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  • Diana Schneidman

Try freelancing and consulting: the proactive alternative to unemployment

In light of disturbing unemployment figures, consider freelancing and consulting as short term—or even permanent—alternatives to the job hunt.[heading 3]

The U.S. Labor Department has reported that unemployment fell to 8.9% in February, the lowest level since April 2009.

That’s a good sign—if you don’t look beyond this one number.

In a moment, this article explores some of those other, less rosy numbers.

But first I want to frame this article in a positive light. I recommend that you consider freelancing and consulting as short term—or even permanent—alternatives to the job hunt.

I’ve been unemployed more than once, and each time I landed well-paying and intellectually fulfilling work as a self-employed freelancer and consultant.

In most instances I continued to pursue full-time jobs while challenging assignments from business clients boosted my morale, kept me in touch with my industry and brought in attractive fees.

Though I have been freelancing and consulting for years, I continue to find new clients by telephoning (also called cold calling). And I find that it works better now than it ever has.


Back years ago, the people I phoned in large companies were unfamiliar with freelancers. Many had never worked with them before. And they did not plan to ever use them because their departments were fully staffed.

Now executives are quite comfortable with the concept. And as staffing has thinned, they are open to ways to ease their workloads. I assure them that I can get the job done independently. They’ll get very professional work, as good as or even better than what they got from their employees, no hand-holding required.

How to get started?

The first step is to decide to move forward. Depending on the hardware, software and other purchases required for your work, it may cost you nothing at all to give freelancing and consulting a try. And if you organize your time well, you can seek solopro and corporate jobs at the same time.

Is it worth the effort?

Yes! Especially when you understand the unemployment data more fully.

Experts attribute the moderate unemployment figure in part to continued low rates of labor force participation, noting that if the participation rate was the same as it was before the recession, the jobless rate would be considerably higher at 11.5%

Government data actually provide six different unemployment measures. The most inclusive is U-6, which includes the short-term discouraged and those who work part-time because they cannot obtain full-time employment. The February figure for this group is 15.9%.

Equally disconcerting are the numbers of long-term unemployed.

The Pew Charitable Trusts report that as of December 2010:

  • Over 30% of the formally unemployed had been unemployed for more than a year.

  • More than 40% of the unemployed over age 55 have been idle for at least one year, meaning that long-term unemployment is more likely among older people.

  • Among the long-term unemployed, higher levels of education do not assure employment. Thirty-one percent of those with a bachelor’s degree have been unemployed for a year or more, versus 36% of high school graduates and 33% of high school drop-outs.

From a societal perspective, the solution is job creation. But from an individual perspective, the solution is solo employment.

Originally posted 3-7-11

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