Amazon Vine sent me a book of essays by comedian Michael Ian Black just in time for me to use them as an example for my comp class’s Reflective Essay assignment, which really seemed like a bit of luck. The department chair stopped to chat in the hall and asked whether my class had thinned out yet. It’s expected that the 25 will get down to 17 pretty soon, she said, but my class still has 23, with 2 who’ve been gone the last two days. I’m taking this as a sign that the class is going well. Of course, my decision to do so means that when it thins down to 17, I’ll have to take it personally.

I drove to and from class on the freeway, with only limited spells of fear and trembling.

Then I came home and did my proposals. The oDesk guy wrote right back and gave me three hours of work for this week — that is, today — and if he likes my stuff, it’ll be ongoing.

This was a slight surprise. I had thought of the first application as a tryout so I could figure out the system. I’m allowed to apply for 20 jobs at a time, based on my test scores. There was an education-related client wanting blogging, so it seemed like a good fit. However, when I went to check the details, I found that there were six other applicants, and all of them were cheaper than I was. When I sent my estimate, I acknowledged that, but pointed out that the client was estimating 10 hours a week and I could do it in three, so it wouldn’t be that much more, and invited him to read my work. I also explained in a straightforward and factual manner why I felt I was his best choice.

Client #2 shot a blog post back to me earlier this week for sounding too braggartly (that is, I wrote it in such a way that he felt it would sound as though he were bragging), so I was trying to be careful about that. But, you know, there are cases in which people won’t know someone is good at something without being told. They just won’t have that information. I try to stick to facts: I’ve done this, I have these skills, not “I’m great!”

Lots of the providers at oDesk describe themselves with phrases like “fabulous three-degreed writer” and “hardcore world-class consultant.” This seems over the top. If nothing else, if you are truly fabulous and world-class, then why are you peddling your wares on oDesk instead of relaxing while your agent does that for you? On the other hand, there are people there working for $3.33 an hour, so I guess you have to say something to clarify why you think you’re worth more. I just hope that the people toiling for $10 per article live in a place where that feeds the family for a day.

ODesk tells providers to choose a figure below which we will not work, and to “write it down somewhere.” It doesn’t go on our profiles, but I guess oDesk is in some ways like eBay for computer guys. Maybe they worry that, in the frenzy of bidding to write that series of articles on natural cleaning products, we’ll get carried away and offer to work for castoff shoes.

I am hoping that I will be able to figure out the time-logging system today when I do my three hours. oDesk takes a screenshot every ten minutes. Presumably this will demonstrate that I am using Word and not shopping. Then it also measures the percentage of the time that my fingers are on the keys or the mouse, which I guess keeps me from leaving my article on the screen while I go get a cup of coffee. It is also possible to have a webcam, which I guess would show that I was concentrating, or not having my cat do the typing for me, something.

My log has just popped up to inform me that I have been doing private computer stuff since 5:39, so I guess it’s working. And I also just got my job opening announcements, and applied to write the website content for a new company making waste-free lunch containers for schoolchildren. There are already nine applicants, with an average price of $13.27 per hour. I trotted out my environmentalist/educator/parent credentials for them, and we’ll see what happens.

What do you think? Does it sound like eBay? I’ve never been there myself.

At the very least, if oDesk turns out to be a place where I can always go to pick up work when I am not busy, I’ll find that relaxing. I used to live in a neighborhood where the Hispanic men would just go stand on a street corner in the morning if they wanted work, and people in trucks would come pick them up, as many as they needed. ODesk feels like that.

So I have my three hours for ODesk today, and papers to grade, and Client #4 to look after, but I am seriously hoping to take some time for the HGP and a long walk and maybe even some lolling around. Or housework and groceries.

TGIF!