How to Find High Quality (And High Paying) Clients on oDesk

Note from Sean: This is a guest post from Lise Carter. She’s is the author of “The Definitive Guide to Getting Freelance Writing Work on oDesk”, a comprehensive guide to making money via outsourcing sites utilizing your freelance writing skills. She’s also the founder of

Read to the bottom for a special gift from her. 

Take it away Lise!

As a freelance writer, I often hear people saying that it’s difficult to make money on outsourcing sites like oDesk or Elance.

This has always confused me! Mainly because it has not been my experience!

And I was glad to hear that it is not other’s either. Dan Andrews from Tropical MBA, in his recent podcast, interviewed Damian Thompson from Linchpin who talks about how he first got started out and you guessed it, it was on oDesk!

He initially started out selling his copywriting services and then created an oDesk agency, making $10,000 per month.

Not bad for apparently not being able to make money from outsourcing websites! I’m pretty sure Damian wasn’t complaining!

Who is Lise Carter?

I myself started out freelance writing in 2010 when I started becoming bored with my job, stifled by working in the corporate world and sick of not being able to do what I wanted, when I wanted.

I couldn’t just nip off to do a bit of shopping at 10am in the morning, nor could I go and grab lunch with friends visiting from New Zealand because I always had some meeting or my boss ‘needed’ me over the lunch period.

I literally woke up one day and thought “Enough is enough.”

So, as an intelligent, motivated individual, I started poking around online, looking for something I could do. Freelance writing seemed like a good fit for me, because I’ve always found it far easier to express myself in words than any other medium.

Enter Location Rebel

Fast forward to August 2011 where I came across Sean’s ‘Location Rebel‘ and the answer to what I’d been looking for – a way to seriously replace my 9-5 job and income.

Within 3 months of joining Location Rebel, I’d landed my first client. And where did that first client come from? oDesk – that’s right!

My very first client on oDesk paid me $1,000 for a project to create some mini WordPress sites and the copy to go along with those sites.

I’d hit the gold mine! Or so I thought…

I quickly found that there were A LOT of low paying gigs on oDesk; it was a little disheartening at first.

But then, I figured out a way to actually find the jobs that paid well, the clients I wanted to work with and how I could convert those clients into long term, recurring clients.

Once I figured this out, my business started making some serious money. So serious in fact, that 10 months after joining Location Rebel, I quit my 9-5 to become a full-time freelance writer.

And because Sean has made such a huge difference in my life (thanks so much Sean!) I’ve offered to share with his readers (that’s you!) what I do to find high paying jobs, including local work, what to include in your profile to attract clients and how to convert those clients into ongoing clients.

Let’s jump straight into the juicy details!

How to Find The Jobs You Want (aka – how to find the jobs that pay well!)

I should mention here – not only did I complete the SEO writing blueprint in LR, I also completed the Search Engine Optimization blueprint too – which gave me a very sound base from which to work with.

oDesk can seem a little overwhelming at first, there is a lot to learn.

To help bring the overwhelming sensation down, there are definitely a few things you can do to make your life easier. Things that helped me get the successes I see today.

So, here’s what you should do to find high paying clients or local work:

  1. Log into oDesk

  2. Make sure you are on the “Find Work” tab

  3. In the search box, enter a fixed price amount that you want to be paid for. For example, maybe you want to find clients that are paying $500, simply enter “$500” into the search box and hit enter.

  4. oDesk will then present you with a list of all the jobs that are paying $500 – you will have to search through to find the ones you can do, but it’s a great way to instantly not waste your time on low paying jobs!

  5. Let’s try something else. Go back to the search bar and type in “Texas”. This will bring up all jobs and clients that list Texas in either the job content or the client information.

  6. This is how you find local people to work with

You can put any keyword you want into the search box to find the jobs you want to do. You can even enter company names to locate larger companies to work with.1

Thinking outside the norm here is to your advantage. Think about utilizing keyword research (from SEO best practices) and applying those same rules to searching for gigs on oDesk.

Tip: This is also a great way to generate leads – you can apply to all the jobs that come up in your research, providing a link to your website/landing page in your cover letter that encourages the client to look at working with you outside of oDesk – a word of caution here, do not include your email address in this cover letter – you will be violating oDesk’s terms of use if you do!

What to Include in Your Profile

There are other things you can do to ensure that clients find you. Not only are you able to search for jobs and clients you want to work with, clients can also search for relevant freelancers that match their own keywords.

So, to make the most of this, you should include in your profile’s overview your top 3 keywords. These keywords should be in the first sentence.


