If you've taken a creative career path or have a valuable skill set that you want to use to start your own business, freelancing may be a great way to supplement your income. What's more, freelancing may give you an opportunity to do work that is more creative and rewarding than your traditional 9 to 5. But branching out can be a major challenge. You can't simply decide to start freelancing and then wait idly by for the phone to ring. After all, freelancing has become an increasingly popular way for professionals to take on side projects. Moreover, the Internet has made it possible for companies to search through vast databases of freelancers to find someone that fits their exact needs. To build up your portfolio, you'll have to actively seek out projects and make connections. Here are five tips for starting out as a freelancer:

1. Always network 
Remember that any social outing is a potential networking opportunity, and since you're working for yourself it's your personal responsibility to network with possible clients. Develop an aesthetically pleasing website or online portfolio in which to showcase your work, then have cards created that include contact information and the URL for your site. That way, those interested in your services will easily be able to access your past work and make an educated decision when hiring you on for a project. 

2. Have a steady gig 
Freelancing isn't always the most consistent work, and therefore should probably not be your only source of income, especially when you're starting out. Hold onto a part time or full time steady job that you can rely on to help you weather periods when your services are not in high demand. Once you've built up a strong reputation and steady stream of work, then you can take the time to contemplate whether it's worth it to make contract work your full time job.

3. Use freelancer resources 
There are niche social media platforms for nearly everyone on the Web these days, and freelancers are no exception. Find websites where you can market your services as a freelancer and network with your peers. These online platforms serve as a resource for companies searching for contract talent. Therefore, take time to make your profile stand out from the crowd. Also find local recruiters that are regularly seeking out freelance talent. Building a strong relationship with a recruiting company may make it easier for you to find a regular body of work. 

4. Learn to budget 
If you book a lucrative gig don't go out and spend it all at once. Freelancers have to learn how to budget money wisely since contract work can be inconsistent. This of course is the main reason for holding onto your regular job, but learning to budget your money will help ensure you don't get in the habit of spending outside your means. Also consider that you'll likely need to reinvest money from freelancing gigs into your business to cover miscellaneous expenses. 

5. Know your hourly rate 
While many freelance opportunities are advertised at a designated rate depending on experience, you'll have more freedom to negotiate pay in contract work than a normal full time job. When you're starting out, make sure you have an idea of what you should be asking for as an hourly rate, and keep track of it as you gain more experience. If you eventually build a reputation, especially within a niche industry, you'll be able to raise your rate accordingly. 

The holidays are a fantastic time to get out of the house and do some networking. As the year comes to an end, you'll likely be able to attend a wide range of professional and personal social events in which you can reconnect with friends, family, classmates and colleagues. Don't miss out on these opportunities. Not only are such get togethers a great time to socialize and have some fun, but also a chance to network, especially if you're on the job hunt. Of course,  if you're shy or introverted, the idea of networking may fill you with an immediate sense of anxiety. However, you can't let a little fear prevent you from ceasing opportunities. This practice doesn't have to be nerve-wracking, here are five tips for networking if you're an introvert:

1. Dress to impress 
It's easy to feel confident when you dress the part. Make sure that when you attend a professional event, you take the time to clean up and look your best. If you're wearing clothes that don't fit well or that are worn out from lots of use, it may affect your confidence more than you realize. If you're planning on doing a lot of networking this holiday season, consider going out and investing in some new clothes so that you can enter the room feeling sharp. 

2. Be mindful of eating and drinking 
In general, networking events are a great place to get a free drink and some tasty snacks, but going overboard will likely end up working against you. It's no big deal if you need a cocktail to get loosened up, but if you're downing them all night it'll make it hard to follow the conversation or act appropriately. After all, most of us have had a night where we get embarrassingly drunk and regret it the next day. Try not to do this in a professional setting, as it will likely be detrimental to your job search. In regards to food, there's no problem taking what's offered, but don't stand next to buffet or lumber after servers to hawk hours d'oeuvres. Avoid eating too much when you're in the middle of a conversation, as you won't be able to participate while you're chewing.  

