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You’re your own boss: The state of the self-employed

A new analysis reveals that independent workers were one segment of the workforce that benefited during the pandemic.


Image: iStock/scyther5

Despite the disheartening reports last fall that 11 million Americans were unemployed and last week’s Bureau of Labor Statistics report stating, “The labor market continued to reflect the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and efforts to contain it,” the January 2021 BLS report was not without positive news: The number of unemployed has now decreased to 10.1 million. Additionally, new analysis  (“Self-Employed During COVID-19”) from payroll management company skynova observed that despite the many industries negatively impacted by the pandemic, “there’s one sector of the workforce that may be growing substantially: Self-employed Americans.” 

Many in the tech sector—consistently still in demand—have opted to remain contractors, and not committed to a company and a boss, in other words, they answer to no one but themselves; and company leaders and managers welcome gig workers. A recent Upwork report, “Future Workforce Report December 2020,” found that 73% of managers see the value in remote work and are engaging independent professionals. In fact, 48% of those hiring are currently working with independent talent.

During the pandemic, with so many workers shifting to remote, employers began to “unlock the potential of independent professionals as they become more comfortable with remote teams.” Upwork speculated that a 10% increase in the share of workers who will be fully remote eventually, is associated with a 1.6% to 2.7% increase in the likelihood of hiring freelancers. 

The skynova analysis stated: “Many hiring managers are turning to freelance workers over salaried or hourly employees, a trend that’s unlikely to slow down in the months ahead. Millions of Americans have started freelancing (a form of self-employment) since 2019, and they may be more in demand now than ever before.”

Salaries for the self-employed are accessed much in the same way they are for the salaried. In other words, it’s all about occupation. Dentists ($163K), doctors ($138K), lawyers ($95K), chiropractors ($92.5K) and IT ($87K +) make up the top five highest average salaries.

SEE: Return to work: What the new normal will look like post-pandemic (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

The number of those in the US workforce who are self-employed has increased. In 2016, it was 9.6 million, and in 2020, it was 15.8 million. In 2019, 10.4% of workers were self-employed, which rose to 10.9% in 2020. In 2020, 8.5% of women were self-employed, compared to 13% of men. Men in legal services, for example, still earn $29K more annually than women in the same industry; overall, men earn more both in salaried and self-employed positions.

Salaried work offers traditional job security, usually with benefits. But skynova pointed out “In addition to offering entrepreneurs control over virtually every aspect of their business, working for themselves gives people increased freedom to apply their skills, flexibility in their jobs, and a different kind of job security.”

Entrepreneurs can control the hours they work, and during the pandemic, their average hours were considerably higher than in 2019, working 34 more hours per week in April 2020, compared to April 2019. While it’s not a huge spike, the uptick for freelancers and contractors is on the rise and it’s a good time to assess where the market stands versus your skills to determine if it’s the right time for you to start working for yourself. 

Also see

This post was written by and was first posted to TechRepublic

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