The Freelance Economy is Booming

Thursday Sep 14th 2017 by Pedro Hernandez
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New data from LinkedIn shows that small businesses are playing a big part in helping freelance professionals land gigs.

Freelancers are in demand, according to a study released Sept. 14 by LinkedIn, the massive professional network owned by Microsoft.

It's been a year since the launch of LinkedIn ProFinder, a service that connects small businesses and consumers to freelancers. To celebrate, LinkedIn released some new insights on how the freelance economy is doing. In total, 70,000 independent workers across the U.S. are now using LinkedIn ProFinder to land gigs.

Chances are that a small business may their next client.

"In addition to consumers looking to hire freelancers for project-based work, we've found that a large proportion of requests for proposals in our business categories - Marketing and Branding, Design and Software - are coming from small businesses," stated the report. Generally, their clients are CEOs, presidents and other business leaders (40-50 percent), marketing personnel (20 percent) and sales professionals (10 percent).

The Freelance Economy is Booming - LinkedIn

In five years, the number of self-employed types on LinkedIn has grown by nearly 50 percent. The healthcare industry leads the pack, with a 47 percent increase in independent talent over the past five years, compared to just 20 percent of non-freelancers. The retail (42 percent) and software (33 percent) industries also ranked high.

Demand for career coaching is growing by leaps and bounds. Although weekly requests for proposals have increased more than fivefold in the year since LinkedIn ProFinder launched, weekly requests for coaches have risen by 16 times.

Sometimes, the journey to becoming a full-time freelancer can take some interesting twists and turns.

In a survey of over 1,000 professionals who registered with LinkedIn ProFinder, 25 percent of respondents said their current freelance work is in a completely different field than their previous full-time career. Thirteen percent took classes or received training to embark on their new careers.

Freelance work is also financially rewarding for some. Twenty percent of respondents said they expect to pull in six figures or more this year.

Naturally, some independent workers may be some bumps along the way.

A majority of freelancers (76 percent) reported that they've had trouble getting paid by their clients. Nineteen percent said this occurs three to six times a year.

In May, New York City's Freelance Isn't Free Act took effect. The law grants protections to the self-employed, strengthening their rights to compensation that's complete and on time, as well as the right to a written contract and protection from retaliation.

"Freelance workers play a critical role in the economic strength and vitality of this city," said New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio in a Nov. 16, 2016 announcement after signing the legislation into law. "With these new protections, freelance workers will have more confidence that they will be paid in a timely manner for their work, and if they are not paid, they will have a path to pursue full reimbursement for their labor. This is just one of many steps we are taking to ensure that workers' rights are enforced and respected in this city."

According to the LinkedIn study, most freelancers approve.

Seventy-five percent of ProFinder professionals said laws like the one passed by New York City is a necessary in the freelance economy and 70 percent would like to see similar laws passed in other cities. Nearly a third of respondents believe the Freelance Isn't Free Act will inspire more professionals to try their hands at independent work.

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