Freelancers: We Are the Future
Presented here are relevant statistics and observations gleaned from the fourth annual “Freelancing in America” survey, conducted by the Freelancer’s Union. According to the organization, “Freelancing in America” is the largest and most comprehensive measure of independent workers conducted in the U.S. The online survey queried 6002 U.S. adults who had engaged in full or part-time freelance work between August 2016 and July 2017. Freelancing was defined as temporary, project-based, or contract work performed at a for-profit or not-for-profit organization or government agency.
Who we are
In 2017, 57.3 million of our fellow citizens, representing 36% of the nation’s workforce, participated in the freelance economy and contributed $1.4 trillion to the U.S. economy. The survey found that 63% freelance by choice, rather than by necessity, and enjoy this way of working. Freelancers reported feeling positive about our work and 79% preferred freelancing to traditional employment. We’re more likely than traditionally employed workers to feel respected, empowered and engaged in our working environment. The survey designated the following freelance categories:
- Independent contractors (35%, 19.1 million) — Full-time freelance consultants whose only income is derived from client work
- Diversified workers (28%, 15.2 million)– Freelancers who regularly do client work, but also perform other part-time work
- Moonlighters (25%, 13.5 million)– Those who periodically take on freelance projects in addition to their traditional employment
- Freelance business owners (7%, 3.6 million)– Full-time freelancers who assemble ad hoc teams of freelancing specialists to form a consulting firm, so that more complex and lucrative client work can be performed
- Temporary workers (7%, 3.6 million)
What we like
Time and money impact the decision to freelance. Flexibility is considered a significant benefit and is favored by 60% of freelancers. Additionally, more than 50% of workers who left full-time employment to freelance were able to earn more money within the first year of freelancing than was earned in traditional employment. Forty-six percent raised their project fees and hourly rates in 2017 and 54% said they planned to do so in 2018.
Sill, money is an issue for freelancers. Survey respondents reported that adequate billable hours, negotiating fair project fees or hourly rates and receiving timely payment of invoices (or receiving full payment) could be problematic.
On average, full-time freelancers log 36 billable hours/week. When the billable hourly rate or project fee is considered inadequate, cash-flow is impacted and there can be a struggle to meet financial obligations. Not surprisingly, the survey found that debt is also a worrisome matter.
Access to health insurance and saving for retirement are a challenge. Full-time freelancers rank medical and dental insurance as primary concerns; 20% have no health insurance savings.
Shaping the future
As traditional full-time, middle class paying employment continues to disappear, the ranks of freelance consultants can only increase, making us a fast-growing segment of the American workforce. Sadly, our government leaders are not attentive to the freelance community’s unique circumstances or our voting-bloc potential.
Eighty-five percent of survey respondents said they planned to vote in the 2018 mid-term elections. If that statistic is accurate, it would represent nearly 49 million freelancer voters, more than enough to influence congressional and gubernatorial elections. Seventy percent of survey respondents would prefer that candidates and political representatives would address the needs of freelance professionals, because no matter how lovely things may be for the chosen few who command lucrative project fees, we are nevertheless quite vulnerable.
Freelancers receive no paid sick, vacation, or holiday time. We do not receive co-sponsored health insurance or retirement benefits. Billable hours can have feast or famine fluctuations that wreak havoc on our cash-flow and ability to meet important financial obligations. The 57.3 million freelance consulting professionals in the U. S. desperately need political representation, advocates and activism.
Thanks for reading,