The surge in freelancers and the new "sharing economy" are part of a new national movement to reclaim the wages and lifestyle that the Great Recession stole from millions of Americans.
Many years ago, Freelancers Union ran ads on the NYC subway that read, "Welcome to Middle-Class Poverty" - a nod to the fact that health insurance is often prohibitively expensive for the self-employed, who don't benefit from an employer subsidy. We thought we were being provocative, but the last year made us prescient. Since that ad campaign ran, we've seen two trends emerge: significant growth of the independent workforce and growing income disparity. Combined, they have created something that seems paradoxical and should be impossible in the United States: Middle-Class Poverty.
You've probably seen middle-class poverty, if not experienced it firsthand. It's a young woman a college degree and crippling debt. It's a young man with a dream job but no health insurance. It's owning a smartphone to keep up with clients when you can barely keep up with rent.
About one-in-seven Americans are officially in poverty, but many more find themselves squeezed between rising expenses, stagnating wages, and thin benefits. Currently, close to one-third of the U.S. workforce is not linked to a traditional, 9-to-5 job. While client-to-client work used to be the purview of just the creative industry, it's becoming commonplace in everything from accounting to technology to health care. Though a shifting economy initially set this in motion, the more the workforce trends toward flexibility and mobility, the more attractive and viable freelancing becomes.