Up to 10 Million Americans Turn to Freelancing Amid The Great Resignation: report

Adam Ozimek - Upwork Chief Economist, joined Yahoo Finance to discuss the company's latest repoort on the Great Resignation.

Video Transcript

SEANA SMITH: All right, let's talk about the return to work, because as companies look to bring employees back, Upwork is out with a new survey that found that workers aren't too excited about the return to work and that they're making moves as a result. So we want to talk about these findings with Adam Ozimek. He is the chief economist at Upwork. And, Adam, when employees are not excited about going back to work, I guess, what moves are they expected to make? Are they going to leave?

ADAM OZIMEK: That's what they're telling us in the survey, for sure. We found that 17% are definitely or probably considering leaving their jobs in order to stay remote. That's a really high number. That's a lot of turnover and we think that's going to put pressure on employers.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Did the survey dive deeper, though, for those who are considering freelancing-- having been what in the media world is called a perma-lancer, where you go from one TV network to another, and they take advantage of you, and they pay you less than others. Have they taken into consideration that pay may-- and that may be changing in this world-- pay is somewhat less than if you're full time?

And then there's the whole thing about benefits. I mean, if you're a perma-lancer in media, you might be able to get health care via union. But in a lot of freelance world, that doesn't exist. So is that part of their consideration?

ADAM OZIMEK: So I would disagree with that characterization. I mean, every year, we run one of the biggest surveys of freelancers, and we generally don't find that that's the case-- that they are making less freelancing than they would in a traditional job. We find that they're making more freelancing. And it's not just our survey.

If you look at the BLS, for example, they find that something like 80% of independent contractors, that's the way they want to work. They don't want to work for a traditional employer. So I think it's sort of a misnomer the idea that this is a lower paid or less desirable way of working. And I think that our survey reflects that too.

I mean, we found 18% are considering freelancing in order to stay remotely. And I think that that shows that this way of working, it really does appeal to a lot of people.

SEANA SMITH: Adam, what about stability, though? You would think going through a pandemic, workers would be looking for a more stable income, especially after the past, what, 15, 16 months when there's so much unknown, and there certainly still is a lot of uncertainty ahead. I guess that's not spooking workers at all?

ADAM OZIMEK: So one of the things that the economics literature finds on this topic is that when you have a recession, people actually tend to go into self-employment. They go into freelancing a little bit more. And it's because the stability is a little bit more complicated than just saying one way of working is stable, one is unstable. When you're self-employed, when you're a freelancer, all you have to do is find one client to do one project.

And that's a lot easier than finding someone who's willing to employ you on a full-time basis for an extended period of time. So there are ways that it's more stable and ways that it's less stable. You know, the average freelancer has six clients. That means that you're not just dependent on one individual or one company. And if they decide they don't have work for you, you're not working. You have other clients that you can depend on and you have ability to find more.

ADAM SHAPIRO: I'm thinking of a buddy of mine who actually has his own freelance graphic design, and that model is the one he follows. Is there a particular sector, I would imagine software, coding, would be very big with the ability to do this? Are there particular jobs where you find more people saying, you know what? I can do this and I can make a good living working for myself.

ADAM OZIMEK: Yeah, for sure. I mean, the ability to do a job remotely and the ability to do a job freelancer varies by occupation. Some of the more popular ones on Upwork are web, mobile, and software development. We also have a lot of people in marketing, and design, and creative areas. We also have areas like accounting, finance, consulting. So it's definitely relatively diverse.

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