When you submit a proposal for a job on oDesk, the client get’s a summary of everyone that has applied. That summary only shows the first few lines of your cover letter and the first few lines of your profile – that’s all they see UNLESS they choose to view your full profile.

If you want to land clients in a specific niche, or you want to pick up clients because of a specific skill set you have, make sure it’s in your profile overview right at the start.

As I alluded to above, you should do the same in your initial cover letter. oDesk allows you to write straight into their free form area when applying for a gig, or you can also attach a document – do both.

In the document, include a link to your website (maybe to a specific landing page for oDesk clients) and include your Skype details – this is so they can contact you outside of oDesk to interview you (or work with you directly!).

A word of caution when working with clients directly – avoid doing this if you are new to oDesk.

Build up your profile, your rating and your hours on oDesk first before working with clients directly.


Once you have good ratings and some hours behind you on oDesk, oDesk will start promoting your profile to clients who are looking for the skills you’ve listed in your profile! I love oDesk for doing that 🙂

Also, there are some clients out there that are just not legit, and unless you have a good business foundation with proper contracts in place, working with a client directly can be fraught with some issues, namely payment.

I learned this the hard way when I worked with my first client directly outside of oDesk. I didn’t put a contract in place and the client didn’t pay me the $1,000 or so they owed me.

NEVER work with a client without a contract in place. It’s not worth the risk.

How to Convert Clients to Long Term, Recurring Income

As you grow your business on oDesk (or any outsourcing site), there comes a time when you want to have recurring income from the clients you have.

You can choose to work with them long term on oDesk, or you can negotiate with them to work directly with you.

There are a couple of things I do to ‘setup’ the client for converting into ongoing work:

  1. I always complete the job ahead of schedule.

  2. I aim to provide something extra, like an additional article on the same topic. At no extra charge.

  3. Depending on the client, I may also offer some suggestions on how they could improve some area of their business, such as their blog, social media etc – again, free of charge.

The aim here is to over deliver. Every. Single. Time.

Once the work is complete, send your client a quick message letting them know you are available for ongoing work and how much you enjoyed working with them.

In my experience, 8 out of 10 clients will either offer you more work or commit to ongoing work outside of oDesk.

And if they don’t have any work, don’t forget to ask for referrals!

I hope you found this information beneficial and I look forward to hearing how your journey is going as a freelance writer or as a freelancer in general!

As a special gift to all Sean’s readers, head over to my site to receive your free gift “10 Brutal Mistakes New Freelancers Make (And How YOU Can Avoid Them)”.

Lise Carter is the author of “The Definitive Guide to Getting Freelance Writing Work on oDesk”, a comprehensive guide to making money via outsourcing sites utilizing your freelance writing skills. She is also the founder of

Liz February 10, 2014 at 3:34 pm

Awesome post! Lise’s tips have helped me secure a bunch of high paying gigs on oDesk, she knows what she’s talking about!


Neftali February 10, 2014 at 8:03 pm

The oDesk jungle just became SIGNIFICANTLY simpler to navigate through. Thank you, Lise!


Scott Asai February 10, 2014 at 8:25 pm

Wow, what a great site and thanks for the tips Lise! Love more resources of where others can find you!


Lise April 3, 2014 at 11:41 am

Hey Scott, sorry for the late reply, just spent the last month getting married and having a honeymoon with my new husband!

You can reach me via the following resources:
Twitter –
Facebook –
LinkedIn –


Joseph Dabon February 12, 2014 at 7:36 pm

I have been a member of oDesk a long time and I never got a job from them. I had better luck with Elance. At any rate, I will try your suggestions again with oDesk. You made it sound so simple and doable.


Lise April 3, 2014 at 11:38 am

Joseph, it’s definitely about doing things differently when looking for clients to work with and finding the right jobs – oDesk can also be super overwhelming too! Good luck and it definitely is simple and doable!



Lorna April 8, 2014 at 1:03 pm

Hi Lise – just read your article and wanted to say thanks for the info and encouragement… I’m fairly new to blogging /writing and have read a ton of fluffy, airhead “advise” – your post, and Sean’s site in general, are a breath of fresh air. I’m looking forward to more!


Lise April 9, 2014 at 3:49 pm

Thanks Lorna and welcome to the online world! Sean is definitely someone I’d recommend over and over again – I’ve learnt pretty much all I know about building an online business from him and he is super genuine, something that I feel is missing a lot from the online world.

Good luck and if you need help with setting up your oDesk profile, or the way that you are reaching out to clients, let me know, I’d be happy to have a look at that for you 🙂

Take care


Rus April 24, 2014 at 1:12 pm

Sean just pointed me to this article. I’ve plan to “go it alone”, but have avoided sites like Odesk and Elancer.

