In sports, talented athletes look forward to the day they become free agents. They can shop their services around to the highest bidder or look for the best "working" environment. A certain basketball player, Lebron James – maybe you've heard of him – recently did that very thing.
In many ways, freelancers are the business-world equivalent of professional athlete free agents. This is especially true today when a lot of very talented businessmen and women have lost full-time corporate employment.
Freelancers are American's fastest growing workforce. And according a survey released by Freelancers Union, almost 90 percent of freelancers say they would keep their independence even if offered a full-time job.
Maybe this speaks to the desire to maintain a healthy work-life balance. But the benefits of freelance work don’t stop there. Freelance professionals enjoy…
- Schedule control.
- Being their own boss.
- Doing what they love.
The freelancing boom can be traced back to a "perfect storm" of telecommuting meets the Great Recession. We know that recessions always give a boost to the number of small business startups, so when the last one hit – after the Internet had made telecommuting effective and efficient – everything was in place to create a bumper crop of solopreneurs. (For more, read, “Temps Are Making a Comeback. Are They Right for Your Business?”)
The question today is: are you thinking about joining this revolution? If so, here are a few tips to help you start strong:
- Make sure you have a nest egg. This will help you get through the lean startup months. As an alternative, you can piggyback a freelance business onto your current gig, and then transition to the freelance lifestyle as it grows. Not recommended: forcing a reluctant spouse back into the workforce.
- Track down a couple "anchor" gigs. If you’re currently working for someone, ask if they want to keep you on in a freelance position for a long-term project. This could provide a sizable chunk of the new business you need to drum up. In any case, without a few steady clients, you will end up spending far too much time hunting down jobs.
- Leverage collaboration and networking. Sometimes, there are gigs or elements of jobs that you can’t handle yourself. Develop a network of like-minded freelancers who you can turn to in these situations. They can also do the same for you. Not only will you get additional work through networking, but you’ll also be able to offer more services to potential clients.
- Get insured. When you're a freelancer, you only have yourself to rely on. And when clients are unhappy with your work, they could try to recoup their losses through the legal system. Be sure to carry adequate liability insurance (e.g., Errors and Omissions Insurance and General Liability Insurance) to protect yourself.
One of the promises of the Internet was that it would liberate and empower individuals. The move toward freelance employment is one tangible measure that at least some of the Web's promise is being fulfilled.
Susan Solovic is THE Small Business Expert. In addition to her work guiding small businesses, Susan is a NYT bestselling author, media personality, keynote speaker, and former ABC News small biz contributor. Follow her on Twitter, or visit her website, SusanSolovic.com.