3. Practice talking about yourself 
You don't need to have a speech memorized, but you should be comfortable talking about yourself during networking events. Before you attend, come up with some talking points and practice your elevator pitch a few times so that you won't be put on the spot when you have to do it in person. If you have a friend who's going to the event with you, work on talking about yourself beforehand with him or her. 

4. Know when to take breaks 
Don't feel obligated to stay for the entire duration of a networking event or other social gathering. If meeting people wears you out, there's no reason to try and force yourself to remain social for the entire time. Take breaks to go outside and get some fresh air or leave when you start feeling socially fatigued. 

5. Never dismiss anyone 
Don't make the mistake of thinking anyone isn't worth talking to. It's common, perhaps particularly for young professionals, to beeline for the person in the room that may be able to help them out. Take your time and work the room, and don't brush people off that aren't directly related to your job hunt. After all, you never know how people are connected. 

No one is perfect, and whether we like it or not, we're all likely to a make a major mistake professionally at some point or other. However, you may also be making small day-to-day mistakes that affect your career without even realizing it. Major errors may cause temporary anxiety, but the little mistakes are somehow more insidious due to their chronic nature. On the bright side, quotidian issues may also be easier to remedy. Here are five such ways you may be hurting your career:

1. Multitasking
The working world has become increasingly fast-paced, and if you're prone to multitasking, it may actually be damaging your productivity in the long run. Numerous studies have suggested that multitasking decreases social awareness and the quality of one's work, so instead consider tackling one task at a time. That way, you'll be able to focus on the quality of a product rather than the quantity]. If you're the type of person who tries to send out emails while taking a conference call, dedicate yourself to accomplishing one project at a time throughout the day.

2. Having no clear career goals
While no one expects you to know exactly what you're going to do throughout the course of your career, having no specific goals or aspirations may be hurting you in the long-term. Without some type of plan, you're more likely to get sidetracked at a job that you don't find rewarding. Moreover, you may not be pushing yourself to reach certain benchmarks on a timeline, which may hold you back from the ultimate place you imagined yourself ending up.

3. Ignoring social media
If you're not on LinkedIn and Twitter yet, then you're missing out on a lot of networking opportunities. Furthermore, it's easy to activate your social media accounts and then just forget about them. However, your LinkedIn account isn't going to be particularly useful if your not active in your community and don't update it regularly.

4. Losing touch with those in your network
Although it's somewhat natural for people to fall out of contact every once and awhile, you never know when you'll need to rely on your past network to help you make a transition in your career. Whether you're looking for volunteer opportunities, a new job or trying to help out a friend, you may need to tap into your network for help. If you haven't spoken with those connections in a long time, you may find they're less engaged in your ventures.

5. Not taking risks
Sometimes it can be nerve-wracking to approach your boss and ask for a promotion or pitch a creative idea, but you'll never reap the rewards if you're unwilling to take a risk or two. Even if you're nervous about receiving less than favorable feedback, putting yourself out there is the only way to get noticed. What's more, you may be able to affect positive change in your company and your career if you're willing to step out of your comfort zone and make a difference.

As social media continues to become a more integral facet of the working world, job seekers can do well by knowing and utilizing best practices when using these platforms. Public forums such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn tend to be opinionated battlegrounds, and no matter how much advice is out there, professionals continue to make glaring mistakes. While your negative tweet may seem like nothing more than heated, momentary lack of discretion, it could be all the difference for hiring managers or recruiters considering calling you for an interview. Before you go out and start posting, consider these five tips for managing your social media while you're on the job hunt:

1. Keep it professional 
Sometimes it may seem difficult to figure out where the personal-professional line is on social media. After all, your Facebook profile and Twitter account are a place for you to interact with friends, but the fact is you're a knucklehead if you think iffy material won't affect your online presence. Avoid posting any vulgar or offensive comments, stay away from suggestive photos and don't rely on privacy settings to hide anything unsavory. Plain and simple, you absolutely should showcase your personality, but keep it professional. 

