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Sow A Good Seed and Reap Good Harvest

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It’s Labor Day today (May 1)!  I congratulate all hardworking Pinoys including fellow freelancers from all over the world for giving your best!

Today is one of the rarest days that I don’t get to work on my contracts, simply because there is not much to do as all assigned tasks have been completed and that the other information I need to get going is yet to be sent to me.  I saw this as an opportunity to write a post and update my oDesk milestones.  It’s my second year as a freelancer on oDesk.  I became a member April 2009 and had my first job May 2009. Todate, I have established a really good reputation as a freelance professional, gotten numerous job offers, worked with quality employers, and still maintain numerous contracts on an ongoing basis.

Working remotely is quite a challenge.  From the initial job application, to the interview, to being able to convince the employer that you are the best choice for their job requirement, to working on every task and producing the required quality output on time.  I can’t be thankful enough to my employers who believed and continue to believe in my capabilities, and who put their utmost trust to somebody they have not met in person. They are likewise very happy to recommend or refer me to others. This is one factor that motivates me to do the best in every job, more so when the employers articulate their appreciation through an email or skype chat.

Employer from Ontario, Canada:

Employer from London thru the Project Manager from Poland, asked for references:

Employer from Florida, USA:

…and the result:

From a UK employer:

Employer from Idaho, USA:

Another employer also from London recommended me to a friend of his from Brighton, GB:

…and another UK client:

…and still another:

A big thanks to my previous and current employers.  Rest assured that I will continue to give my very best in every task assigned.

 

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Wear The Employer’s Shoes

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I often read forum posts asking for tips on how to land the first job.  By experience, I learned that landing that first job is never easy. The process involves countless hours of going over every post in the job board matching your skill set.  The job hunt can be both time consuming and frustrating.  I was there, and had my taste of rejections despite confidence that I can do the job and I can deliver.  But, I slowly learned the ropes.

key to successI am underscoring some useful tips here, in the hope that it will help fellow contractors, especially newbies, at improving their chances in landing a job.  (There are also lots of helpful links I included in the Resources page.)

1.  Complete and Detailed Profile

I learned  that in order to land the first job, I have to market my skills well.  I had to take the time to evaluate my  abilities, explore my career possibilities, and find out what I am truly passionate about.  Just like in the real world when it comes to preparing a resume and application letter,  in preparing  my  profile I have to give enough time completing it and detailing every aspect.  Every minute detail of my work experience, be it full time or  part time or volunteer work, are all valuable achievements.  As Contractors, we should not sell ourselves short just because our professional experience is limited.  We have to give prospective Employers a well-rounded view of our skills by including all relevant experience.

Spending enough time in completing our profile gives a positive signal to Employers.  Committing our personal time detailing every aspect of our skills, work experience, education and other proficiencies demonstrates our values,  work ethics and professionalism.  It would show that we are committed to the job and endeavour to complete any task with the end in view of delivering quality output.  It will show our willingness to go that extra mile, which is something a lot of Employers look for.  In these times of hard economy, most business owners want conscientious workers.

bulls eye2.  Customized Cover Letter

Most Employers prefer customized cover letters.  This is their way of initially testing us if we understand their requirements, if we can follow instructions and express ourselves well. They want to assess us if we are capable and ready of helping them build their business or provide the solutions. Hence, it is advisable to submit a carefully crafted cover letter addressing the specific requirements of the Employer as stated in the job post. If we have experience in the same field, highlight it at once and provide a concise background.  In my case, I use some phrases in the job details posted by the Employer, as this will show that I took the time to read everything in the post.

3.  Be Prepared for Interviewinterview

We should respond to interview invitations promptly and thank the Employer for considering us from among many candidates.  During an interview, how we present ourselves is often as important as our profile. For maximum impact, we have to pay attention to our  tone of  “voice”.  Be polite and friendly.  It is normal to feel nervous, but is should not show.  Anticipate the questions that might be asked and be ready with an answer.  Knowing exactly what we want to say beforehand will help us express it simply. However, we should keep our responses short, leaving out unnecessary details. Everything we say during the interview process should relate back to our strengths and the results we can deliver. Moreover, we must answer their questions honestly, but without leaving room for doubt. If there are aspects of the job that we have no experience in, it is good to  highlight a related job and offer a plan on how to apply it.  We should not only focus on our strengths, but also consider our weaknesses in advance.  It is also very helpful to have a list of questions to ask the prospective Employer.  Often forgotten during an interview is that the Contractor should also interview the Employer. Get to know the Employer a little better, his preferences, his business and the goals he wants to achieve, including relevant matters regarding the job.

