Are you looking for a legitimate work from home option? You’re in good company. Everyone wants to telecommute by finding jobs they can do from home. For the past 5 years, I’ve done just that (start reading my story free). In this article I’ll show you exactly where to start to find great online jobs.

I hear this a lot: “Matt, your book is interesting, but I don’t think I could make a career as an online worker.”  In response, I usually pose a simple question:  “Why not?”  Finding Best oDesk JobsThe most common excuse I hear has to do with the perceived quality of online jobs.  Apparently, when people (especially my fellow Americans) get started on Upwork (formerly oDesk) or other virtual marketplaces, they get turned off by the abundance of low-paying jobs and projects.  In fact, I recently had someone leave me an Amazon review that addressed this specific concern.  (As a side note, you’ll notice this particular person later revised the review to be very favorable after sticking to the plan.)  In this article, I’m going to address this concern head on.

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What’s the Problem?

I’m not going to lie, there are many job postings that are total jokes.  I would estimate that for every 1 job posting that is a good fit for me, there are at least 10 to 20 that should be immediately filtered out of consideration.  Let’s keep in mind that websites like are virtual marketplaces.  It’s not Upwork’s job to help you find the perfect job opportunity.  It’s up to you.  Luckily, sites like Upwork offer some powerful filtering tools to help you avoid work at home scams.  But what’s the best strategy for using these filters?

How to Build a Real Career as a US-Based Online Worker (Using Filters)

Here’s my logic on filtering.  When evaluating online job opportunities, my goal is to find employers willing to hire me at my desired hourly rate on an ongoing basis.  If I can’t find a good fit initially, my secondary goal would be to find a decent-paying project (i.e. fixed-price project) that may lead into ongoing work.  In fact, most of  my long-term clients resulted from an initial fixed-price project (such as a marketing plan).  Fixed-price projects offer a low-risk opportunity for both parties to become acquainted.

To accomplish these goals, I only look for employers that meet the following criteria:  4.5 feedback score (and up), at least 5 hires, and posted job(s) within last 7 days.  In addition, perhaps the most important filter is sorting by “most dollars paid.”  In my experience, this will help you quickly identify which employers are for real and which are not. Here’s a video with additional information about winning clients online:

The Filters I Use (or Would Use) on Upwork

If you’ve considered starting your virtual career but don’t know where to start, I hope the following filters will help you.  These filters represent thousands of legitimate work at home job opportunities.  When applying to such jobs, you may also find my prospecting efficiency spreadsheet helpful.

NOTE:  In order for the following filters to appear correctly, you will first need to log into your Upwork account.  Otherwise, the filtering may not display correctly.  Also, please note the number of opportunities listed is constantly changing.  The actual number may vary after publication of this article.  Remember, it only takes about 5 really good, ongoing clients to achieve success as an online worker.

Projects Worth Considering (Budgets Over $250)

As I mentioned above, one-time projects often lead to ongoing work.  I’m even more scrupulous when evaluating fixed-price gigs.  In addition to the filters mentioned above, I only look at projects greater than $250.  You may have a different basement price than me, but that’s where I usually set the filter.

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Matt Keener is the original "Executive in Sweatpants," having built a successful online consulting business (from home). His best-selling book offers tips for capitalizing on outsourcing and freelancing. Matt holds an MBA and has been featured by many recognizable brands, including Upwork (formerly oDesk), Elance, Insightly, the Dave Ramsey Show, and


  1. Matt, I am a work-from-home health writer, and I’ve had much better luck networking through Linked In than O-Desk or Elance. What I found was way too much competition for small projects. For me, Media Bistro and Ebyline have been good sources for decent projects. I am going to buy your book, sounds interesting.


    • Hi Amy – thanks for sharing your feedback. I hope you find this article to be helpful in obtaining greater value from virtual marketplaces such as oDesk. As I point out in other articles, I don’t waste time with projects under a certain budget. There are many good employers out there, you just have to be persistant in your search. Thanks again for sharing.

  2. Hey, Mat! Nice post! Although i am not US based online worker, i too value my time and skills and work at relatively high rates (I am on oDesk for a few years now and just started also on Elance).

    Generally I agree with your points and tips but I would like to add a couple of things, from experience:

    1) the fixed price job budget you placed – $250 – this way you would miss out on clients who are willing to pay let’s say $50 or $100 for a sales letter or a squeeze page – which is pretty good pay and with potential for long-term project

    2) when including ONLY clients with at least 5 hires, you potentially miss good clients who have just signed up for oDesk, Elance or whatever else freelance site you are bidding on. I wouldn’t just exclude them…

    Hope my 2 cents help. If you like, come visit my blog at – i am too blogging about freelance and marketing 🙂

    • Hey Diana – thanks for adding some great additional feedback. I think we agree for the most part. The difference comes down to where you set your filter thresholds. I like to set mine a bit higher I suppose, but I can see your point about being more flexible. Thanks for contributing!

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