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Freelance work growing in popularity

April 2, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
With the unemployment rate hitting the highest it's been in more than 20 years, finding a job right now is no easy task. Those tired of pounding the pavement are taking their search online, scouring freelance sites for jobs to help pay the bills. Eva Travers was a full-time working mom with two teenage sons when she got her layoff notice this past fall.

"I kind of saw it coming with the way the economy was and changes that were happening in the company," said Travers.

So she proactively put out feelers, and on the advice of colleagues, turned to a job site that specializes in freelance work. She posted a profile on Elance.com, one of the several work sites growing in popularity as the economy declines.

"More and more people are taking up part-time roles, project jobs, freelancing positions," said John Challenger, an employment consultant for Challenger, Gray & Christmas. "A lot of them, in fact, want to find full-time work, but they are willing to do these during this very difficult time."

In fact, over the past five months, the number of new users has either doubled or increased by 50 percent on the four leading destinations.

Challenger says a growing number of businesses are also using these sites to outsource projects. That's led to a big increase in job postings since September, but the rising unemployment rate is also making the competition stiff.

"Going to a freelance site certainly is no short ticket to getting the projects you want," said Challenger. "You have to fight and push for them just like you would look for a full-time job."

The sites are easy to use once you register. On some, basic membership is free. Others charge a monthly fee. Upgrades cost more.

Once you list your qualifications in a profile, you can start bidding on job postings. If you do get one, it could open a door to more.

"For individuals going to a freelancing kind of situation, it is not all bad because you can take a project on, if you can find it, that might be an audition for a full-time job," said Challenger.

So far, Eva Travers has been lucky, completing 30 jobs since October.

"I'm very, very pleased and I don't see myself going back to work for anybody else on a full-time basis," said Travers.

The top skills in demand on the sites are computer and software development, Web design and marketing, and writing. In order to compete for these jobs, experts suggest you create a strong profile and search for opportunities that match your skill set.


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