Thursday, January 15, 2009

Freelancing Can Be a Great Option -- Especially When You're Between Jobs

(Do you know anyone who needs help, advice, inspiration, and hope after being laid off? Please send them to my new blog, Rebound Your Career! It's based on my new book entitled, amazingly enough: Rebound: A Proven Plan For Starting Over After Job Loss, which will be available online and in bookstores everywhere on February 9! Hey! That's one month away! Yay!)

Have you given any thought to freelancing? Almost anything that can be done full-time can be translated into freelance gigs. And, according to's news crawl yesterday, more and more companies are turning to freelancers to get their work done project by project, instead of full-time job by full-time job.

Now, I know that most of us aren't cut out for freelancing as a lifelong career. So I'm not suggesting that everyone rush right out and hang out their shingles. But if you're not working right now anyway, it beats the heck out of sitting in your socks soaking up the soaps all afternoon. Believe me, I tried that. Freelancing is a much better way to go.

Here's what freelancing can do for you:

You keep your resume fresh with recent projects and accomplishments. Recruiters want to know what you've been doing "all this time." Taking on freelance assignments while you're looking for a new job gives you the chance to keep your resume up-to-the-minute with fascinating stories of achievement, learning, completion. Plus, you get to have a whole new set of people who will give you references.

It keeps you in touch with your former employers, who were really sorry to have to let you go, by the way. I have one friend who actually was able to hire back a fantastic employee as a freelancer after she was forced to shut down her department. And, she was able to pay him more money because she had a lavish freelance budget. Which is kind of weird, but there's no arguing with reality. (And, if CNN is right, more companies will have more money in their freelance budgets. So why not claim some of that for your own?)

Freelancing makes you the head cheese. As a freelancer you get to pick which assignments you're willing to take on. As an employee, you pretty much have to say yes to everything that crosses your desk. Of course, to be realistic, when wolves are beginning to gather at your door, you still have to say yes to most assignments that come your way. (Especially in the beginning when you're just building your practice.) But it's still very nice to know you can still say no...any time. Really. It's allowed.

You can actually fire clients! In fact, if you were feeling especially spiteful -- and your former employer completely deserves it -- you can turn right around and fire the guy who fired you! Just make sure you have plenty of money in the bank and a line of clamoring clients waiting for your attention, like the rope line outside of NY's most happening nightclub. Again, it's just nice to know you can.

You can write some really cool stuff off. See your tax guy about this. But, just so you know, I've been able to write off a scuba diving trip to Bonaire. My groovy new Mac? Deductible. That video camera I want to buy? Deductible. All that chocolate I eat when I'm writing under deadline? Not deductible. Can't have everything.

You can grow much faster as a freelancer. By which I don't mean chocolate-eating, although that is also a guaranteed growth strategy.

What I do mean is that as a freelancer, you can go after potential clients in companies you would love to work for. You learn about the latest, greatest developments in your field, and you can, if you so choose, hang out with the leaders and role models of your profession. One of my most favorite assignments was helping Intuit write a white paper about their employee engagement initiative. Of all the books I've written, the cool places I've traveled to, the amazing people I've interviewed, I have to say that spending a couple of months working with Intuit's director of workforce research taught me so much...and even made me want to leap back into the workaday world.Just for a minute, there.

You have the satisfaction of actually completing projects. You know that sense of "ah, done!" As a full-time employee, you don't always get to feel that feeling. But as a freelancer, you do, because there is a definite "done" time, and that's when you get paid the second half of your fee (the first half comes when you say yes to the assignment at the beginning of the project).

You get to meet a heckuvalot more people as a freelancer. If you're stuck in your cube all day, bent over the same keyboard, staring into the same screen, day in and day out, you know what that makes you? A full-time employee.

As a freelancer, you get to wake up exactly when you want to (in my case, it's 3:30 no slug-a-bed visions of sloth, please, thank you very much). You get to pad around the house in your jammies until you're ready to put on shoes to go out and get the newspaper. Then you get to decide whether or not you want to haul on go-to-meeting clothes and attend a top-notch, cutting-edge lunch meeting with the leaders of your community and industry. You get to sit in big round tables, asking "is this your bread plate or mine?," of people whose business cards represent the best of the best in your profession. You get to make friends with these people. Why? Because you're the head cheese of your own operation. You're not buried deep inside a corporate org chart, which, by the way, is just about to be thrown up into the air like pick-up-sticks. The reorg will be announced next week, time to tidy up your desk.

Now, if you were a freelancer, first of all you wouldn't be worried about being laid off. Secondly, you'd have all these fab business cards of people you've met in business/social functions who will help you. The successful freelancer's network is something to envy, that's for sure.

You get to learn new skills and even heal old self-esteem wounds. First of all the new skills: Marketing yourself (by which I mean, "marketing your brains out"); new technical skills that will expand your marketability and competitiveness; negotiation skills; productivity skills; time management skills; public speaking skills; making new friends skills; getting-out-of-the-house skills.

As for the self-esteem healing part: I just find that people who are self-employed have a greater sense of purpose and potential than they did when they had a full-time job (and when I say "people," I mean "me"). When you are a freelancer, companies don't care whether you are too fat (heck! it's not their health insurance rates at risk here; but really, just stay away from the fridge at home) or too old. They just want to know if you can do the job, and what will it cost them. And how your talents and skills will help them achieve their own objectives.

Which brings me to the next self-esteem sticking point. You discover very quickly how closely linked your self-esteem is to the money you make. You build a lot of confidence landing gigs, successfully completing them to the point where you're like the Lone Ranger and your clients want to know when they're going to see you again. And pretty soon you can start asking for more money. And then more money. And then more, as your value goes up and your name gets around. It's really good for your self-esteem, let me tell you.

Freelancing isn't easy. But it sure can be fun. And, if you've been laid off, you're not doing much right now anyway, except banging your head against the wall, perhaps looking for jobs that may or may not be there (but the work still needs to get done!). Present yourself as a freelancer, and it's quite possible the more doors will swing open for you.

At least, that's what said yesterday. And that's what I've been saying for the last 20 years.

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1 comment:

  1. In HR, I recommend to everyone that they check and double check their references. Espcially in this freelance position, references can be the key to landing a job. Make sure you know what your references are saying- I think a lot of people would be suprised. Try using a reference checking site to see what they are saying if you're not sure. Check out or for more info.