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Job hunters ought to consider freelancing as economy staggers

Employers are hiring freelancers.

Job hunters waiting to reclaim what they lost -- a payroll job with employee benefits -- need to reconsider.

A new business-confidence survey of 12,000 companies found that 47 percent planned to hire freelancers to handle the work they needed.

The survey was done by Regus, a "flexible workplace solutions" provider that wanted to measure the market for the office space and professional services, such as phone answering, that it sells to freelancers, independent contractors and self-employed workers.

Jeff Doughman, Regus regional vice president, said his company operates six locations in the Kansas City area, soon to be seven, providing offices for about 300 independent contractors and "virtual services" for up to 600 more.

At, a website that connects employers with contract workers, CEO Matt Barrie says that, thanks to technology, it has never been easier to go into business for oneself.

Much business software is free, such as Linux operating systems, MySQL databases, nginx Web servers and VoIP Internet phone service, Barrie said. And what's not free -- cloud computing, Google or Facebook ads, or payment gateways such as PayPal -- isn't very expensive.

And if that business startup talk is like a foreign language to would-be entrepreneurs, there are freelancers who can help set it all up.

Millions of self-employed workers have long earned their livelihoods job by job, but the sector is growing.

"We have clients who've been laid off two or three times since 2001," Doughman said. "They have skill sets that are needed, but they don't want to put themselves through hiring and firing again. They feel safer doing outsourced work."

Changing from employee to freelancer requires a different mindset. It means marketing oneself, chasing work instead of having it assigned, and providing one's own "employee benefits."

It can be a difficult change, but it has to be considered.

Barrie's advice: "Create a job. Don't take a job."

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