Finally, we should not forget that all job interviews are learning curves. Self-analysis can help one to ace the next round and increase the  chances of an offer.  If we don’t make it to the hire list of that particular Employer, we have to put to mind that there are a lot more looking for a contractor.  We have to learn that rejection should not be taken personally.  After all, everyone had to apply for their first job at some point.

4.  Understand The Employer’s Requirements

When  the Employer gives out a link to his/her website, visit the site in order to have an overview of the business.  In a single job, there will be numerous candidates fitting into the requirements, but the Employers would also want to make sure that they fit in.  Be honest as to the  extent of what you can deliver, including your availability and schedule.

graphics5.  Don’t Just Tell, Show What You’ve Got

We must be able to remove doubts from the Employer’s mind by highlighting our skills and providing clear evidence of success. A portfolio can be a great capability booster.  If you are a writer, let your cover letter speak for you, or you may provide a link to some articles you have submitted. If you’re a programmer or graphics artist, provide a link to your finished product.  If you are good at customer service relations or at handling inbound or outbound calls, encourage the Employer to speak to you by phone or skype call as a “test run.”

A word of caution: some prospective employers may require samples before hiring.   There are some employers who cancel the job or let the job ad expire without hiring at all, and they keep the sample articles.  Imagine getting samples from, say, 50 applicants…for free.  Should something like this happen, publish your samples by posting in your blog or other sites that allow you to post the article.  If you are a graphics designer, do not submit the sample graphics, rather, post it in your portfolio and invite the prospective employer to take a look at it.

shoes6.  Wear the Employer’s Shoes

Personally, I can say that what made my bids successful was the fact that I try to put  myself  into the Employer’s situation and think of what I want from a contractor.  Definitely, a business owner who invests his hard earned money would want a return on his investment.  In this case, he would delimit his risks by carefully choosing the right service contractor.  It’s  like buying a tangible product – we consider all the relevant features and scrutinize the components in order to satisfy us that the product  will cater to our particular need and will provide the solution we seek.

As service contractors, we should then package our skill set in such a way that prospective Employers will also decide to go that “extra-mile” to read and check every detail in our profile and decide to hire us after scrutinizing our capabilities, convinced that we are worth it.

To my fellow oDesk contractors……wear the Employer’s shoes….

Read here how I landed my first job on oDesk….

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The Funny Side of My Freelancing – No Pain, No Gain

 

In my previous stories about the beginnings of my freelancing, I dealt with emotions….now, let’s get physical!

While most of you may have started with freelancing quite comfortably, with all those high tech gadgets and elegantly upholstered computer chairs, or a well equipped virtual room, it was the other way for me.

How about placing oneself on a mat spread on the floor in one corner of the room, indian seat position?woman-working-at-home

In one of my current contracts, my job entails calling US banks.  As such, I need to make my working environment as quiet as possible.  This proved to be a challenge for me because the house we’re staying at is along a busy highway.  Sorrychynna to my dog, Chynna, who now needs to stay in her doghouse the whole day, except for a few minutes of morning exercise, running and chasing after the cat.  She used to be allowed inside the house, sleeping in  one corner of the sala near the door.  She’s a very active dog, always on the look out, barking even at the shadow of swaying leaves.  Like my children, who needed to cut short their TV time, my dog too has to make this sacrifice so I can get my work done.  I guess everybody at home has to bear with these trade-offs.  Do they complain?  At first, yes….but they learned to cope up.

As I said, I had to find a really quiet corner, as far away as possible from the living room which is near the highway.  I cannot use my bedroom because it is near the entrance, plus my son’s room is the adjacent room, and I would not want to disturb him in his sleep.  I ended up in my daughters’ room which is farthest from the sala.  The two girls don’t mind me calling and talking at skype. Ironically, they sleep soundly.  I guess the sound of someone talkin’ with an American accent  became music to their ears – a lullabye!

The indian seat position is okay for me, but not for over 2 hours.  Occasionally, I rest my back on the cabinet behind me (leaning on a pillow).  Sometimes, I go for a short walk from the room to the sala, do some stretching (and yawning!).

