UpWork and the Freelancers Union recently released their 2016 Freelancing in America study. According the press release the key findings are:
- Freelancing is growing -- The freelance workforce grew from 53 million in 2014 to 55 million in 2016 and currently represents 35% of the U.S. workforce. The freelance workforce earned an estimated $1 trillion this past year, representing a significant share of the U.S. economy.
- People are increasingly freelancing by choice as the job market changes -- Asked whether they started freelancing more by choice or necessity, 63% of freelancers said by choice -- up 10 points (from 53%) since 2014. The majority of freelancers said that today, having a diversified portfolio of clients is more secure than having one employer.
- Technology is enabling freelancing -- 73% of freelancers said that technology has made it easier to find freelance work -- up 4 points (from 69%) since 2014. Additionally, 66% of freelancers said the amount of work they have obtained online has increased in the past year.
A detailed Slideshare presentation of the study results can be found here and their infographic here.
One of the most interesting findings of this study is the number of people who report having multiple jobs. Their data shows there are roughly 29 million Americans with multiple jobs. Here's how they describe these folks:
Diversified Workers: (28%/15.2 million) – People with multiple sources of income from a mix of traditional employers and freelance work. For example, someone who works the front desk at a dentist’s office 20 hours a week and fills out the rest of his income driving for Uber and doing freelance writing.
Moonlighters (25%/13.5 million) – Professionals with a primary, traditional job who also moonlight doing freelance work.
This group is not only large (and 53% of all freelancers), it's also growing fast. Since 2014 the number of diversified workers and moonlighters has increased 23%, or about 5.5 million.
We've known for some time that the number of moonlighters and people with side gigs has been growing. But according to U.S. Census data, the number of Americans with multiple jobs has been steadily declining over the past couple of decades.
It's from Pew Research's recently released The State of American Jobs Study and based on U.S. Census data.
It shows about 5% of the U.S. workforce are multiple job holders. This is about 7.5 million Americans.
So how do we reconcile these numbers?
The reason is how the two surveys ask about 2nd jobs. The U.S. Census specifically asks about "jobs".
The UpWork/Freelancers Union study asks a series of questions around the ways the survey respondents "make additional money".
This may not sound like a big deal, but it is.
Our research has shown that most people who have secondary sources of income that are not traditional part-time, W2 jobs do not think of these sources of income as "job's". This is true even if the income is important to them in terms of maintaining their standard of living.
This is especially true for income that is sporadic, such as renting a room on Airbnb, driving for Uber a few hours each week, or related to a hobby or passion - such as teaching dance on a part-time basis.
Because of this, if we ask people who have multiple sources of income but don't have a traditional W2 part-time job if they have 2nd jobs (like the U.S. Census does), they generally tell us no.
But if we ask about other sources of income, people who told us they don't have 2nd jobs will often say yes, they have other sources of income.
We discovered this about 7 years ago and changing our questions resulted in about 4 times as many people reporting 2nd jobs.
The questions the U.S. Census uses to ask about 2nd jobs date back several decades. The reality is how we think about, describe and talk about jobs has changed since then. This is why they are undercounting multiple job holders to such a large degree.