I Shot 3 Birds With 1 Stone

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There are lots of advantages to having many skills.  Your marketability as a freelancer/contractor is greater since you can fit into many different jobs.

I remember last July when I was scanning  job posts  and chanced upon an ad for  Legal Drafting.  As a practice, I check whether  the employer got verified payment and yes he had.  There are not many feedbacks in his profile yet since he is relatively new  on oDesk.  But, there are already ongoing contracts dealing with web design,  flash design, SEO/SEM/SMM, and article writing.  I noticed that besides the legal drafting job, he also posted one for accounting.  I sent my application for  both jobs and got invited  to interview.

Over at skype, the Canadian employer and myself had a voice interview (recorded on Pamela Call Recorder).  I thanked the employer for considering my application, and told him I am glad to answer any questions he might have in relation to the job or my skills.  His first question was: Thank you, Please first tell me about your skills and experience, and especially if you have done any work with any clients in Canada before?  What type of services have you provided?” I responded and gave a summary of my work experience, highlighting those related to his job requirement.  “Because I’m looking for an expert to prepare business agreements, Partnership contracts etc.. with other Canadian partners and also USA.”

He also discussed his business and his plans to move it forward.  I took this opportunity to recommend solutions that he may adopt to address the situation.  This is one way to let the employer know that you are there to help out.  He seemed to agree  because he said afterwards, “so, now let’s talk about the price…” To me, when an employer starts to discuss rates it is a strong indication that he is convinced that you’ve got the skills necessary for the job.  “What rate you’ll be expecting if we consider you to be in the Legal team, in terms of hourly rate?” It is one of my strategies to give my max bid rate.  Should it be accepted at once by the employer, then it’s a super great deal.  But if he haggles, at least there is still room to negotiate and I can still get a good rate/hr.  For me, I set a standard rate for different types of job and never agrees to go lower than that no matter what.  After all,  I have already established myself  as a diligent service contractor.  The employer tried to persuade me to lower it down a bit more but I stood firm on my set rate for legal.  At that point he said, “I think I would like to discuss the accounting job with you not the legal one.”

(Ok, as I’ve said before…patience is a virtue…..now, let’s switch channel…)

I asked him about what concerns his accounting books, the present setup, how many months is it behind, etc. “I have a bookkeeper, and an accountant, but I’m not happy and they are very expensive.” (Hmmm…this is music to my ears!)  This is again another opportunity and I used it to recommend solutions gearing towards highlighting my skills and experience in Accounting, specifically in fixing messy books.  This time, I gave him a picture of what he can expect from my accounting skills and the time frame I will be able to get it done, to his expectations. His comments have been positive so far, and has hinted that he would like to hire me.  So, what’s keeping him from pressing the hire button then? “..but I still need to know more about how you’ll be the best fit, and what I will receive from you at the end of month, including invoices in/out payments out etc…”

We discussed again in more detail what I will be doing to straighten up his books.  At some point, I grew tired and merely answered his questions matter of factly, not anymore out of interest in the job. I felt that I have lost a lot of  oDesk hours  already because I am not logged to any of my assignments.  In my more than 1 year experience on oDesk, that was the longest interview  I went through, as the others before it did not last more than 20 minutes before hire.  This employer wanted to get the most out of my wits!

And his next question?

“Hi, I will be back in 30 min and I need to talk to you about the legal doc that I want so we get started on it.” Oh boy, now its back to the legal thing!  But wait…he said ”so we get started”?  Okay, that means he is considering me for the legal job then…not the accounting.  Whew!

When he came back, (good thing I have other contracts that I can work on in the meantime, so the waiting time is not wasted…but speaking of wasted time…I spent a considerable time in this interview so I told myself  I have to get  hired to compensate  the “lost worktime”).  ok, so I would like to know what rate I will have if I hire you to do my legal documents, and the accounting work?” Oh, okay….so he’s considering me for both jobs now.  Is this enough to get my interest back? You bet!

Alright.  So lets see how I negotiated the rate for this 2 jobs…(skype chat now).

Employer: Accounting will be on regular basis, Legal will be occasionally (when needed)

Verena: so how much are you willing to give me for both?

