December 6, 2010

The Job Market Stinks, Is Freelancing the Answer?

BY John Paul Narowski IN Productivity 0 Comment

checklistIf you’re one of the millions who lost their jobs during the downturn or are simply tired of waiting for the axe to fall, then it’s time to consider the alternatives. One of the very few bright spots in this garbage dump of a jobs market is freelancing.

More workers are finding that their skills are highly marketable in the freelance world while employers are finding that it’s safer and more cost effective to hire freelancers to do the work their laid off employees used to do. The two have created a perfect storm of freelance job growth.

Economy Implodes, Freelance Explodes

Large websites like Elance, oDesk and that provide a platform for freelancers and employers to hook up, have seen a giant growth in the amount of freelance jobs and money out there. Just check out the stats:

  • oDesk recently reported that new job postings were up 10% from July to August and up 129% year over year.
  • In Q2 2010 Elance freelance workers made more than $23 million, a 45% increase from the year before.
  • There were over 112,000 active employers on Elance last quarter.

If you’re thinking about joining this movement, check out some of the issues you will face and see if you can handle it.

Being the Boss

Many freelancers look forward to saying goodbye to their boss and not having to deal with being micromanaged and constantly being evaluated. But that is a double-edged sword. You’re the boss, so it’s your sole responsibility to make it all happen.

You have to get the jobs, do the work, deal with the clients and keep that money machine running smoothly. If you slip up at work, chances are you won’t get fired and you’ll still receive a paycheck at the end of the week. Mishandling just one of the vital functions of your freelance business and you could find that the money faucet has been turned off.

Bye Bye Corporate World

You won’t be forced to deal with pointless meetings, endless conference calls, TPS reports or corporate red tape. The other side of that equation is that there is no corporate machine behind you silently handling all of the very important details that make your work life run smoothly.

You’ll have to pay your own taxes, set aside your own retirement money (and forego company matching), pay for your own insurance and all of the other fun stuff those nice people in HR do for you.

Bitter Sweet Freedom

When many people think about freelance work, they get images in their head of working from home in PJs all day and doing whatever they want because they are the boss. When you’re a freelancer you won’t have to adhere to dress codes, work at a set time or care what website you’re looking at.

You’ll have more freedom, but that freedom comes at a high cost if you abuse it. You can look at Facebook all day if you want, but you’re not going to get paid for it. If you slack off at work you still get a paycheck; if you slack off while you need to be building your freelance business you’re heading for disaster.

Keep Your Options Open

If you’re not sure about being a freelance worker and still have a job, then start slow.

Check out Elance or oDesk and see if there are any jobs that are up your alley. Build a profile and start applying for your jobs. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will your freelance business. Start getting clients and build your reputation, so if you decide to make the leap you’ll be on the right path. If you find out it’s not for you, you still have your 9 to 5 gig.

If you don’t have a job, then you have nothing to lose! Get signed up today and start applying for jobs. You can make some good money and when companies do start hiring again, many will look at the contract workers they have grown to trust first.

I’ve been hacking at various business ideas since I was 16. I’m a full stack developer and love crafting user experiences. I’ve been nose deep in code since I put the legos down, and built several successful businesses in the process. I’ve lost some hair, gained some experience and throughly enjoyed the journey.

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