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Have you been kicked to the curb by corporate America? Handed your walking papers by Wall Street? Given the boot by your boss? Well, if your dream is to work for yourself, now is the time to stop sending out your résumé and become an independent contractor.

Here’s the thing: independent contractors earn their livelihood from their own businesses instead of depending upon someone else’s 9-to-5 rut. Independent contractors are otherwise known as consultants, freelancers, self-employed, entrepreneurs, business owners, and sometimes as bums by their moms until the money starts coming in.

So do you want to hear the good news or the bad news about being self-employed?

Let’s start with the bad:

  • You won’t have job security.
  • You might not get paid.
  • You must pay self-employment taxes.
  • You may be personally liable for business debts.
  • You have no employer-provided benefits.

So what’s the good news you ask? Other than you’ve been set free, that you are now a free-range worker, that every ounce of time is now yours and yours alone?

Well, how about this? You are your own boss.

You may very well be paid more than those 9-to-5 worker bees.

No federal or state tax is withheld from your pay.

You can take a lot of increased business deductions.

You can work anywhere you wish. You also may work in your pajamas or less.

You will be happy with your work, and in turn happy with your life.

To find out more about the nuts and bolts of becoming an independent contractor or freelancer, here are some helpful sites:

  • Gofreelance.com
  • Homebusiness.about.com
  • nase.org

But not everyone is cut out for this life. Before you give those Gucci suits to the Goodwill and jump into the field of freelancing and sweatpants, ask yourself these three important questions before you run out of unemployment benefits.

Can you work alone? Sometimes it’s lonely when you first start working all… by… yourself. There are no coworkers to hang out with. No office parties and no drunken Happy Hours with staff. You may make friends who are self-employed and your business may take off like gangbusters, and you may even eventually have to hire help, but that’s probably down the line a bit. Just be sure you like spending time by yourself without the help of Jack Daniels.

Can you afford the life of an independent contractor? If you have thousands of dollars put aside to live on as you make your way in the world of the self-employed, then good for you. Quit looking for a corporate job and make the plunge. If you don’t have the cash, be wary. You’ll definitely need your own office, a computer, and a backup computer in case one is in the shop. You’ll need extra phone lines, business cards and everything else it takes to run a small company. Then you have to figure on checks trickling in slowly. You may live below the poverty line in the beginning, but it will be worth it when you are in Hawaii on a working vacation, fielding calls from clients while wearing a bathing suit and sipping a piña colada.

Can you be your own boss? No one is going to tell you not to go shopping or to the ballgame instead of making a deadline or calling a client. It’s all on your shoulders. Nobody is going to come into your office and hand you an assignment. You are that somebody, and only you can bring in the paycheck

You’re probably wondering what you have to offer the world. Maybe you’ve been stuck in an office with no windows your whole working life and you can’t begin to think of what you could do to earn a living now that you’re out on the street.

A couple of sites to get you going as a consultant are PowerHomeBiz.com and CareerOverview.com.

But maybe you have a creative side and business is just what you did to make your parents happy after you graduated from college. Let’s see if you can put that degree to some use.

Self-help industry. People want to improve every aspect of themselves. Not only that, but there are a lot of depressed people walking around who need and want someone to talk to. Potential freelance business ideas include: family therapist, time management consultant, and personal development coach.

Sites such as Bls.gov and Freelancesprout.com offer ideas that you can apply to real life and help the unstable folks out… for a price.

Business, career, freelance ideas. Custom blog designer, college application consultant, and Internet business plan writer are just some ideas. Check out Educationalconsulting.org and Saheltech.com to jumpstart your brain in these areas.

Health and wellness. From diets to niche disease support groups, the web has a million of these ideas.

Freelance businesses you can start: personal trainer, custom menu/grocery shopping developer, and weight loss coach. See exercise.about.com and consultantjournal.com to give you plenty to ponder in the health and wellness arenas.

Skills training. You have the degree on the wall so let’s start paying off the school loans. Freelance teaching is becoming a viable marketplace. You can be a freelance math tutor, singing or voice instructor, freelance athletic coach or foreign language instructor. Give yourself an A+ by checking out sites such as TutoringExchange.com and Alcinc.com.

You can build your own website with some of the many free templates offered on the web from Yahoo Small Business and others. The point is not to spend time on tasks that won’t make a difference to your bottom line. What is most important is getting the word out about your newfound business and selling yourself. After you cement your idea, and you buy your pens and build a snazzy website (don’t forget to add PayPal to your site for easy payment), selling is the only thing you need to be doing.

Once you make up your mind to work for yourself you’ll be set free. If you get lonely, join as many networking groups as you can find to form alliances and get referrals. Sometimes you need a reason to shower and get out of your sweatpants and T-shirt. Keep an open mind, stay flexible and optimistic and you’ll escape the 9- to-5 job rut forever. You now have the tools to make it on your own.

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