Freelancing: An Economic Shock Absorber

Though the number of new jobs created in June was considered disappointing, individuals contemplating opportunities in the world of freelancing may find encouragement in the most recent employment figures.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Current Employment Statistics (CES) survey includes only firms, but the trends it reports for temporary agency placements are applicable to freelancers as well. Temporary agency employees constitute less than 2% of the more than 130 million non-farm workers in the U.S. As a sector, though, temporary employment has been a shock absorber for the workforce, hitting far above its weight in the struggle to add new jobs during the economic recovery. Over the past 18 months more than 10% of all new jobs have been created as temporary assignments. In 2012 the level of contribution has risen to 15%. The single most compelling attraction of the freelancing option: that is where opportunity can be found.

 The characteristics that make temp agency workers attractive to hiring firms apply equally to independent contractors. Businesses are growing and investing but remain reluctant to expand their permanent staff as companies seek flexibility in both skill mix and cost structure. Global 2000 companies turn to our firm, IQNavigator, to manage their contingent labor force, including temps and contractors, and we track bill rates – the bottom line price that hiring firms are paying for talent, including administrative costs and taxes. The resulting data provides visibility into real rates and trends from recent market-clearing transactions.

IQNavigator has identified rates for some frequently requested contractor roles. These jobs pass the ‘pajama test’, i.e., they offer independence, flexibility and largely can be done from any location. The rates given assume that the freelancer files as a 1099 employee, performing all administrative tasks and paying self-employment taxes.

2Q 2012 US Median Bill Rates: 3-5 Years Experience











Graphic Designer





Technical Writer





Web Developer






The U.S. employment market is definitely in flux, affected by challenging political and economic forces. While the larger labor picture remains murky, it is encouraging to know that employers increasingly choose to create contingent employment opportunities that offer a high degree of flexibility for both parties.

To freelancers, this is encouraging. Your services are going to remain in strong demand since the use of contractors is clearly a strategic way that companies are looking to fuel their growth. Given the uncertain pace of recovery from the Great Recession, we can expect to see increasing reliance on contractors and contingent workers to meet the needs of both business and the entrepreneurial freelancer. – Guest contributor Gary Pollard, VP Information Products, IQNavigator

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