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Summary of MBO Report 2012

18 March 2013

[Original Report: ‘The state of independence in America']

The MBO report is an excellent description of the profiling of independent workers in the USA.


The report refers to ‘Independent workers’ as people who work for themselves and on their own. They do not employ anyone. In the Australian context our reference is ‘independent contractors.’

The 2012 report says:
“In America in 2011, nearly 17 million workers – up from 16 million last year – report in for independent work. They’re increasingly satisfied with their work style and coping even better than before with the challenges that come with this less charted territory.

The total independent workforce grew, and so too did the projected future size of this workforce, to be as many as 23-million strong in the next five years. The simultaneous growth in size, satisfaction, commitment and intent to choose the path, together suggest independence is far from a cyclical economic choice. It instead appears to signal a conscious structural shift and recognition of a new model of work and engagement by innovative Americans.

independent workers continued to creatively forge their own economic opportunities and perceived that the drawbacks to independence were less daunting than the anticipated benefits. Channeling their entrepreneurial initiative, these independents bring in roughly one trillion dollars in revenue.

In 2012, it is clear America continues its march toward a new age of career independence where individuals will not just move from job to job, but rather move from engagement to engagement and client to client as masters of their own career destiny.”


Independent workers span all geographies, genders and generations. They are not restricted to one sector or age group.


86% are satisfied with their work.


They know the challenges of independence: uncertain income (51%), retirement (40%), job security (36%), but are up for the challenge.


57% say it’s their choice to be independent.
“These findings debunk the popular misconception that workers are forced into independence due to job loss or lack of alternatives.”


  • 75% want to continue as independent worker. 12% will build their business into an employer business.
  • 1 in 10 intend to grow their business to engage more independents.


US independent workers to grow to 23 million within 5 years.
“The economic, social and demographic forces driving the shift to an independent workforce are accelerating.”


  • 21% are aged 21 to 32. This increases as people become older, peaking at 36% for 50-66 yrs.
  • Higher level of skills specialisation than employees.
  • Younger independents have highest education.
  • Gender mix of independents is a surprise: 48% women; 52% men.
  • But smaller percentage of women who become employers at 1/3 women.

Motivation: Own Boss

“Independent workers actually choose the path because they want to be their own boss, control their own schedule and sculpt their own professional path. They are careerists who have an average of 10 years experience working independently and use it to bring home a significant share of the household income.”


  • 57% of independents report they bring home the majority of family income.
  • 2.2million earn $100,000 plus but tend to be older and more experienced.

Generational profile

GenYs adapting to a new economy
“Adult Millennials (ages 21-32)—also called Gen Yers—are facing a new bare bones economy where industry expertise is expected but job training is in short supply.”
Gen Xs taking charge
“Gen Xers (ages 33-49) are now hitting their stride in today’s you’re-in-charge economy. Tooled with skills, experience and professional networks, they are finding the path of independence less risky and easier to navigate than other cohorts.”
Baby Boomers; sick of employment politics
“Boomers (ages 50-66) chose independent work because they’re fed up with the politics and lack of security in the traditional workplace.”

Entrepreneurs and solopreneurs

The report defines ‘entrepreneurs’ as people who employ, and independent workers who do not employ others as solopreneurs.

Independent workers are solopreneurs. There is no employer providing a steady income, benefits, retirement programs and job security. They are on their own and responsible for all aspects of their professional lives. Yet most still prefer independence, with 75% stating they will stay independent or build a bigger business. Only 13% stated that they would rather have a regular, permanent traditional job than be on their own. This is down from 19% in 2011.
  • First, because they’re their own boss, many independent workers feel in control of their destiny and free from random corporate actions, such as layoffs, reorganizations, and relocations. They also feel they are no longer at risk from the behavior of bad bosses.
  • Second, independent workers have multiple clients and feel more secure    because they aren’t tied to the fortunes of a single company.
  • Third, many independents feel that, while their income may go down, they are unlikely to see their income go away entirely as it would if they were laid off from traditional employment.
The reflects the continued breakdown in the traditional employment contract.

There’s also the unhappy group

“…a sizeable group are either unhappy (roughly 25%) or neutral (roughly 25%) about being independent. The main factor behind the dissatisfaction is not choosing independence and instead becoming independent due to a job loss or inability to find a traditional job.”

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