A reader of this blog posed the following scenario to me:

“I started browsing the project listings (on oDesk) and I noticed that there are many projects that have almost no description (on programming tasks), but still people are bidding on them. Now it seems a little bit ludicrous to me to bid on a programming project when you don’t even know what the client needs. Do you have insights for how to handle projects with very imprecise descriptions? Like only one sentence. Just ignore them?”

Continue reading for an elongated version of my response.

Less is NOT More

Most job postings include plenty of details about what the work entails, how much time the freelancer will need to be available, and which skills are necessary for the position. As pointed out above, some project listings have very little detail and still receive bids, even though applicants can’t possibly know what the client is searching for.

Experienced freelancers know to ignore these types of opportunities, especially when prospecting. Generally speaking, if the employer hasn’t taken the time to write a detailed job description, it’s usually not worth bidding on the job. In my experience a detailed job description includes the following:

  • skills needed for the position
  • length of time the engagement is expected to last
  • performance expectations
  • general information about the company

It’s important to note that sometimes employers purposely keep the details to a minimum and offer additional information in their invitation email. I’ve seen clients purposely do this in an effort to actually reduce the number of non-invite applicants. So be aware that there are exceptions to the rules.

How Can I Filter Through Postings?

odesk filtersoDesk has a number of filtering options for comparing job opportunities. These options include position category (and related subcategories), job type, experience level, client history, budget, project length, and number of hours per week. To apply these filters, simply search for a position on oDesk and check the boxes next to the desired fields.

Filtering by client history, the experience level being sought, and budget can help freelancers quickly filter out positions that are not good fits.

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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 Entrepreneur.com.

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