One of the most interesting findings from the 6 years of data from the MBO Partners State of Independence study is the steady improvement in the attitudes about working independently (freelancing, independent contracting, self-employment, etc.).
The chart below (click to enlarge) shows some of the key data on the improvement from our annual survey of independent workers.
Our work indicates there are 3 main reasons the attitudinal data is improving:
The improving economy and stronger job market: This shows up several ways. First, fewer people are being forced into independent work due to job loss or lack of other opportunities. As we've pointed out in the past, those who don't choose it tend to be much less satisfied with independent work than those who do.
Another place where this shows up is the challenges independent workers face. Independents have reported a steady decline in the challenges they face over the course of the study.
The improving economy also shows up in the income data, which has steadily increased over the study period.
I haven't listed the data for the last two points here because it would make this article too long. See the study report for more detail on these.
"Reluctant independents" are returning to traditional jobs: Reluctants are independent workers who are more likely than average to have been forced into independent work due to a job loss or lack of other opportunities, less likely to be satisfied being independent and more likely to say they would prefer a traditional job.
We covered this in more detail last week. But the quick recap is the strong job market is allowing reluctant independents to return to traditional jobs. This is nicely illustrated by the steady decline in those who report they'd rather have a regular job and the steady increases in the percent saying they will not return to a traditional job (see the chart above).
Overall reluctants tend to be much less positive about independent work. So when their numbers decline, the overall attitudinal scores increase.
Independents are getting more comfortable with risk: Our work shows that a person's risk profile is strongly correlated with whether or not they will embrace independent work.
Those that deal well with the uncertainty and a lack of predictable income are much more likely to be highly satisfied than those that don't.
As the chart data shows, more independent workers are reporting being comfortable with the risks.
Some of this is due to the improving economy and some of it due to the reluctants leaving. But even after excluding the reluctants, the data shows a greater tolerance for the risks of independent work.
We draw two conclusions from this data:
- Those that like independent work are liking it even more.
- Those that don't like independent work are returning to traditional jobs.
We think both are good.