About 1 in 3 people are now working on a freelance basis — and some now earn more money than they did at traditional jobs.
That’s according to the second annual “Freelancing in America” study conducted by research firm Edelman Berland for the Freelancers Union, a national organization, and Upwork, a freelance marketplace.
The percentage of the U.S. workforce that is freelancing remains around 34 percent, meaning an estimated 53.7 million people have done freelance work in the past year. These independent workers include what the study describes as:
- Independent contractors
- Diversified workers (with multiple sources of income from a mix of traditional employers and freelance work)
- Temporary workers
- Freelance business owners
Among freelancers, 23 percent quit a traditional job with an employer in order to freelance. And 60 percent of freelancers who left traditional jobs now earn more money.
Stephane Kasriel, chief executive of Upwork, tells Forbes:
“Typically what happens is when people switch to freelancing is they are able to adapt their rates to whatever the market is commanding much more fluidly than as employees. In freelancing, you get to set your own rates.”
The study also found that half of freelancers say they wouldn’t stop freelancing to take a traditional job with an employer for any amount of money. And 82 percent believe that increased opportunities for freelancers are a positive step for the economy.
The study states that the economic implications of the more flexible freelancing workforce are significant:
Workers can pursue more meaningful, independent lives. Businesses can access the exact right skills and people they need at the exact right time. A more nimble economy is potentially more innovative, more competitive, and better able to deal with the fluctuations of global markets.
Freelance work is not without its drawbacks, though.
In a blog post about the study, the Freelancers Union contends that elected officials don’t understand the challenges facing the freelance workforce:
Without employer-sponsored benefits, freelancers need help affording health care and saving for retirement. They suffer anxiety and isolation due to unpredictable income. They have a virtual lack of recourse against wage theft. They lack a sound social safety net. It’s clear that this new era of work requires new solutions.
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