TIME, February 17
As the number of "free agents" - contractors, freelancers, and consultants - in America continues to rise, the workplace environment is rapidly evolving to offer more freedom and flexibility. Companies are hiring more free agents than ever before because they save money and acquire niche expertise to solve specific business problems. In 2009, companies hired 28% more freelancers, and now in 2012, they are hiring 36% more. In the current economy, this means that there is less job security. In response, IT professionals need to understand the resources and tools for remaining relevant to their organizations.
As Dan Schawbel points out, the biggest challenge you will have is to build a pipeline of client projects to survive and thrive on. There can be periods of time when you're looking for the next project, unlike a full-time gig where your manager delivers the next project right to you. You have to be a good salesperson and be able to develop relationships if you want to last in the business. By bonding together, you can share resources and have ongoing interactions with clients in a more scalable manner. You should refer jobs to other free agents because they might reciprocate in the future. Tap into freelance marketplaces. There are websites where you can bid on new projects, blogs with their own job boards and aggregation sites that compile opportunities for you, such as Elance.com or Freelancer.com
Whenever you're not working on a client project, you should be getting your name out there. This may become a full-time job when you start your freelance career, but as you grow your client base, it will turn into a part-time job, consuming about 15 hours out of your week. Create a website that shows case studies, your bio, a client list and samples of your work. From there, you should be going to industry events, blogging about your business, speaking at local associations and conferences, creating an e-mail newsletter to keep clients and potentials engaged, and writing articles for trade magazines and websites. While you're working with clients, search their job boards and ask your contacts about open positions when you see them. Start to look at your client as your employer by working longer hours, proposing solutions to problems and attending company events.
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