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Going Indie: The Allure of the Freelance Life

By Nancy Collamer

Tired of being under-appreciated, under-valued, and under-utilized at your current job? 

If so, it might be time for you to take the plunge and escape the cubicle life by marketing your skills as an independent contractor.

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What is an independent contractor?

Put simply, if you work as an independent contractor (a.k.a., free agent, consultant, or freelancer) you will:

  • Provide services to a company on a project, per-diem, or hourly basis.  In exchange, your clients pay an agreed upon rate for services rendered.  The relationship is totally "at-will" and you can accept as few, or as many projects, as your schedule allows.
  • File and pay your own employment taxes and benefits, as well as the costs of marketing and managing your business

If you've accumulated at least 5-10 years of specialized knowledge and skills in the corporate world, there is a good chance that other companies would happily pay for your expertise on a freelance or consulting basis.  For example, if you have experience in corporate human resources, you could assist other companies with their hiring and recruiting function.  If you worked in corporate PR, you could sell your PR services to smaller firms who can't afford to hire their own in-house PR executive.

Think about the types of job duties you most enjoyed and then create a niche service that uses those skills to meet a pressing business problem. 

Who hires independent contractors?

These days just about every size company, from solo entrepreneurs to Fortune 100 corporations, take advantage of the business flexibility provided by qualified freelance professionals.  Outsourcing is cost effective and provides companies with the ability to respond to business needs without the burden of supporting a large payroll obligation.

Examples of assignments outsourced to free agents include:

  • Training and development projects
  • Writing assignments such as speech writing, development of marketing collateral and editing tasks
  • Consulting projects (e.g., efficiency studies, analysis of information systems, etc.)
  • Recruiting and hiring functions
  • Customer service and telemarketing functions
  • Secretarial and administrative support
  • Website development

Essentially any job function that falls outside the company's core business is fair game to be outsourced.

The Pros and Cons of the Indie Life

On the negative side of the equation, the inevitable peaks and valleys in work flow makes it difficult to plan your personal schedule and finances too far in advance.   You may have no work one month and then be up to midnight several nights in a row trying to get a project done.  This unpredictability can be difficult to handle.

But for many professionals, the challenges of the freelance life are easily offset by the benefits.  The option to work from home (at least part of the time), seize greater control over your earning power and work towards building your own business can combine to create a work option that may prove too alluring to ignore.  

More Information About Freelancing and Contracting


About the author...

Nancy Collamer, M.S.,is a career coach, speaker, and author of the new book Second-Act Careers: 50+ Ways to Profit from Your Passions During Semi-Retirement (Random House, 2013). In private practice since 1996, Nancy gained national prominence in her tenure as the Career Transitions columnist for Oxygen Media. She has spoken at venues ranging from Harvard Business School to the California Governors Conference on Women. Please connect with Nancy on Twitter @NancyCollamer and on her website at MyLifestyleCareer.com.


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Guide to Lifestyle-Friendly Careers:

Changing to a Lifestyle-Friendly Career

Home-Based Businesses:

Home-Based Jobs:


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Career Change Options:

Turning a Hobby into Income:

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