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Taking control of your professional life may be easier than you think in today’s economy, where one-third of the American workforce is now comprised of freelancers.
Experts say self-employed, independent workers have gone mainstream and are here to stay.
“From computer programmers and nannies to opera singers and anesthesiologists, nearly every industry is now employing freelancers,” said Sara Horowitz, founder of the Freelancers Union and author of the new handbook, “The Freelancer’s Bible.” “The time’s long past for viewing freelancing as a euphemism for slackers or the unemployed.”
While freelancing does have challenges, Horowitz contends that with a bit of planning and research, a freelancer can survive and thrive in the new economy.
“Even those with stable full-time jobs should consider the benefits of freelance work — from the freedom to pursue multiple professional paths at once, to the ability to take time off without permission,” Horowitz said.
To help, Horowitz founded the Freelancer’s Union to empower this growing independent sector with solutions for affordable health care and retirement planning.
Whether you’re an experienced independent worker, or just getting started, there are several things that can help you become a more nimble, flexible and successful freelancer:
• Tell everyone: Sometimes gigs drop in your lap, but mostly they come from connecting and sharing with others. Remember that everything is a marketing opportunity. Don’t be shy about networking. People will want to help. Give them what they need to spread the word. Just be careful to be professional, not pushy.
• Stay positive: In many ways, having multiple sources of income and multiple money-making skills is less risky than putting all your eggs in an employer’s basket. So don’t think of freelancing as volatile and risky, so much as flexible and opportunity-rich.
• Balance risks and rewards: Weigh how much time and energy you should invest in various projects and be open to changing the mix depending on the work market and your income needs.
• Negotiate: Negotiating a contract isn’t about displaying bravado. It’s about knowing your power relationship with the client. Get informed by learning your industry’s deal norms, the market’s needs and your market value. Not happy with where you stand? Get training, find markets with bigger budgets or gain more experiences until you can be rewarded with higher pay.
• Get a life: Employees get vacation time, sick leave, family leave, bereavement days and personal days. Those policies exist largely because workers advocated for them. Who advocates for you? Without a 9-5 schedule, it’s easy to forget you have a life outside of your work. Be sure to schedule breaks and vacations and budget for time off.
In this new economy that’s friendlier toward independent workers taking control of your career is easier than ever, Horowitz concluded.