What was once considered a niche way of working has now become mainstream, as technology has enabled employers to access a fluid, remote and global workforce. Meanwhile, more and more people are opting into freelancing for the flexibility and autonomy it can offer. When asked whether they went independent by choice or out of necessity, 61 percent of freelances answered ‘by choice,’ which is up 8 points since 2014.

Workforce risks

That said, freelancers shoulder a great deal of financial risk and face the burden of managing a business on their own. They often lack basic workplace protections and access to employer benefits, which makes it especially difficult to find affordable insurance. As a workforce that must piece together an income stream gig by gig, freelancers often struggle to get paid on time and experience great income unpredictability, which makes it difficult to save money and can result in debt.

Freelancers are navigating this new economy by adapting, learning and re-tooling. Freelancers are constantly looking for work and testing the market, and they realize they need to have cutting-edge skills. They value training highly and seek it out actively at a much higher rate than traditional employees, although many struggle with the cost.

A need for political support

As freelancers grow in numbers, they are starting to collectively establish a political voice that will only grow more organized. We’ve seen some early signs that freelancers are going to be a politically important voice, and policymakers on both sides of the aisle should take notice. Freelancers badly need better protections and a stronger safety net, and a large majority of freelancers say they would cross party lines to vote for a candidate that supports freelancers.

Younger generations are freelancing at a higher rate, and many may never have a traditional job. As we look toward the future, we need to design an updated system for this new era of work so independent workers can have the strong workplace protections and safety net they need to help them thrive.