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. 

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.

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. 

Everyone has days where they walk into the office and just want to walk out. It's natural. Occasionally, work can seem overwhelming and tedious, and in those moments we tend to get distressed, irritable or uninterested. However, if these emotions are becoming a chronic part of your time at work, it may be time to consider looking for a new gig. At the end of the day, if your job isn't rewarding and you're unhappy, it's time to get out of there. Here are five reasons to consider parting with your current employer and taking your job hunt up a level:

1. You're stressed and unhealthy 
If your job is causing you an unhealthy amount of stress, it may be time to call it quits. Are the long hours at your desk leaving you fatigued and causing you to put on unwanted pounds? Are you losing sleep because you're thinking too much about work before bed? Maybe it's time to find a place of employment that puts more stock in your well-being. 

2. There's no room for advancement 
It shouldn't be too hard to identify if there's room for advancement in at your place of employment. If you've seen peers and superiors rise the ranks and you know you can do it too, then maybe it's worth sticking around. But if it's abundantly clear there's nothing more than lateral movement – or maybe no room to move at all – then you should start looking for a position with more opportunities for growth. After all, you can't climb the corporate ladder if it doesn't exist. 

3. You're not developing career skills 
The fact is some less-than-desirable employers are going to treat you like a robot. They will see you as a trained machine designed to accomplish a specific task, and show little interest in your skills outside of that. However, good businesses take advantage of their staff's distinct professional skills and  foster an environment in which their employees can flourish. If your job feels redundant and uninspiring, it may be a sign that you're not being challenged enough. In this case, start looking for positions that may more fully utilize your creative talents. 

4. You don't have respect for the company 
Sometimes, you may not realize that a company is unprofessional or unethical until you're deeply embedded in the day-to-day activities that occur there. If you've been working at a company and have come to realize that you don't respect its values, it's time to start job hunting right away. It's nearly inevitable that eventually your dissatisfaction with certain aspects of the business will come to light, and in the heat of the moment you could burn a bridge. Rather than allow pressure to build up, begin looking for positions with companies that seem to align more with your beliefs. 

5. You keep vowing to quit 
If you're just getting through work week to week and vowing that one of these days you're going to get out of there, then make good on your promise. If you're already considering quitting, it's probably only a matter of time before you go through with it. Again, don't wait for your frustration to boil over. If you erupt and quit your job without a plan, then the following period of unemployment will be equally if not more stressful, as well as financially draining. Instead, double down on your job hunting efforts, and imagine how nice it will be to professionally put in your two weeks once you have been offered a new position.

If you've been putting in a lot of extra hours and taking on new responsibilities at work, it may seem that a promotion is just around the corner. Maybe it's an internal position that just opened up or you're taking on a huge new account, but whatever the catalyst, it's usually pretty easy to tell when you're ready for the next step. This can make it all the more devastating if you get passed up for a promotion by someone you feel doesn't fit the bill. In these situations, it's easy to lose your head. However, fight your initial instinct to storm out and then reevaluate. Here are five things to do when you don't receive a much-deserved promotion:

1. Don't act right away 
Don't let yourself do something regrettable in the heat of the moment. It's a natural to have the urge to shut down, quit or badmouth the person who received the promotion. Remember that reacting in this way will only make the situation worse. While you may have gotten passed up, you never know what opportunities the future will hold, and it won't do you any good to burn bridges in the meantime. In the moment missing out may seem like a bigger deal than it is in actuality. 

2.Shake it off 
Take some time to collect your thoughts and cool down. It's perfectly acceptable to ask your boss why you were passed up or for criticism on ways you can improve, but if you do this while you're still frustrated you may react unfavorably. Give yourself enough time to find a collected and professional way of approaching your boss or other higher ups to learn more about how the decision was made. 

