📺 Stream EntrepreneurTV for Free 📺

Why So Many Americans Prefer the Freelance Lifestyle If you run a company with full-time employees, you will need to address the desire your team has for freedom and flexibility.

By Josh Steimle Edited by Dan Bova

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


More than 55 million Americans are freelancers -- a full 35 percent of our workforce, according to the 2016 Freelancing in America report from the Freelancers Union and UpWork. The freelance economy has added two million workers since 2014.

Why do they do it? Most freelancers (63 percent) are in it by choice, the study reports. They feel good about their role and don't miss traditional employment. In fact, they are significantly more likely than non-freelancers to feel respected, engaged, empowered, and excited to start each day.

"Even if the pay is less, which isn't always the case, freelancing means freedom in how you work and people love that," says Matt Inglot, host of the Freelance Transformation Podcast and a freelancer himself. "One summer my wife and I moved to Croatia for a month. We rock climbed every morning. Work got done in the evenings and my clients had no idea."

Compared to traditional employees, 79 percent of freelancers believe freelancing is better. Half, in fact, say there's no amount of money that would get them to replace their current situation with a traditional job. Better still: Most say they made more money freelancing than they did by working for an employer within one year.

"I call it the "Freedom Economy,'" says Greg Pesci. Pesci left his role as president of payment processing firm ProPay in 2014 to launch a platform called Spera to support the freelance community with specialized support for invoicing, project and client management and payment processing. "The workplace is changing," Pesci notes, "and every entrepreneur, whether a freelancer or not, will be affected by it."

Earlier this year Sphera released its 2016 Freedom Economy Report, which includes details from over 120 interviews with freelancers. "We asked them why they decided to pursue freelance work. 100 percent of them -- every single freelancer -- mentioned freedom, independence or flexibility as their motivation," Pesci says. "We also asked them how long they thought they would perform independent work and they were quite candid with us: Forever." If you run a company with full-time employees, and you want to keep them, you will need to address the desire your team has for this freedom and flexibility.

Why does a company use freelance workers instead of hiring a full-time employee? Some work with freelancers when they have a specialized need that comes up infrequently and therefore doesn't justify a full time hire, or as a way to test out potential full time team members.

Phil Cox, the founder and CEO of ecommerce food companies Legacy Food Storage and Silver Fern Brand, relies heavily on freelancers and contractors instead of full-time employees. Cox outsources web design and development, brand design, content, reports, consulting, social media and PR. Cox's companies are growing aggressively and hiring freelancers allows him to keep costs low. He values the ability to engage service providers for "testing" periods without a long-term commitment.

"In an ideal world, a company would have the ability to have a "courting period' with a new employee before hiring, pay the new employee based upon the results of their work, and have complete accountability on a project by project basis," Cox said. The benefits of freelancing aren't one-sided, however. "The freelancers we work with make more money and have more available time on their hands because companies, like mine, are mostly interested in the completion of the project, and we are willing to pay more to have the project done right the first time," Cox said.

Josh Steimle

Speaker, writer and entrepreneur

Josh Steimle is the Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling author of "60 Days to LinkedIn Mastery" and the host of "The Published Author Podcast," which teaches entrepreneurs how to write books they can leverage to grow their businesses.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

Side Hustle

These Coworkers-Turned-Friends Started a Side Hustle on Amazon — Now It's a 'Full Hustle' Earning Over $20 Million a Year: 'Jump in With Both Feet'

Achal Patel and Russell Gong met at a large consulting firm and "bonded over a shared vision to create a mission-led company."


Want to Be More Productive? Here's How Google Executives Structure Their Schedules

These five tactics from inside Google will help you focus and protect your time.

Side Hustle

How to Turn Your Hobby Into a Successful Business

A hobby, interest or charity project can turn into a money-making business if you know the right steps to take.

Business Ideas

63 Small Business Ideas to Start in 2024

We put together a list of the best, most profitable small business ideas for entrepreneurs to pursue in 2024.

Business News

These Are the 10 Most Profitable Cities for Airbnb Hosts, According to a New Report

Here's where Airbnb property owners and hosts are making the most money.