The number of people working for themselves is on the rise, new research finds.
There are currently 17.9 million solopreneurs — full-time independent workers — in the United States, up 12.5 percent since 2011, according to MBO Partners' fourth annual State of Independence in America workforce study.
"This growth, which is substantially higher than the 1.1 percent growth in the overall U.S. labor force during the same period, indicates a continued, structural shift towards independent work," the study's authors wrote.
In addition to solopreneurs, there are another 12.1 million U.S. "side-giggers," part-time independent workers who spend less than 15 hours a week on their independent work.
The research defines an independent worker as anyone over age 21 who describes his or her job status as independent consultant/contractor, self-employed worker, freelance worker, temporary worker, fixed-term contract worker, on-call worker or small business owner with fewer than four employees.
On average, solopreneurs spend more than 35 hours per week on their independent work, with just 19 percent also working a traditional full- or part-time job to supplement their income. Side-giggers, on average, spend 11 hours per week on their independent work, with 60 percent holding a traditional full- or part-time job.
The vast majority of solopreneurs said they are pleased with their decision to work independently. More than 80 percent of those surveyed said they are satisfied with being solopreneurs, with 76 percent planning to remain independent in the future. [10 Things Every Freelancer Should Know ]
Overall, most solopreneurs made a choice to become independent workers. More than half of those surveyed said going off on their own was their choice completely, with only 1 in 7 saying the decision was due to factors beyond their control, such as layoffs, downsizing or illness.
"Solopreneurs choose this work style because they want control over their lives, including the ability to determine when and where they work and what type of work they do," the study's authors wrote. "Even though independent work has its challenges, most solopreneurs feel that the key advantages of independent work — control, autonomy and flexibility— far outweigh the challenges of working solo."
Being a solopreneur doesn't mean you have to work alone, though; many solopreneurs hire others, too. During the past year, 38 percent of solopreneurs brought on contract hires, spending a total of $92 billion, or the equivalent of 2.2 million full-time workers.
Unlike solopreneurs, side-giggers have chosen to take on part-time independent work mostly because of the money. Nearly 60 percent ofthis group said they do part-time independent work to "supplement income," with 46 percent saying it's to "earn more income." Other motivations, such as the ability to be their own bosses, do what they love and control their own schedules, are still significant, but these reasons rate much lower than they do for full-time independent workers.
In addition, 12 percent of side-giggers report maintaining their independent work as a backup in case something happens to their regular job.
"This 'lifeboat' view of part-time independent work reflects the lack of job security that exists today with traditional employment," the study's authors wrote.
The research revealed that independent workers come in all ages. Specifically, 28 percent are millennials, 29 percent are Gen Xers, 30 percent are baby boomers and 14 percent are seniors over the age of 68.
While men and women continue to choose independence in equal numbers, they do so for different reasons. The study found that women tend to see independent work as a path to fulfilling careers that fit into their lifestyles, while men tend to focus on being their own bosses and maximizing their income.
Moving forward, the outlook for the independent workforce is positive; the study's authors predict that the shift toward independent work will continue to outpace growth in the traditional labor market.
The study was based on surveys of 2,017 U.S. residents, including more than 1,100 independent workers.
Originally published on Business News Daily