April 18, 2012

Last Saturday the New York Times ran an interesting article discussing the life of what they refer to as an independent or contingent worker.

We’d call that a freelancer.

But that’s nitpicking, isn’t it? Well, yeah...

Especially since the writer, Alexandra Levit, who was Money Magazine’s Best Online Career Expert in 2010, has a lot of interesting points on the topic. And she’s a very reliable source, not just because she’s writing for the Times, she’s also been an independent contractor herself since 2004. So who cares what you call it? We’re fans.

In the article she references a U.S. Government Accountability Office report which shows that 31% of the American workforce is independent or contingent. That was in 2006. She believes, and we agree, that since then, that figure can only have grown, since companies have been relying on freelancers during the recession to keep costs down and play it safe in a fragile economy.

And though she realizes freelancing has its great as well as its not-so-hot attributes, she’s a huge champion of the freelance lifestyle. She believes freelancers more “effectively manage their time and meet deadlines. They can sustain relationships in which they never meet colleagues and clients in person. They can work on a variety of unrelated projects without confusion or burnout, and are bullish about selling themselves, promoting their successful projects and getting access to the people, resources and training they need.”

She also cautions folks in a “permanent job” that they should look and see how the world is changing, and they should start to think that they won’t be in that permanent job forever. She quotes Patti Johnson, who started the HR firm PeopleResults, “I see many professionals acting like they will be at their organizations forever...The impact is that they will neglect their network and/or design their careers solely based on the company organization chart.”   

What’s her advice to freelancers trying to be as marketable as possible?

She strongly suggests (as did the freelancers we interviewed for our blog post), that independent professionals make sure to create their own peer networks, as well as strong profiles on sites like LinkedIn and Facebook.

But don’t take our word for it. Take a few minutes to read the article and let us know what you think!

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