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Independent Work Force on the Rise

Independent Work Force on the Rise . / Credit: Worker Image via Shutterstock

The number of Americans choosing to work for themselves rather than someone else is on the rise, new research shows.

Nearly 18 million Americans are now spending at least half their time working as a self-employed independent contractor, up 10 percent from 2011, a study by MBO Partners revealed. The result: they're generating $1.2 trillion in total income.

The self-employed aren't just creating jobs for themselves. The research found that 26 percent of independent workers spent a total of $96 billion over the last year hiring the equivalent of 2.3 million full- time workers via contract hiring.

"This year's report shows the tremendous economic impact of independent workers, and validates that independence is more than a viable career path; it's a job creation engine," said Gene Zaino, CEO of MBO Partners. "It's not long until we see the reality that I predicted some years ago – a work force split 50/50 between fixed and contingent workers."

Researchers predict that independence is not a blip in the jobs economy, but a structural shift. The study projects the independent work force to grow to 24 million by 2018.

While most independent workers used to be considered freelancers, the majority no longer see themselves as such. The study discovered that just 3 percent of independent workers chose freelancer as their primary self-descriptor, with the vast majority choosing either self-employed, contractor or business owner. They were also more likely to consider themselves as consultants and entrepreneurs before freelancers.

"Probably the biggest a-ha moment in this year's report is the self-identification of the majority of independents as self-employed," said Aassia Haq, chief marketing officer for MBO Partners

The research shows independent work is being adopted by Americans of all ages. Of the 17.7 million independents, 20 percent are millennials, 36 percent are Gen Xers, 33 percent are baby boomers and 11 percent are older than 68.

Overall, 64 percent of independent workers surveyed are highly satisfied with their work style, while 77 percent plan to continue on as a solo-preneur.

The study was based on surveys of more than 4,000 U.S. residents, of whom more than 2,000 were independent workers.

Originally published on BusinessNewsDaily.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance writer who has nearly 15 years experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.