Will Independent Contractors, Free Agents, and Freelancers Dominate the Marketplace?

There is a valuable new book out on the market titled Free Agent: The Independent Professional's Roadmap to Self-Employment Success, and it addresses the seismic shift occurring with employer/employee relationships. Katy Tynan authored the book, and she believes that success in the changing marketplace -- independent contractors now represent more than 20% of the workforce, and that number is expected to reach nearly 50% within the next 10 years -- requires a pragmatic action plan.

I spoke with Katy recently, and asked her: "Why are people choosing to work independently rather than looking for a job with benefits?" Here is her response:

It is true that being an employee comes (usually) with access to benefits and safety nets, such as unemployment insurance. For many working professionals, however, a full-time job comes with drawbacks too. Despite numerous high-profile efforts by companies to implement workplace flexibility programs, most businesses still require the average employee to adhere to a strict schedule, and to travel to the office regularly rather than working from home or wherever they are most productive.

In fact, employee satisfaction numbers are at an all-time low, dipping below 50% in a recent survey by The Conference Board. Moreover, research experts at Gallup report that less than 30% of U.S. workers report being actively engaged with their work, leaving over 70% of the employees in the workforce to simply go through the motions and collect a paycheck. 

It is no surprise if people find work so uninspiring that many are looking for alternatives. Elance, a freelance industry job board, found in its survey of freelancers that 70% were happier on their own than when they were working as employees, and 80% said they were more productive. An increasing number of professionals are choosing to opt out of working for an employer, both for the enjoyment of the work and the flexibility that freelancing offers. 

Do you see this shift in your industry? What are the benefits and drawbacks? I'd surely like to hear from those who have made the transition from salaried employee to full-time independent contractor.