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Top Four Rules of Freelance

Kate Lorenz, Editor

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It's the dream of many -- setting your own hours, leaving corporate politics, maybe working from home. "The latest economic downturn has spurred many executives to consider what they want from their careers -- more flexibility, less politics, new challenges," says Sean Bisceglia, CEO of CPRi, a marketing staffing and insourcing firm.

But, as many successful freelance and contract workers will testify, to go it alone successfully you must consider a number of factors: market demand, your personal needs and abilities, how to maintain your skills over time, and how to structure your business. Here are Bisceglia's top four fundamentals of freelancing:

The Pink Panther Postulate:
"Before you find what you're looking for, you've got to do some investigating."

Do your homework. Some careers lend themselves more readily to freelance and contract work than others. Marketing, writing, Web site and graphic design, accounting, IT, computer services, and other careers offer numerous freelance or contract opportunities. A quick glance at can give you an overview of the variety and volume of opportunities and average pay scales.

Holmes' Addendum to Panther's Postulate:
"Once you've got a clue, what are you going to do with it?"

Once you know what you have to offer, who is going to buy it? Many freelancers and contract workers start their business with an enabling client -- a previous employer or customers of a previous employer. "While I worked as a graphic designer for a printer, I found many of its clients needed a designer for the materials they wanted to print. I leveraged my relationships with these clients to launch my now-15-year freelance business," explains Andrea Barnish of Luna Design.

Networking is required to keep a freelance business afloat. "Joining the chamber of commerce and volunteering for leadership positions in associations, local events and charities has garnered much of my business," Barnish says.

Contract work -- working part- or full-time for a company for a specified project or period of time -- is an alternative method of freelancing that fulfills the goals of those who wish to escape the corporate treadmill, broaden their resume or transition back into the workforce after a hiatus. Contract work can be found on or through an interim placement firm like CPRi. Formerly the director of marketing research at Dr Pepper for more than 15 years, Alexander Swan is now an associate of CPRi and works as research manager for a CPRi client. "I no longer have the stresses of dealing with internal issues not aligned to my work, or in managing people and budgets. I can concentrate on the truly enjoyable vocation of marketing research," Swan says.

The No Fudging Formula:
"You can do what you do, where you want to do it, if you do it well."

There's no fudging in freelancing. The only way to be successful is to garner repeat business. That means you have to honest with yourself about your abilities. Are you self-motivated? Can you stay focused if you're working from home? "Nearly all clients have a budget that you have to work within. You have to create quality work in a limited timeframe to keep your clients," says Barnish. Excellence is required in contract work as well. "We receive 3900 resumes a week and on average we choose only 5 percent for our database of 15,000 marketers in order to deliver quality to our clients," says Bisceglia.

The Rule of Recompense:
"'Just Do It' if you can afford it."

Take a long hard look at your financial situation beyond income. Do you have access to benefits through a spouse or relative? If not, what would health, life and disability insurance cost you? What about retirement savings and your taxable income structure? What investments would you have to make in your new business for equipment, continuing education, business insurance and other expenses? Contract associates with CPRi don't have to go without benefits and a W-2. "To attract the best talent for our clients, we put our 400-plus contract senior marketing professionals on our payroll with full health and 401K benefits and quarterly training in the contract associate's field of expertise," Bisceglia explains.

With proper planning and honest personal evaluation, freelance and contract work can be highly rewarding. "Not only do I control my own destiny, but my talent is validated every time a client chooses to rehire me. It's tremendously fulfilling," Barnish says.


Kate Lorenz is the article and advice editor for She researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues. Other writers contributed to this article.

Last Updated: 24/09/2007 - 3:50 PM

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