How Associations Can Help the Self-Employed

They may be their own bosses, but the self-employed — a quickly growing segment of the population — could use a support system.

Is your association serving the “Gig Economy”?

A growing number of people are choosing to strike out on their own as temporary or freelance workers. According to a July report by Economic Modeling Specialists International, there are an estimated 10.6 million self-employed workers in the United States, a 14.4 percent jump since 2001.

More info from ESMI on the self-employed:

  • Characteristics: Nearly 30 percent of self-employed workers are 55 and over, with over 1 million of those workers over the age of 65. Another 28.2 percent are 45-54.
  • Pay: Self-employed workers make less than half as much as the average worker — $26,921 per year vs. $56,053.
  • Industries: Despite the common misconception, it’s not just people working out of coffee shops. The most common fields for self-employment include admininstrative services (landscaping, janitorial services), agriculture (farming, fishing, and forestry) and construction (carpentry and hard labor). Professionals make up 11 percent of the self-employed.

What can associations offer these workers? Support.

As Bloomberg Businessweek’s Richard Greenwald points out, those who work for themselves face struggles on multiple fronts, lacking such wage-earner benefits as workers’ compensation insurance, tax breaks, and Department of Labor mediation in wage disputes (a common issue for freelancers).

They also shoulder a lot of risk that traditional employees may not — which may put them in danger of failure or hardship without a support system.

While some associations exist to specifically address their concerns — most notably Freelancers Union and the National Association for the Self-Employed, which both offer healthcare services and benefits for self-employed workers — is there room for these kinds of workers in your own association?

(TMG archive photo)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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