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The rise of Uber, Lyft, Task Rabbit, Elance and other online labor marketplaces, combined with employers’ desire to lower payroll and insurance costs, has driven up the number of people cobbling together a living from freelancing. According to a survey released this week by the Freelancers Union together with freelance platform Elance-oDesk, 53 million Americans, or 34% of the population, qualify as freelancers.
Not all of them make their living exclusively as freelancers. The number includes 14.3 million workers who would be called “moonlighters”—people who have a primary, traditional job that pays benefits, and supplement their income with extra work, like a full-time tech support worker at a corporation who also does consulting with private clients on the side or a web developer who takes on projects for non-profits in the evening.
Of the remaining 38.7 million, 21.1 million are what the survey calls “traditional” freelancers who do temporary work on a project basis. Some 9.3 million have multiple sources of income which can include a part-time job like working 20 hours a week at a dentist’s office…