The rise of freelance nation

Don't wait for the company to push you. Start thinking like an entrepreneur now.

EMAIL  |   PRINT  |   SHARE  |   RSS
google my aol my msn my yahoo! netvibes
Paste this link into your favorite RSS desktop reader
See all RSS FEEDS (close)
By Janice Revell, Carolyn Bigda and Donna Rosato, Money Magazine


(Money Magazine) -- Old: The seismic shift in the labor force away from traditional full-time jobs and toward contract work didn't start with this recession. But the downturn that began 17 months ago has certainly accelerated the transformation. In a highly competitive and volatile global economy, "companies want a workforce they can switch on and off as needed," says Ravin Jesuthasan, a compensation expert at Towers Perrin.

New: Today about 30% of the U.S. job market - roughly 42 million workers - is made up of independent contractors, part-time or temporary staffers, and the self-employed. By the end of the next decade, long after this recession is a distant memory, this "contingent" workforce will have grown to about 40% of the market, experts predict.

This trend is also expected to spread beyond traditional bastions of freelancing to professions such as accounting, engineering, health care, law and sales. All are already starting to rely more heavily on contract work.

"We're in the early stages of what will be a really different era in the work-place, and a growing segment of workers will need to structure their career around this model," says Adam Sorensen, a compensation and benefits expert at WorldatWork, an association of HR executives.

How you can profit

There's no use trying to avoid the inevitable, so get ahead of this curve. Now's the time to think and act entrepreneurially when it comes to your career. So dip a toe in the freelance waters to see what kind of work you can land while you still have your full-time job. Outside projects might include teaching, speaking, or consulting on the side. But be sure to check with your boss about conflicts before you moonlight.

Don't know which of your skills are in demand? Study your own company. See which job functions your employer is farming out. Also, visit various websites that specialize in matching up freelancers with firms. They include:,,, and

At the other extreme is starting your own business. If you've ever thought about striking out on your own, now could be a good time to be starting a company, says Ken Morse of the MIT Entrepreneurship Center. Sure, the economy is mired in recession, but rents and equipment are cheap. And Morse points out that with unemployment still rising, there are plenty of highly skilled workers you can hire.

That's not to say that starting a business will be easy, especially with bank lending still tight. That's why Pamela Slim, author of "Escape from Cubicle Nation," suggests starting small. And don't rush to give up your steady paycheck. Surveys show that most entrepreneurs start their businesses while still holding down a full-time job.

Whether you plan to go on your own or not, you have to be prepared for the possibility. So start networking. This means lunching regularly with contacts, going to industry conferences, and spreading the word about projects you come across. Do a favor for a freelancer today, and he or she might return the gesture later.

The downsizing of the U.S. consumer

The demise of the 'ownership society'

The era of new regulation

The return of volatility  To top of page

Send feedback to Money Magazine
They're hiring!These Fortune 100 employers have at least 350 openings each. What are they looking for in a new hire? More
If the Fortune 500 were a country...It would be the world's second-biggest economy. See how big companies' sales stack up against GDP over the past decade. More
Sponsored By:
More Galleries
10 of the most luxurious airline amenity kits When it comes to in-flight pampering, the amenity kits offered by these 10 airlines are the ultimate in luxury More
7 startups that want to improve your mental health From a text therapy platform to apps that push you reminders to breathe, these self-care startups offer help on a daily basis or in times of need. More
5 radical technologies that will change how you get to work From Uber's flying cars to the Hyperloop, these are some of the neatest transportation concepts in the works today. More
Worry about the hackers you don't know 
Crime syndicates and government organizations pose a much greater cyber threat than renegade hacker groups like Anonymous. Play
GE CEO: Bringing jobs back to the U.S. 
Jeff Immelt says the U.S. is a cost competitive market for advanced manufacturing and that GE is bringing jobs back from Mexico. Play
Hamster wheel and wedgie-powered transit 
Red Bull Creation challenges hackers and engineers to invent new modes of transportation. Play

Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2018 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2018. All rights reserved. Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor's Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2018 and/or its affiliates.