For the last 6 months or so we've been partnering with MBO Partners and Rockbridge Associates on a deep dive research project on independent workers - freelancers, contractors, temps, solopreneurs, etc.
The research consisted of two national, representative surveys and in-depth interviews with independent workers. We focused on adults who derive a significant percentage of their income from independent work or are starting or testing a new profession or business.
MBO Partners just released the first phase of the study and the key findings include:
- Independent workers are satisfied: 58% of independent workers stated that they are highly satisfied with their work situation. Only 6% are highly dissatisfied. 36% were neutral.
- Most Chose Independence: Debunking a popular misconception that workers are forced into independence due to job loss or lack of alternatives, more than half of independent workers (55%) say it was their proactive choice to become an independent worker. Only 15% said the became independent due to factors beyond their control and 30% said it was a combination of factors.
- Most Plan on Staying Independent: 63% indicated that they will continue working as an independent worker and an additional 12% said they plan on growing their independent business into an employer business. Only 19% of the respondents said they plan on seeking a traditional job over the next 24 months.
- The Rewards of Independence Come with Risks: While highly satisfied, independent workers feel their path is riskier than traditional employment and they are worried about their future. Respondents were most concerned about a lack of predicable income (56%), job pipeline worries (46%) and planning for retirement (46%).
The study also revealed that roughly 28 million Americans said they were definitely (14 million) or probably (14 million) going to become an independent worker over the next 2 years. 60% of these said they had taken steps such as researching their business (33%), opening a business bank account (13%) or creating a business website (14%).
Aspirational survey questions always result in a much higher positive response than is likely to actually happen (diet surveys are a great example) and we don't think anywhere near 28 million become independent workers over the next 2 years.
But this data is indicative of how unhappy Americans are with traditional employment and how uncertain their job status is. In our interviews we talked to a lot of people who really disliked their job and/or felt it was likely they would lose their job in the near future. Many of these folks were preparing to go independent.
The study generated a lot of interesting data and we'll be posting about the research results over the coming weeks.
There is a summary presentation and infographic on MBO Partners' website.