The Future is Freelance: More Than Half U.S. Workforce Will be Freelance by 2027

The Future is Freelance: 

More Than Half U.S. Workforce Will be Freelance by 2027

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Presently, 57.3 million Americans wake up and commute straight from their bed to their home office as sole proprietors. If that number blows your mind, consider the fact that the 2017 Freelancing in America study, the most comprehensive of its kind, predicts that the number of freelancers will continue to skyrocket over the next decade. In fact, they predict that by 2027, 86.5 million people will be freelancers, accounting for the majority of the U.S. workforce.

Since 2014, the freelance workforce grew three times faster than the U.S. workforce in its entirety, and millennials account of nearly half (47 perccent) of all freelancers, which is more than any other generation. Numerous factors account for this monumental shift toward freelancing.

First, and most obvious, is technology, and not just in the sense that computers allow us to work from anywhere. An increase in automation and artificial intelligence has resulted in a “tremendous economic transformation” — the Fourth Industrial Revolution, as it’s being called — and the workforce is adapting as necessary.

The study found that freelancers are highly tuned into this economic shift, and that they “update their skills more often and believe they’re better prepared than traditional employees for the future. 65 percent of full-time freelancers say they’re updating their skills as jobs evolve, versus only 45 percent of full-time employees.”

Additionally, 65 percent of freelancers (from 10 percent from 2016) feel that having a diverse portfolio of clients results in more job security than having a single employer, and they have an average of 4.5 clients per month.

How The Freelancing Future May Affect Women

Women currently account for more than half the freelance workforce, so there’s clearly something motivating them to leave the 9 to 5 and work for themselves.

“I am seeing more and more women seeking something different than the long hours in an office. I am also seeing they want to work with all of their skill sets, [and] not just a specific set of skills,” said Kim Kleeman, a serial entrepreneur and founder of Pivot Up, which provides business consulting to female entrepreneurs. “Generalists and ‘subject matter experts’ both find the freelance world liberating. The ability to work in the various co-working spaces around Chicago allows for temporary meeting spaces and professional social interactions.”

Freelancing also allows for more flexibility, which is particularly appealing to those planning and rearing families. Kleeman, who’s owned her business for 15 years, added, “Designing my life the way I want it to be makes sense for me and my family.”

There are, of course, some major hurdles to consider. For example, despite women accounting for the majority of the freelancing market, recent studies have found that the freelancing economy is not immune to the gender pay gap.

“This generation of women freelance workers represents transformative change.”

-Sara Horowitz

Honeybook, a tool used by small businesses and freelancers to bill clients, found that freelancing females make 32 percent less, on average, than their male counterparts. Compare this to the 19 percent (U.S. Census) to 24 percent (Payscale) salary gap found in the traditional workforce. With freelancing becoming more commonplace, it’s imperative for women to demand equal pay for the services they provide.

Other hurdles include income stability, lack of benefits, confusing taxes for small business/sole proprietorship, and fewer choices when it comes to health insurance. In a world where more and more are becoming freelancers, though, the demand for all of the above will continue to grow louder, and women are eager to lead in this paradigm shift.

“This generation of women freelance workers represents transformative change,” writes Freelancers Union founder Sara Horowitz. “Reacting to economic pressures and the ill-fitting office culture around them, they’ve struck out on their own. They’re harnessing technology to focus on work that they find rewarding, on a schedule that fits their lives, and on terms that dignify them as vital contributors to our economy.”

Wendy Rose Gould

Wendy Rose Gould is a reporter based in Phoenix, Arizona. She covers women’s lifestyle topics for numerous digital publications, including Refinery29, InStyle, xoVain, Headspace, PopSugar and ModCloth. You can learn more about her at WendyGould.com.

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