7 Apr 2012

INFOGRAPHIC & ARTICLE: Freelance revolution

By Emma at Credit Donkey:
With more than 17% of the self-employed workers in America classifying themselves as independent contractors or freelancers, the number of individuals who earn a living off of freelance work is on the rise.

Many people question the decision to transition from traditional employment to freelance work. They wonder if they will be able to secure enough consistent work to meet their monthly bills. Their personal life is also on the line – will work stretch into the weeknights and weekends, extinguishing their ability to socialize with their families and friends?

Thankfully, the vast majority of those workers who have already transitioned into freelance work find they are satisfied with their decision; fewer than 1 in 10 independent contractors state they would prefer a more traditional work arrangement. This is thanks to the benefits they have found from freelancing.

How freelancers benefit 
It pays off:
Many people mistakenly believe that freelancers have to struggle to get by but this stat shows it’s often the opposite – in 2010, the average freelance salary was $68,000; that’s 45% more than the national salary average. While it can take some time to get your freelance business off the ground, it often will pay off. This helps free you from your dependence on credit cards, making it so you can pay off your debt and credit cards each month while still having money left over for fun and savings.

Set your own hours:
Who isn’t tired of the 9 am to 5 pm (make that 7 am to 7 pm!) grind? Freelancers are able to set their own schedule, taking more or less projects, as it fits their personal schedule.

Ability to be picky:
When you work in a traditional office environment, you typically don’t get much say in which projects you work on. But as a freelancer, you’re able to pick and choose from projects that appeal to you.

Get in on the freelance revolution
Freelancing sounds like a great opportunity for many professionals, but they’re often uncertain where to start. Thankfully, with the help of the internet, it’s easier than ever to find freelance opportunities. Individuals are turning to the following resources to find work:

Freelance websites: Several websites have been created in recent years to help facilitate the freelance process. These sites bring together businesses and independent contractors on a project-to-project basis. Businesses post projects and then independent contractors bid on the projects.
These sites are often a great way for individuals to build their freelance portfolio and resume. However, there is one drawback to these sites – they often have clauses preventing contractors and employers making arrangements outside of the site. And because there is typically a fee to the employer based on a percentage of the pay to the freelancer, individuals often find they earn less on jobs obtained through the website as opposed to those they secure on their own.

Non-specialized job sites: Individuals can also utilize “traditional” employment websites to find freelance work. And because they typically just charge a flat fee for advertising the job on their site, there often is the opportunity to negotiate a higher rate with these employers than with freelance-oriented sites.
One thing to note is that the freelance opportunities found on regular job sites tend to be for longer projects, so you will want to take extra time to weigh the opportunity to ensure it will work well with your current personal and professional schedule. Professional network: Individuals looking to get into freelancing can also call upon past employers and other professional contacts. With a couple of quick emails, they can get into contact with their professional contact to see if there are any opportunities available to them. And because they are familiar with the individuals, it helps to eliminate some of the unknowns that are involved with working with a new-to-you company.

No matter how you find your first freelance opportunities, you will want to ask the employers if you can use samples of your work to build your professional portfolio. By building a strong portfolio, you will increase the likelihood of securing more jobs in the future at a higher rate so you can take advantage of setting your own schedule and increasing your earning potential. (Infographic by Marco; Additional Writing by Meghan)

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  1. Thanks for the informative article. I left my full time job (creative director, designer, motion graphics) of 8 years last October and jumped into the contract world. I struggled for the first 4-5 months, living pretty lean and figuring out a realistic work schedule. It was very easy to slip into a lazy lifestyle. I had to discipline myself to work as if I was going into the office (I work from home) and put in an 8 hour day. A few things that I have learned along the way have really helped my productivity and general well being.

    1. Get up in the morning, shower and take a walk to the coffee shop. This puts me in the frame of mind that I am going to the office. When I return home, I get straight to work - no tv.

    2. Take short breaks throughout the day. One of the great benefits of freelancing is that you can run errands, exercise or whatever on your own time. I don't have anyone to answer to if I am not at my desk. As long as I get my work done on time, how I organize my day is up to me.

    3. Try not to procrastinate. Leaving everything until that last minute can wreak a bit of havoc mentally and can effect the quality of your work.

    4. Use online tools to help with the business side of things. Probably the hardest learning curve was the business part of freelancing. It is a job in itself finding clients, organizing schedules, taxes, communication etc.. I use DropBox for file sharing, Basecamp or Asana for tasks and to-dos, and Square for payment services. I also use Google plus for video conferences.

    5. Incorporate yourself. I did an LLC and set up a separate bank account for anything business related. This is important to protect yourself and it makes life a lot easier in terms of keeping your finances straight. Especially when tax time comes. And keep your receipts. You would be surprised as to what you can claim as tax deductible.

    6. Spotify. Cheap or free music that has great options for playlists, sharing and setting the mood for the day. Highly recommend.

    7. Portfolio and web presence. Put your portfolio together first thing. Always a pain in the ass the portfolio, but it really is a must have. And keep it up to date. Once you have taken the time to organize and post up your work, it is easy to maintain and the hard parts done. I have a blog that I try to update often, usually just posting interesting or inspiring media that I come across. And yes, the obligatory Twitter, Facebook, Linked-in etc.. social media outlets. I am not the biggest social media fan, but I find the more online presence I have, the more seriously potential clients take me. And it's a great way to keep tabs on what's trending and potential business.

    I am sure these are obvious points to most people out there freelancing, but thought I would take a 10 minute break in my day to share. Now, back to work. Cheers.



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