Employer: I will tell you the others that I’m interviewing

Verena: ok

Employer: so for the accounting job I have people rate at (2.22-5.00) and you are the highest at $**

Verena: and for the legal?

Employer: (5.00-7.78) and you are the highest at $**

Employer: So Verena, tell me your best offer for your services separately (Accounting, Legal), as this is going to be a long term relation

Verena: your comparison is mainly on the rate…are the others whom you interviewed barely new to oDesk or established with 5.0 feedbacks like me?

Employer: Range b/t (10hrs-431hrs)

Employer: Rate is a big factor, especially if I will count on you for multiple tasks, and you will be my go to for that

Verena: Admin  job?

Employer: Yes

 

He’s got a point. I can bid a high rate but will get a short term contract in the case of Legal…or as needed in case his Accounting books gets updated eventually.  His offer  of giving me a 3rd job (Admin), which is on a daily basis, makes sense.

 

Verena: can we meet at $** for the accounting and $** for the legal then?

Verena: you have your Accountant-Paralegal-Admin in one…

Employer: lol

Employer: That’s high for accounting. I can have you at $** for legal, but not accounting

Verena: ok, $** then…you look at my profile and check the rates I charge for accounting…

Verena: the lowest rate is $7

Employer: no, it’s $5.56

Verena: oh but that was my starter…the very first accounting job I did…

Employer: lol

Verena: you can’t charge high if you’re only starting right?

Verena:  i worked hard and my clients did not go wrong….

Employer: so how about if we meet half way for both jobs?

Employer: So we can get the confidentiality agreement done and start

Verena: u mean $** for acctg and $** for legal?

Employer: I can do $* for everything

Employer: Legal will be occasionally (when needed) , (i.e: agreements, contracts, NDA etc..)

Employer: I propose $* for acctg,  $* for Legal

Verena: ok, here’s my counter-offer, my final deal….i will work for $* but I get all 3 jobs (acctg, legal, admin)

Employer: you are still the highest from whom I interviewed, but…

Verena: but…

Verena: you can do $*  right?

Employer: ok…$* acctg, $* legal works for me

Verena: deal

Employer: deal

Employer: your hired

Verena: thank you…

 

I am happy that I got a fair deal in this contract.  The employer can be “hard to please” but overall, he is nice.  After a few hours, I received a list of  tasks and I had to reorganize my work calendar  to accommodate  the new job…I mean, jobssssss…because I was able to get 3 jobs from a single employer.

Have you had the same experience?  How did you go about negotiating a reasonable rate? Why not share yours….a lot of visitors to this blog can benefit from other freelancer’s experience, too.

Be generous!

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Curiousity Did Not Kill The Cat

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Ever since I started earning on oDesk, I have always used my Payoneer debitcard for my fund withdrawals. Not only is it convenient but the exchange rate is more or less close to prevailing rates. I added Paypal as another payment method but never used it. I always get inquiries from fellow odeskers as to which of the two payment methods is the better one. While I can vouch for Payoneer, I was clueless as to Paypal, so I deemed it best to try it myself. For the first time, I tried withdrawing my week’s earnings from oDesk to Paypal.

Upon logging into my Paypal account and opting for withdrawal, I got this window:

I suddenly remembered some forum posts about a situation where the freelancer apparently failed to get his money as expected because there were discrepancies in his bank info.  In my case, my lastname as per bank records is “delos Reyes” while my Paypal account was “de los Reyes

Who would have thought that a character or even a space will matter a lot in this century?  Anyway, I wanted to play safe so I contacted Paypal Customer Support for the correction.  (Typographical errors are easier for Paypal to respond to unlike in those other complicated matters).

I logged into my account and started the fund withdrawal on October 12.  Since the amount is at least P7,000 then I am assured that there will be no withdrawal charges.  However, the exchange rate is lower than the prevailing rate that day.  I guess that’s the catch for the “freebie” withdrawal fee.

And then I wondered how many days it will take for the funds to reflect in my bank account. When I checked my bank balance after 3 days, I confirmed that the Paypal withdrawal was successful.  There was just about P80 deducted from the balance, maybe a charge by the bank.  I’m glad that I did not experience any problem with Paypal and got my hard earned money without fuss. Now, I have a proven alternative for withdrawing my earnings from oDesk.

