Expect More Freelancer Representation in 2017

October 19, 2016

5:50 pm

Freelancers and digital nomads are on the rise in America, according to the latest data. What’s the likely result? Greater public recognition. Those living the freelance lifestyle are finally getting big enough to throw their weight around, and they’re on track to continue growing.

The Data

We already reported on the biggest and most eye-catching number to come from freelancers in 2016: They pulled in a total of $1 trillion. As Louis Hyman, Associate Professor and Director of the Institute for Workplace Studies at Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations said in that survey’s press release, “The freelance workforce is the fastest-growing component of the economy.”

Interestingly, the freelance workforce only grew by one million to hit 55 million in 2016, up from 54 million in 2015, but their total earnings went from around 715 billion to about one trillion. It appears that freelancers are earning more by the year, presumably because high skilled workers are choosing to go into the freelance lifestyle an increasing amount.

That’s further backed up by data from the “Freelancing in America” report — the most comprehensive measure of the U.S. independent workforce available:

“63 percent of freelancers say they started more by choice than necessity, an increase of 10 percentage points from 2014. In fact, full-time freelancers feel overwhelmingly positive about their work: they are significantly more likely than non-freelancers to feel respected, engaged, empowered, and excited to start each day.

Compared to traditional employment, 79 percent of freelancers say freelancing is better; half (50 percent) say there’s no amount of money that would get them to take a traditional job and stop freelancing. The majority of freelancers that left a full-time job say they made more freelancing than they did with an employer within one year. Full-time freelancers also say they’re able to work less than 40 hours per week (36 hours/week on average)”

Up Next: Greater Representation

Optimistic predictions for freelancers to compose half of the U.S. workforce by 2020 will likely fall short, but there’s no ignoring that the freelance lifestyle is becoming an increasingly attractive and attainable goal for many.

Also from the report above is the fact that “70 percent of freelancers want more discussion of how to empower the independent workforce.” Cloudpeeps — a freelance talent marketplace — agrees in their latest blog post:

“No matter the results of the election, we’ll see freelancers working together in 2017 to create a louder voice in politics for the freelance population. With a US economic impact of $1 trillion and representing more than a third of the workforce, politicians will be forced to listen and acknowledge their needs moving forward. Hopefully, this will include better health insurance options – another top concern for freelancers.”

Aided by advancement in tech, freelancers are becoming an increasingly loud economic voice. Expect that voice to be heard in 2017.

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Adam is a writer with an interest in a variety of mediums, from podcasts to comic books to video essays to novels to blogging — too many, basically. He's based out of Seattle, and remains a staunch defender of his state's slogan: "sayWA." In his spare time, he recommends articles about science fiction on Twitter, @AdamRRowe

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