It’s an interesting time for freelancers. For many independent workers, it’s obvious that self-employment is more than a passing fad, but recent headlines have all but dismissed this entire sector of the economy. “The Gig Economy is a Dud,” wrote a Wall Street Journal blog. “Maybe the Gig Economy Isn’t Reshaping Work After All,” mused The New York Times.
The impetus was the release of Bureau of Labor Statistics data that found that in 2017, 10.1% of workers had “alternative employment arrangements” (independent contractor work, temp jobs, on-call jobs and work through contract firms ) — about the same as in 2005, when it was 10.7 percent.
However, the survey only included people whose main job is independent and who work in service industries, noted Steve King, a principal of Emergent Research, which studies the freelance economy, in a recent blog post. “So, for example, independent workers who have an Etsy or Amazon store, or any kind of product-based business are excluded – even if it’s their primary source of income,” he wrote.
As a result, the BLS’s data only includes three out of five freelancers, noted King, who expressed concerns that an incomplete understanding of the statistics will “lead many to conclude work, jobs and the workforce are not changing.”
Perhaps more reflective of the state of freelancing in America, he noted, was a recent Federal Reserve study, which found that 31% of adults do independent work.
Not long after the other two studies came out, the U.S. Census Bureau released its nonemployer statistics, which track businesses where the owners are the only employees. They grew by 2 percent from 24,331,403 in 2015 to 24,813,048 in 2016.
It’s against this backdrop that some of the platforms catering to freelance workers have been going into overdrive lately to call attention to the market they serve.
Today, for instance, Moonlighting, which caters to side giggers, released a mini-reality series on YouTube, Stories from the American Dream. It will have 10 episodes featuring freelancers such as singers, photographers and makeup artists who are working for performers in the music industry who hired them.
Founder and CEO Jeff Tennery, who was a senior executive at Verizon prior to launching the company, says many users of his site are turning to side work because their traditional salaries don’t cut it. “People are not saving enough, not covering their bills, and have too much debt,” he says.
The site, based in Charlottesville, Va., is currently embarking on an initial coin offering to raise $25 million to pay for its future growth. It currently has more than 650,000 registered freelancers but Tennery hopes to reach more. He says millennials have been especially receptive to the freelance lifestyle.
“There is a fundamental mental shift in that generation,” says Tennery. “They’re going to try to work smarter and say, ‘I saw my parents get hosed in 2008. I don’t want to work for big corporations. They’re not looking out for my best interests.’”
Read the full article on forbes.com.