Thanks, Paypal!

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I Ate My Words

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As promised, here are some of the very interesting updates on my oDesk milestones….let’s start with this one:

I have said before that I prefer to work on hourly basis than fixed price due to a lot of cases where contractors get themselves cheated by employers who refuse to pay them after the work is submitted or suddenly are out of reach, no matter how many emails.

Fixed price jobs may be very convenient since the contractor need not log into the oDesk Team App for time log and work diary monitoring,  however, this type of job is not guaranteed by oDesk.  Not all fixed price jobs result into this though, but since it is not guaranteed, it becomes a caveat or warning especially to newbies in order to avoid early frustrations.

For those who are not yet aware how fixed price jobs work, it is one where you complete the job first, submit the output to the employer, and get paid when employer is satisfied that the work is within specifications agreed upon before commencing the task.  In very few cases, even if the employer is not satisfied, he pays full or pays a certain portion of the project amount.  It all depends on the parties to reach a reasonable agreement.

I got myself  into one fixed price job last March.  Did I eat my words?

This was the job post:

I got invited to interview, and here are a few of our exchanges:

I sent my answers to each of the questions and here was his response:

The new job he created for me was for fixed price.  I requested that I be allowed to work on hourly basis under a limited number of work hours according to his stated budget per week.  He agreed then he went on to repost an hourly job and invited me to it.

I received a notification and readily hit the accept button, then I got another notification that the contract has begun.  Little did I know that what I opened and accepted was the wrong  job post, as it was the fixed price one.  We had a chat to clarify the matter but the employer was very busy at that time so he just assured me that I will get paid  and even offered to pay upfront 50% of the agreed amount.  I accepted the offer since there is a clear indication that I will be paid in full upon completion of the project.  I then started working on the tasks.   After three months of work I successfully completed all that was required as per agreement and the employer was satisfied with the output.  I then requested the employer to end the assignment in the meantime.  He agreed, paid the balance and left this feedback:

I breathed a sigh of relief….not only because I got paid in full but also because I earned another good feedback, and the employer is not at all like those encountered by other contractors.  If given the chance, I will gladly accept another job offer from this employer.  I learned a lot from this project – writing a Business Plan, different legal materials, etc.

Will I again work on fixed price jobs?  Maybe….maybe not…..but when I do, I make sure to agree only when the employer sends a detailed specs and pays 50% upfront.  As an added precaution, I log my hours using oDesk Team App even if not required.  That way, should the employer not pay despite successful completion of the project, there is proof to lodge a complaint.

I am not discouraging you to apply for fixed price jobs…let me be clear on that.

But as for me, some of the many things I value most are

hardwork and peace of mind…..

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Hello…Anybody home?

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My! I feel like a stranger in my own .

It’s been 5 months since my last post in April.  So what happened since?

A lot!

Did I mention before that I make it a point to maintain at least 6 contracts?  When one ends, I scan the jobs board for job opportunities and always manage to get one brand new contract to replenish my cupboard of assignments.  Well….I still do that, but I guess I got very enthusiastic at pushing my skills to the limit and ended up adding 3 more…so, I have a total of 9 active contracts.  Enough reason to set aside my blog for a while?  You’re right….

Juggling from one job to another everyday and every week is more than enough reason to tire me that I don’t get enough time to organize my thoughts in writing an article to update my blog.

So, why am I here? It’s both good news and bad news.

Bad news is….two of my contracts got suspended.  I don’t know what’s wrong….but more often than not, its the employer not updating his payment methods with oDesk.  So, until such time that the employers update their payments, I cannot log and bill work time.  I may opt to continue working but the time logged  is not guaranteed as it will not be billed to the employer….that means, I will be working for free!  Sorry, but I don’t want to do that.

Okay now……whats the good news?

Well….that I have time to spare and I am writing here again!

