Get started on oDesk – Beef up your profile and work from home

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Online job boards and freelance marketplaces are a great way for new freelancers to get their feet wet or veteran freelancers to gain some extra clients during slow periods. They connect buyers (your potential clients) with providers (you) in an assortment of job categories. From writing to programming to audio mixing, oDesk is bound to have something right up your alley.

Just because the jobs are there, though, doesn’t mean you’ll be hired for them – in the wonderful world of freelancing, you are your own marketing team. Without a great sales pitch, no one will buy your services.

Whether you’re new to freelancing or just looking for some extra work, one thing is certain when you sign up for an online marketplace like oDesk: you must create a desirable profile !

A blank profile will lead to a blank work history

Unlike being able to test-drive a car before purchase, buyers aren’t able to take you out for a spin to see how well you’ll perform. They have to rely on the information you provide. On oDesk, you have two venues for this: your profile and your cover letters.

While oDesk provides a search feature for providers to locate jobs, the same is true for buyers when they need to hire a provider. Don’t exclude yourself from possible search results because you neglected your profile.

Make sure everything that can be filled in is filled in!

Breaking down the oDesk profile

Overview: As the very first thing a buyer will read on your profile, this should never be empty. Forget what you’ve learned about resume objectives in school, utilize this space to make it about what you can do for your buyer, not what they can do for you. Let them know why they should hire you instead of the other 50 applicants.

Skills: Are you great at typing? Are you a Microsoft Excel wiz? Can you create stunning graphics in Adobe Photoshop? Do you program database-driven websites with PHP and MySQL? All of these are skills that you can list here. However, don’t go overboard on the skills – anticipate your audience and only list relevant skills to your target audience. I’ll let you in on a little secret, too – they’re also keywords that will point buyers to your profile when they perform searches!

Certifications: oDesk partners with BrainBench.com to supply (paid) certifications and you may list these here. If you’ve other certifications (A+, CCNA, MSCP, etc) you may also list them here. If you don’t have any certifications, skip this section – don’t enter false certifications or skills in this section.

Employment History: If you have a multitude of past work experience, list only your most relevant jobs in your employment history. Remember, you want to appeal to your targeted audience – if you’re a graphic designer, buyers don’t need to know that you’ve worked at KFC during high school. If you only have a few jobs under your belt, there’s nothing wrong with that. Go ahead and list them until you can build up a work history on oDesk.  Be sure to break the job description down into categorized accounts of what you contributed to the company – use bulleted lists or paragraph breaks for each clear break between job duties.

Education: Even if you never got the degree, list all of your higher education information. Don’t list your high school information unless you’re a recent high school graduate.

Portfolio: This is the most important section of your profile, never leave this empty! Buyers need to know that you’re capable of performing their tasks, so WOW them with your best work here. Diversify your portfolio. If you’re a writer, show some examples of different writing styles (blogging, journalistic, creative, etc). If you’re a graphic designer, include different types of designs (marketing, creative, retouching, etc). If you don’t have any work history in your field to show existing samples, don’t be afraid to create some just for use in your profile.

Target your clientele

As mentioned above, defining your target audience is extremely important. Being a jack-of-all-trades isn’t a bad thing, but not targeting your market will dilute your results. Every successful advertiser will gather information on their target demographic to produce the most effective marketing campaign. You don’t have to research your audience as thoroughly, but do find a niche to direct your profile marketing to.

When in doubt, ask

The great thing about oDesk is that their Community Forums are full of experienced freelancers who are willing to help. If you’re having trouble getting that first assignment, have the community review your profile and offer suggestions.

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