The Accidental Freelancer's Survival Kit

Freelancing in the wake of a layoff? These 10 tips can help.

ByABC News
September 9, 2008, 6:15 PM

Feb. 5, 2009 — -- In January, Daily Beast editor-in-chief Tina Brown dubbed the current rotten job market the "Gig Economy," where both high earners and low earners increasingly find themselves cobbling together paychecks from a menagerie of freelance, contract and part-time work.

Suddenly media outlets from CNN to Newsweek followed suit, telling the freshly unemployed what those of us who've been freelancing and consulting for years already know: if you have skills to hawk, you can make a decent living hopping from project to project.

But merely welcoming this army of accidental freelancers to the self-employment club won't groom anyone for the challenges of running their own show.

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If you, too, have found yourself cast in the role of accidental freelancer -- presumably because you've had better luck finding project work than a staff job -- take heart. As someone who's been a full-time freelancer and contractor since 1992 (by design, not accident), I assure you that there is a method to this self-employed madness.

It doesn't matter if you're a writer, designer, programmer, marketer, builder, bookkeeper, recruiter or project manager; the principles of staying afloat as an independent worker are the same. Herewith, my top pointers for surviving your first freelance year:

I realize that as a newly minted freelancer, you're probably in that starry-eyed, "I heart my 10-second commute!" honeymoon phase. But unless you aspire to lead a very unbalanced life, find someplace to work other than your sleeping quarters (or, if you live in a studio, other than your bed).

Instead, set up a desk that's yours and yours alone and isn't visible from your bed or couch. Use a curtain if you have to. The point is to establish a bit of separation between work and play. Otherwise, the working from home thing gets old fast -- for you and anyone you live with.