I got lotsa things to share….tips…lessons learned….etc, etc, etc.  I’m sure you can pick up something useful to apply in your freelancing.  And one that I am very eager to share to you is the story on how I got all 3 jobs from a single employer, and another is on how I stood ground because I believe that I was in the right, and I was…and still another, is the odesk press opportunity which can become even better than being buzzworthy (although this is still nipped in the bud…if it gets to me, a big thanks! if not, all the same, I have a grateful heart).

But before that, allow me to greet myself…….HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!!!  Not only because I celebrated my wedding anniversary last September 6, but I realized I have been freelancing at oDesk for more than a year now.  I officially started logging hours at 10:09:26 PM last May 26, 2009, TuesdayMy struggles when I was yet a newbie came flashing in my mind.  How time flies……

I am very thankful that I found oDesk.  The past year of my freelancing had been very fruitful, not only in terms of virtual income, but also by the fact that I became more independent  and happy with the kind of  jobs that I do….plus, I learned a lot new stuff that I would not have had the chance to learn if I still have been working in the real world, with the same stuff everyday.

Oh, how I love the flexibility of working freelance on

In my next posts, we will start the ball rolling again….so, walk with me, as I travel down memory lane and recall what happened since my last post in April…

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Who Really Is The Best Buyer?

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Sometimes I realize that when I am engrossed with my oDesk  job, I work as if there’s no tomorrow, and I forget to take as much rest as I should.

Today till Easter Sunday, I will rest from my oDesk contracts.  I am not sharing any stories about  my oDesk milestones this time.   But what I’ve posted here are meaningful presentations that I have downloaded from a wonderful site I just visited. You won’t regret stopping by and viewing the slides, as these will show us who the BEST BUYER (now termed at employer) really is…..

He Is The One Who Said…

Not_Yet

Aren’t we glad that we have the best employer in our lives?

Not only during the Holy Week but every moment in our lives,  may we appreciate His great love for us and reflect on….

What Jesus Said On The Cross

A blessed Easter to oDesk and to all oDeskers…..

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Minus One, Plus One…or Even More

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Since the early months of my freelancing, I have always maintained at least 6 contracts.  When one ends or gets inactive, I try to apply to new job posts and get hired after a few tries. I guess the reason I get rejected sometimes is that prospective Employers get the impression that I don’t have enough time to work on their project when they see my profile with  many “job in progress“, even if some of those are actually worked on as needed basis only.

Recently, I requested one of my employers to end the contract since I have not been doing any tasks for him for more than a month.  The Employer agreed, and ended my contract.  I was glad to have received again another good feedback with this comment:

After that, I applied to a newly posted job for Accounting/Bookkeeping.  I was number 13 in the list of 37 applicants, but I had a strong feeling that I will be able to get this job even if I placed a bid more than the rate indicated by the Employer.  The next day when I checked my email, I was happy to have received an invitation for interview, and the Employer wanted some questions answered.

I did not waste time so I replied to his interview invitation, giving my answers to each of the questions.  I also included my skype name just in case he would want to chat to finally discuss the job.  I got his message at skype the following day, and we had a chat, discussing further his requirements.  Right after that, I was hired for the job!!!  Who says the number 13 means bad luck? Not for me, I guess…..

Here’s a portion of the chat interview:

[2/18/2010 12:15:00 AM] Aaron: Hi Verena, this is Aaron from ODesk
[2/18/2010 12:15:29 AM] avhdh5962: Hello Sir, how are you?
[2/18/2010 12:15:51 AM] Aaron: I’m good, and you?
[2/18/2010 12:16:09 AM] avhdh5962: likewise
[2/18/2010 12:16:15 AM] Aaron: glad to hear it.  And you can just call me Aaron
[2/18/2010 12:16:28 AM] avhdh5962: thanks
[2/18/2010 12:16:38 AM] Aaron: Thank you for your very thoughtful response
[2/18/2010 12:16:58 AM] avhdh5962: i hope i answered them well?
[2/18/2010 12:17:07 AM] Aaron: yes, you did
[2/18/2010 12:17:22 AM] Aaron: I wanted to get back to you to answer your questions and tell you a little more about my business
[2/18/2010 12:17:47 AM] avhdh5962: sure, if you have time we can talk about it..

The Employer went on explaining about his business and the present set up.  I also asked some questions, did initial assessment of the present accounting set up and offered some recommendations which he gladly accepted.  Did he also accept my bid rate which is above his offer?  Let’s see….

