SOURCE: MBO Partners

MBO Partners

October 06, 2014 06:00 ET

Shades of Independence: The Story of America's Solopreneurs & Side-Giggers, via MBO Partners

The Fourth Annual MBO Partners State of Independence in America Report Reveals Independent Work Is Far From a One-Size-Fits-All Story

HERNDON, VA--(Marketwired - October 06, 2014) - Independent work in America has developed into a mega trend, with 30 million now regularly working as independents, according to MBO Partners' fourth annual State of Independence in America workforce study. The 2014 report for the first time assessed both independent workers who work 15 or more hours per week ("solopreneurs" or full-time independents) as well as those who work less than 15 hours per week ("side-giggers" or part-time independents) in order to develop a more accurate picture of the independent workforce as a whole. 

The study reveals that there are 17.9 million solopreneurs committed to independent work as their primary earning path and another 12.1 million side-giggers who regularly work as independents to augment their income. These two distinct populations of independent workers both still primarily choose the path of independent work -- but for different reasons. 

Key insights from the report include:

The Rise of the Independent Nation. From today's base of 30 million independent workers, the number of independent workers regularly working in this capacity is expected to grow to just under 40 million by 2019. 

  • The solopreneur population size rose 1.2 percent from 2013 and 12.5 percent from the base year of 2011.
  • The majority of these solopreneurs work as independents on a full-time basis, continue to be satisfied (82 percent) and plan on remaining independent in the future (76 percent).
  • For solopreneurs, the average tenure as an independent is 9.4 years. 

Follow the Money. Solopreneurs have a significant impact on the U.S. economy, provide employment and financial support for millions of Americans and are a major source of new employer small businesses. 

  • Solopreneurs generated more than $1.1 trillion in total revenue over the past year, spent more than $150 billion on non-payroll/contractor expenses and are the primary income source for more than 10 million American households. 
  • One third of the solopreneur population spent $92 billion hiring the equivalent of 2.2 million full-time employees. 
  • 1 in 7, or 2.5 million, solopreneurs plan to build bigger businesses in the future.

Shades of Independence. Independence comes in all ages, shapes and sizes -- from Boomer to Millennial, from full-time independent work to part-time as side-gigs -- with differing motivations leading workers to choose independent work. 

  • Independents live and work in all 50 states; four in 10 live in urban or close-in suburbs, 30 percent in outer suburbs and another 30 percent in small towns or rural areas.
  • Independents hail from all age groups: 28 percent Millennials, 29 percent Gen X, 30 percent Boomers and 14 percent Matures. 
  • More than half (58 percent) of side-giggers choose independence primarily to supplement their income, while solopreneurs choose the path primarily for flexibility (61 percent), autonomy (57 percent) and control (63 percent). 
  • Men and women continue to choose independence in equal numbers, but for different reasons. Women tend to see independent work as a path to fulfilling work that fits into their lifestyle. Men, on the other hand, tend to focus on being their own boss and maximizing their income.

Shaky Economy Gives Rise to Side-Gigs. Following the economic instability of the last several years, independents are not relying on a single source of income. Multiple revenue streams have replaced single-sourced income for many, as workers in a changing work landscape diversify and reduce their risk of relying on a single employer. 

  • Approximately 60 percent of solopreneurs report having multiple sources of income, and 20 percent report having a traditional full or part-time job. Among the reasons reported for multiple revenue-generating activities: steady source of income (64 percent), enjoy the work (41 percent) and the ability to build a professional network (21 percent).
  • Sixty percent of side-giggers also have a traditional full or part-time job. Forty-nine percent are employed in a full-time job, and 10 percent have a traditional part-time job. 

The Future of Work is Independence. The outlook for the independent workforce is positive. During the four years of the study, the 12.5 percent growth of the independent workforce greatly outpaced the 1.1 percent growth in the overall U.S. labor force. This structural shift towards independent work is expected to continue to outpace traditional labor market growth. 

"MBO spearheaded national awareness and acceptance of America's independent workforce when we began our national survey four years ago," says Gene Zaino, CEO and President of MBO Partners. "By focusing on those who perform sustained independent work, we have deepened America's understanding of the future of work. Our study reveals independent work is far from a one-size-fits-all story. With shades of independence -- from solopreneurs to side-giggers -- there is a clear need for a variety of workforce solutions. The study is a wake-up call that at 30 million strong and forecast to grow to 40 million, the independent workforce is not just here, but here to stay."

View the Full Report and Infographics

The 2014 report, methodology and infographic all are available for review:

About the Study

The MBO Partners State of Independence in America research series is based on more than 11,000 in-depth surveys and hundreds of interviews conducted during the past four years. Independent workers are defined as people who report in an average week working in non-traditional, non-permanent full- or part-time employment and include workers who identify themselves as consultants, freelancers, contractors, self-employed, and on-call workers, among others. For the 2014 study two separate online surveys were conducted by Emergent Research (www.emergentresearch.com) and Rockbridge Associates (www.rockresearch.com) in May of 2014. 2,017 residents of the US responded to the first survey, and the results were used to determine the size of the independent workforce and to define the interest in becoming an independent worker by the general population. The data were weighted to reflect the demographics of the US, and the margin of error for this survey is +/- 2 percent. 1,109 independent workers responded to the second survey and the results were used to profile their characteristics and motivations. The margin of error for the second survey is +/- 3 percent. The 2014 survey results are generally statistically consistent with survey results from the previous three years. 

About MBO Partners:

MBO Partners is the leading provider of management services for independent professionals and the clients that engage them. We deliver a complete Business Operating System that makes it easy for those self-employed professionals and their clients to work together in a convenient, tax-efficient and legally compliant manner. For self-employed professionals, MBO Partners manages their entire business infrastructure. Our technology platform includes a proprietary process to handle billing and revenue cycle management, contract administration, business insurances, expense management, tax withholding, health and retirement benefits 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 organizations that use contract talent, MBO Partners 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 www.mbopartners.com.

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