The number of full- and part-time independent workers in the US has risen 12% since 2011 to a total of 30.2 million, according to MBO Partners’ fifth annual “State of Independence in America 2015” survey. However, comparing just 2015 and 2014, the number of independent workers held steady.
In addition, the number of full- and part-time independent workers in the US is expected to grow to 37.9 million in 2020.
MBO Partners’ study also found the number of full-time independent workers who earned more than $100,000 per year rose by 45% in 2015 from 2011 to 2.9 million, or 16% of all full-time independent workers.
Independent workers are defined by the report as people 21 years old and older who work for themselves on a regular basis as freelancers, contractors, consultants, temporary and on-call workers and those working on fixed term employment contracts of less than a year. This year’s study is based on a survey of 1,065 residents of the US that was used to size the independent workforce and define interest in becoming an independent worker. The report also includes data from another survey of 1,565 independent workers to measure the characteristics and motivations of independent workers.
Along with growth in the independent workforce, other findings in the report include:
- Independent workers generated more than $1.15 trillion of revenue over the past year.
- Almost half, 45%, reported they make more money as an independent worker than they would in a traditional job.
- Millennial independents (ages 21-35) make up 30% of full-time independents in 2015, up from 12% in 2011.
- The single most-cited factor for working independently was “the ability to control my own schedule” at 61%. In addition, 58% cited more flexibility, and 54% said they “like being my own boss.” The report found 64% of women said flexibility was a key reason they chose to become independent, compared with 53% of men.
- The average full-time independent has been working solo for 8.8 years.
- In 2015, 43% of those currently working full-time as independents reported they feel more secure working independently, up from 33% in 2011.
- The study looked into the 12.4 million part-time independents (people who regularly work independently between one and 15 hours per week), and most listed supplementing their income (61%) and/or earning more money (50%) as the reasons they work as part-time independents
- Only 9% of full-time independents said they were doing independent work for reasons beyond their control, down from 15% in 2011.
- “Unsatisfied independents” represented 28% of the independent workforce. These workers are defined as those who would prefer a traditional job. The share was down from 30% in 2014. These workers reported they did not have control over their careers, work, work schedules or workplaces.
- The study didn’t cover “occasional independents” who pursue freelance or independent work on an “as needed” or “as desired” basis from time to time but not on a regular basis. There are an estimated 11.9 million occasional independents in 2015.
The full survey is available online.
MBO Partners provides a business operating system for independent workers. It also provides a freelancer management system.