Study: Independent Workers Flourishing

Independence Day 2015 may have just passed, but here is some recently released information on the growing population of independent workers.

MBO Partners, a provider of independent contractor engagement solutions, released this data from its 2015 State of Independence in America research. The full report will be available later this year.

The topline data demonstrates that the full-time independent workforce, with close to 18 million workers earning a significant portion or all of their income outside of traditional employment, is a permanent and rapidly growing portion of the American economy. In addition to these full-time independents, there are 12.5 million “side-giggers,” who take on part-time independent work.

High-earning independent workers now represent 10% of all independents and are the fastest-growing segment. The number of independents earning $100,000 or more per year has grown 45% over the last five years, totaling 2.4 million people.

The American economy is bouncing back, but in a fundamentally different form from what it looked like pre-recession. The independent workforce, a small portion of the overall labor pool before the recession, has seen unprecedented growth, outstripping traditional employment gains and jobs report numbers despite some predictions that a recovery in the job market would lure independents back to traditional employment.

Overall, the independent workforce has recorded 12% growth, compared to 7% growth in overall employment over the last 5 years. This trend is forecasted to continue, as 4 in 5 independents plan on staying independent, and 1 in 7 non-independents plan to join that group in the coming years.

When evaluating the independent lifestyle, a majority of independents say that it was entirely their choice to go independent, and 4 in 5 say they are happier for it. Flexibility and ownership are major draws to independent work, as is earning potential. With multiple revenue streams from an average of four or more clients, 4 in 10 workers say they feel more secure working independently than in a traditional job.

Tracking five-year growth, the MBO Partners State of Independence series is based on more than 14,000 in-depth surveys of independent workers since 2011. The study evaluates the motivations, satisfaction, and demographics of those working as independent consultants, freelancers, contractors, and self-employed, temporary, or on-call workers.


More Workers Going It Alone, With Success

There was a past perception about temporary workers that really doesn’t apply today. That perception revolved around "not good enough to work full time" or "just filling in when some regular key people are missing."

No longer. Check out this brief item from a recent edition of Forbes.

Ten years ago, Daniel Pink wrote a seminal book predicting that America was becoming a "Free Agent Nation." Today, depending on whose statistics you believe, anywhere from 10 million to 42 million people in America are now freelancers. Or choose your preferred term: Temps. Contractors. Freelancers. Contingent Workers. Independent Professionals.

No matter what you call them, businesses today are getting good work done with talented non-permanent workers. In fact, Harvard Business Review recently reported that 58% of companies plan to use temporary employees at all levels over the next few years.

If the picture you get in your head when you hear "temp" is of a really young, old or unskilled person who sits at the front desk when your administrative assistant is away, it’s time for a new perspective. Many temps today have advanced skills and a strong work ethic. Need a CEO? There’s a temp for that. Need an iOS developer? There’s a temp for that.

Temps can offer fresh perspectives that they bring from previous workplaces. Also, when you have a project that requires knowledge that you don’t have in-house, an experienced temp often needs less ramp-up time than a permanent hire.