Do you want a happier life? Self-employment can pave the way, new survey shows

Self-employed people outperform all other workers when it comes to achieving the top three goals for American workers: spending enough time with family, leading full lives, and “getting the most out of life.”

This finding came from the MBO Partners Life Goals Report 2023, recently released by MBO Partners, a provider of administrative services for freelancers, in collaboration with the firm Flywheel Associate. The report draws on insights from Flywheel’s annual State of Work and Career Success Study.

Miles Everson, chief executive of MBO Partners, calls the report a “wake-up call.”

“Human capital shortages are possibly one of the biggest problems a business has,” Everson says. “People are choosing not to be a full-time employee. You can deny it, but when you don’t have the ability to get to the people you need, because so many people have moved into the world of freelancers, you can ignore the data at your peril.”

Here are some of the findings:

· 63% of freelancers say they are successful spending time with their families, compared to 55% of working Americans overall.

· 61% of freelancers say they are successful in leading a fulfilling life, compared to 54% of all workers.

· 57% of freelancers say they are getting the most out of life, compared to 52% of all workers.

· 64% of freelancers said they were able to experience continued personal growth, compared to 54% of the US workforce.

Many traditional workers are asked to take on a great deal of administrative responsibility that makes their job unrewarding. “The level of people leaving their jobs is the highest it has ever been,” Everson says. “Work structures need to change to have an engaged workforce.”

The ability to be selective about the type of work performed seems to contribute to self-employment. Many self-employed people are part of the “creative economy” and their day job consists of projects of their choosing, Everson says. They also have the opportunity to experience the satisfaction of delivering those projects to satisfied clients. “It’s rewarding to do productive work,” Everson says.

Although 41% of freelancers and the overall workforce said they are successful at building wealth, there is a financial trade-off for independence for some. Nearly 50% of traditional workers are successfully on their way to retirement, compared to 41% of the self-employed.

One interesting finding reflects how freelancers and traditional employees weigh earning a steady income against doing enjoyable work.

The report found that the top three reasons people choose freelancing are to pursue a passion, do meaningful work, and do work they love.

For workers in general, the top three motivators are earning a steady income, doing meaningful work, and working in a field they are passionate about.

Traditional job holders are more satisfied with their earnings than freelancers overall, with 76% of traditional workers citing satisfaction, versus 68% of freelancers.

The most satisfied workers seem to be the digital nomads. They outperformed the self-employed and traditional workers in eight categories: helping others, spending enough time with family, ensuring a purposeful life, living a fulfilling life, making the most of life, continued personal growth, being on track for retirement and create wealth.

92% of digital nomads said they were very satisfied (81%) or satisfied (11%) with their work and lifestyle. Overall, they scored very high on getting the most out of life (79%), continued personal growth (74%), and making sure their lives have purpose (71%).

“Without a doubt, visiting new places, being exposed to new cultures and meeting new people all play a part in these high scores,” the report states.

The findings were based on research from the 2022 MBO Partners State of Independence in America Study Survey, which was conducted in July 2022. Emergent Research and Rockbridge Associates surveyed 6,488 US residents age 18 and older, including 934 independent workers. This current report also incorporated data from the Flywheel Associates study.

With more workers “quietly quitting” or quitting altogether, more companies are becoming more open to hiring freelancers, according to Everson. “Companies now fear they won’t be able to get enough people to support their growth agenda,” he says. “That fear is making them try something different and be more open-minded.”

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