Forbes recently released some fascinating data on their use of freelance writers.
They have roughly 1200 freelancers working for them, of which 400 are paid and 800 provide content for free.
Forbes says the folks providing free content do so because they "find rewards in an association with FORBES that often leads to paid opportunities elsewhere." Based on our interviews and discussions with freelancers who are contributing to Forbes for free, this description is accurate.
Not surprisingly, their freelance workforce greatly exceeds the 40 full time staff reporters Forbes employs.
This model has been very successful for Forbes. As the chart below from their article shows, page views have exploded since they started using this model.
So how do the paid freelancers do? According to Forbes:
Individually, 60 made as much or more in 2013 than the $45,250 a year the Bureau of Labor Statistics says is the nationwide average for a professional reporter or correspondent. Five or so have built big enough loyal audiences (the model pays more for repeat visitors) to top $100,000. Many dozens more make between $10,000 and $25,000.
This is a great example of the extended workforce, which is the use of freelancers, other non-employee contingent workers and business partners of various kinds to do tasks once done by traditional employees. It's becoming common across almost all industries.
While we don't think many companies will have 30 contingent workers for every employee like Forbes does, we are seeing more examples of firms with 25% to 50% of their total employment comprised of contingent workers.
This shift to the extended workforce is a major driver of the growth of independent workers.
BTW, kudos to Forbes for releasing this data. The heavy use of freelancers by media companies is a controversial issue and Forbes deserves credit for being so transparent.