Freelance work a real option in tough economy

As times get tougher, many are turning to freelancing and contract work, transforming a trend that was once a lifestyle choice into a matter of economic survival.

Frustrated trying to find full-time work, more people are piecing together a living doing projects, consultancies and part-time gigs from home for an outside employer.

"These are the new jobs," says Sara Horowitz, executive director of Freelancers Union, a nonprofit advocacy group in New York.

Horowitz sees the entire scope of the work-from-home world changing. Today, the new project-to-project, paycheck-to-paycheck economy crosses the spectrum from low-wage workers to highly paid professionals in a variety of industries. People are finding short-term work on job boards, websites, professional associations and even from former employers.

Not counting the recent surge, freelancers made up 30 percent of all workers, according to the Freelancers Union.

Jacqueline d'Heere of Delray Beach has been working this way for six years. She does contract work on short-term projects to help companies with team building and business development. Lately, she's been getting calls from laid-off friends looking for help. Some, she says, took pay cuts and want to supplement their income.

"I tell them there is tons of work out there," d'Heere says. "Companies do not have the resources to pay full-time workers with benefit packages. I'm a much cheaper alternative."

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