By Virginia Bridges
The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)
In the back of a downtown Durham building, Stella Wingfield Cook is guiding a client through a custom workout.
Cook, petite with blonde, braided pigtails and tattooed arms, stands as Marcia Brooks pulls, pushes and kicks through a routine on a reformer, a Pilates tool with a wood bedlike frame and a carriage, foot stirrups and hand bands.
While Brooks is pumping bands and hand weights, Cook talks about two pending trips to Los Angeles, where she would spend time filling in for her former boss and mentor.
She would also get to spend time with her husband, Brad Cook, who will be in the city playing bass for and touring with singer-songwriter Sharon Van Etten.
Such is the life of the self-described freelance trainer, who provides small classes and individual sessions under her firm, Anchor Studios.
Cook is part of the expanding freelance (also known as gig or project) economy that is changing where, when and how Americans work.
From a mixture of globalization, outsourcing, technology and a shaky economy has arisen an alternative career of self-employment. The number of freelancers, who also self-identify as contractors, consultants, temps, solo entrepreneurs and micro-business owners, have increased by 10 percent since 2011, according to a September report by MBO Partners, which provides business services to independent professionals.
About 40 percent of the adult workforce is working or has worked as an independent. By 2020, that number is expected to jump to 50 percent.
If done right, freelancers get to choose their hours, environment and clients. If done wrong, they can end up dealing with a cash-strapped hustle.
To be successful, freelancers need to understand their capacity, differentiate themselves and focus their services to complement their supreme strengths, said Jaleh Bisharat, senior vice president of marketing at Elance-oDesk, a California-based company that connects businesses to freelancers while providing related services.