Roughly a third of U.S. workers do freelance work, most of them on top of more traditional working arrangements, according to a recent survey by freelance listings startup Upwork and the Freelancer’s Union. So politicans should probably make a point of paying attention to the contractor segment's needs. 

Freelancers numbered 53.7 million in 2015, up from 53 million in 2014, and comprise 34 percent of the U.S. workforce, according to the Freelancing in America: 2015 study.

Independent contractors, defined in the survey results as people who only freelance for work, make up 36 percent of the freelance. The remainder of those who identify as freelancers are moonlighting, working temporary jobs, running small businesses or earning their income from a mix of freelance work and traditional employment.

The statistics come with mixed blessings. One the one hand, notes a press release, 60 percent of those who abandoned traditional work to freelance full-time are now earning more than they did at their previous jobs.

But, no surprise here, the report  notes that those whose incomes depend on temporary and contract work worry about predictability of income, difficulty finding work, and non-payment or late payment by clients. Roughly half of freelancers told the Freelance Union in another recent survey that they had had trouble getting paid.

Freelancers feel like legislators could listen a little more closely to their needs - and these workers constitute an active voting population. The survey states that 86 percent of freelancers say they are likely to vote in the 2016 general election.

“Unfortunately, this workforce still remains overlooked and poorly understood by elected officials. In fact, 63 percent of freelance workers want more discussion of how to empower the freelance segment of our workforce. And less than a quarter of freelancers see political leaders -- from the local to the national levels -- as actively supporting their issues,” says the report.

Other statistics from the survey include:

  • 73 percent of freelancers said technology makes it easier to find work, compared to 69 percent in the 2014 survey
  • 51 percent of freelancers had obtained work online, compared to 42 percent in 2014
  • 23 percent of freelancers said they quit their previous job to freelance

The survey results align with results of similar past surveys. A recent study by financial services company Intuit and consulting firm Emergent Research framed an uptick in contingent freelance work as a long term trend that predates the advent of the on-demand economy associated with the likes of Uber, Lyft and Instacart.

The report was based on a survey of 7,107 U.S. adults who performed paid work within the last year. Report materials define freelancers as “individuals who have engaged in supplemental, temporary, project- or contract-based work within the past 12 months.”

Published on: Oct 1, 2015