SOURCE: MBO Partners

MBO Partners

September 06, 2011 09:00 ET

Landmark National Study Reveals Millions Join a New Age of Career Independence; Surprising Picture Emerges of Motivated Workforce Pioneers Leading the Charge

MBO Partners' State of Independence in America Study Shows 28 Million Americans Are Considering Becoming Independent Within the Next Two Years

HERNDON, VA--(Marketwire - Sep 6, 2011) - MBO Partners today announced the release of an inaugural Independent Workforce Index -- a landmark study that examines the state of independent work in America and provides the first national baseline to help track trends and changes in the independent workforce over time.

While the current workforce picture is one of struggle and gloom, this survey reveals a trend to a new age of career independence: there are more and more professionals migrating to working independently; they are more satisfied with their lifestyle choice and they are actively seeking to remain independent.

The MBO Partners Independent Workforce Index includes important new findings about the demographics, beliefs and motivations of this leading-edge workforce group.

Key findings from the survey include:

  • A new, new work world is at hand: This bold new independent workforce spans gender and generations and is currently 16 million strong in the US today.
  • The happy opposition: Nearly 60% of independent workers stated that they are highly satisfied with their work situation versus half of employees who are unhappy and 70% who are not engaged or disengaged.
  • Pioneers of freedom: Debunking a popular misconception that workers are forced into independence due to job loss or lack of alternatives, more than half of independent workers (55%) say it was their proactive choice to become an independent worker. Further, regardless of the reason that motivated the choice, 63% indicated that they will continue working as an independent worker.

"While the government has yet to offer meaningful data about the independent labor market movement, with our new study, we can for the first time share quantitative data about independent work and also offer deeper insights into the pioneers driving this new way to work," said Gene Zaino, CEO of MBO Partners. "The study reveals that there already are more than 10 million independent experts, 70% of the independent workforce, offering specialized knowledge and skills to the open market. The study also sounds an important call -- suggesting the group could be more than 21 million strong in just three more years. Just as important, however, is the revealed entrepreneurial spirit of this new expert economy -- their drive to work for liberty over money, their motivation to be their own boss, and to trade office politics for true expertise in a field of work they love. Independence is a career trend we can all admire and learn from."

The Age of Independence Ushers in a New World of Work

The study revealed that 14% or 28 million American workers 21 and older said they are likely to be independent within the next two years. In fact, of those who said they want to go independent, six-in-ten have already taken action, while one-third have conducted research, and two-in-ten have prepared a business plan, talked to prospective clients, or gotten advice on business issues. Some have even taken major steps such as applying for a business tax ID (13%) and building a business website (14%).

Who are these pioneering spirits revolutionizing the workforce?
The study shows a surprising demographic profile of the 16 million independent workers in the US today:

  • 47% male, 53% female
  • Millennials (12%)
  • GenX (49%)
  • Boomers (30%)
  • 65+ (10%)

Independents tend to be 30-49 years old, nearly half have a college degree. The average income of an independent worker is approximately $52,600.

Flexibility and Control Steer the Move to Freedom
Across generations, independent workers crave control, flexibility, enjoyment in work as well as the desire to be an entrepreneur. The study indicates that the top three drivers for becoming independent are:

  • a desire for greater work life flexibility (47%)
  • need/desire to earn more money (36%)
  • conscious planned decision to start a business (29%)

Only 24% chose to become independent because of loss of a job due to lay-off, termination or closure.

Independent Across the Generations

  • The top 3 reasons Millennials chose independent work were: flexibility (55%), inability to find employment (41%), earn more money (39%)
  • Gen X'ers cited: flexibility (51%), start a business (36%), earn more money (34%)
  • Boomers were motivated by: flexibility (52%), start a business (41%), earn more money (30%)
  • Workers 65+ cited: start a business (40%), flexibility (35%), retired but needed to work (34%)

For Love of Liberty, not Money
The pioneering independent is empowered not by money but rather by passion for the work they do and the contributions they make. Seventy-five percent of independents overall stated that doing something they love is more important than making money while 74% stated that they want a job where they know they are making a difference for someone. Feeling in control of one's destiny, challenged and motivated and able to make an impact are the associated feelings with working independently.

Rewards are not without Risks
While independent workers feel a risk in not having a permanent position and are worried about their future, they still prefer independence, with 40% stating they will never go back to a traditional job while only 19%, or one in five, stated that they would rather have a regular, permanent traditional job than be on their own.

Survey respondents are most concerned with: not enough predictable income (56%), worry about job pipeline (46%) and planning for retirement (46%). Other key burdens included setting boundaries on work so that it doesn't become a 24/7 commitment (32%), managing business details (28%) and collecting on accounts receivables (12%).

New Website Puts Eye on the Future State of Independence

MBO Partners has created a brand new resource site that will serve as a central portal for resources, and ongoing information on this new era of Independence in America. Studying the behavior and needs of this population over time will yield information that will help us to better understand and support the needs of this new workforce and is a way to spur overall productivity and entrepreneurial energy in our nation. Throughout the year, the company will be capturing and sharing the stories of independents and releasing additional data reports that examine new trends around independent work and the expert economy driving those trends. You can visit the site to sign up to receive the full summary of the study as well as additional reports at

About the Study
Independent Workers are defined as people who work at least 15+ hours per week in non-traditional, non-permanent full or part-time employment and includes workers who identify themselves as consultants, freelancers, contractors, self-employed, and on-call workers, among others. Two separate online surveys were conducted by Emergent Research ( and Rockbridge Associates ( in July of 2011. 1144 residents of the U.S. responded to the first survey and the results were used to size the independent workforce and define the interest in becoming an independent worker by the general population. The data were weighted to reflect the demographics of the U.S. and the margin of error for this survey is +/- 3%. 601 Independent Workers responded to the 2nd survey and the results were used to profile their characteristics and motivations. The margin of error for the second survey is +/- 4%.

About MBO Partners
For more than 25 years, MBO Partners has led the $250 billion-and-growing independent consulting sector in America. Our services make it easy for independent consultants and their clients to do business. For independent consultants, MBO Partners manages their entire business infrastructure. Our platform includes a proprietary process to handle contract administration, business insurances, health and retirement benefits, expense management, tax withholding, and more. We couple this with the benefits of direct vendor access into enterprises and the "white glove" attention of a dedicated business manager for every consultant. For organizations that use contract talent, the MBO Enterprise Solutions team provides a complete independent contractor aggregation and engagement offering, including compliance and payment solutions for 1099s, sole proprietors and micro-businesses. To learn more, visit:

Contact Information

  • For Additional Information, Please Contact:
    MBO Partners
    Carolyn Adams
    (415) 963-4174 ext. 4
    carolyn (at)