3. Find out why 
When you initiate the conversation, make sure to position your questions in a professional manner. Don't ask why so and so was chosen over you. Instead, politely inquire as to what held you back this time around and how you can improve. Be prepared to take constructive criticism, and avoid being defensive or standoffish. Remember to be diplomatic. Take note of external issues that may be out of your hands, as it may be a cue as to your future opportunities with the company. 

4. Actively work to get better 
Ideally, once you've talked with your boss, you'll have a better understanding of what you can be doing to earn the promotion next time around. Focus on the specific reasons that were cited for you being passed over, and work to strengthen these areas. For example, if you did not receive the promotion for not having enough leadership experience, find ways to become a more active leader around the office. Spearhead new projects and vocalize your ideas. Hopefully, this initiative will be easily recognizable and then there will be no question of who to promote in the future. 

5. Look for other opportunities 
If your efforts are going unrecognized and unrewarded, it may simply be time to start looking elsewhere. Get a pulse on other open opportunities and double your networking efforts. Though you may not make the switch immediately, it's important to remain focused on advancing your career. You can't wait around in hopes that an internal opening simply pops up or the next promotion presents itself. Once you've sorted out why you were passed up, make a point of updating your resume, browsing the job market and meeting new people. Ideally, if you remain active at work and in your job search, a new opportunity will soon become available. 

When you see an opening or job posting for your dream job, odds are you'll jump to apply immediately. However, don't be too hasty. Remember that sending a sloppy application won't get you anywhere. Rather than worry about submitting your application 20 minutes after the position is posted, focus on working to prove you're a quality applicant. One way of showcasing your interest in the job and demonstrating professionalism is by researching the company beforehand. Not only will this allow you to fill out your application with more background knowledge about the company, but also it will help you better determine if you're actually a good fit for the position. In some cases, what may seem like a dream job at first glance may end up not being what you expected after further research. Here are five tips for doing your research before you apply for a position: 

1. Look for recent news about the company 
Whether you're applying for a job at a major corporation or a local business, odds are there will be recent news regarding the company about which you should be informed. Not only can this possibly be handy when crafting a cover letter, but also can give you some talking points if you are contacted. A common question asked by recruiters is simply, "What do you know about the company?" To be prepared for such an inquiry, up-to-date news is a good way to show you know what's going on with the company lately. 

2. Check out their social media 
Social media accounts are often platforms for companies to showcase more personality. While a company's website may be rather dry, their Facebook and Twitter profiles might be more creative and engaging. Furthermore, many companies share news and other developments over social media. 

3. Read their mission statement 
Every business has a mission statement that will tell you about their goals and beliefs. Company culture is often expressed strongly in the mission statement, so this is a good way to help determine if you're the right fit for a specific position. 

4. Locate the name of the hiring manager 
Most job descriptions include either the name or position of the person to whom you'd be reporting. Rather than address a cover letter to no one in particular, take the time to locate the contact information of the recruiter, hiring manager or person directly above the position to which you are applying. Overall, this will demonstrate your research and help separate your cover letter from the herd. Looking over a company's staff page also can give you insight as to their managerial structure. Moreover, identifying key hiring personnel gives you an opportunity to research them over platforms such as LinkedIn. 

5. Google the company 
Odds are that when you apply for a position at a company, they'll take the time to put your name through a search engine if they think you could be a good fit. So it stands to reason that you should use the same practice. Whereas news and social media may generally project a positive image of a company, taking the time to Google them may bring to light information that the company may find undesirable. For example, Glassdoor reviews may illuminate dissatisfaction experienced by people previously in the position to which you are applying. Furthermore, this practice might highlight other potential negative reviews and points of concern. On the other hand, Google might list more positive attributes and help identify that the position is in fact your dream job. 

