State of Independence Report : 2018

Independent work remains a viable and desirable career path, despite the strongest job market in decades

The 2018 MBO Partners State of Independence in America paints a nuanced picture of the 42 million Americans who work independently as independent professionals, contractors, consultants, freelancers, side giggers and more.

In this eight year of the report, the longest-running comprehensive look at the independent workforce, American independents emerge as strong, mature, and satisfied.

Even amidst record low unemployment and the strongest jobs market in decades, independent work remains a viable and desirable career path.

"People from all industries choose to become independent professionals," says Gene Zaino, CEO of MBO Partners. "The key word here is 'choose.'"

With each passing year, independent workers grow in both popularity and in size.

"Independent work and traditional jobs are not engaged in a zero-sum fight, but rather, growing in unison," says Zaino.

Independent work is or has been a part of nearly 47% of American's careers, a number that is poised to swell to 52% in the next five years.

4 Key Trends

    1. Traditional jobs aren't going away. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the US economy has added payroll jobs for 93 straight months, the unemployment rate is 4 percent, and there are 6.7 million open jobs.
    2. Full-time independence continues to be a viable and attractive option for many professionals, especially for those with in-demand skills. Companies are growing more comfortable working with independents, utilizing their skills in strategic positions, and paying them more. As a result, the number of High-Earning Independents, those earning more than $100,000, continues to rise-to 3.3 million. Satisfaction among Full-Time independents remains high as well.
    3. The need for-and interest in-part-time independent work continues to grow. Economic pressures and the continued growth of platforms and technology are contributors to this uptick in interest and size.
    4. The new norm is now more likely to be a mix of traditional and independent experience throughout one's lifespan. An individual's career path may include working at a payroll job, working as a Full-Time Independent, and having a side gig while employed at a payroll job. It's not necessarily an either-or choice.

Independents remain a powerful economic force, contributing more than $1.3 trillion annually to the economy, more than 6.7% of U.S. GDP. The scale is growing globally as well; one in five serve customers outside of the United States as well as domestically.

This year's study underscores that independence will remain a viable and desired option for workers in the years to come.


The improving economy is leading to greater demand for skilled independent talent, which enables them to attract more work and increase their fees or wages. This is especially true in high demand fields such as IT, biotech, and marketing.

Related Infographic

MBO's State of Independence Research is the longest-running and most respected research on the independent workforce. View our previous reports.

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