Should You Freelance?

Posted by Judy Anne Cavey on Feb 24, 2011 in , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments

Contract, freelance or independent work has been on the rise for years.

The economic downturn nudged it further along. Companies prefer a “non-permanent” workforce they may utilize when needed.

According to Money Magazine, “Today about 30% of the U.S. job market–roughly 42 million workers–is made up of independent contractors, part-time or temporary staffers, and the self-employed.” This number is projected to grow to nearly half the workforce within the next decade. The trend expands beyond the usual freelance professions of writers and consultants.

Coming to a Workplace Near You

Many experts have warned American workers of this impending change. Adam Sorensen, an expert at WorldatWork states, “We’re in the early stages of what will be a really different era in the workplace, and a growing segment of workers will need to structure their career around this model.”

Basically, don’t wait to be out of work before you make plans. Now is the time to research how you might transfer your skill-sets into a lucrative career being a free agent. If you are currently working, this means explore ideas, no need to quit your job until you’ve put a solid plan in place. If you are one of the millions not employed, here’s your chance to get ahead of the crowd–begin now–start planning how you may become a freelancer.

How to Begin

If you are employed, be sure to check with your employer to see if outside projects aren’t a direct conflict with your current contract. Consulting on the side, using what knowledge you have to branch out–get a taste of how to begin the process–giving you confidence. When the time is right, you will have this experience under your belt and feel confident to venture out on your own.

Those who are unemployed may begin by seeing where employers are farming out work. Talk to a local representative of a temp agency to see what industries are hiring temps in your area and what jobs are in demand there now. Ask your networking contacts, who are employed, what they’ve noticed in their companies–what’s the ratio between permanent and temporary workers? Discover which jobs are being farmed out, see where your skill-sets fit.

Starting your own business is another option, though much more complicated. Pamela Slim, author of Escape from Cubicle Nation, suggests entrepreneurs start small.  Even though presently it may be extremely difficult to get a small business loan through a bank, using a spare room in your home, for now, could be the best way to go.

Network, Network, Network

I’ll bet you thought networking was just for job seekers, but actually it’s also for those who will be making the transition to freelancing. By having lunch or coffee with contacts, attending workshops, and conferences, letting people know about your work, you keep your networking alive.

Don’t forget the basics of good networking:

  • Networking is a two way street.
  • Be polite, not pushy.
  • Build relationships, seek advice, make good connections.
  • Get permission to use a contact’s name to approach another contact.
  • Ask for help, but be aware of the other persons time and limits.
  • Have consideration for your contacts space, don’t drop in unannounced.
  • Listen carefully, someone may offer you excellent advice.
  • Don’t be desperate.
  • Do your own research. The more you find out about your target, the less you have to ask.
  • Understand your purpose in networking. Before you make contact, do your research, know what questions to ask and focus on targets appropriate to your purpose.

The Future is Now

Don’t wait until the end of the decade to begin the inevitable. Start researching how you may become part of the wave of the projected 50% of freelance workers by the year 2020.

©2009 Judy Anne Cavey, who resides in the S.F. Bay Area of California, is a credentialed, certified, higher education instructor who taught Work Experience/Cooperative Education and ESL at three community colleges. She is also a freelance writer and grant writer currently authoring a textbook, has designed other learning programs, and worked with several nonprofits. Her Edublog, “Work Experience”, is a not-for-profit endeavor designed to assist job seekers of all ages.