Global Economy
July 7, 2015

Rise of the Solopreneur

By Andrea Durkin

Independent

The Solopreneur is now in the mainstream of the American workforce.

Flexibility is a key strength of the American economy.  By 2019, there will be 40 million independent workers-full time consultants, freelance professionals, and regular “side-giggers” among them-ready to meet the needs of businesses and consumers on demand.

MBO Partners launched survey research in 2011 to take a census and the pulse of independent workers for their annual State of Independence in America Report.

They find independent workers spread almost evenly across generations, gender, and geographies from cities to suburbs to small towns and rural America.

The new independents include Millennials who launch independent businesses to build professional skills, Gen-Xers spending more time with their children while continuing to flex their professional muscles, and Baby Boomers who, after years serving the corporation, feel ripe for the role of CEO.  They also include older professionals adding to retirement income or “staying in the game” part time.

Businesses are increasingly turning to independent professionals to meet their needs for special skills or projects at a time when American workers increasingly crave greater flexibility in their schedules, autonomy over what they choose to work on, and more control over their careers.

The report underscores that independent workers are thriving in terms of income generation, and becoming significant contributors to economic dynamism through their business expenditures and hiring practices.  Independents hire other independents to collaborate and combine skills in fulfillment of larger and more varied contracts.

Though their reasons for pursuing independent work vary, Solopreneurs tend to love what they do.  They report feeling more control over their work and how they perform their jobs.  They are coping with the uncertainties and in large numbers say they are committed to continue on the independent path.  Their numbers are growing.

For the most part, Solopreneurs and Side-Giggers choose to work independently. But 1 in 7 Solopreneurs and 1 in 25 Side-Giggers report factors beyond their control such as layoffs, downsizing, illness or other circumstances that precipitated this approach to earning income.

Whether independent or not, today’s workers know they must approach their careers with the agility and adaptability of an entrepreneur.  Fortune magazine contributor Erica Frey puts it this way: “Rather than climb a single corporate ladder…you’re more likely to spend your career scaling a professional jungle gym, maneuvering between projects, jobs, companies, industries, and locales.”

Workers of the upcoming professional generation will change jobs every three years.

According to MBO Partners, about 40% of working Americans report spending time at some point in their careers as independent workers-and about 26 million of us who are not currently independent, are considering a shift to independence in the next 2-3 years.  Will it be you?