Source: Upwork Report: Freelancing in America 2019

The Signal: In the US alone, 57m people freelanced in 2019. This number, representing a significant percentage of the American workforce (35%), grew by 7% since 2014, compared to 2% growth in the non-freelance workforce. An even sharper increase in the self-employed was expected, with 27m Americans indicating in 2017 that they were considering a move to self-employment by 2020 — a shift that would have tripled the self-employed population from 15m to 42m.

Fewer than 2m Americans actually took the leap. Lack of traditional safeguards like health insurance and paid sick days have deterred would-be freelancers in the past, but as we wake up to a new world, the coronavirus may force new working models on us. With some economists forecasting that as many as 1m jobs could be lost in April, many people will be seeking new work regardless of whether they’re signing a 1099. And if we look abroad, there are examples of this already happening.