Freelancing as a Viable Career Option
By Jim Baumer
In the past five years, we've experienced a cultural shift in the nature of work and how employment is configured. Yet most job seekers are still targeting their searches like it's 2005 and nothing's changed.
Since the early 1960s, large employers were the norm. The predominant model of employment was embodied in General Motors, IBM, Boeing, and others. While we still have these large employers, employing tens of thousands of people, we've lost an entire tier of mid-size employers as jobs have shifted overseas and industries have disappeared. There's no longer a need for typewriters, or Maytag repairmen.
Growing up, my father worked for a paper company. He started there after graduating from high school in 1951. This mill closed its doors forever after a major flood in the mid-1990s. He managed to find another job in a mill upriver and retired in 1998. Those days of working for the same company 20, 30, or 40 years are long gone.
We have entered an age of the free agent, or freelance employee. What is a freelance employee? In many cases, a freelance employee, or "freelancer," is an independent contractor.
Independent contractors work for themselves and offer services to individual clients and corporations, marketing their own toolkit of skills and abilities. During the recent economic downturn, which caused belt- and budget-tightening, companies began moving to a more contingent workforce to save on salary and benefits costs, thus creating opportunities for freelancing.
Tough Times for New Grads
We've just come through graduation season for both high school and college graduates and polling indicates that most Americans are not optimistic about their chances of employment.
A recent Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 89 percent of American adults believe it will be at least somewhat difficult for new graduates to find a job today; 53 percent of that same group predicts it will be very difficult.
Trends in Freelancing
They might consider free agent opportunities. Daniel Pink wrote a terrific and defining book about this topic in 2001 and it's still relevant today. Free Agent Nation: How America's New Independent Workers Are Transforming the Way We Live looked at the seismic shift taking place 10 years ago and the trend hasn't abated.
Here are just a few opportunities that fall under the banner of freelancing:
- Web designers
With the exception of web design, I've earned income from these freelancing categories. I also run my own independent micro-press that publishes my books. In fact, due to a reduction in hours with my current employer, I've been supplementing my income by freelancing and will continue to seek free agent opportunities. There's a risk in going this route, but there are definite advantages, also.
If you have a business idea, are self-directed, and are comfortable marketing your skills and abilities, freelancing might be a great option for you. As much as having the skills, freelancing is also a mindset, and isn't for the faint of heart.
For more information about venturing out as an entrepreneurial freelancer, SCORE is a great local resource. I'm a big fan of the organization and find that their counselors (retired business executives, former consultants, business owners, and others) provide a wealth of support for anyone contemplating going the independent route.