Is the 1099 Economy Becoming the “New Normal?”

A very informative new survey on the 1099 Economy is out from the Freelancer’s Union, the first and leading organization seeking to promote the interests of 1099ers, freelancers, and independent workers.  (Note:  The Freelancer’s Union was formerly known as Working Today.)   The study estimates that 53 million Americans now work as freelancers—an astounding 34 percent of the total U.S. workforce.   All indications suggest that these numbers will grow in coming years.   Surveyed freelancers project an increase in demand for their services, and a very large share of existing workers (80%) note that they would consider moonlighting or doing other work on the side.

The report also offers a useful typology of the 1099 economy, dividing freelancers into five groups:

  • Independent Contractors (traditional freelancers)—40% of freelance workforce
  • Moonlighters (those with a day  job too)-27%
  • Diversified Workers (multiple jobs)-18%
  • Temp Workers-10%
  • Independent Business Owners-5%

The categorization scheme is helpful, although I might quibble with these percentage shares.  For example, the share of independent business owners is much smaller than seen in other data sources.   The categories highlight a key point:  there are many points of entry into the 1099 Economy:  some by choice and design, while others reluctantly accept this new work status.

The survey also includes some useful findings on key issues facing freelancers.  These include the most important issues of finding work and generating steady income.   The report also notes that the freelancing life is slowly becoming easier as new services and organizations (like the Freelancers Union) are now targeting the 1099 Economy.   As I have been arguing for years, providing new support tools for 1099ers ought to be a high priority for economic development organizations.  It’s not happening yet, but I hope that the hard facts presented in this survey and elsewhere can help turn the tide.

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