2. Make sure all of your information is up to date 
Recruiters, hiring managers and other professionals will expect your social media information to be current and accurate. If your latest promotion or publication isn't listed anywhere, then odds are these key players don't know it exists. What's more, outdated content may make it appear as if you don't have as much job experience as you do in actuality. 

3. Always do a self-edit 
Don't post first and ask questions later. Nothing looks sloppier than a person having to post additional edits to clarify previously published material. Before you hit send, read through what you've written two or three times to ensure that it is polished and free of spelling or grammatical errors. This practice will highlight your ability to pay attention to details. 

4. Know when to step away 
There's nothing wrong with going out and enjoying a night on the town, but it's a big problem if you wake up to a bunch of nasty tweets and Facebook comments the next morning. In general, avoid drinking and posting to social media, as the alcohol may cloud your better judgment. Also, know when to take a step back from heated arguments or other negative situations. Posting an inflammatory rant about a restaurant after an unsatisfactory meal may be therapeutic at the time, but it may turn off professionals on your social media channels. 

5. Be consistent 
While every once and a while you may need to take a break from the world – social media included – going off the grid for weeks at a time may negatively affect your personal branding. Networking requires consistent effort, and connecting with people on social media requires regular usage. 

When it comes to finding a new job, everyone has different opinions on how to network and make new connections. In many ways, networking is an individual art, but there are common misconceptions many professionals have about the practice. For job seekers, networking can be particularly stressful because there's an unspoken pressure to try and find a new gig. This stress can make networking seem forced or disingenuous, and perhaps causes some people a degree of anxiety. In general, networking – both online and in person – has been so emphasized for job seekers that the process can quickly become inorganic. When myths get perpetuated it only exacerbates the challenge many professionals face. Here are five myths to be aware of when you're networking:

Myth #1: You don't need to network if you're employed
People tend to reconnect with their network when they're on the job hunt, because there's an immediate need. However, you shouldn't only be networking when you're actively looking for a job. Whenever your at a professional event, conference, social gathering or other outing, you can meet people that strengthen your network more generally. After all, you never know when an unexpected opportunity may arise, or when you'll face an unexpected setback. Make networking a consistent priority, rather than a desperate need.

Myth #2: You can't learn to network
Some professionals may simply be convinced they're bad at networking. Sure, some people may seem naturally better at socializing and connecting with others, but if you're not comfortable with networking, it doesn't mean you can't learn. Like anything else, networking takes a fair amount of practice. As you advance in your career, ideally you'll become a networking pro. If you're just entering the workforce, start by mastering your elevator pitch and practice networking with people with which you are familiar.

Myth #3: It's all about how many people you know
Many young professionals make the mistake of focusing on quantity of contacts over quality. This sometimes is particularly apparent in regard to online social networking over platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. While it's great to know a lot of people in your industry and beyond, it won't amount to much if all of those relationships are superficial. Make sure you take the time to really connect with important people in your network and develop genuine, long-lasting relationships.

Myth #4: You only need to hand out business cards
If you just bought a fresh stack of crisp business cards, it may seem like a good idea to throw them out left and right. However, remember this is a two way street – that is, you should be receiving as many business cards as you hand out. What's more, it's important make sure you connect with people after the initial meeting. Once you've received his or her business card, you'll be able to use the contact information to send along an email or request to connect on LinkedIn.

Myth #5: You only need to network in your industry
While making contacts in your industry is extremely important, that doesn't mean you should put up a shield and neglect those in other professions. At the end of the day, the world's a small place and you never know how people are connected. Moreover, you never know when you may be looking for a new opportunity in a different field. In social settings, take the time to talk with those outside of your inner circle, even if you don't work with them directly.

