Want a happier life? Self-employment could pave the way, new research shows

The self-employed trump all other workers when it comes to achieving the top three goals of American workers: spending enough time with family, leading a fulfilling life, and “getting the most out of life.”

This finding comes from the MBO Partners 2023 Life Goals Report, recently released by MBO Partners, a provider of back-office services for the self-employed, in collaboration with Flywheel Associate. The report explores information from Flywheel’s annual State of Work and Career Success Study.

Miles Everson, CEO of MBO Partners, says the report is a “wake-up call”.

“The shortage of human capital is arguably one of the most significant issues facing a company,” says Everson. “People are choosing not to be a full-time employee. You can deny it, but when you don’t have the ability to hire the people you need, because so many people have moved into the independent professional world, you can ignore the data at your peril.”

Here are some of the discoveries:

· 63% of self-employed workers say they are able to spend time with their families, compared to 55% of American workers overall.

· 61% of self-employed people say they are successful in leading fulfilling lives, compared to 54% of all working people.

· 57% of self-employed people say they are getting the most out of life, versus 52% of all working people.

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

Many traditional workers are asking to take on too many managerial responsibilities that make their jobs unrewarding. “The level of job abandonment is the highest it’s ever been,” says Everson. “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 freelancers are part of the “creator economy” and their day-to-day work consists of projects they choose, notes Everson. They also have the opportunity to experience the satisfaction of delivering these projects to satisfied clients. “It’s satisfying to do productive work,” says Everson.

While 41% of self-employed people and the general workforce said they are successful in creating wealth, there is a financial payoff to independence for some. Nearly 50% of traditional workers are on track for retirement, versus 41% of self-employed workers.

An interesting finding reflects how self-employed and traditional employees value earning a steady income and doing enjoyable work.

The report found that the top three reasons people choose self-employment are to pursue a passion, do meaningful work, and do work they enjoy.

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 occupants are more satisfied with their income than independent workers overall, with 76% of traditional workers citing satisfaction versus 68% of self-employed workers.

The most satisfied workers seem to be digital nomads. They outperformed self-employed and traditional workers in eight categories: helping others, spending enough time with family, ensuring a purposeful life, leading a fulfilling life, getting the most out 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. They generally scored very high on getting the most out of life (79%), continued personal growth (74%) and making sure their life has purpose (71%).

“Visiting new places, experiencing new cultures, and meeting new people undoubtedly contribute to these high scores,” notes the report.

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

With more workers “quietly quitting” or quitting altogether, more companies are starting to become more open to hiring independent workers, according to Everson. “Companies are now afraid of not getting enough people to support their growth agenda,” he says. “That fear is causing them to try something different and be more open-minded.”

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