How to be a Great Upwork Contractor

I’ve written quite a fair bit in the past where I have been critical of some odesk clients and their practices in the past. This week, I made my first hire as an odesk client (looking for a freelancer to produce my book cover for Dead Heat and feel I want to offer some insights and advice for my fellow contractors about good practice.



When a client lists qualifying criteria such as location, star rating, work history or English fluency, they have put them for very good reason. It’s because they do not want time zones or a language barrier to be a hindrance to the work, nor do they want to take on somebody with poorly-rated or no work history.

No Agencies

As a side note, some will say they do not want to work with agencies. Now I understand why. I was looking for a specific cover style and therefore searching for an artist who could deliver the style I wanted. I can’t get that if I am getting messages from three different people at an agency – I don’t know who produced that sample and I’ve no guarantee that they will be the one who produced the cover style I liked.

Answer the Application Questions

As a contractor, I know how frustrating it is when all a job says is “I need a website content. thx” and then you get 5-6 boxes after the cover letter which use all the stock questions provided by odesk including “which part of this job are you most experienced in?” “What do you think will take the most time?” Yet some contractors ask reasonable, sensible questions that do not require your mastery of a crystal ball or tea leaves. Answer them as best you can.

Check the Budget

Some people are cheapskates. Trust me, I feel your pain that some people expect FLAWLESS ENGLISH!!!! from NATIVE SPEAKERS ONLY for the 10,000 report they want you to write for just $5. I admit my budget for the cover of Dead Heat is small enough to deserve derision from professional cover designers, but based on previous sales I expect only to break even at best (but that’s not to say I won’t push to maximise my sales). Therefore, $200 is way over what I hoped to pay for the cover. If their proposed budget is too low then don’t apply.


So far so good. You’ve got through the application process and the prospective client has sent you a message. What’s next?

Answer the Questions

He or she is bound to send queries about your work, background and style to assess your suitability. At this point, they will be looking for specifics, something with a bit more meat. This is your chance to show them what you can do. You don’t walk into an interview and simply say “Yes, I can do this job. Hire me so we can get started.” and ignore their questions, so it’s poor form to respond to an email request with that same single line response. “Ok” is not a sufficient response to a list of questions.

Show You Care

…about something other than the money. For many people and businesses, the job is important to them and they want to make sure they are choosing the right person or team for the job. Show an interest in the work, show an interest in the project and think about what contribution you can make. Because if you don’t care enough to make an effort to get the contract, what makes you think the client will assume you will care once you have the contract?

Don’t be Pushy

Don’t give them your Skype handle in every message. Don’t insist they hire you now so they can get the work finished. Don’t pester them to ask when they are going to make a decision. They will make their decision in their own time and the more you press, the less likely they are to choose somebody who comes across as pushy and desperate.


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