Posted on August 23, 2022
Employment turmoil in 2020 continues to lead workers to become independent contractors or pick up a side gig, which were growing trends even before the Covid-19 pandemic.
That’s according to a recent poll of more than 1,000 independent workers from MBO Partners. About 59% said they were independent contractors by choice this year, lower than 2019’s pre-pandemic figure of 67%, but up from 55% in 2011. This year, about 14% said their independent contractor status was due to a job loss or inability to find a job.
But the number of women independent workers fell this year: After averaging 50% over the last several years, it dropped to 42% in 2020. It’s just one reflection of what a devastating year it’s been for working women, who’ve had to put careers on hold, juggled more responsibilities, faced job losses, pay cuts or greater risk of contracting Covid-19 in frontline jobs.
Overall, MBO Partners says 48% of U.S. adults are currently or have worked as independent contractors during their careers, and that figure will reach 54% by 2025.
This year, there were 7.7 million skilled independent workers, compared to 4.5 million in 2011. The number of those with a side gig also grew, from 10.5 million in 2016 to 15.8 million this year, with those pursuing side hustles looking to earn extra income, acquire new skills and follow passions.
Independent contractors generated $1.21 trillion in revenue this past year. While just 12% did business outside the U.S. in 2013, 28% reported doing so in 2020.
“Independent work has grown from a novelty to a mainstream way of working,” said Miles Everson, CEO of MBO Partners, per a news release. “We’ve reached an important inflection point in the American workforce, where workers not only desire to control their own careers, but businesses increasingly realize that accessing top talent and skills means needing to rethink how they structure their workforces and that in order to be competitive, they must leverage independent professionals as part of this modern business model.”
Since March, mobile staffing app GigSmart has seen hourly gig postings grow 460%, HR Dive reports. Gartner has said almost one-third of organizations are replacing full-time employees with contingent workers to save money.
Unsurprising, given the widespread shift to remote work prompted by the pandemic: The number of workers who described themselves as digital nomads grew 49% over last year. Independents report feeling more secure being self-employed, compared to being a full-time employee, per MBO Partners.
This work-from-home period in time might lead more to pursue independent contracting: Fiverr found more than two-thirds of non-freelance employees who’ve been working from home are now more interested in freelance work or side gigs. About 55% said working remotely made them realize they could make freelancing a career, and more than half said the flexibility they’ve experienced while working from home inspired them.