Additional Cover Letter Tips for oDesk Contractors

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thread on the oDesk forums dated August 15 caused quite a stir in the Coffee Break section—a thread that actually felt more like a breather than those stressful topics about low wages and scrupulous employers.

The thread was created by a regular employer and contractor on the site, and she was looking for a person with blogging experience and posted a job stating this and a couple of other requirements.  The responses she got after posting that job were hilarious!

One contractor told her that he had over 5,000 logged hours on 6 oDesk accounts (which is a violation of the identity policy) and another attached PLR articles as his “sample work” that weren’t his to begin with.

There was another who said he didn’t have any blogging experience but was willing to learn while another just posted in his cover letter, “I can do your work.”  The last one, according to her, didn’t have any samples, resume, or anything in his profile!

Cover Letters are Taken for Granted

Though the topic’s a breath of fresh air after being immersed in a lot of sad talk of desperation and hopelessness, this is still very alarming.

It just goes to show that a lot of contractors on oDesk don’t really know how to proceed with their job applications. They’d write cover letters and attach “samples”,thinking that what they’re doing is correct or enough to get the employer’s attention.

The funny thing is that there are A LOT of articles and blog posts that have tips and helpful advice on how to write a great cover letter.  It’s either these contractors have skipped the basics and jumped into hot water already, or they simply didn’t know how to apply those tips to their own efforts of writing a cover letter.

Putting Effort in Your Cover Letters

I’m not going to repeat what these professionals have said about writing cover letters, but I will emphasize and re-emphasize on the importance of putting effort into one’s cover letter.

You can’t expect jobs to fall from the sky; you can’t just sit and wait for them to knock on your door too. What you need to do is to show your clients that you know what they are looking for and you got the skills they need to make it happen.

cover letters for dummiesIf you have never written a cover letter before, you can start by reading the tips and advice of oDesk and other seasoned freelancers:

  • Erica Benton, editor-in-chief of the oDesk blog, shares her tips with a post entitled “How to Write a Cover Letter”.
  • Jacqueline Pittenger, the moderator of the oDesk community forums, posted the September 2008 newsletter with an article entitled Writing a Killer Cover Letter”.
  • In the oDesk Help Center, this section will tell you what you need to include and what you cannot put in your cover letter when applying for jobs.
  • Technical and academic writer Martyn Shuttleworth writes a complete hubpage about cover letters and interviews on oDesk.  He is also an oDesk contractor.
  • Danalyn wrote a article about writing cover letters, including a checklist of what you’ll need when drafting one and a sample template of what a good cover letter would look like.

Additional Cover Letter Tips

I, on the other hand, will share cover letter tips that aren’t the step-by-step kind that these people have already done.

These tips will more or less enhance your cover letters, enabling you to really take hold of your full potential in grabbing the clients by the collar and making them face you with respect and interest:

  • happy woman freelancer thumbs upShow some personality.  Don’t be afraid to be creative, humorous, and witty in your cover letter.  Not only will your personality make you stand out, but this gets rid of the generic tone of voice most cover letters are usually sick with.
  • Never fail to mention details about the job description.  Clients who see that you’ve taken the time to read their job description will feel at ease with you since you took the time to read through his job ad.  They can already get a good feel of your reliability and responsibility by your mentioning about their website or the roles they’ve listed down in your cover letter.
  • Ask questions.  You will encounter job posts that are empty of further details, but if you’re still interested in applying for them just include a couple of questions about the job like what the client’s niche is about or if they have a sample website that they’d like you to use as a guide.  These questions will help give you a better idea of what the work will entail.
  • Give them an estimated quote/price range and what’s included.  Aside from the bid that you placed in your job application, this quote gives them an idea of how much work will be included in the price and if it’s reasonable or not.  This allows you to bid any price that you see fit since you have explanations to back you up.
  • Give links instead of attachments.  You wouldn’t want the clients to just download your samples and walk away now, would you?  To prevent this, just give links to your blog or your website despite them asking for attached samples.
  • Tell them to email you through oDesk. Since you’re not allowed to leave contact details (telephone numbers, email addresses, and instant messenger IDs) in your cover letter, you can just tell them to message you via the oDesk messaging system.  Make sure to enable forwarding of oDesk messages to your personal email account.

Your cover letter will either win you the job or a rejection email from the client, so whatever you do, don’t take these cover letters for granted.

What other unusual yet helpful tips do you know that could boost one’s chances of winning the client’s attention?  Did these help you win the client’s attention?

