The Freelance Workforce and Services Procurement: What is Your Share of $1 Trillion in Spending?

MBO Partners just released its 2014 State of Independence in America workforce study. Based on surveys and interviews with of more than 11,000 freelance workers in the past 4 years, the annual report highlights the rise of both the part-time and full-time freelance workforce. MBO defines this group as “people who report in an average week working in non-traditional, non-permanent full or part-time employment and include workers who identify themselves as consultants, freelancers, contractors, self-employed and on-call workers, among others.” These workers earn over $1 trillion annually in North America and represent what appears to be the fastest growing segment of the overall workforce based on MBO’s survey data and other analyses we’ve seen.

This segment of the workforce is not only growing quickly – its members report high levels of overall job satisfaction and plan to stay in the field. MBO suggests that there are 17.9 million “solopreneur” freelance workers that “regularly work 15 hours or more per week … with an average of 34 hours per week. The absolute size of the market has increased 1.2% since 2013 and 12.5% from the first year the MBO survey was carried out in 2011.” In the report, MBO notes that “this growth, which is more than 11 times higher than the 1.1% growth in the overall U.S. labor force during this 4-year period, demonstrates the continued, structural shift toward independent work. In addition to growing in number, the majority of independent workers continue to be satisfied (82%) and plan on to staying independent in the future (76%).”

We’ll be sharing some additional highlights from the study (and what it means to procurement organizations) in the coming weeks on Spend Matters. The report should be a wake up call for procurement teams and leaders to factor in this growing group of professionals into their overall services procurement strategies. Run-of-the-mill processes and technologies (e.g., vendor management systems) do not necessarily address all – and in some cases, most – of the nuances associated with the sourcing, onboarding, management and off-boarding of this group of workers. Moreover, the staffing-led MSP ecosystem may pay lip service to this group – especially when directed by clients – but is rarely expert in it.

In short, it is procurement’s job to get smart about the rise of the truly independent contractor. We’ll also share some learnings from a recent interview with Gene Zaino, president and CEO of MBO Partners, in the coming days, featuring his thoughts on the study and the topic.

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