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October 25, 2001
Freelancers Return to Business Travel
by Sherril Steele-Carlin

The shocking and tragic events that took place on September 11th have sent our world reeling. The stock market, the travel industry - just about every industry has been affected. Freelancers are no exception. Business for many has dropped off, and some find they are having trouble concentrating on work. As we try to return to a "normal" life, many freelancers are finding out just how much they depend on travel to complete their daily tasks.

There are many freelancing careers that simply cannot exist without travel in some form. Professional speakers must travel from city to city for their seminars and conferences. Photographers need to travel from one assignment to another. Authors need to travel to book signings and writer's conferences. PR consultants need to meet with marketing departments and graphic artists.

While many of these meetings can be postponed, or accomplished over the phone, there is still a lot of business that can't be done without air or ground transportation. Freelancers were some of the first people back in the air, and continue to try to do "business as usual."

In an article posted on, writer Marci Alboher Nusbaum says "Within days of the Sept. 11 attacks, these [freelance] professionals were back in the air. They had no choice, they say; either their careers called for it or their anger demanded it." Freelance photographer David Bergman is one of those professionals who found himself back in the air just a few days after the terrorist attacks. He told Nusbaum "When he said goodbye to his wife, he said, 'We hugged a little tighter,' [and] a few things stood out from his first post-disaster flight. Televisions in the airport lounge had been turned off, and 'everyone knew exactly why,' he said. And passengers boarded all at once, rather than by row, because there were so few of them."

Many companies are turning to teleconferencing and videoconferencing in place of travel for their employees and contractors. In an article in the Anchorage Daily News, Elizabeth Douglass and James S. Granelli report "Companies typically pay a monthly fee for the ISDN lines, plus per-minute charges. A call from Boston to Luxembourg over three ISDN lines would cost $368 for an hour. Using an Internet-based connection fine-tuned to send video packets without delay can cut that cost by at least half. Though those prices sound steep, they are far cheaper than the cost of a few first-class airline tickets."

For many freelancers who travel for their work, the costs may be prohibitive, but many large companies may find teleconferencing is a viable alternative, as well as an easy way to keep in touch with employees in other locations, including freelancers and consultants.

Fortunately, there's a relatively inexpensive alternative for freelancers and clients who can't afford the luxury of high-cost systems. Douglass and Granelli continue, "There's also a cheap way to get into videoconferencing. Using an off-the-shelf mini-camera mounted on a desktop computer, plus a high-speed Internet connection using a cable modem or digital subscriber line service, computer users anywhere can link up using Yahoo's Video Chat or any number of similar services sprouting up on the Web to make a video-cam connection.

"A typical camera can cost $80 or less; a professional videoconferencing system from Polycom (ViaVideo) costs about $500. That software and hardware combination, however, is not needed for the video messaging services. A single high-speed Internet connection costs about $40 per month."

There can be problems with this type of low-cost solution. The pictures aren't as clear, since they use the Internet for a connection, and sometimes the sound can become garbled. Even with these problems, a desktop camera could be the perfect solution for many freelancers who don't want to travel, but still would like to have "face-to-face" meetings with their clients.

Sherril Steele-Carlin is a full-time freelance writer from Reno, Nevada. She's published numerous articles in print and online publications. She's also the author of the new e-book
"How to get a Life by Living and Working in a National Park."
"How to Break Into Casino Jobs."
Visit her web site at

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