In my interview with Nissar earlier this year on The CareerMetis podcast talking about the gig economy, we discussed how difficult it is to get a good picture of who makes up the population of freelancers, independent consultants and solopreneurs.
For one thing, there are a lot of headlines out there about the freelance workforce that just don’t pass the sniff test. One third of all of us are freelancers? That doesn’t sound right.
So my colleagues and I decided to take a hard look at this issue in Ultimate Guide to Gig Economy Data: A Summary of Every Freelance Study We Can Find, the highlights of which are summarized in the infographic below.
We found that if you are looking for people who make freelancing their full-time career choice, the number is closer to 11 percent of the population.
But that group is growing, and anyone thinking about the trajectory of their career would be wise to think about opportunities in the gig economy.
1. If you think of the gig economy as service-level jobs on ride sharing apps, you’re missing the bigger picture. Most freelancers are knowledge workers with high-level professional or creative skills.
2. People may start out choosing freelancing for the flexibility, but they often find out they can make more money that way. One study we looked at found that the average annual income in the U.S. of “professional freelancers” is $65,300 versus a median household income in the U.S. of $56,516. One in five professional freelancers in the U.S. makes more than $100,000 per year.
3. Several of the studies we looked at confirmed that fewer people are pushed unwillingly into freelancing and more are choosing it.
4. Several studies also show that freelancers overwhelmingly find more engagement in and passion for their work than when they were in traditional jobs.
That point about engagement is something to pay attention to if your current career in any way involves hiring and managing other people.
For you, the growing gig economy means you likely need a strategy to source and onboard consultants and independent contractors. The future of work is blended teams of internal and external professionals organized around projects rather than around roles.
It also means that in a war for talent, you are no longer competing just with other employers. You are competing with self-employment. Because, however hyped the headlines might be, the data deep in these studies is clear — freelancing is becoming a more attractive option for a growing share of the total workforce.