Freelancing in New York

In a climate where job cutting and prolonged unemployment continue unabated, many workers are throwing their hands up and looking for something better-freelancing. Even if the economy were stable, the shifting face of American workers-telecommuting even for full time jobs, willing to work a schedule other than 9-5 and job-sharers makes taking control over one's career as a worker for hire a more attractive option.

In New York, there are over 146,477 freelancers working in a variety of industries, particularly technology and digital media. The portability of laptops and fast WiFi connection makes freelancing a particularly attractive option. And as large companies continue to cut their IT and design departments, it means that many laid off workers can make more money working for themselves.

Before committing to freelancing, however, it's important to remember that not all freelancers are able to make a salary that is comparable or better than the can make as a full time employee. According to the New York Times, 29% of freelancers earn less than $25,000 a year, with 12% of all freelancers nationwide receiving some kind of public assistance. Freelancing may not always be the path to a pot of gold, bur for laid off workers or recent graduates, having some money coming in the door is a bonus.

In addition, while working at home can cut transportation costs, it also means that freelancers can suffer from social isolation. The community of independent contractors has begun to take steps to combat this isolation, starting with the Brooklyn based Freelancers Union. In addition to providing affordable group based insurance plans, the group serves as a labor union for workers who pride themselves on their independence. Members also benefit from the Union's efforts to create "hives" where workers in specific industries can congregate and network both online and in person in locations across the city.

Working from home has other perils for freelancers, including the problem of presenting one's home as a professional level office and the ability to collaborate with colleagues. Since long term rents on a private office in Manhattan the outer boroughs is out of reach for most freelancers, a new kind of office space has sprung up to service the self-employed.

Co-Working Spaces, Hubs and Hot Desking

When you're still in the start up or freelancing phase you may not yet be ready to shell out for traditional or even short term office space. The newest trend in office space geared towards the self employed goes by several names: Co-working space, hub and hot desking. Each term refers to a large communal office space that rents space to independent workers or even small companies for less than a traditional office space would cost. Across New York, there are over 50 co-working spaces located in every borough.

How much does it cost to try out co-working and hot desking sites? Not as much as you might fear. In Manhattan, you can get a shared desk for an average of $349 a month. Outside of Manhattan, a shared desk will cost an average of $229 per month. That cost gives you a place to work, access to typical office equipment including copiers, fast WiFi, fax machines and conference space. Most co-working spaces sweeten the deal by offering free coffee, a stacked refrigerator, hands on classes and regular networking events for members.

If the monthly prices seems too high, of if you only need space to meet with a client every once in a while, you can opt to pay a daily drop-in fee that allows you access to all of the perks and creature comforts these sites offer. Virtually all of these places are located within walking distance of the subway or bus lines, so when you meet with clients they will see you in a professional working environment and they won't have to go out of their way to meet with you.

If your budget is tight, there are plenty of bars and coffee shops that remain friendly to laptop warriors. While many coffee shops are cutting free WiFi in an effort to shoo out those who stay for hours, it's still possible to find a coffee shop that can double as a virtual office when money is scarce.

Business Incubators

Business incubators have two major functions: to help educate small businesses and to connect them with Angel Investors. These incubators are found throughout the city, with the majority in Brooklyn and the fewest in the economically strapped Bronx.

Some incubators function as a hybrid between incubator and co-working space, offering its members a place for shared or dedicated working space while helping them grow in their business.

As the freelance community continues to grow, so do the resources for encouraging and developing freelancers. The city has taken steps to help make working in the city affordable, providing funding for business incubators that groom and educate the self employed and small business owners