Before you can start convincing companies to hire you on oDesk or Elance or Freelancer or wherever to do whatever it is you do, you need to make sure you put in the time to do all these things in your profiles.

Be the client.

Before you start your profile, you have to put yourself into the mindset of someone who will be looking to hire you. People want to know what’s in it for them when they spend money, so be sure to hint at how clients will benefit from choosing you.

Fill it out – all of it.

Some people think they can squeeze by without a resume, or references, or images for your portfolio links. Even if it’s not impressive, put down something for now — you’ll get opportunities to improve it later. This goes for the portfolio, too; even if no one’s hired you to do your work yet, just find something you can post that you’ve done.

Incomplete profiles make you look lazy. People want to know you’ll devote yourself to getting their job done well.

Be consistent.

If you’re running profiles on multiple websites, keep everything exactly the same on all of them: same picture, same bio, same resume, etc. Sometimes potential clients check multiple websites, so it’s good to keep that continuity. It shows you’re serious, that you mean the things you say, that you’re not some wishy-washy dude who doesn’t really know what he thinks about his own services.

Be professional.

Don’t have a PBR in your profile picture, or another person. Don’t use internet lingo in your profile. Spell/grammar check everything. Don’t hype yourself up with crazy promises or boastful claims. A real professional doesn’t have to tell people how good he/she is; your clients should be able to detect it themselves.

Be genuine.

You’re selling yourself to potential clients, but you don’t have to be a car dealer about it. Saying things like “Clients are my number one priority,” “Satisfaction guaranteed!” or “Your business means more to me than life itself” are obvious sales pitches — nobody cares about clients that much. You might enjoy the work you do — you might even honestly enjoy helping people through your service — but there’s a reason you’re not doing it for free.

Take certification tests.

Don’t burn yourself out on these like I did, but do make sure to get your major skills certified by tests. I’ve gotten jobs on this alone, as some clients search for freelancers with specific “certifications.” If you have a whole day with nothing to do, it can’t hurt to knock a couple out now and then.

Set your rate.

It sucks, but you have to start low. As you gain experience and reviews, you earn the right to request a higher rate, but that takes time and work. On the flipside, you don’t want to charge too little once you start going after high-end clients, as rate also indicates ability in their mind.

Sheisty move: Set a high rate on your profile, then propose for jobs at a lower rate, making it look like you’re discounting for them.

Monitor your history.

Once, when getting hired for a job writing Kama Sutra position descriptions for an iPhone app, I actually requested the client change the name of the job to something ambiguous. People can see your job history, so be careful what jobs you take / apply for if you’re trying to attract a certain type of client.