This morning we released our State of Independence in America report, the sixth annual iteration of the country’s longest-running end-to-end survey of the American independent workforce. This year’s study highlights a number of fascinating insights; notably, it shows that even as the number of independent workers fell slightly, independence remains a viable – and lucrative – option for many workers in a rebounding economy.
Even against a backdrop of low unemployment and high job openings, the total number of Full Time Independent workers fell by just 5%, indicating that those who wish to remain independent do so willingly.
Furthermore, striking new data shows that by 2021, an impressive 48% of workers will be independent or will have tried independent work at some point in their careers.
Independent workers are also emerging to be “more” than their traditionally employed counterparts.
Nearly half of Full-Time Independent workers, 47%, report making more money working on their own than they would in traditional employment. In fact, amidst overall wage stagnation, the average gross income generated from independent work has risen 30% since 2011, and 3 million independent workers earn more than $100,000 per year. More than 4 in 10 have 4-year college degrees or higher, including 20% with advanced degrees, and this distinction is even higher among independents’ large Millennial population, where nearly 6 in 10 workers have four-year or advanced degrees. Independent workers are experienced – averaging 10.5 years’ experience – and generally command high salaries, with 28% of the Full-Time Independent population earning more than $75,000.
The reasons for going (and staying) independent are numerous, but control plays out strongly in the report as a key factor, be it for their schedule (63%), increased flexibility (59%), or over their career (41%).
The independent workforce is also getting younger. A full 40% are Millennials, while 31% are part of the Baby Boomers. Each generation has a number of reasons for their independent work, but one thing’s for sure: these independents are a growing economic force, generating more than $1.1 trillion in annual income, equal to over 6% of U.S. GDP.
We attribute the growth of the independent population and the increase in independent satisfaction to many factors, including an ever-growing infrastructure of products, services, and programs, barriers separating traditional and independent work continuing to erode, and workforces increasingly turning to independents instead of traditional FTEs to fill niche positions.
Overall, this year’s study continues to underscore the idea that independence is not just a viable – but a desired – option for many workers, and will remain so for years to come.