Bottom Line/Personal: If you’re a person who likes juggling multiple tasks, or frankly, you just don’t see yourself anymore as the 9-to-5 cookie cutter environment, then a flexible career may be for you. How do you find them? What are the best ones?

I’m Sarah Hiner, President of Bottom Line Publications, and this is our Conversation with the Experts, where we get the answers to your tough questions from our leading experts.

Today I’m talking to Nancy Collamer, a leading career coach, speaker, and author of Second-Act Careers: 50+ Ways to Profit from Your Passions During Semi-Retirement. Welcome, Nancy.

Nancy Collamer: Thanks, Sarah.

Bottom Line: In this day and age of electronic everything, are flexible careers actually on the rise?

Collamer: Oh, they are indeed. In fact, the latest surveys indicate that by 2020, which is not very far away, nearly 50% of the population will, at some point in their career, be working at something other than a full-time job. We’re talking about anything from freelancing to part-time work to people who are working on a temporary basis, people running their own businesses. It is absolutely on the rise.

Bottom Line: And how about even work from home things as well, with telecommuting and all that?

Collamer: Most definitely. It’s something that even if you don’t necessarily want, it’s likely that at some point, you will be working on a freelance or temporary, flexible basis.

 Bottom Line: On an hour-by-hour basis, is the pay scale for flexible careers comparable, more or less, than standard full-time jobs?

Collamer: Yeah, that really varies all over the map. Certainly, in terms of trying to figure out how to price your services, you want to take into account the fact that on a full-time job, you’re also getting paid benefits. So maybe you’re earning $20,000 a year, but on top of that, you really need to increase that compensation by 30% to account for all the benefits.

The pay scales, as I said, vary all over the map. In general, though, people who do things on an hourly basis, because they’re not getting the benefits and because the company doesn’t have the costs associated with providing the desk and place for them to come every day and computers and all those types of things, the pay scale can be a little bit higher, in many cases.

Bottom Line: What are some of the best ones, or how do you find the best flexible jobs?

Collamer: Well, the first place you always want to start is talking with your current employer. If you’re being downsized out of a job, they may be willing to still have you work there on a project basis. Or let’s say you’re semi-retiring, you may be able to speak with your employer about downshifting into a flexible type arrangement.

Competitors are oftentimes very interested in hiring people. They know that they don’t need to spend a lot of time training you, so the fact that you can go in there and handle a project for them might be very, very attractive.

I always also recommend that people, once you decide to go down this path, reach out to other people who are doing it. Because sometimes people get projects or assignments that they can’t handle on their own, and they want to partner up with somebody. It may not be an official partnership, but you can band together and share the work, and there are a lot more people handling work that way these days.

Bottom Line: Again, is a lot of that finding opportunities through networking, or do you need to get yourself out in public a little bit, join groups, go out to meetings, regional business groups or conferences or things like that?

Collamer: All of the above, yeah. Getting out of the house, and marketing yourself is critical. And that’s where this can be very tricky for somebody who’s not comfortable doing that. It can be a tough transition. Or if you’re used to being able to have the security of going to the same office every day and having the regular paycheck, this can be a tricky transition for people who aren’t comfortable with the marketing.

But, absolutely, you need to get out there, you need to network. I always advise people, too, to think in terms of how can you differentiate your service that you’re providing. Maybe you become somebody – for instance, in my industry, there are people who design websites specifically for career coaches, and they’ve been able to develop that niche and they become the go-to person for that. So think of ways that you can really distinguish yourself from the competition by niching your focus.

Bottom Line: One place that I often go back to is the idea of going through an agency if you want to have more flexible hours or not work full-time.

Collamer: Yeah, there are some agencies that actually specialize in that. Most agencies, though, prefer to have people who are working full-time because the way that they’re getting compensated is oftentimes a percentage of what you’re getting paid.

So in addition to the agencies, another thing that you might want to do is take a look online. There are an increasing number of job boards that are actually specializing in part-time flexible job listings. FlexJobs is one; you do need to pay a small fee to participate in that, but they’re a good service. Rat Race Rebellion has work from home jobs.

Even if you go to some of the larger job boards, like Indeed or SimplyHired, and put in “part-time job listings,” you’ll get lots of returns. So that’s another path that you can pursue.

Bottom Line: I want to go back to the agencies for a second. I’ve actually done some work in the past with some agencies where actually, they will often have benefits for their temps. Depending on if you want to work more hours and you just want the flexibility of movement, which might actually be a gateway to get some health care benefits that you might not get on a part-time basis elsewhere.

Collamer: That’s right, yeah. Before, I thought you were actually referring to employment agencies, and that’s why I made that comment. But if you go through a temp agency, yeah, there are some temp agencies that do provide benefits. And it can sometimes be a really nice arrangement for people. So that can be a way to go as well.

Bottom Line: All right. Thank you so much, Nancy Collamer.

Collamer: You’re welcome.

Bottom Line: The bottom line? If you’re looking for more flexibility in your work, there are definitely options. Start with your own company, frankly, because they may be willing to keep you on but have you at a reduced level. Also, go to your competition. They’d love nothing more than to have somebody from the competition working for them. Go to conventions, go to conferences. Get the word out there that you’d like to work part-time rather than full-time.

In addition, consider going to a temp agency, because not only are they a good resource for giving you flexible jobs – and you don’t have to be sourcing them on your own – many of them will even provide you health benefits, which you don’t necessarily get when you’re working part-time. This is Sarah Hiner with Bottom Line.