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Happy in the Home Office, Freelancers Embrace the Gig Economy

Given the choice, would you prefer to be your own boss or work for a big corporation? Would you choose to work in a chair overlooking the trees in the backyard of your home (or as I call it, the “outdoor office”) or in an office cubicle?

Put another way, would you choose greater freedom and flexibility over a steady paycheck and retirement benefits?

A notable share of us, it seems, would choose the former. While 77% of the US working population works in full-time or permanent roles, more than 8% of employees have already joined what’s now known as the gig economy, according to a new survey by ReportLinker, and that may be just the beginning.

77% of Americans work full time.

Experts have had a hard time pinning down an accurate description for this slice of the workforce. It’s expansive, encompassing both sharing services such as Uber and TaskRabbit as well as business and creative professionals working as freelancers on short-term projects that fit their schedules and interests.

These workers have figured prominently in experts’ predictions about the future of work. One study by Intuit predicts freelance workers potentially could make up 40% of the workforce by 2020.

26% of US respondents to ReportLinker’s survey say they would consider exiting the traditional workplace to work as a freelancer or independent contractor, nearly 17% say they would be willing to take the leap within the next three years. This suggests there could be a quiet revolution underway.

74% of Americans are unlikely to become a freelancer during their professional career.

Given that a traditional job still offers a steady paycheck along with health and retirement benefits, what would inspire so many workers to join the gig economy?

Being your own boss was the top reason cited by those who’ve already made the transition, with 29% of all mentions, says ReportLinker, while the ability to work flexible hours came in a close second.

29* of Freelancer find being their own boss the most appealing.

Another reason professionals may hesitate is because life in the gig economy isn’t always paradise. One in four freelancers say the lack of retirement benefits is a drawback, while others see the lack of unemployment insurance and job security as downsides.

27% of Americans mainly dislike having no retirement benefits about being a freelancer.

Still, being happy in your job matters quite a bit too. For example, 73% of traditional workers say they find a real purpose in their work. However, 38% of those who don’t believe their job offers them a real sense of purpose say they’re attracted to the life of a freelancer.

Ask freelancers if they’re happy with their choice, and the overwhelming response is yes. They’re likely to have a much more optimistic view than traditional workers. Thirty-two percent say they’re strongly convinced they’re happier than their counterparts in cubicles, says ReportLinker.

65%of Americans think freelancers are happier than other professionals.

The good news is that for many professionals becoming an independent contractor offers quite a few benefits – and profitable returns. Those likely to do best in the gig economy are “workers with specialized skills, deep expertise, or in-demand experience” who “can command attractive compensation, garner challenging and interesting work, and secure the ability to structure their own working lives,” writes Diane Mulcahy, author of The Gig Economy: The Complete Guide to Getting Better Work, Taking More Time Off, and Financing the Life you Want in Harvard Business Review.  

It can also be highly rewarding. Eighty-four percent of freelancers say they feel a sense of purpose working in the gig economy, with 59% saying they strongly agree with this statement. These independent workers are also more likely to be engaged in their work compared to full-time or part-time employees in traditional workplaces.

And then, of course, there’s that home office, with its short commute, the nice view, and a change of scenery when the weather cooperates. Although most people picture freelancers working from the local coffee shop, 41% work from home says ReportLinker.

It may still be too early to predict the full impact of the gig economy on the future of work. But if professionals continue to make the leap to freelance work over the next three to five years, it’s all but certain we’ll be looking at a new labor force dynamic.

 

This survey conducted by ReportLinker reached 1008 online respondents representative of the US population.