|'Free agents' could eventually outnumber the traditional workforce, one study claims.|
In a similar recent study, The New Workforce: Insights into the Free Agency Workstyle, Kelly credits much of the increase in freelancers since 2008 -- more than half -- to terminations, layoffs and "the inability to find work elsewhere," which were cited twice as frequently last year versus 2008 as the primary reason for choosing the life of a freelancer. But some freelancers choose the lifestyle. "Job security is being redefined as workers realize that security is now in their own hands," the study says. The popularity of Web sites such as Craigslist, eBay ( EBAY) and Etsy have made working for yourself an option for both new careers and extra pocket money. New technology -- including videoconferencing, social media, email, instant messaging and cloud-based document sharing -- has made the logistics of off-site work less of a hurdle. Despite a stagnant employment market in 2011, online hiring for the nontraditional workforce grew at a record pace, up more than 107% from 2010, according to Elance, a platform for such opportunities. More than 650,000 new jobs were posted on its site in 2011, with cumulative earnings set to surpass $500 million. In the U.S., earnings rose in 43 out of 50 states, including some of the hardest-hit states for unemployment, such as Michigan, Nevada and South Carolina. "This year's job numbers suggest a structural change in traditional employment, as more businesses are adopting online and contingent work as a core business strategy," says Fabio Rosati, CEO of Elance. "Fueled by technology, work is no longer confined to the 9-to-5 and the office." Among the jobs in greatest demand: software development, mobile technology, graphic design, content writing, Internet marketing and specialists in WordPress, Facebook and Twitter. Elance expects its market for online contingent work to again double throughout 2012. An MBO Partners' survey of 1,144 U.S. residents found that of those who said they want to go independent, six in 10 have already taken action. Some had taken major steps such as applying for a business tax ID (13%) and building a business Web site (14%).