Freelancers are increasingly the backbone of the U.S. economy, forming more than a third of the U.S. workforce (55 million people) and earning an estimated $1 trillion this year. They’re also politically engaged and want to know America supports them.

These are among the findings from “Freelancing in America: 2016,” a study commissioned by Upwork in partnership with Freelancers Union. Launched in 2014, “Freelancing in America” is the most comprehensive study of the freelance workforce in the U.S. No one was adequately measuring the full amount of independent work happening and we wanted to help understand this complex and diverse workforce.

Our third year for the study is a seminal one, since we’re now able to share trend data. We also asked new questions centered around the upcoming U.S. presidential election to see what matters most to freelancers and how our nation can better support freelancers.

Here’s a look at some of the results that jumped out to me:

  • Freelancing is growing. Each year hundreds of thousands of Americans join the freelance workforce – and it appears this trend is continuing.
  • People are increasingly freelancing by choice. Gone is the perception that freelancing is a fallback. Instead, freelancing today is a lifestyle people are choosing, and one that leads to higher work satisfaction than employment.
  • Freelancing is the future of work. When you look at freelancing by generation, you see that the future for independent work looks bright.

"Freelancing in America: 2016" found that 47 percent of Gen Z and 43 percent of millennials are freelancing, higher than other age groups.

We also learned that, as the U.S. presidential election approaches, seventy percent of freelancers feel there needs to be more discussion about how to empower the independent workforce. This study is intended to help open up more discussion and increase understanding.

Why are people freelancing and what might tomorrow’s workforce look like? For full survey results, go to