oDesk for beginners
What for?In general, the idea of this post came to my mind at the very moment when I, having not previously had a full-fledged experience of freelance, decided to seriously master oDesk. Yes, if anyone does not know, oDesk is one of the largest freelance exchanges in the world. So, it was in July of this year. By that time I hadn’t had official work for half a year already, all the side jobs were over, there were no new serious orders, and oDesk seemed to me a very promising option. The account, as usual, was registered “in reserve” a year before, but hung all this time idle, so you had to start from scratch. At the same time, I was almost sure that I would find somewhere, at least the shortest, on the topic of how and where to start, somewhere (certainly on Habré!)
Maybe I was looking badly. However, everything that came across to me on the topic came down to the fact that you do not need to immediately bend prices, it is better to start with small ones. Approximate quote: "start at $ 10 per hour, over time, grow to $ 15." I categorically did not want to grow up to $ 15, and even with time, I was sure that you can earn much more. And besides, I was worried about a huge number of questions. How to fill out a profile? What projects to respond to? How to make cover letter? How the hell do you get this first order when everyone refuses you?
At that moment, I decided that if everything worked out for me, I would definitely write the same guide for beginners that I did not find.
For whom?It's simple: an article for programmers. Although, perhaps, part of my experience may be useful to representatives of other wonderful professions - designers, for example. More specifically, the article is for web developers, but this is not so fundamental. What is more important: it is for good developers. This is important, because with a high probability you will have to learn a lot and in a short time. If you are not ready for this, feel free to close the tab (yes, I understand that it was not for that that you opened the Habrokat).
TrainingSo, the decision is made, the account is registered. Here are the questions that will arise before you in the first place:
What to specialize in?It is important. Not all regions are equally demanded; not all are paid equally. According to my observations, there are two most promising directions:
- IPhone development
Why Ruby / Rails? Very simple: unlike Python / Django - many orders, unlike PHP - pay well. So if you have not yet mastered this bunch, feel free to start exploring. A good plus is knowledge of front end development, and if you are not too lazy and learn Backbone, this will make you indispensable for specialists in some cases. If you are a front-end vendor, learn at least the basics of server development, this will greatly increase your value.
Oh yes: buy a Mac. I'm serious.
Do you need good English?Yes, at least in writing: business correspondence will have to be absolutely accurate. Oral is desirable because some customers prefer to communicate via skype, but this is rather the exception. That is, if there is absolutely no verbal, you can live with it, just put up with the fact that you are losing some potentially interesting projects.
Do tests take place?Yes, definitely. Moreover, the more the better. Absolutely irrelevant to your specialty, of course, is useless, but it’s definitely not worth being limited to one or two. There are two reasons: firstly, the passage of various tests is often put forward as filters for projects in projects (it is completely optional to correspond to them, but this is always a plus). Secondly, often employers themselves are looking for suitable candidates for their projects, and usually among those who have passed the corresponding test. Naturally, the higher the test result, the better for you, but fanaticism is useless: getting into the top 30% is enough. For perfectionists - the top 10%. The first 3 lines are for maniacs and cheaters, and in addition to the beautiful icon in the profile, they do not give anything.
Should I contact the agencies?You will definitely receive one or two invitations as soon as you register, so this question will arise almost immediately. My answer is: not worth it, do it yourself. More freedom, and you don’t have to give part of the proceeds for services whose real use is doubtful. By the way, projects with the condition “independent contractors only” can often be found. The opposite option - "agency contractors only" - is found, but much less often.
