The independent workforce is up nearly 10% from 2011 — that’s some 18 million professionals generating over one trillion dollars, according to a new report. These independents, contractors, consultants, and freelancers are not only making a living for themselves, they’re providing work to others. To the tune of $96 billion.
How is that possible?
Here’s the math: more than a quarter of independent workers hire other freelancers, and this year’s MBO Partners State of Independence Report says that these approximately 18 million indies are putting the equivalent of 2.3 million fellow freelancers on the books. To a large extent they’re doing this virtually. The 2013 report reveals that the new virtual team-up is big business, with independents assembling into collaboration teams to meet customer demands.
“This year’s report shows the tremendous economic impact of independent workers,” says Gene Zaino, chief executive officer of MBO Partners. “And [it] validates that independence is more than a viable career path; it’s a job creation engine.”
And there’s no sign of slowing down. By 2023, it is projected that more than half of all private-sector workers will have logged hours as independent pros.
But who are these workers and where are they taking us, exactly? Let’s see what else the study’s numbers have to say.
- Mainstream Presence: Independence is driving what looks an awful lot like a structural shift. MBO Partners’ 2013 workforce index, a measure created to track the private sector, shows an 8.2% growth since the base year in 2011. And the study’s authors expect growth to hit 24 million by 2018. As it stands, nearly 10 million households can credit at least half of their income to the work of independents.
- Economic Engine: Independent workers have generated close to $1.2 trillion in total income in 2013. They also spend. When it comes to non-payroll/contractor outlay, on average, they’re putting down about $8,500 per year per solo worker — that’s $150 billion, annually.
- The Confidence Factor: Sixty-four percent of the indies polled reported a high level of satisfaction with their work style — that’s down a bit from 2012, but still greater than in 2011. The study shows that 77% plan to continue as either sole proprietors (63%) or expand to a larger business model (14%).
- Multi-generational: Of the 17.7 million independents, 1 in 5 are Millennials (21-33 years old), 36% are Gen X (34-49 years), 33% are Boomers (50-67 years), and 11% are matures (68+).
And here’s one more interesting detail from the report. Independence has a new name, or a bunch of them.
That is, according to MBO Partners, just 3% of independent workers chose freelancer as their primary title. Instead, the survey got responses that ran the gamut, from self-employed to business owner, contractor, consultant and entrepreneur. Seems the independent professional is building a whole new kind of persona. And they’re taking a seat in their own kind of corner office.