I work with consultants every day who ask my opinion on what their title should be. Should they call themselves a freelancer? A consultant? Or a contractor? And the number of people — 40% of the workforce by 2020 — will no longer consider themselves as regular “employees.” So what what will 40% of the workforce actually call themselves?
According to an October 2015 study from Upwork and the Freelancers Union, “Freelancing in America,” there were 54 million freelancers last year — more than one-third of the total workforce — and that number is increasing dramatically. The study takes a stab at identifying and differentiating the “five types of freelancers”.
The five types identified in the study are:
- Independent Contractors: (36% of the independent workforce /19.3 million professionals) – These “traditional” freelancers don’t have an employer and instead do freelance, temporary, or supplemental work on a project-to-project basis.
- Moonlighters: (25% / 13.2 million) – Individuals with a primary, traditional job with an employer who also moonlight doing freelance work. For example, a corporate-employed web developer who does projects for nonprofits in the evening.
- Diversified workers: (26% / 14.1 million) – People with multiple sources of income from a mix of traditional employers and freelance work. For example, someone who works the front desk at a dentist’s office 20 hours a week and fills out the rest of his income driving for Uber and doing freelance writing.
- Temporary Workers: (9% / 4.6 million) – Individuals with a single employer, client, job, or contract project where their employment status is temporary. For example, a data entry worker employed by a staffing agency and working on a three month assignment.
- Freelance Business Owners: (5% / 2.5 million) – These freelancers have one or more employees, and consider themselves both a freelancer and a business owner. For example, a social marketing guru who hires a team of other social marketers to build a small agency, but still identifies as a freelancer.
I also see another category of consultants: highly skilled experts who have chosen to work on projects as employees of specialized agencies.
It can get confusing. As time goes on, there might be five more categories or classifications in the new workplace. That’s okay. Whatever title you chose to give yourself is not as important as your ability to deliver high value work, solve problems, and leave the project (and people) better off. At the end of the day that is what builds your reputation and brand and allows you to choose the title you want.