We Could All Be Freelancers Within a Decade

By: Lauren Mineau

A majority of the American workforce will be freelancers within the next few years, according to a recent study released by the online freelance site Upwork and the Freelancers Union.

The study, titled “Freelancing in America Study: 2017” found that freelancers will soon become the majority. Researchers collected information from 6,000 adults in the U.S. who have done paid work in the last year; it was conducted this summer by Edelman Intelligence. Of those surveyed, 36 percent were freelancers and 64 percent were nonfreelancers.

Research found that freelancers were more likely to take part in continuing education or sharpening their skills outside of work. Fifty-five percent of freelancers took advantage of this kind of work compared to 30 percent of nonfreelancers.

You’ve likely heard that buzzword “gig economy” used to describe the latest trends in contract and freelance work. But it seems those actually performing that type of work don’t like the term.

Instead, 49 percent of freelancers preferred the term “freelance economy.” It was followed by the “on-demand economy” at 25 percent and the “sharing economy” at 13 percent. “Gig economy” was preferred by only 10 percent.

But overall, many people who work for themselves see the future as bright. More people choose to freelance each year, and 59 percent of people surveyed picked up the craft within the last year. Perhaps it’s because 54 percent of American workers surveyed feel that the work they currently do may not exist within a decade for many reasons, including increased use of artificial intelligence and robotics.

“We are in the Fourth Industrial Revolution — a period of rapid change in work driven by increasing automation, but we have a unique opportunity to guide the future of work and freelancers will play more of a key role than people realize,” said Stephane Kasriel, CEO of Upwork and co-chair of the World Economic Forum’s Council on the Future of Gender, Education and Work.

“Professionals who choose to freelance make this choice knowing that, as their own boss, they are in control of their destiny,” Kasriel said. “Freelancers therefore think more proactively about market trends and refresh their skills more often than traditional employees, helping advance our economy.”

Freelancing in America 2017