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Is This Where All the Workers Went?

February 18, 2022

By Heather Nezich, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

With highly skilled talent desiring greater professional control and flexibility than any traditional role could ever afford, the number of independent workers surged dramatically in 2021 – rising 34% to 51.1 million from 38.2 million in 2020. This trend is expected to continue, with 56% of non-freelancing professionals saying they’re likely to freelance in the future.

Business Talent Group’s (BTG) 2022 Talent Lens provides insights about the mindset of independent professionals as companies increasingly rely on them for fast, flexible expertise. Amid widespread labor shortages and the Great Resignation, the independent talent segment is growing quickly – increasing 34% year over year in the U.S.

“Across the board, there is more demand for talent right now than any of us has ever seen, and talent have enormous leverage because of that. They are taking the lessons of the pandemic—where they were able to work remotely and more flexibly—and looking at their professional futures differently. Top talent – including talent that you can’t find anywhere else – are flocking to the independent market for professional control. They want to choose whom they work with and what they work on,” said BTG Co-Founder and Co-CEO Jody Greenstone Miller.

BTG’s report highlights the primary reasons that top talent choose to go independent and the factors that most greatly influence their client and project selections.

Key insights from the 2022 Talent Lens include:

  • Overwhelmingly, talent seek professional control, flexibility, and variety: According to respondents, the top reasons to go independent include picking their own projects (70%), the freedom to work from anywhere (63%), and the variety of work available in the independent market (62%).
  • Talent satisfaction has rebounded: After a dip in satisfaction during the height of the pandemic, an overwhelming majority of talent (83%) now say they are satisfied with full-time independence.
  • Two factors influence project selection more than any other: With the most in-demand talent weighing multiple opportunities simultaneously, 78% indicate that the type of work drives project selection, and 63% say the daily rate was a leading factor in their choice of engagements.
  • Rates are on the rise: Nearly four in ten talent (39%) reported higher daily rates in 2021, and 35% of independent talent enjoyed an increase in total compensation compared to 2020.
  • Most have no intention of going back to traditional roles: Less than half (43%) of independent talent say they would consider returning to the traditional workforce, and the odds decrease even further for elite, tenured independents. Among respondents with four or more years of independent experience beyond their successful traditional careers, 61% say they are unlikely to return to permanent employment in the next 12 months.

This report shows that employers may want to consider utilizing more independent workers to help fill their talent gap and will have to offer greater flexibility in order to recruit and retain traditional talent. Access to the full 2022 Talent Lens report can be found at

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