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The number of highly skilled independent workers rose sharply in 2021, according to research released by Business Talent Group. The 2022 Talent Lens report revealed that the number of high-earning independents who make more than $100,000 annually increased almost 30% year over year.

The survey explored the experiences of 1,928 highly skilled independent talent and found the number of new independent consultants with less than a year of independent experience has doubled to 12% from 6% in 2020. And while independent consultants reported a dip in satisfaction during the beginning of the pandemic (79% in 2019 compared to 62% in 2020), the large majority now report satisfaction with full-time independence (83%), and even more (88%) would recommend going independent to professional colleagues.

Most workers who enter the independent talent economy on a full-time basis do so for control, flexibility, and variety. The most popular reason for becoming an independent consultant was the ability to pick their own projects (70%), followed by the desire to work from anywhere (63%) and for a variety of work (62%). 

Along with satisfaction, pay rates for independent consultants have also seen an increase since 2020. Almost 4 in 10 respondents (39%) reported higher daily rates in 2021, and 35% saw an increase in overall compensation during the same time period.

Less than half (42%) of independent talent say they would consider returning to the traditional full-time workforce, and this percentage decreases for those working on longer-term projects for large enterprise clients. More than 61% with four or more years of experience report being unlikely to return to full-time employment in the next year, compared with 43% of new independent contractors. The most popular reason for returning to traditional employment is compensation (59%).