In the past five years of conducting our annual Freelancing in America study (PDF), we’ve witnessed an incredible upsurge: 3.7 more Americans are freelancing, which now totals 57 million workers.
Not only that, people are increasingly freelancing by choice. When asked whether they went independent more by choice or necessity, 61% said by choice, which is up 8 points since 2014. Both freelancers and non-freelancers prioritize lifestyle that they want, but freelancers are more likely to get it. 84% of freelancers say freelancing enables them to lead their chosen lifestyle, compared to 63% of non-freelancers.
In order to adapt to an ever-evolving work landscape, freelancers are proactively updating their skills to be as marketable as possible. 70% of full-time freelancers participated in skills training in the past six months, compared to 49% of full-time non-freelancers. In fact, freelancers find skills training to be even more valuable than a college education.
That said, freelancers continue to face unique challenges. Income predictability, access to affordable healthcare, and getting paid more for the work they do are all top concerns for freelancers. Cost is a barrier for many freelancers to accessing training, particularly full-time freelancers who don’t have the same access to employer training programs.
And while freelancers report better work/life balance with more stimulating work, more time for the people they care about, and less stress than a traditional job, freelancers feel anxiety about all they have to manage, the unpredictable nature of the work, and the isolation of working on their own.
As the midterm elections near, freelancers are highly politically active--a staggering 19 points higher than non-freelancers--and they’re an increasingly engaged constituency. They’re looking for candidates who support freelancer interest. 72% would cross party lines to vote for a candidate that supports freelancers. But the majority do not feel well-represented by government leaders.
To win freelancer votes, candidates should focus on making healthcare more affordable and accessible, as well as supporting retirement savings and higher pay.
As we look toward the future, the freelance workforce will likely continue to grow. We see that younger generations are freelancing at a higher rate, many of whom may never have a traditional job. Government leaders need to recognize the changing workforce and gain more insights into it, which starts with better data.