TROY, MI--(Marketwired - Sep 3, 2015) - Who says only professional athletes can become free agents? A new survey by Kelly Services® finds that nearly one in three workers globally is a free agent.

For more than a decade, Kelly Services has been conducting research around the free agent workforce -- individuals who consult; perform temporary, freelance or independent contract work; or have their own business. The Kelly Services 2015 Free Agent Survey, its first-ever global survey, obtained the views of more than 5,200 working adults across three regions -- the United States; Europe; and Asia-Pacific (APAC).

Globally, 31 percent of the working population identifies itself as a free agent, compared with 69 percent considered to be traditional workers. The percentage of free agents is fairly consistent across the regions -- 31 percent in the U.S., 27 percent in Europe and 34 percent in APAC. Historically speaking, the U.S. figure is down from four years ago.

"In 2011, conditions in the U.S. drove free agency to 44 percent as more workers were compelled to consider free agency based on economic necessity," said Teresa Carroll, senior vice president and general manager, Global Talent Solutions for Kelly Services. "As expected, the percentage of free agents in the U.S. has leveled off since the recovery, though at a higher level than before the recession.

"By and large, today's free agents are willingly and consciously choosing this workstyle because of the freedom, flexibility and entrepreneurial benefits the workstyle affords."

A satisfying workstyle
The survey shows that free agents are more satisfied than traditional workers when it comes to their current employment situation overall, work-life balance, the opportunity to expand their skills and the opportunity to advance their career. They are equally satisfied with their salary, the level of stress and job security as traditional workers.

According to the survey, free agents are generally well educated and highly skilled, as they are more likely to hold higher degrees and possess a professional or technical skill set than those in traditional employment:

  • 48 percent of free agents hold a university/college degree and/or an advanced degree, compared with 36 percent of traditional workers
  • 69 percent of free agents possess a professional or technical skill set, versus 59 percent of traditional workers

Among free agent workers in professional/technical fields, the top occupational categories are information technology (19 percent), finance and accounting (16 percent) and engineering (15 percent).

Many seek best of both worlds
So who are these free agents? There are five types* of free agents that exist today:

  • Independent contractors - Workers who perform independent work on a project-to-project basis.
    (This group represents 64 percent of the global free agent population.)
  • Freelance business owners - Business owners with up to five employees who identify as both a freelancer and a business owner.
    (28 percent)
  • Temporary workers - Workers typically hired for a fixed duration, often through an agency.
    (24 percent)
  • Moonlighters - Workers who hold a primary, traditional job and also participate in free agency work on the side.
    (13 percent)
  • Diversified workers - Workers with multiple sources of income, derived from a mix of traditional and freelance work with the majority of their income derived from freelance work.
    (4 percent)

*Note: Free agents may be represented in multiple categories. 

Carroll noted that moonlighters and diversified workers in particular are helping to shape the slowly emerging "gig economy," in which workers tend to be nomadic and their employment more flexible.

"These free agents are defining a new, blended approach to work -- one that offers the benefits associated with traditional employment along with the opportunity to pursue personal interests and passions," she said. "They are actively combining traditional employment with free agent/freelance work."

Most are "in it for life"
The survey indicates that the majority of free agents are committed to this workstyle as a lifelong career choice. More than half claim to be "in it for life," with 56 percent saying it is a lifelong career choice, strengthening the notion that free agency is a chosen career and busting the myth that it's a stop-gap work arrangement for those who can't find work elsewhere.

This commitment is seen across all generations, underscoring the fact that free agency isn't just for entry-level or semi-retired workers. Early and mid-career "Gen Y" and "Gen X" workers report some of the highest commitment levels, with 64 and 62 percent respectively committed to the workstyle for life. That compares with 48 percent among "Baby Boomers" and 46 percent among the "Silent Generation" age 70 and older.

Indeed, as workers progress in their careers, their propensity to work as a free agent increases -- with the following percentages of workers in each generation identifying as free agents: 27 percent among both "Gen Y" and "Gen X," 35 percent of "Baby Boomers" and 67 percent of the "Silent Generation."

Employers adapt to changing workforce trends
As free agents make their mark in the workforce, both traditional workers and employers are taking note.

For example, 74 percent of traditional workers believe free agency would open up more opportunities and choices of work, while 77 percent believe it would grant opportunities to exercise or use the skills they most enjoy in their field of work.

Meanwhile, many employers are recognizing the need to include free agents and other external talent as part of their talent supply chain in the face of continual pressure to attract and retain skilled talent.

"As traditional, long-term commitments to employers wane, careers built on flexibility continue to gain ground," said Carroll. "The companies that succeed will be those that prioritize their talent supply chain management strategy, adapt to changing workforce trends and consider a wide array of worker populations to meet their ever-changing needs."

For additional information on the free agent workforce, please visit

Kelly Services, Inc.
As a global leader in providing workforce solutions, Kelly Services, Inc. (NASDAQ: KELYA) (NASDAQ: KELYB) and its subsidiaries, offer a comprehensive array of outsourcing and consulting services as well as world-class staffing on a temporary, temporary-to-hire, and direct-hire basis. Kelly® has a role in managing employment opportunities for more than one million workers around the globe by employing 550,000 of these individuals directly with the remaining workers engaged through its talent supply chain network of supplier partners. Revenue in 2014 was $5.6 billion. Visit and connect with us on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.