25 Million Freelancers and Counting

As a freelance writer and editor, I’m always interested in reading about how freelancing is growing in the United States. For instance, the U.S. Department of Labor reports that there are around 25 million freelancers in the country. Another recent survey finds that approximately 20 percent of employed Americans (one in five) work as freelancers or for themselves.

A recent blog on The New Entrepreneur (on Business Week’s Web site) talks about the “rise of the freelancer,” and how “freelancing is a permanent condition of our economy, not a temporary condition caused by the most recent economic crisis. … Freelancing has been on the rise for decades.”

The blogger writes that “these new freelancers have been celebrated for their independence and entrepreneurial spirit. They are the living example of Adam Smith’s economic actor. They live in the neo-liberal land of our new economy, beholden to no one and rising only by pluck and luck. There is no safety net, most labor laws do not cover them, and they have no benefits–only opportunities. They survive and thrive by their own wits.

“But freelancing is risky. The average freelancer takes no vacations, is scared of the future, and is always frantic to find the next gig. Freelancers do not balance work and family, instead they blend the two into a hybrid lifestyle. Much of the economic risk has been shifted to them and they feel it.”

I can personally attest to the difficulty in keeping my work life separate from my home life—and being a stay-at-home mother of four young children makes that a feat worthy of any circus some days! There’s the inevitable business calls around the lunch or dinner hour, especially since I often talk with article sources who live in different time zones. Nothing like a screaming toddler in the background to make you feel like a not-so-professional person!

But I’ve found most people have been very understanding of my work-from-home limitations, that sometimes there is that childish laughter or screaming when I pick up the phone (usually that starts after I answer, otherwise, I let the voice-mail pick up for me!). To me, this type of article is very encouraging, as it seems to point out the many opportunities there are for freelancers of every ilk and also how commonplace it is for a freelancer to call his office home, too.

Until next time,

Sarah

Health Care and Self-Employed Taxes

Recently, I came across this Business Week article (“The New EntrepreneurThe Self-Employment Tax: Into the Swamp”) that talked about how the current health-care reform bills would impact self-employed workers who purchase health care. While I am covered under my husband’s employer-provided plan, it was enlightening to read about the percentage the self-employed are taxed on healthcare premiums.

The article is also a very lucid description of how the self-employed (those who receive 1099 forms as contract workers) pay taxes. I highly recommend reading it–it certainly opened my eyes to exactly how my taxes are figured out and at what rate they are paid.

Check it out at http://www.businessweek.com/smallbiz/running_small_business/archives/2009/08/the_self-employ.html.

Worker, Beware

Once again, there’s another article about work-from-home scams, this one in a recent Washington Times edition (http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/jul/13/ads-for-big-money-can-just-be-scams/). The article beings as follows:

“The ads are everywhere: in your mailbox, online or tacked to telephone poles in your neighborhood.

They all make similar promises. Earn big money! Work at home!

With unemployment at a 25-year high and even people with seemingly secure jobs feeling uneasy, it can be tempting to respond to offers to turn your computer into a cash machine or help you earn big money for doing simple tasks. There are some legitimate work-at-home opportunities, but there are also countless scams that could cost you money — and even get you into trouble.”

Just a friendly reminder to thoroughly check out any job before committing to it–and especially if the company asks for upfront money!

Until next time,

Sarah

Veggie Stories

This growing season, I have the opportunity to blog about my CSA (community-supported agriculture) and the bounty I receive each week for the Washington Post’s food blog. Along with others who are CSA members, we talk about that week’s produce and what we will or will not be doing with it. Check it out at http://voices.washingtonpost.com/all-we-can-eat/csa-scout/csa-scout-when-a-farm-needs-to.html.

Until next time,

Sarah

Is Now a Good Time to be a Contract Worker?

A recent Business Week article (“Now Hiring: Contract Workers?”) seems to indicate that more firms are hiring contract workers instead of permanent employees, which can be great news for those of us who work from home. May employment data shows that businesses are keeping or hiring contract employees while staying wary of hiring full-time workers.

Something to think about if you’re looking for ideas to work from home. I’ll discuss specific ideas relating to contract work in the upcoming July “At Home News” e-newsletter, which you can sign up for free by clicking on the newsletter button at the top of the page.

Until next time,

Sarah

Pain and Misery Love Company

I had a scare last week when the left side of my jaw partially dislocated with a horrendous popping sound! I moved my jaw and another popping sound indicated the jaw was back in place. Both movements causing much pain and when I went to the emergency room (of course, this occurred on a Sunday!), I discovered that I had most likely stretched the ligaments around the jawbone and socket (TMJ). In layman’s terms, that means I had to eat soft foods and pray that the internal swelling would dissipate and my jaw would realign itself.

As I’ve had a week’s worth of soups and other soft foods (let’s just say my 11-month-old is eating crunchier foods than I am—and he has no teeth!), I’ve been reflecting on how the best-laid plans can go to pieces. Now, I should add that on top of my jaw discomfort, my kids have been sick and cranky, so my household hasn’t had the best week.

But what’s even more serious than that is how quickly my attitude goes downhill along with my physical discomfort and with the increasing whininess of my children. I couldn’t accomplish hardly anything on my lengthy to-do list.

It took me a few days to slow down enough to realize that perhaps this was my work this week—the cranky kids and my sore jaw. That I needed to focus not on what I wasn’t accomplishing from my to-do list but on what I could accomplish in relation to my children and myself.

So I tried being grateful for my aching jaw and for my children’s less-than-sunny dispositions. And I did just what needed to be done in regard to my freelance work, not what I wanted to be done.

I’m happy to report that just over a week later, my jaw is doing much better, my kids are finally over their illnesses and life in our home is nearly back to normal. That is, until school gets out next week.

Until next time,

Sarah

Jumping Into Summer

Our neighborhood pool opens tomorrow, and boy, are my kids excited! No matter that the water will be freezing, they can go swimming.

Summer might officially start June 21, but for many of us, Memorial Day heralds the beginning of summer. Summer is a wonderful time to take time to relax and let ourselves play hooky from work more often.

One of my summer goals is to plan some adventures with my children on a regular basis, remembering the adage that no one ever said they wished they had worked more. With careful planning, you can have a delightful summer and still accomplish all that you need to with your at-home business.

Until next time,

Sarah

Spring (Mind) Cleaning

Ah, spring is finally coming to Virginia. The birds have returned, the flowers are blooming, the trees are regaining their foilage. And my thoughts naturally turn to attacking those dust bunnies under my bed and other furniture.

When you think about spring cleaning, do not neglect to clear your mind. It might sound silly, but we all store junk in the far corners of our minds that need to get cleaned out every once in a while. Thoughts that need to be realigned, old habits that need to be rewired, those types of things.

By thinking of what’s going on in our mind, we can kind of restart ourselves on a new path, a path that can lead to better relationships, better business practices and a better us.

So as you’re cleaning your house and closets this spring, take a few minutes each day to think about cleaning out your mind, too.

Until next time,

Sarah