While the economy has been showing improvement, companies in many industries are leery of hiring full-timers right now, since it's expensive and a bit of a risk. Many businesses are turning to contractors and freelancers as a stopgap until they're ready to hire full-time.
The Benefits to Contracting
If you're having trouble finding the full-time job you really want, consider working as a contractor. Being open to it can position you to receive many more opportunities, both short-term and long.
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One fantastic benefit is the pay. You may earn more than you would comparatively for a full-time position (breaking it down on an hourly basis). And even if you only work for a few months, it's a great way to supplement your income while continuing to keep your skills sharp.
Another benefit is that you'll get to prove yourself on a temporary basis, which increases your odds of being hired full-time down the road. You'll get to know the right people while working at a company, which will give you an advantage should a full-time role open up. In fact, many companies use contractors specifically for that purpose: if you're not up to snuff, they simply terminate your contract. But if you do well, a salaried position is waiting with your name on it.
The Drawbacks of Contracting
Contracting isn't for everyone. For instance, you won't receive health benefits as you probably would if you were a full-time employee. That's a turn-off for many, although you still can purchase your own individual policy. eHealthInsurance.com is one resource for researching and purchasing health insurance if you go the consulting route.
Another potential drawback is that you're not guaranteed a full-time position after your project term is over—even if you did stellar work. That puts you back in the same situation of looking for a job, or another contract position.
As you become busy with freelance assignments, it's easy to let your full-time job search fall by the wayside. In general, the longer you stay out of the full-time job market and focus on freelance opportunities, the easier it is for employers to peg you as a career freelancer. Not that it is necessarily a negative perception, but it is an important consideration if your goal is to freelance temporarily.
How to Prove Yourself
If you're hired as a contractor, make the most of the role to increase your chances of receiving a full-time offer.
Over deliver: Beat deadlines and expectations consistently. Make sure you understand your clients' needs and the assignment deliverables. Set clear expectations upfront and don't take on projects for which you aren't well suited.
Network: Get to know the company's decision makers to firmly place yourself in the culture. Solidifying these relationships will ensure you receive recommendations for future assignment, and potentially full-time work with the company or through a referral.
Show your value: Consider creating a weekly or monthly tracking report to show your client your value. By tracking your client's goals and your tasks related to helping them achieve those goals, you can demonstrate in quantifiable ways how your participation brings the company value. This gives your client more reasons to consider you for a full-time role, or to extend new freelance opportunities.
How to Find Contracting Work
Recruiters, direct employers, your network, and websites specializing in contract gigs are all places to use in your quest to find a freelance assignment.
Many recruiters who specialize in your field may also work for companies who fill interim roles or get frequent requests from clients for freelancers. Let the recruiters with whom you have a relationship know you are interested in freelancing. They will probably have a sense of whether their clients often hire contractors in permanent positions.
Look on websites like Elance, Craigslist, and Guru for temporary postings. Elance and Guru allow you to set up a profile in your expertise area (the basic profiles are free, and then you pay for more advanced options). You can bid on any projects for which you're qualified and potential clients can contact you directly.
Check other job boards under "temporary," "freelance," or "contracting" positions. They may not correctly categorize contractor positions, so use the search function wisely.
You should also connect with companies you'd like to work with, and pitch yourself as a good, cost-effective alternative to hiring full time for short projects. If nothing is available now, they can contact you later if something opens up. Having a contractor waiting in the wings is a major appeal to a cash-conscious company.
Lindsay Olson is a founding partner and public relations recruiter with Paradigm Staffing and Hoojobs, a niche job board for public relations, communications, and social media jobs. She blogs at LindsayOlson.com, where she discusses recruiting and job search issues.