Make A Living While Searching For Dream Job

Business woman working on smart device.
Maybe you've got your heart set on a fulltime staff job. Maybe you want to pick up right where you left off with an office, year-end bonus, healthcare and retirement benefits. Fingers crossed, you wind up with everything on your wish list. But how will you pay the bills and keep your skills active and growing in the meantime?

Just maybe your strategy won't work out the way you planned.The days become weeks become months and you still don't have that dream job. Perhaps it's time to implement Plan B - Freelance and/or Contract Work. Or maybe bypass the wait and start right in on finding some temporary work. If the best time to find a job is while you have a job, then now is the time to act on Plan B.

The number of companies hiring temporary, freelance and contract workers is increasing and the opportunities definitely include highly skilled, professional positions. The new workplace reality requires everyone to be much more creative, flexible and entrepreneurial. Taking on a freelance or contract gig will get you paid, keep you busy and potentially lead to your next job.

Reach out to all your contacts and inquire not only about staff jobs, but freelance opportunities. Many companies will bring on temporary help much more quickly and easily than permanent help. Keep an eye out for job openings you want to pursue. Offer to do the job as a temp while they focus on the search. A close friend in the broadcast and cable industry suggested herself as a temporary solution during an interview and wound up with the job after working there for only a week.

I've spent two sizable chunks of my career as a freelance/contract worker and they were two of the most productive and rewarding periods of work experience I've had. It required me to take charge of my destiny and not rely on a company to take care of me. Scary yes, but the self-reliance, success and independence gained far outweighed the risk and uncertainty.

Establishing limits and rates
The first time around I was stuck in a dead-end job and couldn't find another staff gig anywhere. Once I took the leap and went out on my own the offers for freelance work popped up everywhere. Initially, I took almost everything at any day rate, but I quickly learned to establish limits and take the jobs I really wanted at a competitive rate.

I had the opportunity to work for at least a dozen different companies, met a ton of great new contacts and produced a formidable body of new work. I was so busy I stopped looking for a new job, but the work ultimately led to a great staff position.

Currently I am steadily freelancing and exploring contract work again. After over a decade of bonuses and benefits it was tough to adjust to the less stable world of freelance, but the discipline and self-motivation I acquired the first time around have rapidly returned. Once again I am handling business development, marketing, accounting for my one-man shop.

There is some debate as to how to list contract and freelance work on your resume and LinkedIn. Some will list longer-term contract positions as actual jobs; perhaps adding "Consultant" to their title, while others will create a company name (John Doe Consulting) and list himself or herself as "President" or "Principal." Then they will list the companies they provided services for as clients.

Contract and freelance work comes with both positives and negatives. Here are just a few that I seem to encounter just about every day.

The Upside
You're getting paid!!
Little or no office politics
New opportunities
New clients and contacts
You're your own boss

The Downside
No benefits or bonuses
No healthcare
Little or no job security
No paid sick days, vacation or overtime
Not included in company decisions
Not invited to meetings (maybe this is an upside!)
Largely invisible within a company

Pros and cons of agency route
Some may choose to go through a freelance or consulting agency rather than handling the business side on their own. The agency finds the work and negotiates the fees. This allows you to focus on what you do best while the agency does all the accounting and administrative work.

Understand that any agency will take a cut and this reduces the amount of money you will make. If you have great contacts, you may want to forgo the agency route. However, if you don't want to pitch yourself and handle the business side, it may be the right choice for you. AND you will get paid faster. They also pre-screen the clients. Another caveat, an agency may make it tougher to take a staff job with a client.

The best way to find an agency is to do your research. Talk to colleagues, poll your contacts and learn what agencies handle your skillset in your market. This is also a great discussion for LinkedIn groups. The more you know going in the better your experience will be.

Be careful what you sign
On any freelance or contract opportunity be VERY careful what you sign! Read the fine print. There are often non-compete or non-disclosure clauses as well as other hidden surprises. Watch out for contracts that won't allow you to leave if a better job comes up. Don't be afraid to say no and walk away. I've done it and the clients came back with a much better, less restrictive contract.

Ultimately, freelance and contract work gets you off the couch and back in the workforce. You may wind up in the right place at the right time for a terrific opportunity. Perhaps the skills and experience you gain may push you to build your own business. Either way, the upside outweighs the downside and keeps you on a path moving forward. Please share your experiences in comments.
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