One time, I needed to finish a task because the employer had to have the data as soon as possible.  I worked on it then and did not get up from my “virtual office” until it’s done.  I uploaded documents for the employer, who was at skype all those times giving instructions and details, until he’s satisfied with the results.  When I was finally through with the task (straight 4 hours), I felt pain in my lower back.  I can hardly move my legs.  My left shoulder and neck muscles felt tense, not to mention the eye strain.  (Lucky that I didn’t develop that migraine which is a common occurrence when I get stressed out). These are the body parts that receive the most stress.  I know I have to do something about this if I want to survive freelancing in one piece.  Please…..don’t give me that naughty grin…..I beg to disagree,  this is not about growing old! For all it’s worth, it’s a sign of  one’s dedication to the job! (Wink)

The relief that comes after, with the employer being very satisfied and virtually patting you at the back for a job well done, is a balm that banishes all the physical pain.

I am looking forward to the final completion of my new house.  I plan to convert one of the rooms into my virtual office, and equip it with gadgets  and fixtures that will make my job more comfortable.  Meantime, I have to be content with my little corner, sitting on a mat, indian seat position….

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The Spirit is Willing, But the Flesh is Weak

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I now recall the first 2 weeks in my first contract.  The employer’s backlog was quite enormous, and a  lot of things need to be done. I did what I am supposed to do, giving my 100% to the job during the allotted time. However, my eagerness to work and finish as many tasks as I can, stressed me out. More so because I was not used to working during US Eastern time from 8am to 5pm (night to dawn over here in the Philippines). The exhaustion and drastic change in my sleep pattern took a toll on my weary body. I still endeavored to work, but not as fast and productive as the previous days. As a consequence, I got sick. There are times when the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. I made sure to leave a message to the employer so as not to keep him wondering why I have not been working. I was a bit ashamed because I wasn’t able to deliver output during the days I was indisposed.

As soon as I got back to work, I apologized and talked to the employer about my concerns. I suggested that he end the assignment with me so he can hire someone to work full time. I told him that I do not want to be the reason that the business is not moving as expected. Better be honest now than keep the employer hanging at the middle of the contract. He told me that I have been doing a good job and he needs me in the team. He assured me that he will be flexible with time. Because he understood my predicament, I was allowed to adjust my work time from 8 hours a day to 4 hours until I get adjusted. I was grateful to him for giving me the chance to still continue the work that I have started. He thanked me for being open and honest.

What did I learn from this experience?

I learned that it is a good practice to have an open communication with the employer and to be honest in my dealings with him concerning my job, in order to gain his trust. There are many contractors out there, and he could have easily ended the contract to hire another, but he didn’t. Quality output is files2what matters to him. I made sure I deliver what is expected as early as the first task, putting my initiative to find all pertinent resources needed to get the job done. What could be the best motivation to achieve all these than “putting  myself into the shoes of the employer”, so to speak, and get it into my system to love my job and the employer’s business like it is my own.

Now, we maintain a healthy working relationship. I have adjusted to the Eastern time schedule, too. He goes about his daily business, while I continue to do my job and give my best, even without supervision. I give him updates on a daily basis, uploading documents for ready reference, determine possible problems and suggest solutions. He appreciates my work attitude, always thanking me for my contributions. I return the same respect and appreciation of his kindness and understanding by doing my job well and maintaining the quality of my work.

What more can I ask with this kind of  an employer?

(Want an update on this job? Read it here and be inspired.)

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Bayanihan At oDesk

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In the Philippines, we have what we call “Bayanihan” (pronounced like “buy-uh-nee-hun”).

The internet provides articles that defines or describes this term. “This is a Filipino term taken from the word bayan, referring to a nation, town or community. The whole term bayanihan refers to a spirit of communal unity or effort to achieve a particular objective.  The term has evolved into many different usage, but all in all it refers to the spirit of cooperative effort involving a community of members.  Bayanihan is taken from the root word bayani, meaning “hero”. Thus, bayanihan means being a hero to one another.” (As opposed to the so called “crab mentality” which means pulling somebody down just to get to the top, or better put, discrediting another for one’s own glory).

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At oDesk, bayanihan is very evident.  I for one, experienced this wonderful tradition, both as recipient and contributor.  Being a newbie freelancer could be overwhelming, especially when one is new to a lot of systems and technical related processes.  When I was about to start with my very first job, I felt lost.  Thanks to the oDesk Support System and the Community Forum. So far, I am very satisfied with these services at oDesk.  My experience with the Live Chat facility is very satisfactory – fast and reliable.

