8 tips for joining the freelance workforce

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Several years after the peak unemployment of the Great Recession, when 10% of the nation’s workforce was out of a job, the U.S. labor picture is improving. But the rebound isn’t just about a return of jobs in the traditional sense. Increasingly, work in America is a freelance affair.

Of the nation’s 53 million freelancers, 21.1 million work as independent contractors.
– Freelancers Union and Elance-oDesk

“Freelancing is the new normal,” says Sara Horowitz, founder and executive director of Freelancers Union, a New York-based organization that provides resources and access to group insurance plans for freelancers.

According to a recent study commissioned by Freelancers Union and Elance-oDesk, one-third of the American workforce is freelance. Of the nation’s 53 million freelancers, the largest group, 21.1 million, work as independent contractors.

The smallest segment of freelancers — 5%, or about 2.8 million people — is small-business owners. Meanwhile, another 14.3 million (27%) are “moonlighters,” working on a freelance basis to supplement their income. And while it’s true that many freelancers work on a temporary basis, the data show that temp workers account for only about 10% of the overall workforce, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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