Update Your Resume, Update Your Life

July 23 2012

How can you keep your skills and your resume fresh, even during periods of unemployment?

If you have an in-demand skill, you can make the most of your job skills by doing freelance or contract work in your field. Potential employers will be impressed with your perseverance, and you’ll be able to keep some money coming in when you’re not getting a regular paycheck.

Who Can Freelance?
There are many fields and skills which rely on contracted workers instead of full-time employees to meet their needs.   Contract work can range from highly skilled fields like programming or writing to administrative work such as transcription or data entry.  Creative fields, such as digital artists or graphic designers are often in demand as well.

How to Start Freelancing
There are several paths to freelancing work, the best method will depend on individual skills and circumstances.

  1. Use your existing network.  If you’ve already developed a great list of contacts in your filed, the first step to freelancing will be asking those you already know if they have or know of any opportunities for a contractor with your skills.
  2. Use a freelancing website.  There are several popular sites, including Elance (http://www.elance.com), oDesk (https://www.odesk.com) and Rent-A-Coder, which work in a similar fashion to auction sites.  Employer post freelancing jobs and contract workers who are members of the respective sites bid on jobs.  Employers pick the best candidate based on skills, experience and price, and the website serves as an intermediary.
  3. Use a social networking site.  With the many social networking platforms available today, there are just as many ways to find work by using your digital networks.  Advertise your services on Twitter (http://www.twitter.com) or Craigslist and LinkedIn (http://www.linkedin.com) contacts or even more specialized sites like DeviantArt or tumblr (http://www.tumblr.com). )

There are pros and cons for each choice.

Using your pre-existing network of business contacts will likely help you find work that is specifically tailored to your skillset, and it is probably the best opportunity to get the highest amount of compensation.  It requires the contractor to manage their own contracts and payments, which means invoicing and sometimes chasing down money for services rendered.

Freelancing websites will help facilitate connections, contracts and payments, but they do so for a fee.  Some only charge a percentage on final payment, but some also require a monthly membership fee for contractors seeking work.   Competing against many other contractors can be daunting for some contractors, and new contractors may find it challenging to land their first contract.  Many jobs pay well below typical market value, but most freelancing sites have a balance between employers who want the most work for the least amount of money and employers who will pay well for talent, reliability and experience.  All three of the freelancing sites I mentioned have a system in place to protect both employers and contractors from fraud.

Using your social networks has a mix of pros and cons from both choices above.  It takes more hustle and paperwork to manage your contract work independently, and it will require a larger time commitment to simply find available jobs than it would through a freelancing site.  Working within existing networks means it’s easier to find someone to vouch for your skills and abilities who has directly worked with you.

How Freelancing Helps Your Job Hunt
While many employers in the current economic climate are used to seeing really talented people with gaps in their work history due to downsizing, taking the initiative to keep working on your own during your caps will show a potential employer that you’re a hard worker, you’re not afraid to show initiative and you have an active network in your field.

Additionally, being out of work for even a short amount of time can be detrimental to your skills.  We all know that every field is constantly changing, especially in a challenging economy when companies are scrambling to find the best practices that can keep them in business.  Freelancing allows you to keep up with current trends as well as keeping your job skills sharp and ready to tackle any challenge.

Freelancing can be a great way to keep you, your skills and your wallet at your best while you look for work.

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