How to fill out a profile, how to write cover letter?The most important rule: in no case do not write off the examples that oDesk offers. With lines “over the last 5 years” literally every second resume begins. Now imagine the reaction of employers to exactly the same profiles and letters, add to this the fact that agencies like to abuse this template. Write in your own words, avoid stamped wording. Profile specialization is best indicated explicitly (for example, Ruby on Rails developer is better than Web developer). In the cover letter, pay attention to the specifics of the project, at least in a couple of words make it clear that you have carefully read the description, this will give you an advantage over the countless template letters of your competitors. Verbosity is useless, write on the case. If a test task is attached to the project, be sure to do it,
ReputationAt your disposal are only three resources: knowledge, time and reputation. With the first two everything should be more or less clear, the third should be stopped. At oDesk, reputation is a familiar five-star rating system. Formally, “5” should mean an exceptional level of competence, but in practice everything is different as usual, and the rating from a good specialist rarely drops below 4.5. Follow this very carefully, including when choosing a project. Look not so much at the customer rating as at what ratings he gives to the performers - this is much more important for you. If you doubt its adequacy, do not take risks. If you have doubts already in the process, abandon the project, the sooner the better. Usually this happens in the first week, in this case, cancel all the hours worked, oDesk allows it: if the client has not paid you anything,
Beginning of workDreams of sky-high earnings leave until better times: the first time you work for a reputation and, in fact, an increase in the hours worked counter. To make it clear what the discussion is about, here is a gradation of the degree of “experience” of a freelancer, which is used on oDesk:
- 0 hours
- 1-99 hours (also 0 hours and at least one paid dollar in case of a one-time order)
- 100-499 hours
- 500-999 hours
- 1000+ hours
First orderThe most difficult order is the first. As long as you do not have a single hour worked and not a single review, they will persistently ignore you, be prepared for this in advance. In this case, the best option for you is some small one-time task, but there is serious competition for them (strangely enough, there are even more willing people than for serious long-term projects), so be patient. It is very good if you come across an urgent task that needs to be solved during the day - in this case, customers are less choosy in choosing an artist and often hire the first one who enters into correspondence. While agree to any level of payment, most importantly, do not sign up for a long-term contract.
First 100 hoursSo, the very first line has been passed, the next step is also not very far. Your goal is to work out the first 100 hours. In principle, the strategy here is almost the same as with the first order: you are still working for a reputation. Don’t expect big money, don’t subscribe to long-term projects (you don’t care to leave them soon). However, to receive orders should now be easier, so you can begin to be used for greater clarity. I especially do not recommend working in the lower price segment (up to $ 10) even during this period: firstly, it is almost certainly a thrash job, and you will have Indian noodle coders in your colleagues, and secondly, the entire history of contracts remains in your profile, work for $ 5 per hour will simply look solid.
100 - 500 hoursCongratulations, you have crossed the 100-hour bar and hit a completely differentweight category. To make it clear the ratio: only every second of the registered freelancers worked at least one hour, and only every fourth worked 100. Now you can safely begin to increase prices and generally behave much more freely. By the way, if you did everything correctly (that is, you have passed several specialized tests, and your reputation is not lower than 4.5), from that moment on you will be regularly invited by potential employers for interviews. Be sure to determine for yourself the minimum comfortable level of payment - that is, one at which you are ready to work on a project without the feeling that you are underpaid (for me, for example, it was $ 20 per hour). Don’t settle for anything less, otherwise you will start hacking - there is nothing worse.
It is worthwhile to be suspicious of all client attempts to bargain, especially attempts that are stubborn. Even if, after exhausting negotiations, you nevertheless bargained for a comfortable level of payment, it may turn out that he is already uncomfortable with the client. In this case, wait for the requirements to justify literally every 10 minutes of your work, not to mention that correspondence, setting up the environment and other “overhead costs” will almost certainly not be paid.
500+ hoursActually, I have not yet reached this mark (at the time of writing the article I have 420 hours worked), however, I do not expect dramatic changes as in the case of the first two. Although this is in any case an occasion to once again revise the prices.
What's next? The ceiling is quite high: top developers earn $ 50-60 per hour, there is something to strive for. Should I create a team? Decide for yourself, it depends on your inclinations rather than on financial requests. If you feel comfortable in the role of a leader, there is certainly a point. If not, continue to slowly improve skills and increase prices.
Well and good luck - you will definitely need it.