Wednesday, April 01, 2009

How much did I make from oDesk in 2008?

I recently tweeted that I made most of last year's income from

Well, according to my accounting, from oDesk alone I made just shy of $40,000 last year.

That's pretty good, considering I took a short break, and when I got back into the swing of things I decided to only work about 20/hrs a week (sometimes more, depending on client need). It helps that I get more things done in 20hrs/wk than some people do for 40hrs/wk, though. :)

Obviously I could have made way more.

But besides being a valuable income stream, oDesk has given me something much more valuable than that: freedom. Freedom to work my own hours, sure, but more importantly, freedom to do what I want. And what I've always wanted to do is be an author. Yes, that's right, Mr. Computer Programmer wants to be Mr. Writer.

Since I started freelancing, I've never really had the time until recently to unlock all the thoughts bouncing around in my head and unleash them on the world. When I was in college, there were huge gaps between classes that I filled with anime, video games, writing and code. But when I started freelancing, an incessant nagging in the back of my head ('money! money! money!') kept driving me to spend all my free time thinking about work, working on work.

My free time became a narrow slot that I could only fill with one thing. Should I play a video game? Read a book, watch an anime, rent a DVD or write? My free time was so thin I felt like I'd cut myself if I wasn't careful with how I used it.

When a long term contract on oDesk ended in 2008, I was between jobs with nothing much to do. So I wrote a little as I browsed for jobs; I had enough in my savings account to skate by for months without work, if I wanted. I went back and revisited old works, frowned at how bad they were and toyed with them in my spare time. I kept peeking at job openings, but my A-game was absent when trying to land a few big, "easy" jobs.

Then I realized something: with my skills and expertises, I didn't have to spend every waking moment working. After all, people always need something done. 

So I said to myself, "Why not split my time between writing and work?"

So I did.

Because with oDesk, I could, and with oDesk, it was simple: apply to jobs that would take less than 20 hours a week. That's it. There are thousands of those jobs on oDesk -- maybe even tens of thousands. When one job ended, there was no mad scramble looking for new work. The market place there is huge. If you have talent then you've got a job waiting there for you. And me? I've got it up to HERE, baby. I made a hand symbol just now; you know, the hand at the neck thing to convey how much of IT I've got.

So, thanks to oDesk I can continue to spend time making kick-ass web stuff for clients, and use the rest to pull out my hair out over my insecurities about my writing or smashing my head against the wall because of writer's block or whatever weird thing it is that week that makes me think that every word spilled from my fingertips is crap.

But hey, that's freedom for you.


Gary said...

Well said Mr Washington, great story. As you are well aware, we have plenty of writing jobs on oDesk as well :)

Good luck with the new career.

Gary Swart
CEO, oDesk

Sean said...


If you would care to post a list of all the jobs you did and how much you got paid then I might beleive you.

I have been with oDesk for seven months and not yet managed to get a job. Why? Simple, because I refuse to work for less than $2 per hour which is what oDesk seems to be about worth.

No serious professional would even try to use oDesk from what I have seen. All that happens is the lowest bidder wins.

You get what you pay for.

I see more and more postings with 'the previous developer didn't finish the job'.

No, they probably didn't because for $2 an hour you get what you pay for. Tje job was probably too difficult for them. Yes, I repeated myself.

So, if you post your jobs and amounts I will believe you. The fact that the only other comment here is from oDesk also makes me want to puke.

It is laughable, and once again the only real money makers are the 'service providers'.


Faheem said...

Sean, You might not have seen Washington profile,"" try to take a look on his profile. What you said about that no professional would try to work on Odesk, that's utterly misjudgment and some annoying statements from you on behalf of your bad experience & not getting any success yet on Odesk.
However, I do agree with you on the part that you don't have to work less than $2; but for that you need to spend more time on Odesk applying for some fixed projects, just to gain enough knowledge and profile feedbacks, it would definitely help you in applying for hourly projects.
Best Wishes for your endeavors.
Faheem said...


I am glad my post managed to convey my frustration! Yes, they probably are a bit childish but when treated like a child maybe that is the best way to respond.

I have been a software developer for 24 years and know a few things about this and that but try as I might I keep getting knocked back because I am 'too expensive' at even $10 an hour. Right now in the UK I am paid 30GBP per hour for doing what I do so how do you suppose it makes me feel when that effectively rules me out of oDesk!

I just don't believe anybody could make 40000 from oDesk in a year. Maybe I am wrong. Prove it somebody!


Guido Schlabitz said...

Hey Sean,

when I got laid off from the only IT job I could find in my area, I started on odesk for $15/h and worked my way up. Looking at my 1040s, I made 35k the first year and 42k last year.

Admittedly, I still have a ways to go until I make as much as I could in a large metro area, but where I live, my current income keeps a family of four afloat even if I don't fill in 40 hours every week.

Sorry, I'm not gonna post my tax forms here, but have a look at my profile.


Radical Ed said...

Numbers are on my profile, Sean. You'll have to do the math to add them up yourself, though. said...


OK, you can't argue with the facts and I congratulate you.

I still haven't bagged a job yet though and it makes me laugh because during the day the stuff I am doing is a million times more complicated than a lot of those oDesk jobs... I know I could really rip into them but with ZERO hours nobody is interested...


Radical Ed said...

Gotta wow'em with your cover letter, bro. Once your foot is in the door, it's up to you to close the deal.

They might not know they need you until you tell them.

Faheem said...

Although, I do agree with the new comment of Sean Charles...Absolutely, right no hours, no right justification.
Thanks Sean....
Faheem said...

Radical Ed,

The only reason my cover note is not doing the job is that I can't stand the smell of BS, especially my own. LOL.

OK, I'll take that as a 'tip' and go do something amusing to my oDesk profile. I always did want to write science fiction....


Thomas Watson said...

I only tried using Odesk once and I immediately landed a project. You just have to find the right project for you and get employed.

oosh_101 said...

All of you uber successful oDeskers are a proper inspiration. I've only just started in the freelance world but I'm already hooked on the face to face client contact and the bloody FREEDOM. More freedom than William Wallace. Looking at profiles like yours gives us all something to aim for!

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