We all know the drill. You get laid off and then you become a self-ascribed "consultant" or freelancer. Consultant and freelancer are just other names for unemployed. Right? Answer: sometimes, not always. It's just temporary until you land again. Right? Answer: Increasingly, in a word: no!

Some people actually do make it as self-employed guns for hire. Some fields are more practical than others for those wanting to make a go of it.

14.5 million Americans are currently unemployed. Do you think all of them will be returning to full-time jobs eventually.

No way!

We've seen this trend on the uptick for years; more people working for themselves on a project basis out of their own home. The virtual worker, if you will.

I believe this economic downturn is our watershed moment when the trend finally hits critical mass.

A recent survey put out by Careerbuilder.com and Robert Half International offers some interesting results to bolster my take on all of this:

1. 53% of employers surveyed say that they plan to hire full-time positions within the next 12 months.

2. 7% of those jobs will be management level.

3. 2% of those jobs will be director level management positions.

4. 1% of those jobs will be executive level management positions.

This is encouraging news if you are a recent college graduate or relatively new in your career. For you, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

For older professionals laid off from the upper tier jobs; you get the idea.

It's time to make your peace with the idea of self-employement and working virtually from home or a small office of your own as your permanent new career.

So, now what?

1. Think of yourself as a business and write a business plan. Run, don't walk, to the closest SCORE outlet and get free feedback from their counselors to fine tune your business plan.

2. If you don't have a professional online home, get one. You need an online brochure/portfolio featuring what you do. People need a way to find you, research you and connect with you.

3. Make sure you have a profile on LinkedIn, Plaxo and Facebook. Build that network of contacts and friends. Work it!

4. Get organized. Set up record keeping, invoicing, etc.

5. Should you incorporate? Should you be a LLC? Invest the money with a tax attorney or CPA and find out!

6. Find out what your time is worth? What are other "consultants" with your experience and expertise fetching on the freelance market? Be competitivebut don't price yourself off the market.

7. Use the Internet to widen your circle of potential clients. Don't limit yourself to local or even regional client contacts. The world is literally your oyster.

8. Find the time and money for professional development. Whether your profession requires it or not; what additional learning or training will make your services more of a premium service? Should you investigate additional certification areas? Should you learn a new language? Should you specialize in a specific niche area? Should you widen yourself into more of a generalist expanding your potential client base?

9. Set up a smart, functional office space with set hours, projects,deadlines and goals. Establish formal metrics of your progress to keep yourself on track.

10. Identify and keep up with your competition. Research, research, research!