The 4th annual MBO Partners State of Independence study was released yesterday. It shows independent workers (self-employed, independent contractors, freelancers, etc.) who regularly work 15 or more hours per week as independents numbered 17.9 million in 2014.
This is up 1.2% from 2013 and 12.5% from the base year of 2011.
During this same 4 year time frame, the overall U.S. workforce grew just 1.1%. This structural shift towards independent work is expected to continue, with a forecast of 24.5 million 15+ hour independent workers by 2019.
The study also found there are 12.1 million "side-giggers", independent workers who regularly work less than 15 hours per week as independents. For most side-giggers independent work supplements their primary work/life activities and most work as independents to augment their income.
Key findings from this year's study include:
- The majority (82%) of independent workers report being highly satisfied (63%) or satisfied (19%) and plan on remaining independent in the future (76%).
- Independents generated generated more than $1.1 trillion in total revenue in 2014, spent more than $150 billon on non-payroll/contractor expenses, and are the primary income source for more than 10 million American households.
- Men and women continue to choose independence in roughly equal numbers, but for different reasons. Women tend to see independent work as a path to fulfilling work that fits into their lifestyle. Men, on the other hand, tend to focus on being their own boss and maximizing their income.
As with past years a substantial majority, roughly 30%, of the respondents report being unhappy with independent work. This group - we call them "reluctant independents" - report lacking control over their career, work assignments, work place and work schedules.
Compared to the average independent worker, reluctant independents are less likely to plan to continue as an independent worker (37%) and most (54%) report they would prefer a traditional job.
Three broad trends continue to drive the growth of the independent workforce.
- Businesses of all sizes are turning to independent workers to meet their needs for agility and flexibility due to an increasingly volatile, complex, competitive, and always-changing global economy.
- Workers have become increasingly comfortable turning to independent work, especially the growing number of people looking for greater work/life flexibility, autonomy and career control.
A growing support infrastructure of products, services and programs is making it easier, cheaper and less risky to become independent.
The full 2014 MBO Partners State of Independence report is available here.