If you are having trouble finding employment like many people are these days, you may want to consider doing freelance work.
Today, the global freelance market is exploding with growth as the job market continues to remain tight and companies are relentlessly searching for ways to cut costs. Some expect the demand for freelance workers, also known as freelancers, will increase further when the new health care law kicks into full effect in 2014. Some companies that can’t afford to pay health insurance for a large full-time staff may decide to decrease the number of full-time employees and hire freelance workers to replace them.
Freelancers appeal to employers not only for their expertise, but also because they are less expensive than full-time permanent workers. These self-employed workers, generally considered independent contractors, offer companies flexibility. They allow employers to stay lean, therefore, avoiding the need to hire more permanent full-time workers that generally come with health care and other benefit costs.
There are also advantages to using freelance workers over temporary workers. Freelances are less expensive and more flexible than temporary workers whose jobs, through short-term, tend to be full-time and are subject to temporary agency fees, and bound by agency restrictions, such as limits on the permanent hiring of temps.
Some do freelance work until they are able to find more permanent full-time work with benefit, while others, however, have made freelancing a career.
Advantages of freelancing
Like most things in life, there are advantages and disadvantages. Freelancing is no different. However, depending on what you value most, the advantages of freelancing can outweigh the disadvantages.
One of the obvious advantages of freelancing is that you are essentially your own boss. Although the client may set a deadline for the completion of the project, you still determine the specific time schedule when the work will be done and the strategies and methods on how to complete the project.
Other advantages of being a freelancer include:
- Flexible work schedule. Ask many freelancers what they enjoy most about freelancing and many times the words “flexibility” or “freedom” will come up. Freelance workers enjoy the freedom of setting their own work schedule. In being your own boss, you get to determine when and how you will work on a project. You are not stuck with a 9 to 5 schedule. Nor do you hardly need to dress up to do your job if you are working at home as many freelancers do.
- Save on commuting expenses. Although clients sometime have their freelance workers periodically onsite, most work is done offsite, usually at the freelancer’s home. As a result, freelancers usually save on expenses such as gas, tolls and the wear and tire of their vehicle.
- Less time spent in traffic jams. Since you determine your work schedule, including travel or commuting time; you can evade the normal rush hour traffic jams and the headaches that they bring by scheduling travel times when traffic is less congested.
- Unlimited number of projects. As a freelancer, you can work on projects for as many people you want---simultaneously! While you may be working on a project for Company A, you can also be working on a project for Company B. Neither company can prevent you from doing work for the other company---even if they are competitors. As long as you complete each client’s project on time, they could care less whom your other clients are.
- Freedom in choice of projects. Unlike in the corporate world where your boss assigns you a project whether you want it or not, as a freelance worker, you chose your own projects.
- Unlimited earning power. Unlike a salary or hourly worker whose wage is limited to his annual pay rate, as a freelancer, your pay is essentially unlimited. Still, you will need to find enough freelance work to keep you busy and make the amount of income you desire. However, if you have regular clients that seek your services, there is no limited to the amount of money you can make in a given year.
- Freedom from office politics and bad bosses. Since most of the time you are on your own working offsite, you won’t have to deal with companies’ office politics and irritable bosses breathing down your neck or micromanaging your work.
Disadvantages of freelancing
The two major disadvantages of freelancing are not having a regular or consistent income and having to relentlessly search for new clients for work. Like any successful business, you will need to continue to seek out new customers (clients). Just as you were competing with candidates for employment in the job market, as a freelancer you are competing with fellow freelancers with similar skills and expertise for paying clients.
Some of the other pit falls of being a freelancer include:
- No company paid health care. As a freelancer you are responsible for your own health care costs. Unless you have a regular employed spouse whose health care coverage you can be placed upon, you will need to stash away savings for health care expenses on your own.
- No paid time off. In your old 9 to 5 job you could take a two weeks’ vacation knowing that you would get paid for it. That is not the case for freelancers. When you go on vacation, income and productivity temporary stops until you return. Therefore, you will need to have enough funds put aside for vacation and other time off while also being able to pay your bills.
- Late paying clients. Just like any business, there could be times you may have to deal with clients that drag their feet when it comes time to paying you for a job completed. Also, some freelancers have worked for clients that have refused to pay them for work they were unhappy with. To avoid these kinds of payment issues, ask for a deposit when accepting a project. For example, have the client give you a 25 percent or 50 percentage deposit. This way, you at least get a portion of your money up front.
- Being your own payroll department. One of the headaches of being self-employed is having to set aside money to pay taxes. When you were working 9 to 5 for someone else, they would have the payroll department take care of this responsibility for you. But now, as a freelancer it’s up to you to estimate your income, determine how much to set aside for taxes, estimate your deductions, and determine whether you need to make estimated payments. If you don’t already have a tax accountant, you may want to consider getting one. You also may want to visit http://www.irs.gov/Forms-&-Pubs and download 1040 ES forms.
Sources for finding freelance work
With the growth of the global freelance market, there has also been an increase in freelance websites. These websites allow freelancers to search for work and clients to post their jobs. Freelancers must be registered at many of these websites, prior to bidding on posted jobs. Freelancers with all types of skills can be found on these websites.
One of the more popular freelance website is oDesk.com. It’s website at https://www.odesk.com/ boast that it is ranked first by annual contractor’s earnings. Also according to the website, it has posted over 790,000 jobs in the first half of 2012. More than 2.5 million contractors are registered on the site.
Companies like oDesk.com make its money by charging contractors for each successful transaction.
Elance is another popular website for freelancers. Located at https://www.elance.com/, according to its website it has more than 500,000 businesses and 2 million freelance professionals in more than 150 countries using its website. There are also reports that much of Elance’s growth is coming from Asia.
Although not generally known as a freelance website, Craigslist is also a website which freelancers can search for work. Freelancers can go to Craigslist’s website at http://www.craigslist.org/ and search for clients for all types of jobs.
As with all major freelance websites, one does not have to search for only local jobs in their town. For example, if you live in Chicago, but see a job in New York that you have the skills for, you simply apply for it. Thanks to technology, freelancers can not only work for clients in other cities, but also other countries thousands of miles away, without ever having to step foot on the soil of where their clients are located.
Some of the other websites where freelancers can find work include: www.guru.com/, www.hongkiat.com/, http://www.freelancer.com/, http://www.peopleperhour.com/, http://freelanceswitch.com/, http://www.gofreelance.com/, and http://www.ifreelance.com/.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 10.3 million workers in the U.S. work as independent contractors. However, that number is probably now higher given the national high unemployment rate and the bottom line pressures that are forcing employers to cut costs.
If you have professional and marketable skills along with the desire and attitude to work for yourself, you may want to consider freelancing. However, make sure you are prepared to deal with the pressures of not always having a regular income and the stresses that comes with competing for jobs with fellow freelancers with similar work skills and expertise.
The time for freelancing has never been brighter than now!