Charlene Boudreaux was enjoying the fast-paced life of corporate finance until she was downsized not once, but twice. “The second time, I was working for a healthcare organization, when they trimmed my division and offered me a position on the East Coast,” recalls Boudreaux, who now lives in West Hollywood, California. Boudreaux chose not to switch coasts. Instead, the 34-year-old took the opportunity to strike out on her own and kick her freelance career into high gear. “I was sick and tired of corporate America, where you put 100% effort into something and they let you go,” says Boudreaux. “With freelancing, I have more control over my destiny. To a large degree I can pick and choose what I want to do.”
Boudreaux put her skills to work as a film/ entertainment marketing and public relations-specialist. She was hired by Italian motion picture company Cinecitta International to plan a major film retrospective of director Bernardo Bertolucci. Boudreaux and her partner, Venanzio Ciampa, of New York’s Cinema Media, also lined up celebrities and press for the splashy opening of New York City’s Fashion Cafe. And earlier this year, Boudreaux planned big media events to promote the Grand Prix in Miami and Long Beach, California. “It’s a lot of hard work and the hours stretch well into the night, but I love the creativity and control I have,” says the New Orleans native. The money isn’t bad either. “In this business you can earn an average of at least $40,000 working part time or as much as $300,000 working full time, depending on the kinds of contracts you get,” Boudreaux says.
Writers, photographers, graphic artists, computer technicians and management trainers are increasingly putting their skills to work for themselves. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 10.9 million people are currently self-employed. “There are a lot more opportunities today for people who want to work on their own,” says Priscilla Claman, president of Career Strategies Inc. in Boston. Most freelancers work for themselves, soliciting long- and short-term projects from a variety of companies. Contractors, another growing field, tend to work as temporary employees, on retainer for a particular organization. Freelancers are attractive to companies for many reasons. “Companies downsize, then hire freelancers and get the same amount of work done without having to pay health care or retirement benefits,” says Claman.
But hold on before you hand in your resignation. Freelancing isn’t as “free-style” as it may sound. Starting and maintaining a career as a freelancer takes careful planning. To keep clients and money rolling in, you need to develop a strategy and follow some basic steps.
GET YOUR FINANCIAL HOUSE IN ORDER
Full-time freelancing means saying good-bye to a steady paycheck. If you don’t have additional outside income, you need to accumulate savings to get started. Also lower your overhead. “One of the biggest mistakes I made when starting out was not getting rid of my personal debt,” says Antonio Roberson, a graphic designer living in Washington, D.C. “I fell behind on