When the end of the year is nearing, it's easy to decide to put your job search on hold, especially if you've been hunting for months on end. Sure the holidays are a good time to take a break and recharge your batteries, but they are also a fantastic time to look for a job. While this idea may seem counterintuitive, consider that many recruiters and hiring managers will likely not be traveling during this time and also may need to fill vacancies before the end of the year. Of course, it's also important to take some time to enjoy family festivities and relax, but save your break for the last few days of the year when most people are already out of the office. In the meantime, end the year strong by revamping your job search. Here are five reasons why:

1. Less competition 
Many job seekers put their search on pause during the last few weeks of the year, which means that you'll ideally be facing off against less competition. Moreover, this also means that recruiters and hiring managers will potentially be able to spend more time parsing your resume and cover letter. The fact is that online applications have in some ways made the job market increasingly competitive. Submission management systems make it possible for those hiring to sift through dozens if not hundreds of resumes and seek out the most qualified candidates. What's more, since anyone can access a company's website and search through job openings, there may be more applicants who become aware of the position and apply. 

2. Use holiday events to network 
A lot of social outings come along with the holiday season, making perfect opportunities to catch up with colleagues and network. While you don't want to promote yourself obnoxiously, don't be afraid to use these occasions to meet new people and talk about your industry. In many cases, your job hunt may even come up naturally in conversation.

3. Employers need to fill vacancies 
Most companies want to start the new year with a full head of steam. When employees come back from restful holidays, a company may have a lot it hopes to accomplish in the new year. To do so, hiring managers may need to fill vacancies before the the fourth quarter comes to a close. That way when the first quarter of the following year comes around, employers already have someone in place to take on a vacancy. In some cases, hiring managers may need to bring on someone before the year ends because the position has been open for months or to stay in accordance with the year's budget. 

4. It's easy to reconnect 
The holidays are a good time to reconnect with acquaintances from college, old colleagues and other various professionals. Sending a holiday card or email to get back in touch with these individuals may prove helpful in strengthening your network. Again, remember not to be overly solicitous.

5. There's time to catch up on social media 
When you're sitting around at home trying to avoid the cold, take the time to update and clean up your social media accounts. Similar to the way you would spring clean your home or apartment, consider going through your various profiles and removing any questionable content that may have accumulated throughout the year. Spend some time updating your LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and other platforms that employers may screen when considering you for a position. Also, take a look at your overall online presence, and try and promote your positive content across the Internet. 

Whether you're a fresh college grad or established in your career, working two jobs is becoming more and more common. However, when you wear many hats it can be tiring personally and professionally. When you're putting in a lot of hours and running from one location to the next, there's always a chance you may burn out. Of course, there are many benefits of working two jobs as well. When you take on multiple positions you can supplement your income, learn good time management skills and diversify your resume. In some cases, working two positions may be a necessity if they're both part time. Either way, you'll want to make sure you have the time and energy to give both jobs your all. Here are five tips for managing two jobs: 

1. Prioritize your commitments 
When you're working two jobs, time becomes a fleeting element, especially if you work both jobs in one day. To help ensure that you don't burn yourself out, prioritize tasks you need to accomplish outside of the office. Regular chores such as grocery shopping, laundry and doing the dishes will likely take up time when you're not at work. In some cases, you may simply need to prioritize tasks from one job over the other depending on your deadlines and professional schedule. 

2. Ask for flexibility 
Having two jobs with rigid schedules can be a hefty challenge. If you can find at least one job that's willing to work with your schedule, it can make managing your time much easier overall. That way, you know that your work schedules won't overlap and that you'll have adequate time to relax and refuel in between jobs. Don't be afraid to communicate your needs with your superiors at either workplace. Your bosses may be more lenient about your schedule if you have a specific need for it. 

3. Give yourself time to recharge 
If you're working all the time, free moments to socialize and enjoy yourself are likely rare. Definitely schedule time to go out and have fun, but also make sure that you catch up on sleep and allow yourself to relax and refuel. Otherwise, burning out is inevitable. Consider taking up a relaxing pastime such as yoga, tai chi or meditation so that you can decompress after a long, stressful week. Moreover, take the time to catch up on sleep. If your jobs prevent you from having a regular sleep schedule, opt for power naps throughout the day to keep your energy up. 

4. Focus on your career goals 
If possible, make sure that one of your jobs is relevant to your long term career goals. While we all have to pay the bills, if you're working two jobs that are irrelevant to your professional passions, then it's likely not providing you with the foundational experiences you need. Even if it's only a part time internship or volunteer position, make sure that you're working toward the position you want in some capacity. 

