The economic downturn of the United States followed by same in other nations during the recent past years has immensely transformed the outlook of the labor force. It is not an unusual scenario in a highly volatile and competitive global economy that companies would “want a workforce they can switch on and off as needed,” according to Ravin Jesuthasan , a compensation expert at Towers Perrin. This has created a seismic shift in the labor force away from traditional full-time jobs toward contract work, in the employees’ hopes of taking “control” of their own financial future.
Since 2009, about 30% of the US job market is comprised of part-time or temporary staffers, independent contractors, and the self-employed. Perhaps if this continues, this “contingent” workforce will grow to about 40% in the next decade as predicted by the experts.
Freelancing is expected to spread beyond its traditional structures to professions such as engineering, accounting, law, health care, and sales. All are now starting to rely heavily on contract work. According to Adam Sorensen, a compensation and benefits expert at Worldrat Work, an association of HR executives, “We’re in the early stages of what will be a really different era in the workplace, and a growing segment of workers will need to structure their career around this model.”
You may test the waters in the ocean of freelancing by finding what type of work you can land while still having a full-time job. There are numerous outside projects you can take on. The more common ones are consultations, teaching, or speaking engagements on the side. Make sure you have managed your commitments and schedules with your boss and present company before you moonlight.
How do you know which of your skills are in demand? You can start by studying the company that you work in. Try to see what job functions your employer is outsourcing. It is also helpful to visit websites that specialize in giving job offers to freelancers. Included among these are oDesk.com, Elance.com, Getafreelancer.com, Sologig.com, and Guru.com.
You could also go to the extreme. Start your own business. Now could be a good time to be starting your own company, if ever you have already thought about striking it out on your own. Ken Moore of the MIT Entrepreneurship Center stated that, even if the economy is mired with recession, rents and equipment are still cheap. He also points out that with the rising unemployment there are still plenty of highly skilled workers that you can hire.
This is not to suggest that starting a business will be easy, especially with the tight lending policies of the banks, that’s why it is advisable to start small. Don’t rush into giving up your steady paycheck just yet. Most entrepreneurs begin their businesses even while they are still in a full-time job, according to surveys.
Always be prepared for any possibility, whether you plan to do it on your own or not. Start networking. Be present in industry conferences, broaden your range of contacts, and spread word about your projects and opportunities you came across. It may be an old-fashioned advice, but why not try to do a favor for a freelancer today. Perhaps, in the future the favor might be returned.