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August 2009
By Laura House

If you’ve recently been part of a reduction in workforce, consider that pink slip your ticket to freelance freedom. Lindsey Pollak, a consultant and self-proclaimed Gen Y career and workplace expert, predicts that self-employment is the wave of the future because companies just aren’t that loyal to their employees anymore. Though freelance life may have its stresses, Meredith Haberfeld, a career coach at the Institute for Coaching, points out that designing your own days isn’t a bad perk. Here, their advice for getting yourself out there so your company can grow. Some tips may seem like common sense: You know you need a business card, but we tell you how to actually get one.

1 Make a business card
This is how people will get in touch with you, so list every possible outlet phone, cell phone, e-mail, website. But keep it professional and lose the wacky e-mail address (sorry, cutiepie_123@gmail.com). A short tag line is fine, says Haberfeld, but omit mission statements, affirmations or hokey quotes. VistaPrint (vistaprint.com, 42 designs are available for free, more customizable options start at 250 for $19.99) and Design Your Own Card (designyourowncard.com, 500 for $30) are thrifty good-quality options. Or splurge and get sleek cards from Moo (moo.com/en, 50 for $21.99).

2 Tighten up your resum’e
People seem to be ignoring that once-golden rule about keeping resum’e┬áto one page. Read it here two (or more) pages are not acceptable. It’s hard to get someone to look at even the first paragraph of your resum’e, Haberfeld says, so the shorter it is, the more likely it will hold someone’s attention. Keep it brief, but Pollak also cautions against gaping holes between projects; fill them in with volunteer or temp jobs.

3 Build a website
A Web presence is crucial (just ask Julia Allison), but not everyone knows the ins and outs of HTML. If that includes you, don’t worry. Our experts suggest bartering for services. A lot of Web designers are looking to gain experience, especially since business is slow right now, says Pollak. If you have a skill like writing, photography or bookkeeping, you can trade your services for theirs. Elance (elance.com), Craigslist (craigslist.org) and Guru (guru.com) are great places to seek out a Web buff.

4 Network
Once your materials are in order, it’s time to start making yourself known. Take advantage of social-networking sites, join professional organizations and attend events in your field. Haberfeld challenges freelancers to establish three new contacts every day. Even if you don’t make a business deal, at least you’re now on their radar and you had an excuse to leave the apartment.

5 Hold a mini focus group
Find out what potential clients think about you. Haberfeld recommends running your brand concept by three or four potential clients to gather feedback. Get their honest opinion of your services and how you present them, and make changes accordingly. But no matter the results, don’t get discouraged. There is an effort equation when starting something new, Haberfeld says. For every 100 units of effort you put in, you can expect one result. Put the energy in, consistently, no matter what, and the results start flowing in.