The Big Brother Telework Model at oDesk

July 1, 2010

Chapter 2 – Market Yourself Into A Remote Job

Many companies fear that letting you work remotely means you will just disappear. They won’t know what you are doing and won’t be able to contact you. Fundamentally, they worry that you won’t do any work.

oDesk runs a community connecting qualified programmers and web designers with companies looking to hire them as contract employees. They have found a novel solution to this problem. They make a remote contractor a known quantity by thoroughly monitoring the contractor’s work habits. Everyone who works for them has special software that monitors all of their keystrokes and a web cam that takes pictures of them at six random times every hour. The amount a worker gets paid is based on this information.

The oDesk method shows a fear of bad communication taken to an extreme level. Instead of risking bad communication from a human (the employee), oDesk ensures a decent level of communication from the employee’s computer. This type of communication will never be as useful as good interpersonal communication, but it is much more useful than bad or absent personal communication.

You can apply a milder version of this “no risk” method to your work. If an employer is reluctant to hire you as a remote employee, offer to perform a short project for them as a contract employee. During that project show them that you are an excellent communicator by giving them frequent and useful updates on your status.

Hiring you to work remotely is a scary prospect because employers don’t know you. They don’t know how hard you work or how good you are at your job. You can tell them, but it works much better to show them. Differentiate yourself by:

  • Building your personal network.
  • Cultivating specialized skills.
  • Letting companies try before they buy.

Personal recommendations and the try before you buy model help you get known on the individual level. They are all about making direct connections between you and potential employers. The other ways of helping people know who you are work on a macro level, starting with building a personal brand.

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