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The Rise of the 6-Figure Freelancer

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An ever increasing number of independent contractors are making at least six figures.

Roberto Westbrook | Getty Images

There are going to be 3.8 million independent contractors by 2020 making more than $100,000 a year, according to estimates from the self-employed professional service provider, MBO Partners.

In 2015, 2.9 million full-time independent contractors were making more than $100,000. That is more than 16 percent of the 17.8 million full-time independent contractors in the U.S. in 2015, according to research from Herndon, Va.-based MBO Partners.

That means almost one in five full-time freelancers were turning six-figure salaries last year.  

The research was highlighted in MBO’s recent report, published in April, calling for a new federal worker classification for the burgeoning category of worker. It proposed the CSE, or Certified Self-Employed.

Related: We're Turning Into a Freelance Nation. Here's What That Looks Like.



Taken together, the independent contractor workforce in the U.S. includes 42.1 million people, including both part-time and full-time freelance workers. The freelance workforce generates $1.15 trillion in economic activity, according to MBO.

The rise of the freelancer economy has been a response in part to the proliferation of on-demand companies, such as Uber and Airbnb, which serve as a broker between people providing a service with people and companies demanding that service and the increasing preference of employees to be able to determine their own schedule.

Catherine Clifford

Written By

Catherine Clifford is senior entrepreneurship writer at CNBC. She was formerly a senior writer at Entrepreneur.com, the small business reporter at CNNMoney and an assistant in the New York bureau for CNN. Clifford attended Columbia University where she earned a bachelor's degree. She lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. You can follow her on Twitter at @CatClifford.