I’ll definitely give them a try.

Thanks for the article and tips!


Lise April 24, 2014 at 1:22 pm

Hey Rus, thanks for the props 🙂 odesk is definitely my preferred outsourcing site, but people have had lots of success on Elance too – just takes a bit longer to get established there.

If you need help, just sing out, it can seem daunting at first.

Take care


Uzma Asghar May 14, 2014 at 10:30 am

it was really amazing reading out in your post. I am also working on odesk & got lots of Success . I am also writing on my blog & it is also helping community . Thanks again .


Lise May 14, 2014 at 4:16 pm

Hi Uzma, thanks for your kind words 🙂

That’s fantastic news that you’re having so much success on oDesk, that’s what I like to hear!

Good luck and keep doing what works for you.

Take care


Nanki Singh June 23, 2014 at 3:02 am


Thanks for sharing the useful information. I am a freelancer on Odesk and have just made my initial $300 dollar. It is great to be a part time freelancer. Hoping to add a few skill sets to my knowledge soon and aim for better jobs.



Lise June 23, 2014 at 3:02 pm

Thanks Nanki, I’m glad you found the article worthwhile. Congrats on making your first dollars on oDesk – that’s a great result!

Aiming for better paying jobs is definitely what you need to do – don’t forget to make sure that your profile is 100% completed and that you’ve completed at least 7-10 oDesk tests – this increases your chances when applying for jobs and also increases the chance of oDesk promoting your profile to prospective clients!

Good luck


Moman January 29, 2015 at 11:31 pm

My oDesk account is suspended by odesk authority. I have good feedback & positive review in my profile but they suspend. I’ve already contact with them but no reply. Even I am told them that, Please provide me the screenshoot of my mistake which was you found in your system. Maybe they are not read my message.

So can anyone give me a tips how can I draw attention of authority. Or how can I escape my account?

Best Regards


Lise February 2, 2015 at 8:26 pm

Hi Moman

I’m sorry to hear about your issues with oDesk. Have you read and understood their terms of service? This has recently changed and perhaps something has happened as a result of that?

Unfortunately, you’re only option is to chat with oDesk about the issue. You could check out the oDesk support as well, someone may be able to help there too.

Link to terms of service:

Support link:

Good luck!


Jessi Rita Hoffman August 16, 2015 at 3:41 am

Hi Lise. I’ve been a top producer on Elance in the book editing department for many years. Since you wrote this article, ODesk has combined with Elance to produce a new company, called Upwork, and they’ve announced they’ll be migrating all Elancers over there in the next year — whether we like it or not. My experience is that the advice in your article is right on — it applies to Elance as much as to ODesk, and I expect will be equally applicable to the new merger company.

One tip I would add to what you wrote is: tailor your job proposal to the buyer. Don’t turn in something generic, a boiler-plate bid. Buyers want to know that you actually read their job description and have given it thought, that your proposal is written to them personally.

Also, don’t be afraid to bid the price the job is worth. On competitive freelance sites, most providers try to underbid each other, thinking the lowest bidder will get the assignment. Those freelancers aren’t very successful and never make much money. It isn’t true that the lowest bidder wins — not if you’re targeting clients who want quality. I’m usually the highest bidder, and am often deluged with work, with a long wait list. Charge what you’re worth, and you’ll attract the better clients on these sites. You’ll be treated better and have a lot more fun than if you get into desperation mode, shortchange yourself, and accept cheapo jobs from the nickel-and-dimers.

That said, while you’re just starting out, it’s not a bad idea to initially charge less than you’re worth until you’ve built a presence (reputation) on the site. As you gain more and more positive client reviews, slowly raise your rates, ten dollars an hour at a time, until you’re earning what you deserve. I started out charging $35 an hour ten years ago and today charge $70. I’m ranked as one of the site’s top-three book editors, out of thousands: proof that this strategy, and Lise’s strategies, work.


LIse Cartwright August 25, 2015 at 4:39 am

Hi Jessi

Yes, I’ve been getting regular updates about the Upwork/Elance merger… waiting to see how it pans out.

Agree on tailoring your proposal to the buyer, I always recommend that to my students. It’s good to have a template to start from, but you should always tailor it to your potential client.

And agree, charge what the job is worth, ONCE you’ve got a few jobs under your belt and have proven yourself on that platform. It’s very difficult to charge a higher fee upfront without any ratings.

Thanks for the comment!


Guntaka subba Reddy April 13, 2016 at 5:49 pm

Thanks, nice and one technique that worked for me while doing with up work is

1: Search with keyword skype and add all the skype names which those are relevant wth your niche and start chatting with the client directly without applying for the job.

This process helped me a lot


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