As the U.S. job market still limps toward recovery, there is a burgeoning pocket of Americans who are finding employment on their own terms.
According to different research outlets, thousands of people are now embracing what it means to be a freelancer — and are turning that into their own career.
“There are two reasons people become freelancers,” says Steve Slaunwhite, co-author of the book, “The Wealthy Freelancer.” “They either have to or they wanted to. I wanted to.”
Slaunwhite runs a successful speaking and coaching business and asserts that freelancing has become a reality in these economic times. He says that he believes if a person is smart, they can use it to their advantage.
“It’s all about your mind-set,” he explains. “You need to think about your freelance business as a business.”
His business began 15 years ago, before the recession. With a background in marketing, he had been working for another company for 10 years, but always disliked the notion of having a boss.
“I had a burning desire to be self-employed,” he says. “I just wasn’t a good employee. I didn’t see my success in an employment situation, working for someone else. I wanted to have more control over the projects that I do and the people I work with, and control over my schedule.”
He admits he had the stability of a paycheck, and the work was comfortable. “But I just didn’t see myself flourishing,” he says.
Sure enough, he embarked on a freelance career that now includes teaching people how to create their own successful businesses based on the individual’s talents.
“If you have a skill that is marketable [like] writing, photography, consulting or design, or computer programming, that’s important,” he says. “You must have that.”
However, that mind-set may be a little more challenging for a person who has recently been “downsized” out of a job.
How can people believe they have a valuable skill when they were just told their services are no longer needed? Very easily, Slaunwhite argues.
“If your industry is downsized, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the work in those companies doesn’t need to be done,” he says. “The work still needs to be done. Sometimes what companies will do when they are downsizing [is] just use more freelancers than before. Sometimes there are even more opportunities for freelancers in an industry that has laid off a lot of people.”
He insists it’s all about creative thinking. “Let’s take the case of a journalist,” he says. “A journalist has great interview skills, writing skills, organizational skills. Those are marketable skills in many industries. There are a lot of corporate clients that need those skills.”
Slaunwhite emphasizes that just because newspapers and magazines aren’t hiring doesn’t mean a journalist’s skills are not in demand in other places.
“Marketing communications and public relations communications are looking for those skills, and there’s not enough people to address that demand,” he says.
For those who haven’t been downsized yet, Slaunwhite says thinking about the next step is crucial. “You have a full-time job now,” he explains. “You don’t want to jeopardize that. Many freelancers moonlight on the side until they build up enough clients and build up enough project work — until they get to that happy day when they walk into their employer and say ‘I quit. I’m going out on my own.”
For those who aren’t that lucky, being let go can be a boon, too — for obvious reasons. “The good news,” Slaunwhite says, “is they have more time to devote to their business.”
In fact, one of the co-authors of the book found himself in that position.
“Pete Savage was fired on a Friday,” Slaunwhite says. “He started his freelance business Monday. If you find yourself in the position where you are an ‘accidental freelancer,’ get in the right mind-set.”
Slaunwhite believes that every cloud has a silver lining that can line your wallet if you think strategically.
He explains, “If that is you — if you were forced into freelancing because you’ve been laid off or downsized, my advice is — look at it as an opportunity rather than a negative situation. Here’s an opportunity to create a job and work lifestyle for yourself that you control 100 percent. Look at it as an opportunity. This could be a great thing that has happened.”
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