[2/18/2010 12:40:02 AM] Aaron: Verena, I’m very impressed with your application
[2/18/2010 12:40:12 AM] avhdh5962: thank you…it would be great to be of help
[2/18/2010 12:41:32 AM] Aaron: I do have some other qualified candidates that I think would also do a good job
[2/18/2010 12:41:58 AM] Aaron: But your proactive attitude really makes you stand out
[2/18/2010 12:42:27 AM] Aaron: Here’s where I’m still struggling with my decision…
[2/18/2010 12:43:21 AM] Aaron: Everyone else I’m considering is about half your hourly rate
[2/18/2010 12:43:37 AM] avhdh5962: i noticed…
[2/18/2010 12:45:03 AM] Aaron: Is there any adjustment you would be able to make to your rate to make it a little more competetive with the others?   If you’re able to bring down your rate a little, I may also be able to use you for a number of other virtual assistant type tasks, giving you more hours
[2/18/2010 12:47:57 AM] Aaron: Don’t feel like you have to say yes…  I respect your right to do what you feel is in your best interest
[2/18/2010 12:48:56 AM] Aaron: To be honest, I’m looking for someone who can pretty much run my ecommerce business, including expanding into new niches and even new geographical markets
[2/18/2010 12:50:26 AM] Aaron: I would provide quite a bit on guidance on that at the beginning, but eventually I need someone who can take the initiative to drive that with with only some occasional guidance from me.
[2/18/2010 12:53:10 AM] Aaron: Initially, it would be things like processing transactions, re-ordering inventory, web research on new products we could carry
[2/18/2010 12:54:49 AM] Aaron: Then, if you’re doing well, I may have you manage an odesk team of experts to help put up an additional niche site
[2/18/2010 12:55:01 AM] Aaron: I would guide you through doing that the first time or two
[2/18/2010 12:55:40 AM] Aaron: And if you ever feel something is outside your realm of expertise, or that you don’t have time for it, that’s okay
[2/18/2010 12:55:50 AM] Aaron: The most important thing is your family
[2/18/2010 12:56:33 AM] Aaron: If I hire you, I don’t want my requests to ever get in the way of your family life
[2/18/2010 12:57:04 AM] avhdh5962: that will be great, thank you..
[2/18/2010 12:57:06 AM] Aaron: And if you ever need time off for a family event, just let me know
[2/18/2010 12:57:19 AM] Aaron: There’s nothing more important in this world than your family
[2/18/2010 12:57:43 AM] avhdh5962: you have your own family? spouse and kids?
[2/18/2010 12:58:01 AM] Aaron: Yes,  My wife and two kids…and one more due in april

[2/18/2010 12:58:32 AM] avhdh5962: ok, so we’re in the same plane…..i got 3 kids, too….

[2/18/2010 12:58:43 AM] Aaron: that’s great
[2/18/2010 1:00:25 AM] Aaron: Anyways, if you’re able to bring down your rate a little, I would be happy to bring it back up once the ecommerce business really starts generating a profit.
[2/18/2010 1:01:34 AM] avhdh5962: ok….so, what about if you give me 7/hr now (if you hire me), then after 2 months we adjust to my original bid rate…..will that be ok with you?
[2/18/2010 1:04:55 AM] Aaron: Could we do after 3 months?  I just started consulting for ******, but I don’t get my first check from them for 75 days after I start working…. And I haven’t had many hours these first few weeks since they’re still working on product specifications
[2/18/2010 1:05:20 AM] avhdh5962: thats okay with me…after 3months then…
[2/18/2010 1:06:07 AM] Aaron: This wouldn’t be an issue, except I had another client last year who declared bankruptcy owing me $50,000