5. Write to do lists 
To do lists are one of the simplest ways to help you manage your time. When you have a lot to accomplish, there's no better way to keep track of all your projects and commitments. If you're a pencil and paper kind of person, consider investing in a nice day planner that has specific dates and times in which to write down your work schedule and various appointments. If you're technologically savvy, consider using the calendar application on your smartphone, tablet or laptop. Either way, a to do list will give you a go-to resource for keeping your schedule.  

As you look to start job hunting and enter the workforce for the first time, there are a number of things to consider when applying for positions. Does the company seem like a good place to work? Is the pay sufficient? Does there seem to be room for growth? Are the benefits good? It's this last question that has changed most over the past ten years or so. While a number of progressive companies have been offering fantastic benefits for decades, technology has made it possible to alter the way we view the workplace. In fact, Silicon Valley is very much the home of jobs with wonder perks, and other companies across the nation have started to take notice. Here are five job benefits that are becoming increasingly popular:

1. Gym facilities
Many of us strive to have healthier lifestyles, but after a long day of work, a bus or train ride home, a quick snack and a change of clothes, it can be hard to motivate yourself to go to the gym. However, with fitness facilities directly in the office, you're already at the gym the moment you call it a day. The fact is, many businesses are starting to realize their employees can't work as well if they're in bad health. This benefit is definitely worth taking note of as you job hunt.

2. Napping areas
When you're exhausted it can seem impossible to get anything done. Many companies are realizing it's much better to give employees a little time to recharge their batteries rather than struggle to keep their eyes open in front of a computer screen. Whether it's couches, comfy chairs or a modern napping pod, this is a pretty awesome benefit.

3. Flexible scheduling
The age of the Internet has made it pretty simple for a wide range of professionals to work from home. However, what's even better is that many companies are doing away with the old 9 to 5 model and opting for performance-based measurements of a person's work. Some progressive tech companies have even done away with monitoring office hours or vacation time. Instead of worrying about how long their employees sit behind a desk, they focus on what the employee has accomplished. For those trying to balance work and school or other obligations, this benefit might make your life a lot more manageable.

4. Pet programs
No one wants to leave their dog at home all day locked in a kennel. Luckily, a lot of companies are realizing that it can make the office a lot more welcoming to have pets around. Now, instead of leaving your pet with no one around, you can bring them into work and watch them throughout the day. What's more, since other people will likely also bring in their pets, your pet will be able to make new friends.

5. Free food
A tray of mushy fruit and some stale doughnuts likely won't provide the sustenance needed to get you through a long afternoon of meetings and emails. Companies realize that it's impossible to get work done when you're starving. The best businesses have started providing meals and packing pantries full of snacks so that you don't lose focus when your stomach starts growling. In fact, some of the larger tech companies provide on campus cafeterias for their employees as part of their benefits package. 

Of course, on your job hunt, you can't expect every company to provide such robust benefits. However, that doesn't mean that you shouldn't make note of what perks come with each position.

In some ways, a phone interview can almost be more nerve-wracking than an in-person one. Most people are somewhat self-conscious about how they sound on the phone and without being able to read your interviewer's body language and facial expressions it can be hard to get a read on how the interview is going. There's also seemingly more anticipation leading up to the interview. Your phone is in front of you, maybe it's a minute or two past the scheduled time and it's easy to wonder about all the things that could potentially go wrong. What if the phone lines go down? What if the interviewer is held up in a meeting? However, a phone interview doesn't have to be a cause of anxiety. Here are five tips to help you nail your next one:

1. Find a quiet setting 
Seems obvious, right? Of course you don't want background noise from traffic, chatter or music during a phone interview. To avoid this, make sure you are taking the call in a quiet environment with reliable phone service. Consider every detail of where you will take the call. For example, you may frequent a small, quiet coffeehouse down the street from your apartment, but what happens if the barista turns on the espresso machine or steams some milk? Anticipate any possible interruption.

