A new study on the state of freelancing in the U.S. revealed some interesting insights into how self-employed Americans are driving up the nation’s economy, but perhaps the most interesting discovery is that millions of Americans have already abandoned traditional office jobs and opted for self-employment.
The Upwork/Freelancers Union study analyzed approximately 7,000 self-employed Americans and found that one in every three Americans is freelancing; this translates to an estimated 53.7 million people.
Some of these workers (around 19.3 million) are “traditional” freelancers, as Tech Crunch explained, which means that they are entirely self-employed and take on projects when they choose.
There are also around 13.2 million “moonlighters,” who have a steady job but work on their own freelance projects during their spare time, while 14.1 million workers are “diversified” (meaning they have a regular part-time job and also freelance) and 4.6 million “temporary” workers employed through staffing agencies. An estimated 2.5 million people do freelance work themselves, but they also hire other freelancers to help complete projects when needed.
It’s pretty clear that freelancers are becoming a very powerful and influential minority, and they’re already starting to disrupt the traditional corporate scene. In fact, around 60% of freelancers state that they’re earning more now than they were as traditional employees, and a solid 50% of freelancers stated that no amount of money could convince them to re-enter “corporate America.”
TIME recently covered an annual MBO Report titled “State of Independence,” which found that 2.9 million freelancers are actually earning incomes of more than $100,000.
Of course, freelancing isn’t all sunshine and roses; there are plenty of financial risks when someone is self-employed. When it comes to retirement savings, 74% of freelancers stated that they were concerned; with healthcare costs, 76% admitted that they’re a bit worried.
Even though the Affordable Care Act allows low-income workers to receive subsidies for health insurance, NerdWallet estimated last year that the average self-employed individual pays $365 per month for health coverage.
And for seeing a specialist or alternative healthcare provider, bare-bones insurance plans rarely offer any coverage at all. Even dental work requires another insurance plan — which many self-employed Americans can’t afford — even though 92% of American adults (ages 20 to 64) have at least one cavity.
That being said, the majority of freelancers still believe that their jobs are secure, and it’s predicted that more young workers will begin leaving their office cubicles in the coming years because of the relative stability that the freelancing industry is developing right now.