Keep your eye on the next decade — by the end of it, more Americans will be working for themselves as freelancers than reporting to a boss. That's according to new projections from the 2017 Freelancing in America report, a collaboration between online gig marketplace Upwork and the nonprofit Freelancers Union.
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The report paints a thorough picture of today's freelance worker, already comprising 57.3 million Americans. When you dig into demographics, millennials are leading the pack — a staggering 47 percent consider themselves freelancers. That hustle has translated into $1.4 trillion generated, although it's no walk in the park. Freelancers report an average of 4.5 clients each months, diversifying their income base to get some income stability.
If you freelance or if you're considering making the leap, get ready to keep training for whatever's next. More than half of freelancers report pursuing skill-related education, including some who "reskill" and learn completely new skills. The internet has proved as big a boon for freelancers as you'd expect, with 77 percent saying they can find jobs inside of a week online and 71 percent claiming their businesses have grown in the past year.
Just don't call it the "gig economy" — just 1 in 10 prefer that descriptor. About half like "freelance economy" and one-quarter choose "on-demand economy." That said, there are things freelancers miss about the 9-to-5, top among them income predictability and benefits. With the Affordable Care Act a bigger political football than ever, freelancers have to keep a close eye on health care, which is one of the biggest reasons for "job lock," staying in a position you don't like for the benefits.
The Freelancing in America: 2017 report sees a lot of promise in the self-directed workers of the future. Whether the conditions that enable that growth continue may depend on a lot more than your own personal hustle.