- Freelance workers now number 56.7 million, a 3.7 million rise in five years, according to "Freelancing in America: 2018," a fifth annual study by Upwork and Freelancers Union. The study found that independent workers spend an average of 1 billion hours a week freelancing.
- In other key findings in the study, the average number of weekly hours Americans spent freelancing went from 998 million in 2015 to 1 billion in 2018. Technology has enabled freelancers to find more work, with 64% of independent workers finding jobs online, a portion that has jumped 22 points since 2014. Freelancers are more likely to get the flexible lifestyle they want than non-freelancers, and 51% of freelancers said they wouldn't take a traditional job even if they could. They report experiencing anxiety about all the things they must manage, but, compared to non-freelancers, they have more control over their lives and therefore have less stress. More than 60% of freelancers work independently by choice, not by necessity.
- Freelancers are more likely to proactively update their skills to stay marketable than non-freelancing workers; 70% of fulltime freelancers participated in skills training in the past six months, compared to half of full-time non-freelancers.
Employers looking to hire more independent workers to fill the skills gap and stay agile in a fluctuating labor market aren't likely to have difficulty finding them because of their growing numbers. A 2017 ManpowerGroup survey found that as many as 94% of workers are open to non-traditional work arrangements. In fact, more full-time employees are amenable to becoming independent workers, possibly increasing employers' freelancing talent pipeline. Between 2017 and 2018, the independent workforce grew by 2.2%, according to a MBO Partners' study. In an earlier study, MBO Partners forecast that by 2027, 60% of the labor force will be independent workers.
More HR professionals (60%) in a recent Korn Ferry study said they're hiring contingent workers. Some employers even plan to convert a third of their traditional jobs into contingent slots. Results of the study demonstrate how much more important independent workers have become to the economy. As organizations take on more workers who work for themselves, leaders will need to consider how to manage this complex workforce. Many employers that have enlisted independent workers admit that they don't understand exactly who works for them, experts previously told HR Dive. As HR prepares to onboard more of these workers, companies will need to think through how freelancers will relate to an organization, its traditional employees and its leaders.