More than one in three people preferred to do their work this way last year

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Freelancing: there are just as many reasons to do it (more control over your life!) as there are not to do it (taxes, buying your own healthcare, instability). Upwork and the Freelancers Union just released its fifth annual “Freelancing in America” study, commissioning Edelman Intelligent to survey 6,000 working adults (one-third of them freelancers). The most salient finding is how the freelance workforce has grown. Now 56.7 million people are considered freelancers, which means the freelance workforce has grown by 3.7 million since 2014. More than one in three (35%) Americans worked for themselves this year.


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Not everyone freelances full-time

Not everyone is freelancing full-time, however. Respondents said that 50% were freelancing consistently, while the other 50% said that their freelancing was intermittent to regular. And 42% percent worked for themselves less than weekly.

However, 60% of people who left a job to freelance full time said they now earned more.

The main reasons that people who were full-time freelance made the jump were being their own boss, schedule flexibility, working from where they wanted, avoiding office politics, to have a schedule that allowed them to pursue their passions outside of work, and to be able to choose their own projects.

More are choosing to freelance

While it’s true that some people are pushed into freelancing due to layoffs or a poor economy, the study found that over the last five years, people are increasingly choosing to freelance. When survey respondents were asked if they started freelancing out of choice or necessity, 61% of freelancers said choice. That’s a significant contrast from 2014 when respondents answered “choice” by only 53%.

Half (51%) of freelancers say no amount of cash would convince them to take a regular job. And 42% of freelancers say that that type of work provides them with necessary flexibility that they’re unable to get from a regular employer but sorely need – things like health issues and childcare.

Still, it’s not all making your hours and working from home. “Freelancers are the backbone of our economy, but this crucial segment of America’s workforce faces unique challenges, including access to affordable healthcare and workforce development training to update skills in a competitive environment,” said Caitlin Pearce, executive director of the Freelancers Union.

Freelancers proactive on training

Training is something that freelancers pay attention to, lest they fall behind those working out of the home office. However, its cost keeps out 53% of them from participating – usually because they have to pay for any training themselves, instead of having their work ante up. Still, 70% of full-time freelancers participated in skills training in the last six months, in comparison to 49% of full-time workers who are not freelancers.

Instead of Sunday-night scaries, tax and insurance anxiety

While freelancers seem happy to be where they are and see an upward trajectory both career-wise and financially in being self-employed, they did reveal specific apprehensions that come with working for yourself. Sixty-three percent felt anxious about the things they had to manage themselves, like money, taxes, and insurance. An additional 63% worried about the unpredictable nature of their work. And about half (53%) found that freelancing could be isolating.