Karen Swim may live near Detroit, but her works takes her around the country - including this region - without ever having to leave her house.
Swim is part of a growing number of contract workers who have multiple bosses.
Whether it's freelance web design services, nursing, information technology or manufacturing, several career fields offer opportunities in contracting rather than full- or part-time work.
"Most recently, we have found that more and more employers have opted to hire contractors," said April Nicksic, operations manager at Spartan Staffing in Merrillville. "This is mostly due to the fact that it is more cost efficient and time effective for them."
Whether a person is an independent contractor or an employee usually depends on the amount of control an employer has over the work being done, said Terry Sutherland, director of the press office with the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Contractors tend to operate their own business - advertising their services, having more than one client, setting their own hours and keeping their own business records. Some, like Swim, even have their own employees or contractors.
"I hire contractors because it allows me the flexibility to hire the skill set I need when needed," she said.
Swim offers marketing and copywriting services - a field that is growing, said Lauren Schulte, director of marketing and communications with Elance, a site that puts business owners in contact with a variety of freelancers, from programmers to SEO consultants and translators.
In fact, over the past year, 52,000 new U.S. freelance jobs were created, according to a national employment report published by Elance. The field of IT and Programming had some of the highest earnings among freelancers, she said.
For small business owners and large companies alike, hiring a contractor can be an attractive prospect because it can result in labor costs savings, reduced liability and flexibility in hiring and firing, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.
"Working as a contractor for other companies affords companies the benefits of hiring specialized expertise that may not be part of their core competency," Swim said. "It allows them to devote full time resources to the things that are essential to do in-house, but gain efficiencies and new skills through contracting."
It can be a tempting career move for job seekers, especially those currently out of work, but the U.S. Small Business Administration points out there are several things contractors are not eligible for, including employee benefits, overtime, minimum wage and workers' compensation benefits.
Gene Diamond, Franciscan Alliance Northern Indiana Region CEO, said the hospital system uses contractors for various services - something he says is a common, longstanding practice in health care.
"We use contractors, among other reasons, to provide physician services, nursing services, professional services, temporary services, etc.," he said. "For example, some of our emergency physicians have contracts with us to provide medical services to our patients."
When Franciscan installed a new computer system recently, the hospital system used contractors as well.
"We use contractors to provide required expertise that is otherwise often in short supply," he said.
Contracted services are provided on both a long- and short-term, temporary basis, he said.
While Diamond said the hospital is seeing fewer contracted nurses, administrators are hiring more contracted transcriptionists.
"Contracted services are selected for diverse reasons," he said. "In general, contractors enable us to be more flexible in the delivery of services to others."