According to the recently released United States Census Bureau’s annual report on non-employer businesses and the current freelance economy, around 75 percent of total U.S. businesses (or 22.5 million businesses across the country) didn’t have any paid employees in 2011. This number is up around 1.7 percent more than the year before. These freelance businesses reported $990 billion in total revenue, which effectively increased 4.1 percent from 2010.

Details included within the census report demonstrate a couple of key trends. The fastest growing sector for freelance businesses in 2011 was what the Census Bureau categorizes as “Other Services.” This includes such small businesses as auto repair, beauty salons, and dry cleaners. On the other hand, the only three industries on a national level that showed a drop in non-employer or freelance businesses in 2011 over 2010 were the finance, insurance, and construction industries. Across the country, the biggest increase in freelance businesses came in North Dakota, where the number of businesses expanded by 4.3 percent. North Dakota also enjoyed the biggest sales increase nationwide, with an increase of 13.2 percent, or $2.3 billion.

Experts predict that this growth is only going to expand, due in part to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, which will make it easier for freelancers and the self-employed to procure affordable health insurance for themselves and their families. In fact, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation estimates that freelance businesses will grow by 1.5 million in 2014, the year most of the Affordable Care Act provisions go into effect.

Freelance businesses in the United States actually comprise a wide range of occupational pursuits. This includes everything from freelance writers and real estate agents to fashion designers and taxi drivers. So-called necessity entrepreneurs (those who were forced to pursue self-employment due to the recession) are also included in this category. Around 80 percent of freelance businesses for 2011 (or 18 million businesses) reported less than $50,000 in receipts.


Clark, Patrick. “Where the Freelance Economy Is Booming.” Bloomberg Business Week. 5/31/13.

United States Census Bureau. “2011 Nonemployer Statistics.” U.S. Department of Commerce.