We are quickly becoming a nation of permanent freelancers and temps. In 2006, the last time the federal government counted, the number of independent and contingent workers—contractors, temps, and the self-employed—stood at 42.6 million, or about 30 percent of the workforce. How many are there today? We have no idea since 2006 was the last year that the government bothered to count this huge and growing sector of the American workforce.
Traditionally, being self-employed used to come with a social stigma; you were self-employed if you couldn’t get a “real job.” Work was inconsistent and so was the pay. Today, the opportunities for contingent, project-based work are exploding, as is the development of tools that allow people to work independently across industries like software, design, marketing, legal services, architecture, healthcare, and engineering.