Stabilizing a Solo Specialty - Specialization Week
ADDITIONAL CONTRIBUTORS Courtney Garcia

Lecture at a freelance camp. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

When the economy hit a slump several years ago, out of work and disillusioned Americans shifted their sights from full-time jobs to what many began calling freelance “gigs,” contract positions that are now a rising influential sector in the U.S. job market.

According to NBCNews.com, “an estimated one-third of U.S. workers — more than 42 million men and women — no longer report to traditional 9-to-5 jobs.” Instead, these laborers are making ends meet by adding up the amalgamation of their freelance work.

“The freelancer market…has grown considerably over the past few years,” Rich Pearson, Chief Marketing Officer of Elance.com, a freelance job site, tells BTR. “There are now two million freelancers registered on Elance, a 64 percent increase in the past year and nearly 350 percent increase over three years ago. Many did start freelancing because they were laid off or are unable to find a full-time job, but we are seeing more people freelancing full-time because they enjoy the flexibility and opportunities that freelancing offers. In our latest freelance survey, respondents indicated that the uncertainty in the economy hadn’t slowed them down; 42 percent experienced an increase in their workload over the past year.”

According to Pearson, prospective job hunters that use the site range notably in interest areas, from creative ventures such as writing, design, and web and mobile app development to more traditional endeavors in the legal, accounting and architectural fields.

“Voice and video talent are also highly sought after skills,” he points out.

Elance is among several freelance job discovery sources online, including Freelancer.com and oDesk.com, all of which are beneficial to both those seeking work and their employers. On the sites, interested parties create profiles much like they would on a social network such as LinkedIn, listing their skills, their resume and references along with the rate at which they charge for services. For those enlisting help, an employer posts a note describing the job, time span and offer, and opens it up for applications. Those interested can apply or are often recruited, and negotiations can happen through the site as well.

“Independent contractors on Elance have access to a potential global client base and get guaranteed pay for work delivered,” Pearson comments. “[For employers], there are three main benefits: 1. Access to a greater pool of talent, 2. Speed of getting projects done, and 3. Cost savings. Staffing agencies have fees that can range from 30-50 percent, whereas Elance charges less than 10 percent. And unlike online job boards that charge businesses a fee to post each job without guarantees, businesses on Elance pay only when the work is completed.”

With new options for employment and recruitment, many job seekers have found this type of work a viable option. In fact, NBCNews.com suggests that their 42 million estimate may even be considered low to some, noting that The Bureau of Labor reports “8.6 million people involuntarily worked part-time jobs in September for economic reasons,” and “more than 18 million people, however, indicated they work part-time to fit their lifestyles.”

A report on ConsumerAffairs.com similarly mentioned that research done by The Human Capital Institute shows that the pool of freelance workers is growing at more than twice the rate of the full-time work force, and that another labor bureau study found that about one in nine American workers is self-employed at all levels of skill.

With such an increasing field of interest, Pearson advises potential freelancers to take the time and attention necessary to look good on paper, as they say. The same amount of energy people put into looking good on their Facebook pages should be attributed to concocting a thorough job profile, as the competition is becoming fierce.

“The most successful freelancers are the ones who stand out from the crowd,” he explains. “The first step would be to determine what skills you already have so you can market them to potential clients. Showcase your work and highlight your expertise by creating a digital profile page with your best portfolio of work. When first starting out, make sure you add your own personality when you contact potential employers. And don’t be shy! Be proactive and show interest in potential jobs so you can build up your portfolio and work history.”

Off to the races!

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