Selling your services as a freelancer or contractor in this dicey economy can be daunting and lonely work. These sites provide some moral support in addition to markets for your expertise.
Freelance market. Elance.com lists 130,000 "experts" - people who have registered to provide their services as computer programmers, writers, bookkeepers, public relations consultants, engineers, translators and typists. The site acts as middleman. Contractors compete for work by bidding on jobs. Elance handles payments, through an escrow fund. But, for the freelancers, or "providers," 4 percent to 6 percent of the fee you charge will go to the Web site.
Gurus to go. A similar service that involves bids, Guru.com claims 100,000 "active freelance profiles." The company, based in Pittsburgh, allows freelancers to post video profiles to showcase themselves and their work. These services blur world boundaries, as 44 percent of the people who are offering to do piecework as, among many things, Web designers, programmers, telemarketers, photographers and consultants of all stripes, live outside the United States, mainly in India, Canada and Ukraine, according to the site.
Solo gigs. The Sologig home page popped up with a display of available job projects in our immediate area for a behavioral-specialist consultant, a customer-service rep experienced with SAP software, a database administrator, and an industrial-hygiene specialist, among others. Besides postings that independent workers respond to (no bidding in this case), employers can search the resume database. On this site, employers pay, not the freelancers.
Freelance tips. For advice and updates on issues of concern to freelance workers - taxes, self-promotion and time management, for example - the Freelance Switch site carries a blog, podcasts, job board, forums and other tools for operating as your own boss. Posts we saw covered personal accountability, and the awkwardness of seeing "permanent" employees come and go at the companies you do work for.