Living the Freelance Lifestyle: Workforce Statistics

By Angela Tague, Contributor, on April 5, 2018

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I never planned to try out the freelance lifestyle. It just happened. One day, I was editing photos at my newspaper job and the phone rang in the photography department. My boss answered, then handed the receiver to me. “Want to do a side gig?” he asked, as the curly phone cord stretched my way. It was 1998, and I was a college student looking for extra cash. I took the call, created pictures for a scrapbooking magazine and later invoiced it as my first direct client.

When I was working in the newspaper industry, I received those types of calls often. By 2009, I started to look closer at the numbers, and realized I was actually making more money hour-for-hour with my freelance projects. I decided to go all in. I left my newspaper job and embraced the freelance lifestyle.

Now that I’ve been a freelancer for quite some time, I’ve become more and more interested in how the indy lifestyle is evolving. Lately, I’ve been wondering just how many solopreneurs are out there making a living with 1099s, and I found some interesting statistics. Here’s an overview of what I learned.

Lifting the Mysterious Self-Employment Curtain

A 2017 independent study commissioned by Freelancers Union and Upwork defined a freelancer as an individual who “perform[s] supplemental, temporary, project or contract-based work to fully or partially support themselves.” Here’s what I discovered from this thought-provoking study:

57.3 Million Americans Are Doing Some Kind of Freelancing

And this number will continue to grow over the next decade. By 2027, a predicted 86.5 million Americans will be freelancing — while the number of non-freelancers is projected to drop to 83.4 million Americans. So, who’s leading the way here? Millennials. In fact, a whopping 47 percent of workers in this generation freelance.

69 Percent of Indys Agree That the Perception of Freelancing As a Career Is Improving

As the indy workforce continues to grow and evolve, more and more traditional workers are beginning to see the value in this newer career path. According to the report, “Freelancers are increasingly opting in, looking for freedom, flexibility and the better security that comes with having diverse clients.”

54 Percent of the US Workforce Is Concerned About Job Stability

Specifically, individuals within this group worry that the work they do now won’t exist in 20 years — perhaps due to technology advancements and the rise of automation. This concern applies to freelancers and traditional employees alike, making ongoing skills training crucial for all workers.

65 Percent of Full-Time Freelancers Update Their Skills As Jobs Evolve

In an effort to keep up with the demands of a changing marketplace, freelancers often take classes or get certifications to meet their clients’ growing needs. In comparison, only 45 percent of traditional employees say they’re updating their skills as jobs evolve.

Breaking Down the Numbers on the Freelance Workforce

In 2016, Paychex analyzed over 400,000 freelancers’ resumes on the public job-posting website, Indeed. The study revealed some interesting numbers based on the public profiles of job seekers:

2000 Was the Start of a Major Shift in How We Work

Between 2000 and 2014, the study uncovered a substantial 500 percent increase in freelance work listed on resumes. This dramatic rise is likely due to two factors: Over this time period, more workers began to prefer the freelance lifestyle and more businesses became interested in hiring freelancers.

Graphic Designer Is the Number One Job Title Featured in Freelance Resumes

What type of freelance gig was cited in the most resumes? Graphic designers won “by a landslide” here across 34 states. In second place, freelance writers came out on top in 14 states. When it comes to the skills mentioned on freelance resumes, the 10 most popular were design, Microsoft, Photoshop, Adobe, Illustrator, Excel, management, HTML, writing and photography.

There’s no denying the appeal of the freelance lifestyle. A flexible schedule allows you to work when you feel most creative and productive — making it easy to schedule tasks around family time, without worrying about salary caps. If you’re ready to take the leap, check out this road-tested checklist, created for indys by indys.

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