Applying for your first job can seem like an alien task. Sure, you've had experience mowing the lawn and doing chores around the house, or maybe you used to babysit for a neighbor. But getting a full time gig is a more formal process. Most businesses have run the gamut when it comes to applicants, so you have to find ways to separate yourself from the stack sitting on the hiring manager's desk. "How do I do that?" you ask. Here are some tips for walking into a business to fill out an application:

Know what time is good to apply
Say there's a great Italian restaurant down the street where you'd like to work as a server during weekends. It's probably a huge red flag when you go in and ask for an application in the middle of their lunch or dinner rush. Find down time when you can go in and fill out an application without being a nuisance. This will also give you the opportunity to speak with a manager. Having face-to-face time with the person potentially hiring you will help make your application stand out. 

Dress to impress
Sure you're just filling out an application, but you should dress professionally to show that you want the job. A first impression lasts, and frankly, appearance matters. Don't worry about being overdressed, because it's essentially an impossibility. (No tuxedos though!)

Fill out the entire application
Don't leave blank spaces on your application. Remember, this is your chance to shine. Read the instructions carefully and follow formatting requests. Don't try to embellish your experiences – instead, answer each question thoughtfully and honestly. It's better to put down a realistic, simple job title than trump it up to sound fancy. Avoid vague answers by focusing on concrete experience and affirmative responses. It's better to say no than to seem wishy-washy, and most employers will see answers like "ask at interview" as way of dodging the question. If a question is not relevant to you, fill in the answer space with "not applicable" or "N/A."

Keep the application clean
Don't just crumble up the application in your backpack and fill it out at home while you're eating. Applications that are wrinkled, folded or have stains on them look unprofessional. If you don't have time to fill out each application at the job location, have a binder ready to keep them organized and prevent them from losing that crisp look. 

If you've been job hunting for months and still struggling to get your foot in the door, it may be time to revamp your search efforts. The same  idea applies if you've been working at a job for months that you find unfulfilling. While job hunting can be physically and emotionally taxing, as well as very time consuming, falling into a routine might only slow down your potential progress. That is to say, sending out uniform resumes can easily become the equivalent of beating your head into a brick wall. Instead, reinvigorate your hunt with a new approach. Here are four tips for revamping your job search:

Identify what's not working
If you have a surefire system that you've been using for months, but no one has called you back for an interview, the simple reality is something isn't working. Whether it's the way you've structured your resume or how you are addressing your cover letters, something is deterring you from finding a new job. It's important that you constantly update and rework your resume and portfolio to make it contemporary and relevant. Moreover, if the way you're applying to jobs and networking are proving unfruitful, it's imperative that you acknowledge it's time to make a change. This can be difficult for many job seekers, especially considering how easy it is to fall behind excuses. However, if you've grown comfortable in your job search, that might be a big sign that it's necessary to alter it. 

Learn about other jobs 
If you went to school in hopes of attaining a specific job role, it might be hard to convince yourself to expand your search. But you never know when another position might be right up your alley. Talk to friends and acquaintances about their careers and learn as much as you can about other job roles in your industry or a related one. There might be opportunities out there for which you're a perfect fit that you've never considered. There might simply not be many jobs in the field that you are applying, and in that case, it's important to be able to refocus on what's available. 

Consider your dream job
Don't sell yourself short. It's easy to make compromises when you're job hunting in order to get to work. However, if you're taking a job just for the sake of having one, remember that it might not be the best fit for you in the long-term. It's important to consider what the job of your dreams would be and then take into account what qualities, challenges and perks that position holds. That way you can move throughout your career working toward that ultimate goal, rather than getting caught in a slump of bouncing from one job to the next. 

Get creative 
If the classic application process is proving ineffective it might be time to consider creative alternatives. Find unique and interesting means of contacting potential employers and setting up an interview. This might mean taking a different approach than simply sending a resume and cover letter. One great way to do this is by demonstrating what you could bring to a company by sending them work examples or a plan of action. Once an employer sees what your are capable of accomplishing, they'll be more apt to hire you. 

Throughout your entire job search, it's most important not to get stuck in a rut or lose energy. If you allow yourself to stagnate, odds are the quality of your applications will suffer and employers will take notice. Remain positive and constantly revamp your job search to keep things fresh. 

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