Freelancing

Steve Strauss answers the question "What can you tell me about freelancing?"

SunshineQ: What can you tell me about freelancing? It seems like a good way to supplement my income, or even work for myself full-time if and when the time comes. Thank you for your help.

Christy

A: There is little doubt that we are living in a whole new economy, of which freelancing is taking a major role:

• First of all, consistently high unemployment numbers means that more people than ever are trying their hand at freelancing, often because they have no other choice.

• Moreover, we are living in what I like to call the e-conomy, but in this case, “e” does not stand for electronic, but rather, entrepreneurial. This is a time when everyone is an entrepreneur in one way or another, whether it be in their career, their life, or their new business.

• Younger workers – Gen Xers, and especially Gen Y (aka the mellennials) – intuitively understand that they are free agents and act accordingly.

The upshot of all of this is that the demand for freelancers has never been greater, and there has never been a better time to be able to freelance successfully. Indeed, according to the Online Employment Report, a quarterly publication of the leader in the freelance world, Elance (more on them in a moment), “jobs posted by businesses seeking talent grew 52% year-over-year.”

What other sector of the economy can boast an increase of 52%? Right, none. So freelancing is here to stay and will only continue to increase.

But, is it for you? There are pros and cons:

The upside of freelancing is that you become your own boss – you set your hours and fees. That independence is great. It is also affordable way to start a business and in fact can usually be done out of a spare bedroom. Freelancing can also be done full or part time; it’s flexible. It’s also creative, exciting, and fun. The major downside is that you will need to find consistent work and clients – your boss won’t just hand you assignments. As such, you have to be proficient at both that thing you do (whether it be web design, writing, consulting, or what have you) as well as business.

But even finding clients and doing the work is easier than ever, and that’s another reason freelancing should be on your radar. Simply put, there are a lot more options out there than ever before when it comes to finding gigs and doing the work.

Take the aforementioned Elance for example. Elance is an online portal that makes being a freelancer easy and profitable. One question people new to freelancing often have is, “How will I find work?”

Traditionally, freelancers found work by networking their tail off. And while that is still a fine option, consider that as of this writing Elance had 48,640 freelance jobs listed on the site.

48,640.

But there is a lot more to successfully freelancing than simply finding and getting good gigs (but we do like that part a lot), namely, doing the work, getting paid, and so on. That is why the savvy folks at Elance are re-inventing freelancing, creating what they call a “virtual workplace.” Freelancers are able to research the companies listing the projects, log into a system that allows them to work in the cloud, and even have their payment for services performed guaranteed if they do the work through the Elance system.

Like I said, there has never been a better time to be a freelancer.

If freelancing sounds like a winning idea to you, and I hope it does, here are a few tips that should help you along the way:

Make it legal: Start a business, even if the business is your own name. This means getting a business license, a business checking account, and possibly even incorporating.

Set up shop: If you will be working at home, set aside a specific place to do the work and run your business. Install a separate phone line or cell phone number for the business; your clients will take you much more seriously if your daughter does not answer the phone.

Create a portfolio: Even if it is assignments from your old employment, it will behoove you to have work product examples to show prospective clients.

Set up a website and email address: It’s expected, it looks good, it’s professional, it’s easy to do, and it doesn’t cost much.

Freelancing: An idea whose time has come.

Today’s tip: How many self-employed are there? According to the IRS, the number tops 20 million.

Have a question about freelancing? Connect with a SCORE mentor online or in your community today!

About the Author

Steve Strauss HeadshotSteven D. Strauss is a lawyer and writer and is one of the country's leading experts on small business as well as an international business speaker. The best-selling author of 17 books, his latest is the all-new 3rd ed. of The Small Business Bible. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success Powered by Greatland, visit his new website for the self-employed, TheSelfEmployed, follow him on Twitter, and "like" TheSelfEmployed on Facebook. You can e-mail Steve at: sstrauss@mrallbiz.com. © Steven D. Strauss