The Movement: The Rise of Free Agents

There are some folks who have really embraced their brand and have learned to sell it in both their social and professional spheres. They are the bread and butter of the proprietist movement–the rising army of independent-contract workers. This phenomenon is well covered on the blogosphere (for example by EMSI, and this interesting organization), and in Daniel H. Pink’s ¬†“Free Agent Nation,” though the data backing this movement is at times opaque due to the lack of a universally agreed upon definition for free workers.¬†According to a 2011 study by Kelly Services, 4 in 10 workers are “free agents,” who consult, perform temporary, freelance, or contract work, or have their own business, up from 26% in 2008. Most statistics from Kelly and EMSI are pulling data from the US Department of Labor or from the ¬†Bureau of Economic Analysis at the US Department of Commerce. Perhaps a thorough meta analysis should be conducted, but I find the data quite convincing.

As of right now, of these independent workers have a craft. They’re web masters, programmers, writers, artists, consultants, and various specialists. Their work is typically needed for one particular project, so from the employer’s perspective there’s little point in hiring them as an employee if they will not have permanent daily tasks. Pink calls this a trend in shorter job cycles.

The movement is enabled by the Internet, and fueled by businesses following outsourcing models for projects.The self-employed lack the security of a constant source of income, and that’s certainly a lifestyle adjustment to be made. The Internet allows many of them work from home. It also helps them find more work, build their brand, and hone their craft.

The Internet makes valuable information free and easily accessible. This empowers all people, self-employed or not, and it is a profound paradigm in its own. Next post will be about the DIY revolution.