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To oDesk or not to oDesk?
December 6, 2013 8:45 AM   Subscribe

I'm interested in trying to make $25k/year using oDesk as a full time job (as a web frontend dev) . Does anyone have experience using oDesk, and does this seem reasonable to you based on that?

I'm currently working long hours at a web agency for about 15k/year. The local market is not much better than that. I have tried sending resumes for remote work but no replies so far. oDesk sounds like a not horrible alternative but maybe I'm missing something.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (11 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I have worked with oDesk "talent" (client insisted we use those crackheads) and it was almost always a terrible experience. Terrible quality, deadlines missed, pure idiocy... Except for one person who charged market rates (oDesk dipshits typically charge half or a third of market rates, which is why the service is so popular). We ended up working with her on a bunch of projects because she followed directions, was responsive, met deadlines, produced quality product. To reiterate, we kept on the person who charged more than typical oDesk loons.

From the point of view of a "purchaser" (ugh), I would suggest you start out small and do a hell of a job. You can probably charge lower than market rates on small projects initially to get the lay of the land and develop a reputation, but build incrementally over time, and start charging more as well once you have that portfolio.

I think it would be tough to go from 0 to 25 right away.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:54 AM on December 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

May I ask in which area you are based? Where I live and work (Rhein-Main-Area, Germany) there is a shortage of (good) Frontend Developers and Freelancers get paid well. Maybe you could search out an area somewhat close to you where there is a lot of demand and find somebody you can work for remotely?
posted by debagel at 9:30 AM on December 6, 2013

Typing on iPhone with tiny keyboard apologize for typos.

I'm a freelancer for 5 yrs and I've occasionally looked at things like Odesk. Here is the reason I won't put myself on those type of listings. You have a pool of pple listed together charging chump change for their services so it quickly becomes a race to the bottom. The other thing that bothered me was that pple who hired were supposed to drop in and see you working by camera, and if you are independent or in business for yourself that falls into employee domain.

Assuming that you have special skills that you do at work plus samples, consider finding and contacting companies and offer your services. Figure out your current salary, what you earn hourly and charge clients 2 to 3x what you earn hourly. If you meet deadlines, follow directions, and specialize, it should work. My guess would be that your rate should even be higher at some point.

My assumption is that it could be challenging to earn 25 k bc of the rates everyone else was charging in there in o desk. However, I also believe that 25k or more should be doable if you spproach companies independently, but I don't know your skills or market. If you approach companies this way, you should not be limited by local markets or even your country's market
posted by Wolfster at 9:32 AM on December 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

I suspect $25K a year is attainable if you are a little patient and have some tolerance for idiots. I have heard that oDesk is somewhat better than some of the other code monkey sites. I have never tried it myself though.

I have had some successes finding work on Craigslist. You need some tolerance for idiots there, too, but it does have some reasonable opportunities amidst the rubbish.

$15K is very, very low, at least if you're in the U.S. Keep trying for remote positions. Do you have a portfolio page, GitHub, anything like that? If you have any track record you will be a steal at twice or even 3x that, you just have to find the connection.

Good luck.
posted by mattu at 10:20 AM on December 6, 2013

Hi, I'm the OP and this is a sockpuppet.

mattu: "$15K is very, very low, at least if you're in the U.S. Keep trying for remote positions. Do you have a portfolio page, GitHub, anything like that? If you have any track record you will be a steal at twice or even 3x that, you just have to find the connection."

I have a portfolio, a github account (although with only one project) and I think a nice if light-ish resume but no bites. I'm not in the US so I fear most 'remote' positions have a hidden 'Remote as long you're in the US' requirement.

debagel: "May I ask in which area you are based?"

South America. The local market seems to want either designers with a bit of knowledge of html or php backend programmers.
posted by Ratata at 11:02 AM on December 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

It may be possible.
posted by rhizome at 12:01 PM on December 6, 2013

If you're looking for programming jobs that pay well and let you work from anywhere, you might like 37signal's latest project, We Work Remotely.
posted by third word on a random page at 2:30 PM on December 6, 2013

It doesn't sound like you want to be freelancing for any reason besides the money, so maybe you're better off adapting your skills to the local market then, either by boosting your design credentials or demonstrating some backend chops. There are plenty of books and online resources that will give you the basics.

You might then pick up some online freelance jobs to help fill out your portfolio and to get some practical experience in these areas, but I'd it as a stepping stone rather than a career in and of itself.
posted by zachlipton at 2:53 PM on December 6, 2013

I don't think it's fair to be so harsh about the people doing gigs on sites like Odesk. They are trying to make a living and they shouldn't be criticized for that. Of course someone in Serbia (and South America) is likely to accept lower compensation than someone in the US, and if contractors in the US don't like that, then they have the option of simply not being on the site. Saying those people are idiots is disrespectful. Some hiring companies will go for the lower price, and some will go for the local person. You might want to take a look at Elance instead of Odesk because of the screen shot thing someone mentioned. But I think screen shots might only be for hourly projects, not for fixed price projects.
posted by Dansaman at 8:57 PM on December 6, 2013

A key thing about oDesk is that it tries to shift the asymmetry of working remotely, through reviews and verification of work (one verification method they use is taking webcam pictures every now and again of you as you work). There is a ramp up period in terms of fees, and it can take around a year to get up to the rates you would ideally like to charge.

You don't need to commit yourself fully to oDesk. Start doing a few jobs, see how you like it. Build a good profile with good reviews.
posted by troytroy at 7:58 AM on December 7, 2013

I'm a freelancer, and I've used oDesk to hire people to do odd jobs for me, but I'd never apply for jobs there. The rates are too low, the jobs are too competitive, and the clients are too flaky.

I'd recommend digging up your own projects. Identify potential clients for your services, and reach out to them directly. That means emailing them and picking up the phone to call. Introduce yourself and tell them what you do. Invite them for coffee. Go to networking events, meet people, and get your name out there. You have the potential to make so much more money this way.
posted by Leontine at 7:35 PM on January 13

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