It's a more viable alternative than ever, thanks to Websites like Guru.com and Freeagent.com. These sites hope to serve the growing community of freelancers with a myriad of services ranging from information on finding the best deals in health insurance to financial advice on filing taxes and investing in SEP-IRAs. Freeagent.com even offers free e-mail and free customizable "e-portfolios" with your very own URL. But what Guru and Freeagent offer most of all is the promise of great gigs.
At the heart of www.guru.com, to use this site as an example, is a sophisticated matching engine that sorts through a database to pair up potential employees with lucrative freelance jobs. A prospective guru (that is, a freelancer with expertise to sell) simply logs on, and -- stepping through a handful of intelligently laid out screens -- fills out a profile, lists credentials, cites past work experience, names a few references and checks off preferences for contract work. The entire process takes a matter of minutes. Prospects are logged into a database along with thousands of other freelancers. At last count, there were 75,000 gurus registered in the Guru.com database, with 1,000 more signing up each day.
Meanwhile, looking though the other end of the telescope are more than 5,000 potential employers who desperately need gurus. A cursory glance through the Creative & Media category lists designers, animators, illustrators, copy editors, information architects, writers and more. In the Web & Information Technology section, one can find coders, developers, network architects and system administrators. Other categories, for Business Strategy and Sales & Marketing, round out the offerings. It is, in short, a listing of just about all the staffers an up-and-coming dot-com needs before it launches and goes public.
If all this sounds like boy meets girl, don't be surprised. The first programmer hired at Guru.com came from the matchmaking service, Match.com. As with any network, whether it is a dating service, a telephone system or the Internet, the value of the network rises in proportion to the number of users on it. With the U.S. Bureau of Labor citing current statistics of 14 million self-employed, eight million contractors and three million temps, the potential pool of gurus and freeagents is a vast 25 million. You can make that 25 million and one. And be sure to buy extra jammies.