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About Stef Gonzaga

Founder of The Freelance Pinoy, Stef is a freelance copywriter and blogger who loves writing great content and helping fellow freelancers in their journeys toward success. You can follow her on Twitter @stefgonzaga.


  1. Nice work. You have no idea how many “I can do your work” responses you get per 100. Add in the ones who say a few more sentences without really saying anything, and it’s easily the majority. The only reason you don’t hear this in the forums is because a lot of employers are busy.

    Your post is A+. If every freelancer read it, I think a larger percentage of jobs would get filled. Especially for newbies, cover letter is everything.

    The only way I’d expand on this is with a visualization:

    Imagine overlapping circles.
    - One is what the employer wants.
    - One is what you have to offer… and what you communicate!
    - Dozens or hundreds more circles are for competing freelancers.

    Some circles are small and unconnected, like the planet Pluto. Some circles are large but still unconnected. Some are heavily overlapping, but completely covered by larger ones. The good news is you have some control over how much your circle overlaps and even how big it is.

    • Thanks for the comment Sean, very informative! At least we’re getting ideas from the perspective of the employer. I hope freelancers will be more careful with their cover letters because it reflects their diligence and interest in the job and in their work as a whole.

  2. Aw, this was a truly top quality publish. In theory I’d like to write like this too – taking time and real effort to make a really good posting… but what can I say… I procrastinate alot and by no means seem to obtain something done.

    • Hi Robi and thank you so much for the nice comment! Well, you can always try scheduling activities so that you’ll have enough time to write good posts. All it takes is a little bit of time management to get a lot of things done in a day. =)

  3. Pingback: Tips For Writing A Good Cover Letter On oDesk. « Working in my Slippers

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  6. Thanks for encounter tips and that Really worked for me. I was always afraid with that. now I have some confidence to encounter the employee back !

  7. I read all of your blog article stef and I admire all the writing you made very informative regarding to odesk. Thanks for this

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  9. Hi Stef,
    To begin with, its a great and highly informative post. I hope to be able to benefit from it, in times to come.
    Stef – I need some guidance. I had won and completed a small job on oDesk recently and was also able to get repeat work from the same employer.
    However, given the technical nature of my work and articles that I write (SAP / ERP), I have not been able to find much opportunitites on any of the freelancing sites, including oDesk. Nor are there opportunities for Virtual consulting or remote consulting.
    Although, I have been able to regular writely articles on SAP in the past for various publications, but no such or related work exists at oDesk. I am more than willing to expand my writing horizon to include other topics/subjects (non SAP) and also do the needed research/reading on this to write original content.
    Also, I am selective about the work that I bid for or undertake at oDesk as I don’t want to mis-commit or feel that I had taken up work which was far below the worth or time needed to complete it.
    I shall look forward to your valuable advice and guidance.
    Thanks in advance.

    • Hello Jawad,

      Your expertise sounds quite interesting! But could you tell me what it is that you’re troubled with? Is it looking for freelance writing work in general or finding clients who need SAP/ERP articles?

      Looking forward to hearing from you!

      • Hello Stef,
        Thanks for taking time out to reply to my post.
        I guess I am having trouble in both the areas – finding freelance writing or editing work that pays decently as well as finding clients (on freelancing sites like oDesk) who need my expertise in area of SAP/ERP.
        One reason I could possibly think of this is situation, I am also not sure about the rates that I must ask for/charge for different kinds of writing assignments or have any idea what is the prevailing market rates for some of these endeavors. But yes, I am sure that $1 for an article is just too low and I will not be able to do justice to it.
        Hopes to hear from your side soon.

        • Hello Jawad,

          Well one of the more popular suggestions is to ask other writers who specialize in SAP/ERP (or writing in general) about how much they normally charge. But what I do know is that since you have specialized knowledge, you can charge particularly higher than what writers who write general topics are offering. Based on observation, the global range is usually between $10-$20 per hour or $30-$100 per piece depending on the difficulty, length, and # of revisions, but you alone can decide how much your services are worth.

          Good luck! :)

          • Hi Stef,
            Thanks again for the detailed reply. I guess, now I shall find my way!
            Also, just noticed that you are planning to leave oDesk blog, so please accept my best wishes for your current and future endeavors.

  10. thefreelancepinoy is a great website i am very much impressed by this supper website.I shall bookmark this.
    I read all of your blog article stef and I admire all the writing you made very informative regarding to odesk.I shall check this website always for new informations. Thanks for this

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