ICBA Blog

5 Surprising Independent Contractor Stats

The gig economy is in full swing, and the data proves it

In decades past, work in American meant a commute, strict 9-to-5 (or longer) hours, a regular paycheck, and the occasional raise. Times have changed. Now, work isn’t about spending your days in an office desk chair or doing something you dislike just to pay the bills. Instead, we’re seeing a huge shift. An estimated one-third of the workforce is made up of freelancers.

Americans are picking a passion, enhancing their skills at it, and making a living doing what they love. And the clients who hire them are recognizing the benefits of outsourcing tasks and projects to highly skilled individuals who have a drive to succeed. We’ve compiled a few interesting stats gleaned survey results in the 2016 Field Nation study. Then we analyzed the shifting trends.

Boomers and the Gen-X set make up most of the freelancer workforce.
Millennials are flooding the workforce right now, but they make up only 11% of the nation’s freelancers. The Gen-X crowd and Boomers make up a nearly even split of the rest. Likely, the percentage of millennial freelancers will grow over the next few years, as young people opt for more flexibility and freedom and hone a desired skill. The Boomer generation has a large portion of retirees who might be using freelancing to supplement fixed incomes or jump ship from demanding careers. And Gen-X workers have likely made the shift to the gig economy after gaining valuable on-the-job experience and desiring the benefits entrepreneurship.

Freelancers are experienced in their fields.
With 89% of freelancers over the age of 35, many have had time to cultivate their passions. More than half of freelancers today (54%) have 16 or more years of experience in their line of work. They’ve attended at least some higher education and possibly gained valuable work experience in a traditional setting or have freelanced long term.

Most freelancers are choosing to be independent contractors.
Some people turn to freelancing for income after getting laid off, losing a job, or needing to quit an undesirable position. But the bulk of independent contractors (86%) have made an active choice to join the gig force. They name flexibility and control over their future as the reasons why freelancing is the right fit.

Independent contractors are happy and satisfied.
Freelance isn’t all freedom and bliss. Independent contractors juggle multiple tasks. They deal with project scope creep, have to attract clients, and ride somewhat unpredictable financial waves. That being said, most freelancers (95%) say they love or are content with their work on a daily basis. Despite the unpredictability of certain aspects of gig work, independent contractors likely feel empowerment.

Freelancers are making more money than they were at traditional jobs.
Some independent contractor satisfaction undoubtedly comes from a higher income. Nearly half (46%) of freelancers say they make more now than when they did at a traditional job. And just over a quarter (28%) say they make about the same. Those are inspiring stats for people considering going out on their own or just getting started.