Only 1.7% Of Independent Workers Are Coworking, And It's All Your Fault

Coworking Private Office

We’ve known that independent professionals represent the new workforce for years. In the coworking movement, we have an unfair advantage (and bias) because we see and hear from freelancers, remote employees, and independent business owners every day. We know their triumphs and successes, and can feel the groundswell as greater numbers ditch the cubicle for location-independence.

That this is the new direction of work seems obvious to us, you’d be surprised at how little the traditional business world knows (or cares) about this phenomenon. To help monitor and quantify the rise of the independent worker in America, our friends at Emergent Research recently collaborated with MBO Partners to compile the 2nd Annual State of Independence in America Report [PDF]. It’s a fascinating collection of statistics that demonstrate how far the mobile workforce has come in a short time, as well as how far we have to go.

Here are some of the statistics that really stand out if you’re a fan of coworking: 

  • There are 16.9 million independent workers in the US (this does include those who self-identify as part-time freelancers–if it did, the number would up around 34 million).
  • The median income for independent workers is $51,000, while a whopping 2.2 million independent workers earn more than $100,000 per year.
  • Only 1.7 percent of the respondents said they had or were working in a coworking  space.

The good news is that according to Steve King of Emergent Research, this is the first time that coworking has shown up, even as a tiny blip on a statistically representative, national survey.

“The 1.7 percent overstates the number of folks who work at coworking facilities, which is a common survey outcome for a hot topic like coworking,” said King. “But we do think this is an excellent sign and shows that  awareness of coworking by independent workers is growing.”

Sweet, but we already knew that. The more subtle point made by these statistics is that there are LOTS of independent workers still languishing in solitary confinement…and they’re some of the most successful freelancers out there! According to the MBO Partners survey, about 50 percent of the $100k+ club list home as their primary place of work.

These are the freelancers at the top of their game, the ones who have encountered challenges and overcome; the ones who have failed and gotten back up; the ones who have shown the world you don’t need a corner office to be successful. In short, they are the ones who have the most to teach us, but they’re not coworking with us!

This means we’ve got work to do. Yes, we can post interesting stuff to Facebook, invite strangers to out Meetups and gather together each year at the Global Coworking Unconference Conference, but these are secondary tactics. The best way to help more independent professionals discover coworking is to tell them about it. You, their friends, family members, and coworkers–you are the best marketing tool coworking has.

Hearing about the benefits of coworking from you is worth way more than a thousand dollar commercial or well-placed press release. Almost all of you were tempted to try coworking because someone invited you, but how many people have you invited?

As Cohere considers another expansion to help better serve independents in other parts of the city, don’t underestimate your role in helping the community grow and succeed. We can’t keep coworking a secret any longer–we want it to be front page news! Tell someone you love about how this new style of work has impacted your life, and next year, let’s see the number of coworking independents grow to 5 percent or more!

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