Furthermore, it's important to know when to take an impromptu interview and when to reschedule. If a hiring manager calls out of the blue and asks if you have time to chat, don't say yes if you're in the middle of something. Politely explain the situation and reschedule so that you have time to prepare and find a better setting for taking the call. 

2. Know the position thoroughly 
For most phone interviews, you'll have an adequate amount of time to research the company and review the job description. However, again it's important to be ready for an impromptu phone conversation. When you're job hunting, odds are you'll have several irons in the fire at any given point, so it's imperative not to mix them up. Make sure to keep track of every position to which you apply and that you're ready to have a basic conversation regarding any of them. 

3. Have your application materials in front of you 
If the phone interview has been scheduled in advance, be sure to have a copy of the job description, your resume, your cover letter and any other application materials on hand during your conversation. This way when the interviewer asks about an aspect of your resume or cover letter you can see exactly what he or she is referencing. Also, write down several questions you have about the position in advance, as most interviewers will leave time for you to voice your inquiries at the end of the interview. 

4. Avoid rambling 
Since you can't see the person on the other end of the line during a phone interview, it's natural to want to fill any gaps in conversation, which can lead to rambling. Be cognizant of how much time you are taking to answer each question, especially if a finite amount of time has been allotted for the interview. In many cases, recruiters and hiring managers have to stick to a pretty rigid schedule, and if you stick to one talking point for too long it may limit your time to address other questions and concerns. 

5. Exude confidence  
Confidence has a way of revealing itself over the phone. Even though the interviewer can't see you, any anxiety or nervousness will likely be inflected in your voice. Prepare for the interview thoroughly and then you'll be able to answer the phone confidently and professionally. 

When you're out looking for a job, your online presence and reputation are everything. In today's job market, it's not only extremely easy for recruiters and hiring managers to look you up on the Internet, but also it's become a best practice for these key hiring professionals. The fact is that the vast majority of companies now look up applicants online to get a more accurate picture of who they consider hiring. For some, this can be a huge asset, but for others, it may be what causes them to get passed up for an interview. Even if you have the best resume and cover letter of the bunch, one negative link in a Google search can be detrimental. Of course, there are numerous ways to make yourself look more presentable in search engines. Therefore, personal search engine optimization (SEO) is imperative to your job search. Here are five tips for managing your personal SEO: 

1. Search yourself often 
If you don't know what information about yourself is out on the Internet, there's no way to properly manage it. Regularly type your name into search engines such as Google and Bing and see what results appear on the first page. Ideally, it will all be positive and expected web pages on which there is no professionally questionable content. Make a habit of doing this often so that you become aware as soon as possible of potentially harmful materials. 

2. Create an online portfolio or website 
Creating one location for all of your professional resources isn't only good for your SEO, but also provides a useful tool to include on job applications. When applying for jobs online, most positions will have an optional box to attach a personal website or portfolio. Take advantage of this space by building an easily accessible online portfolio that will prove to employers that you're willing to go the extra mile. 

3. Cover up negative content 
The Internet can often be an unforgiving place, and it may be near impossible to remove bad content attached to your name. The fact is, once it's one the Web, it's pretty much permanent. While you could waste a lot of time and energy trying to get it removed – which is rarely successful – the better thing to do is push your positive content higher in search rankings. When using Google or another search engine, most people don't go past the first page. If you can push any potentially unfavorable content to page two, it's much less likely to be seen by employers, colleagues or anyone else. 

4. Broaden your social reach 
If you're still only on Facebook, odds are you're not casting a wide enough social net. Your personal SEO will grow as you create professional accounts for other social networks such as Google+, Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn and so on. The more active you are on these pages, the more likely they are to pop up near the top of your personal search rankings. Also, remember you can often link your pages to create a more complete network of friends, peers, colleagues, coworkers and other professionals. 

5. Post positive content 
People often hide behind the guise of the Internet to leave nasty and inappropriate comments. Not only is this conduct rude, but if it's traced back to you it can be hazardous to your job search. Rather than mope, complain, taunt or groan, focus on producing positive online content. This is not to say you can't be opinionated, however, remember that anything too polarizing could potentially turn off those viewing your pages. 

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