How Will the Rise of the Freelance Economy Impact You?

How Will the Rise of the Freelance Economy Impact You?

Freelance Work is on the Rise
The rise of Uber, Lyft, Task Rabbit, Elance and other online labour marketplaces, combined with employers’ desire to lower payroll and insurance costs, has driven up the number of people cobbling together a living from freelancing. The recent study, “Freelancing in America: A National Survey of the New Workforce”, released by the Freelancers Union together with freelance platform Elance-oDesk, finds that 53 million Americans, or 34% of the population, qualify as freelancers.

Not all of them make their living exclusively as freelancers. The number includes 14.3 million workers who would be called “moonlighters” —people who have a primary job that pays benefits, and supplement their income with extra work. This might include a full-time tech support worker at a corporation who also does consulting with private clients on the side, or a web developer who takes on projects for non-profits in the evening.

Of the remaining 38.7 million, 21.1 million are what the survey calls “traditional” freelancers who do temporary work on a project basis. Some 9.3 million “diversified workers” have multiple sources of income, which can include a part-time job, like working 20 hours a week at a dentist’s office. Another 5.5 million are “temporary” staffers who work for a single employer, but not on a permanent basis with benefits, like a business strategy consultant working for a start-up on a contract that can include months of employment. Then, there are the 2.8 million “business owners” who have between one and five employees, like social marketing guru, Ivan, who hires a team of other social marketers to build a small agency, but still identifies himself as a freelancer.

Horowitz, Executive Director of the Freelancers Union. “The connected era we live in is liberating our workforce. The barriers to being a freelance professional—finding work, collaborating with clients and getting paid on time—are going away”, says Horowitz.


  • Freelancers are seeing more demand for their work
    Twice as many freelancers have seen an increase in demand in the past year as have seen a decrease (32% increase, versus 15% decrease). Technology is helping freelancers
  • Technology is helping freelancers
    Nearly seven in 10 (69%) freelancers said technology had made it easier to find freelance work, and 42% have done freelance work via the Internet. As demand increases, so does reputation
  • As demand increases, so does reputation
    Almost two out of three (65%) freelancers said freelancing as a career path is more respected today than it was three years ago. The potential for earnings is driving growth
  • The potential for earnings is driving growth
    80% of non-freelancers surveyed said they would be willing to do work outside of their primary job if it was available and enabled them to make more money. There’s room for growth
  • There’s room for growth
    38% of freelancers expect to increase hours in the next year versus 12% who expect their hours to decrease. Workers under 35 are more likely to freelance
  • Workers under 35 are more likely to freelance
    38% of Millennials are freelancing (compared to 32% of those over 35) and Millennials are also most optimistic about the future of the freelance job market, with 82% saying that the best days are ahead (compared to 74% of those over 35).

Survey respondent, Mikki Morrissette, commented that she spent more than a decade in corporate publishing in New York City before switching over to become a freelance writer and communications specialist 15 years ago. “I am so much happier in this new stage of my career”, says Morrissette. “As a single mom with two kids, and an itch for travel, I love the flexibility. I get to choose the projects I work on and mostly work with other eclectic entrepreneurs like me. I love being free to pursue my interests where they take me.”

Source: Freelancers Union and Elance-oDesk

Originally published in volume 17 issue 6 of Your Workplace magazine.

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