Independent Contracting 101

Kristi Patrice Carter, J.D.

contractorThere are many different independent contractors that specialize in a myriad of different industries, from security clearance jobs to cosmetic sales to Web site design.

While independent contractors work for a specific company or person, they are usually their own bosses. They enjoy a level of freedom as an expert in their industry, to choose their clients or "bosses" as they see fit.

What is Independent Contracting?

Independent contractors are individuals who choose a specialized industry and learn as much as possible about that industry. For instance, a freelance writer may work with many different companies as an independent contractor -- but that writer has to take the time and make the effort to learn as much about his or her industry as possible so that they can provide their clients with the latest trending services and written projects. The independent contractor is typically paid per job, or for several sets of jobs depending upon the agreement between him/her and the company they're working for at the time.

Many independent contractors, such as those who handle classified or sensitive jobs, will work with a particular company for a very long time -- but they're still considered independent contractors. The company simply has to be willing to approve them and pay the fee. Kathleen Smith of, says "ICs are typically individuals who have a specialized skill set that allows them to charge a higher fee for specialized work for a short period of time. Since most security-cleared work is based on government contracts, and these contracts have set pay schedules, the fees for the ICs are typically too high. In addition, ICs are considered a third-party vendor and would have to be approved by the original government customer."

How One Becomes an Independent Contractor

Typically, an individual will simply decide that the 9-to-5 life is not for them -- and that they'd like to be in control of their own hours, pay and company. This is what starts someone on the path to becoming an independent contractor. Taking as many classes as possible and learning the trade they've chosen as well as they can is the next step, which can take several years. In fact, many independent contractors will say that they never stop learning. As the industry changes, they must be able to adapt and change with it in order to keep their business successful.

Finding jobs with different companies is as easy as applying or sending a resume, but this doesn't mean it's that simple. Lots of independent contractors work their way up, earning trust and a loyal clientele so that their business is thriving and successful. There are Web sites and other resources for some independent contractors, like Web site coders, writers and even security-clearance professionals. This is where those individuals can go and apply for jobs quickly or browse through what is available.

Another important way independent contractors find work is through recommendations or word-of-mouth. Think about it: Would you be more likely to use a service recommended by someone you know or one that you just stumbled upon? Independent contractors need a lot of self-motivation, dedication and drive to become successful, but it's certainly possible no matter what industry they're in.

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