Working Without a Net

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During recessions, many laid-off professionals shun a return to traditional employment, opting instead for careers as independent contractors or consultants. On the surface, such a life seems attractive. After all, you get to be your own boss, and nowadays most full-time jobs don't offer true security anyway. On top of that, many employees self-fund much of their own retirement and benefit costs without much assistance from their employers. In addition, as CNN points out, there's a growing need for freelancers.

If you're considering self-employment, think carefully. It requires a broad skill set, self-discipline, self-insuring your unemployment and worker's compensation and paying for your own training costs. Ask yourself these four questions before deciding to move away from being a regular employee.

- Do you have in-demand skills? Demand for contractors is predicated upon experience and marketable skills. The more highly educated and highly skilled you are, the bigger the demand for your talents.

- Are you self-disciplined? Not only do you have to ignore the temptation to play hooky, but you have to deliver results unsupervised. You also need to set aside enough money to pay self-employment taxes and survive illness or lean times. Independent contractors are often the first to be let go during a downturn, and they aren't covered by unemployment insurance.

- Are you a good salesperson? At least 30 percent of your time will be spent marketing your talents, even when you have a gig.

- Are you adaptable? One minute you're marketing, the next you're sending bills and following up for payment. You have to adjust to new work environments and co-workers quite frequently.

If you answered yes to these questions, you might be cut out for an independent career.

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