Independent Workers’ Success Is On the Rise

Prospects are rising for independent workers in general.

According to results of MBO Partners’ “State of Independence in America” 2015 survey measuring independent workforce changes since 2011, the number of American full- and part-time independent workers has risen 12% to a total of 30.2 million, although the trend is flattening somewhat. Comparing just 2015 and 2014, the number of independent workers held steady.

However, that looks to be a temporary plateau: by 2020, the number of freelance workers in the US is expected to grow to nearly 40 million.

And the best ones are doing increasingly well.

One of the most surprising results, though, was the gains made by top-earning freelancers.  Those who billed more than $100,000 per year rose by 45% during the five years covered. That’s 2.9 million, or 16% of all full-time independent workers earning at that level.

For purposes of the survey, “independent workers” are age 21+ and work for themselves on a regular basis as freelancers, contractors, consultants, temporary and on-call workers. It also included those working on fixed term employment contracts of less than a year. Another independent survey of 1,565 independent workers was also used to measure the characteristics and motivations of independent workers.

More takeaways from the survey:

Along with growth in the independent workforce, here are some other takeaways about them from the survey:

  • They generated >$1.15 trillion in revenue last year.
  • Almost half, or 45%, reported doing better financially than they would in a traditional job.
  • About the same number (43%) reported they feel more secure working independently, up from 33% in 2011.
  • Millennial independents (ages 21-35) make up 30% of full-time independents in 2015, up from 12% in 2011.

Where all of this is going:

Many of these freelancing Millennials graduated college into a bleak job market, and hence discovered early the joys of doing their own thing for profit. Whereas the traditional independent worker has already built up some skills in their early career, I see this independence streak among Millennials continuing even in a strengthening job market. Social media is broadcasting their independent success stories to their peers, from online gamers with huge audience shares to YouTube princesses and dog walking entrepreneurs.

The single most-cited factor for working independently was “the ability to control my own schedule” at 61%. In addition, 58% cited more flexibility, and 54% said they “like being my own boss.” You can already see this independent-mindedness among Millennials having an effect on even large corporations, who are changing both their office decor and operating structures to reflect those preferences. The impacts of this trend will be long-term and powerful.

MBO Partners produces a business operating system for independent workers, as well as a freelancer management system for team leaders. The full survey is available online.

Source: Staffing Industry News

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