Entering the Golden Age of the Six-Figure Freelancer

Opinion: About one-fifth—or 3.2 million—of U.S. freelancers are making at least $100,000 per year

The corner office overlooking Madison Avenue used to be the symbol of career success. But a new corner office—the in-home office—is on the rise, representing not only financial success, but that mythical ideal so many professionals crave and strive for: work-life balance.

About one-fifth—or 3.2 million—of U.S. freelancers are making at least $100,000 per year, putting them in the top 25 percent of American households,  according to U.S. Census data.

This growing breed of worker—projected to represent 43 percent of the workforce by 2020—generated roughly $1.2 trillion in revenue last year across freelance work, part-time gigs and projects.

LinkedIn ProFinder data shows that just over one-half of all independent professionals report earning 100 percent of their annual income from their freelance work.

In 2016, marketing, business consulting and design topped the charts as the leading industries for such work.

Local governments are also taking notice and working to supply the final piece in the freelancer income equation. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.) recently put forth a $20 million proposal to help both local governments and nonprofit groups create pilot programs for agencies that would manage important benefits for freelance workers.

Additionally, in New York, the Freelance Isn’t Free Act became the first law in the country giving freelancers the legal right to written contracts, timely payment and freedom from retaliation.

As more and more skilled professionals pursue careers in the freelance realm, a much-needed conversation around health, retirement and other benefits is coming to the forefront.

Such groundbreaking proposals are allowing more professionals with unique skills to enter the freelancing workplace, which is good news for agencies and small businesses with fluctuating labor requirements. As demand for more specialized skills increases in creative industries, freelancers are wielding more power, enjoying prevalent demand and commanding more pay than ever before.

The benefits to freelancing also go beyond monetary. Research has found that autonomy in the workplace has major effects on professionals’ well-being and job satisfaction. Appreciating the flexibility, work-life balance and, of course, income of an independent career, a driving benefit for the freelance lifestyle of the modern worker is the chance to be your own boss.

Seeking out opportunities to flex their expertise and creative muscle, today’s independent workers set the agenda and call the shots of their own careers, leaving office politics, egos and attitudes at the door.

Freelancing is the new pinnacle of a professional’s career path. In addition to hitting and surpassing the magic six-figure mark, independent professional work has opened up a new avenue for creatives to pursue projects that pay the bills, but also intrigue, inspire and fuel them.

As the final pieces missing in the freelance way of life are beginning to come into focus, thanks to the initiatives from the city of New York and legislators, the nontraditional world of work is becoming an even more viable path for creatives at every stage of their career.

Thogori Karago is senior product manager of freelance marketplace LinkedIn ProFinder.

Image courtesy of Viktor_Gladkov/iStock.