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Freelancers have a flexible schedule, which often allows them to work at home and make more time for their kids.
Freelance work has quickly become a booming industry in its own right.
Workers who don't want to belong to the daily grind and who want more control of their careers often opt to work for themselves.
Consultants, writers, IT specialists and experts in pretty much any field you can imagine are freelancing these days.
A recent MSN-CareerBuilder Zogby poll found many workers are eager to explore freelancing if the right situation presents itself. Thirty percent of respondents would freelance if they could make as much money as they currently do. An additional 17 percent want to freelance in order to be their own boss.
What exactly do they do? These professionals do contract work with clients, either on a project-by-project basis or for a certain time period. They can take as many or as few clients as they want or have time for.
In a tightening economy, many companies don't have the budgets to hire full-time personnel, but they do have the funds to hire a freelancer for short-term projects.
For this reason, many people start their freelance careers during sluggish economic conditions. Others use freelancing as a way to make ends meet until they can find a permanent position.
Freedom and flexibility
Although freelancing means you don't have traditional employer-provided benefits, such as a 401(k), you do have plenty of other perks -- some that might be hard to leave.
Kay Paumier, for example, didn't intend to make a career of freelancing. The PR agency she was working for closed in 1987 and, while looking for a full-time position, she found work. Twenty years later she still freelances in public relations and writing for her company, Communications Plus.
"Many people freelance to have the flexibility to raise their families or to take care of aging parents, for example," she says. "Others love the opportunity to set their hours -- within reason, work in their pajamas, avoid corporate politics and have more control over their time."
Kelly Dinoff, a marketing consultant at Sonance Communications, had a similar experience. She started freelancing after the September 11 attacks helped burst the technology bubble and decided to stay due to the flexible hours.
"As a mother of two, I'm able to pursue my professional aspirations while having the flexibility to take time off for family obligations and to be an active participant in my children's lives."
Discipline and drive
As anyone who has worked from home for even one day can tell you, the ability to do business in your pajamas is pure bliss. It's also dangerous for your inner slacker.
No one's standing over your shoulder to make sure you're doing your job. When you're freelancing, you've got to be the one looking over your own shoulder making sure everything is on track.
Of course, that doesn't mean you don't work hard, either. You might end up working harder because you are the face of your business. While you get all the kudos for a job well done, you get all the blame when someone's not happy.
In a business where word-of-mouth brings you clients and keeps them away, you can't afford to have a reputation as anything but a hard worker.
One way to maintain high-quality work is to set goals for yourself as if you were still being reviewed by a manager every quarter. Like Dinoff, you'll soon realize that freelancing still allows you to form a professional network and grow in the field. You're not completely alone in the industry.
"In the course of my freelance career, I've worked with other female professionals who have made the same move to freelancing for flexibility," she says. "Despite our less than 40-hour workweeks, we'll still able to collaborate on complex projects, produce great work and maintain successful customer relationships."
How to get started
If freelancing sounds like the path you want to take, here are some suggestions for getting started:
• Check sites, such as Sologig.com, that cater to freelancers by listing only freelancing and contract jobs.
• Talk to other professionals in the industry who either use independent contractors or are freelancers themselves to see how they are finding one another and what works for them.
• Contacts you've made over the years can also be valuable resources for finding business. (Just don't steal any of your employer's current clients and violate any rules of your contract.)
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