An independent contractor--IC--is a person who contracts to perform services for others without having the legal status of an employee. Most people who qualify as independent contractors follow their own trade, business or profession--that is, they are in business for themselves. This is why they are called " independent" contractors. They earn their livelihoods from their own independent businesses instead of depending upon an employer to earn a living.

Good examples of ICs are professionals with their own practices such as doctors, lawyers, dentists and accountants. However, any person who is in business for himself or herself qualifies as an IC.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that there are over eight million ICs in the United States and their numbers are growing rapidly as more people are going into business for themselves after their corporate employers make workforce cutbacks and businesses hire ICs to do work that used to be performed by employees.

Independent contracting is not limited to highly specialized or technical fields such as computer programming, engineering or accounting. There is hardly any job that ICs don't perform--from construction to marketing to nursing.

Some people seek to become ICs, others have the status thrust upon them. Whichever group you fall into, this article explores what's good and bad about being an IC as compared with being an employee.

You're your own boss

When you're an IC you're your own boss, with all the risks and rewards that entails. Most ICs bask in the freedom that comes from being in business for themselves. They would doubtless agree with the following sentiment expressed by one IC: " I can choose how, when and where to work, for as much or little time as I want. In short, I enjoy working for myself."

ICs are masters of their economic fate. The amount of money you make is directly related to the quantity and quality of their work. This is not necessarily the case for employees. ICs don't have to ask their bosses for a raise, they go out and find more work.

Moreover, since you're normally not dependent upon a single company for your livelihood, the hiring or firing decisions of any one company don't have the impact on you they have on employees. An IC explains: " I was downsized six years ago, and chose to start my own company, rather than sign on for another ride on someone else's roller coaster. It's scary at first, but I'm now no longer at the mercy of one entity."

You may earn more than employees