[2/18/2010 1:07:30 AM] Aaron: After 3 months should be fine
[2/18/2010 1:07:38 AM] avhdh5962: great
[2/18/2010 1:07:59 AM] Aaron: Verena, I’m looking forward to working with you
[2/18/2010 1:08:27 AM] Aaron: I had some really great candidates, but you really distinguished yourself
[2/18/2010 1:08:39 AM] avhdh5962: does that mean I’m considered for the job?
[2/18/2010 1:08:47 AM] Aaron: yes
[2/18/2010 1:09:05 AM] avhdh5962: thank you Aaron…
[2/18/2010 1:09:15 AM] Aaron: thank you
[2/18/2010 1:09:19 AM] avhdh5962: don’t worry, I’m here to prove my worth
[2/18/2010 1:09:47 AM] Aaron: Okay, if you can adjust the rate of your bid, I’ll hire you
[2/18/2010 1:09:52 AM] avhdh5962: if ever you don’t get satisfied with my performance, you can always notify me….or end my assignment…but i hope with prior notice 🙂
[2/18/2010 1:11:24 AM] Aaron: I don’t anticipate having an issue with that.
[2/18/2010 1:12:08 AM] Aaron: The most important thing for me is that you maintain good communication…  Ask questions…  Send me status updates…I think you’ll do just fine
[2/18/2010 1:12:29 AM] avhdh5962: sure, I’ll do that…

Did you learn anything from this interview, aside from negotiating on the hourly rate?

I did…… I learned that it is not bad to be bidding more than what is stated in the Buyer’s preference (he placed above $3 below $7), as long as your skills and expertise, including work ethic and attitude match your bid rate.  There is always that risk to be rejected due to “rate bid too high” reason, though.  But, I think if the Employer senses that you are there to really provide the solution they seek, the parties can always negotiate, just like we did.  What could have prompted the Employer to invite me despite my higher bid rate?  I guess its due to the contents of my profile – completeness, matching skills, earned feedback.

Since I started this particular assignment about a month ago, I am happy of the outcome because I was able to really prove my worth.  It proved very challenging because I had to straighten out a lot of miscategorized transactions and deleted many double entries to be able to reconcile all bank, paypal and credit card accounts.  I’m glad that the Employer was happy with the outcome.  Why do I say that?  Because he recommended me to a friend of his who also need bookkeeping services.  I’m crossing my fingers on this at the moment.

Wow! Its great when you have proven your worth because satisfied clients will pave the way for more business.  One assignment may end, but for sure another will come.  Its like  minus one-plus one…or even more…..

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From Rugs to “Riches”

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Do you remember the post about the funny side of my freelancing?


I was viewing the horizons from my veranda this afternoon….sipping my freshly brewed coffee “barako” which we call here in the city of pines, ” d’ kape native ” which I say is much better tasting than the instant decaffeinated, what more with the “pandesal con strawberry jam”…..yummy!


From the now more-spacious-house, I suddenly recalled how I struggled working on my oDesk assignments in the house we once lived, where I had to locate myself in one corner inside my daughter’s room, sitting on a rug indian seat position, just so I can have the quietness I need (my job then entails calling banks in the US).


We transferred to our new house in late January this year. I now have a much better workplace….with views and fresh air, and the comfort of a much larger space, in any part of the house where I choose to work…of course, not anymore seated on the floor but on a “throne” (I say, from rugs to riches, not necessarily in terms of money, but richer in seating comfort and work space I mean…haha!)

Our house is located at a subdivision which is quite far from the hustle and bustle of the downtown area. I can now work on my assignments in any corner of the house without worrying about the noise, although I don’t anymore do the calling job because I have been sort of “promoted” by the Employer. I now manage a team, having been entrusted with the responsibilities of a Project Manager. He also delegated to me the task of hiring service contractors and a lot other stuff. With this new set up, I hope to be more productive since I don’t anymore experience backpains caused by uncomfortable sitting position whenever I work on my assignments.

Day or night, I have the privilege of enjoying the scenery outside, from my workspace. While during daytime the view is refreshing, at nights the view from afar is enticing as lights from houses, street posts and vehicles transform the horizon into one that looks like a mountful of christmas trees with blinking lights, or like the nightsky full of stars. For me, this is a sight to behold, with the cool weather providing an even more peaceful feeling.

I can say that the fruits of my virtual labor contributed in part to the realization of this working comfort that I have now….having been able to fund from my oDesk earnings some of the finishing works on my very own house, and transition my working situation from “rugs to riches”……

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