The Community Forum serves as a useful venue where this bayanihan tradition is  demonstrated.  A newbie like me may post comments or questions relating to the job or oDesk policies. Those who have been at oDesk ahead of many newbies are always ready to lend a hand.  They unselfishly share their experiences and knowledge in relation to one’s concerns.  They have been there, hands-on, and therefore are the best resource persons.

Personally, it was delightful to know that there are a lot of them with this bayanihan spirit, be he a Filipino or a national of another country.  Participating or even just reading the discussions, one can readily feel that race and language differences are not barriers to a productive and  useful collaboration.

To my fellow oDeskers, let us maintain this wonderful tradition.  Be a Bayanihan advocate and reap good karma.

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The Real Thing

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If you have read my 3 articles regarding my experiences as a Neophyte Freelancer, you would agree with me that there is future in freelancing. Being a stay-at-home mom, I consider working at oDesk as the “real thing” in earning money online. For those looking for honest to goodness source of income, be it fulltime or part time, join the oDesk pool of  freelance professionals. For Employers out there, look no farther because real gem of contractors abound at oDesk.

Job offers from prospective employers get posted almost every hour. There is not a day that the Jobs Board is empty. These are the skill sets in the different categories:

I was once a systems analyst and programmer. It would have been very beneficial had I updated on my programming skills. Web programmers command a high pay rate, especially those who concentrate in 1 or 2 languages as their expertise.  While a lot of programming languages are now foreign to me, I am not totally closing my doors to it. I always crave for knowledge that is why I do not limit myself to the things I have tried. I always welcome learning opportunities.

Packaging oneself  for a job is tough. Employers tend to be choosy since there is a vast market for freelancers. But if you have what it takes to be a really good contractor, don’t fret, unleash you potentials and grow into a reliable, results-oriented freelancer.

Control over providers may become a factor since most likely team members will be remotely located, worldwide that is. Employers do not have physical control at how the contractor does his/her job. In order to bridge this gap, oDesk acts as a valuable conduit between the contractor and employer, providing useful tools for both sides to conveniently monitor the performance of any task, time logs, and profile assessment, thereby making the hiring process and performance monitoring simpler, easier and less expensive.

Visit oDesk and find out for yourself that indeed there is future in freelancing online.

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The Neophyte Freelancer – Part 3 (When It Rains, It Pours)

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Part 1 (The Newbie Excitement)

Part 2 (The Early Frustrations)

Because I was able to regain my enthusiasm that day, I applied for a few job posts.  Barely 24 hours after that, an oDesk alert landed in my mailbox.  This time the employer was from Canada.  His job post requires a “Top Personal Assistant” for administrative support in his computer software business, who has the capability to call US and Canada. His personal requirements were that the candidate be “an excellent communicator, intelligent, independent, motivated, creative, assertive, reliable, responsible, well organized, preferably with above 5 English skills, at least 1 oDesk hours, and feedback score of above 4.5.”

At that time, of all the listed qualifications, I do not meet the last two.  Since I have not started working yet in my first contract, I have not logged any oDesk hours.  Neither did I have any feedback score since this comes only after a contract is ended.  But, I got invited for the interview nonetheless. My self-worth came back!

I responded to the invitation and in no time I was chatting with the employer.  Our discussions covered topics on my experience in designing/creating powerpoint presentations, customer services, handling legal disputes, business correspondence, my availability or schedule, a brief summary of his business and his job requirements. Not long after that, I was hired for the job.  I felt great that I had two jobs that I can manage, thanks to my skill at time management and multi-tasking. I felt so good and so grateful.

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Currently, I have 6 active contracts, all from very nice employers.  I am very motivated because they all have very positive attitudes about me and my work.  Two of them increased my hourly rate without me asking for it – according to them, that is for a job well done and for exceeding their expectations. I feel so blessed and lucky to have been involved with quality employers like them, and I am happy to be a part of the growth of their businesses. I thank them for entrusting their jobs to me. I always make it a point to do my job well and I make it my commitment to do the best I can for them.

Thank you, oDesk, for serving as a valuable “bridge” between the employers and contractors like me!

(What happened next – Another Job Opportunity)

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