The Rise of the Freelancer

The last few weeks I’ve seen an increasing number of articles and blogs on the growing trend of Freelancing. Not to say, I told ya so, but we’ve been talking about this trend since we started Hourly, and are thrilled that it is finally getting the attention that it deserves.

While the Labor Department (BLS) does not include Freelance workers as part of its monthly survey report, its is estimated that “flexible worker”s constitute over 30% of the U.S. workforce, or 42 million people. Now add to that number individuals working part-time and hourly workers, and that number jumps closer to 50%.

Freelancing is not a new phenomenon, but  in light of ” The Great Recession”  experienced workers have come to see the benefit of  becoming more self-reliant, and leveraging their skills across multiple organizations, in some case for more money. If the last four years have taught us anything it is that the concept of retiring after 30 years with a gold watch and full pension is an urban myth, or at least a relic of a bygone era.

At the same time, having access to experienced, flexible workers has allowed many businesses to survive the recession and be able to ramp up their growth slowly, without taking on the expense (and risk) of hiring full-time staff.  No doubt these full-time jobs will return as this economy proves that it has legs, but what the last four years have shown businesses, and freelancers, is the value of experienced short term hires, and their growing place in the jobs market.

Want to give Freelancing a try? Here are helpful tips for staying sane.

Have some mad (emergency)  money socked away: Even if you jump into Freelance work with a great gig already lined up, inevitably a client is going to be late with a payment, or not pay at all.  Without a set check at the end of each week, you have to be prepared for the ebb and flow that comes with being paid on a project basis. Have 6 months living expenses socked away, so you can sleep at night, and try whenever possible to be paid  on a weekly or monthly basis, so that you can better manage your expenses and ensure payment.

Get to know (& love) contracts & tax law: - Contracts are absolutely vital when taking any freelance or project work. It not only holds both sides accountable, but helps establish timelines and deliverables, so that the scope of the project is clear. While it is an expense, we recommend taking the time to sit down with a lawyer and accountant to protect yourself, and get your ducks in a row, before you get started. The IRS is already starting to look more closely at independent workers, so do it right.

Become a member of the Freelancers Union –  The Freelancers Union is a great organization that promotes the interests of independent workers through advocacy, education, and services. As a member you have access not only to vital services you need like Health & Retirement Benefits Programs, but resources like their Contract Creator and Client Scorecard, so you can check up on a company, before you take the job.

Join a Co-working space – While the idea of working in your PJ’s sounds all well and good, I will tell you that after a couple weeks, working from home can feel a little isolating. Good work and creativity come from being stimulated, and collaborating with others. In most cases spaces can be rented by the day, so you can come and go as want, without breaking the bank, and have access to Wifi and usually some pretty darn good coffee.  To find great spaces near you can check out Loosecubes or  LiquidSpace

Get out there and Network – Part of the challenge with Freelancing is finding the next great gig. So be sure to market yourself and your services by networking with companies and people that line up with your business. Reach out to your local Chamber of Commerce, Libraries & Schools, Industry events, Trade shows, business networking breakfasts and topic focused groups like those on Meetup.com

Join Hourly.com – And of course, to find hot new job opportunities that match your skills, or have employers find you, join Hourly.com today!

Independent Workers Are Here to Stay – NYTimes.com.

Freelancing: How to Make it a Worthwhile Career Option – On Careers (usnews.com)

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Lynn

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