Freelancers are becoming a force to be reckoned with. According to the nonprofit organization Freelancers Union, there are 42 million independent workers (30 percent) in today's workforce.
The first objection many full-time workers have when considering whether to quit and freelance in their field is that they'd lose employee-sponsored health insurance. That argument is getting weaker now that there are more options available.
Freelancers Union, as well as organizations like the National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE), offer health insurance discounts. Because these groups have enough members to qualify for discounted insurance, freelancers can save a sizable amount compared to what they would pay for an individual policy.
Other options include keeping your Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) coverage temporarily; though expensive, this coverage (which gives workers continued benefits in a group plan for a limited time following job loss) may be worth it if you have a large family, or if you're purchasing a high deductible policy to cut down on your monthly premium costs.
For the same reason, freelance organizations like the ones mentioned above can offer discounts on health, life, and dental insurance. They can also offer discounts on other services, such as car rentals, hotels, and office supplies. If you're starting your freelance business, these cost savings can offset the expense of joining the organization (Freelancers Union is free, while NASE costs $120 a year).
An Easier Job Hunt
Many websites connect employers with freelancers, and we're starting to see more niche sites. Elance.com helps freelancers in engineering, marketing, consulting, design, programming, writing, administration, and legal industries connect with employers who need help. Freelancer.com, Odesk.com, and Guru.com also offer a wide range of gigs. Many companies also post projects on Craigslist.
If you're looking for niche sites, Junta42.com focuses on content marketing experts, while Sologig.com targets engineers and IT specialists. Setting up profiles on multiple sites can increase a freelancer's chance to find work.
You're Not Alone
There's never been a better time to become a freelancer, if you're looking for a support network. With social media rampant, you can easily connect with other freelancers to get advice on Twitter, or find a new gig through Facebook.
There are also online forums like TalkFreelance, FreelanceSwitch, and The FreelanceForum where you can get tips on how to market yourself and where to find jobs in your industry. They can provide a support base; this is especially key when you're working solo out of your home.
Co-working is another option. Co-working environments are becoming more popular and exist all over the country, especially in major cities. These are spaces where freelancers, remote workers, and other independent professionals come to work in a shared office space. They offer Internet access, office equipment, and conference rooms, but most importantly, a community of other like-minded professionals working independently and creating opportunities to collaborate. Working alongside other professionals fuels an energy and connectedness that working from home just doesn't provide.
Taking Advantage of What's Out There
As a freelancer, you've got an endless supply of online resources available for the asking. Use them to network with companies who might need your services, as well as learn more about running your own freelancing business and marketing yourself online. Many of these resources, including the job boards, are free for basic accounts. Test different ones to see which you like, and decide which might be worth joining to access a higher level of services.
Lindsay Olson is a founding partner and public relations recruiter with Paradigm Staffing and Hoojobs.com, 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.