to work for. Yes – I said you should pick your clients. Just because someone invites you to interview, doesn’t mean that they’re worth your time. During the interview process, you have a chance to ensure your clients are legitimate…and that they’ll do as they say.
Finally, if you can hold others accountable, there’s always going to be work for you. Many oDeskers take the word “freelance” to the extreme and mistakenly think that they are only responsible for themselves. Having worked for many clients in a variety of virtual roles, I can attest that one of the biggest opportunities for online workers is the ability to manage others. Given the logistics of working from home (or virtual office), it’s rather complex to keep everyone on the same page. Virtual workers who are able to provide project and task management services are always in high demand.
When managing others virtually, here’s a process I follow:
Remember, even though team members aren’t your employees (or in many cases, even affiliated with your company), it’s technically your responsibility to ensure quality.