Personal Finance

How freelancers are fueling the new economy

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Entrepreneur Kyle Davidson has been on many adventures. But the one that's been most meaningful came after he left Living Social, an online marketplace that features local deals for its subscribers. Davidson had worked on the company's adventures team, crafting deals on snowboarding, skiing, rafting, wine tours and other trips.

When his job came to an end, he embarked on a new adventure: launching his own business. Sourced Adventures offers active excursions for travelers, something similar to what he'd been providing at Living Social. The most seamless part of his plan? He hired some 20 or so freelancers to work with him, all from his old team.

Davidson is one of the many entrepreneurs launching a business with the help of freelance professionals.

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Despite the slow recovery in the nation's employment rate, one group of the labor force continues to surge: temporary, contingent and independent workers. An estimated 53 million Americans, or more than one-third of the U.S. workforce, are doing freelance work today, according to a recent survey commissioned by the Freelancers Union. By Intuit's estimates, more than 40 percent of the workforce will become so-called contingent workers by 2020.

"The whole landscape is changing. I think the digital age has played a huge role in that. In the market right now, I can get great freelancers. If I can have access to that from anywhere, why wouldn't I work with freelancers?" said entrepreneur and small business expert Michael Parrish DuDell.

For Davidson, having a freelance staff is essential for his business. "It's much easier to have a larger staff because you have much more flexibility in terms of scheduling. The more people we have the more options there are for who can work at different times," he said.

Hiring freelancers provides more options for businesses large and small, not just Kyle Davidson's. "It's going to change the way that Corporate America works — and that the small business landscape operates — because you have access to different kinds of people on shorter-term assignments. The work environment is changing from thinking about long-term careers, which is what sort of we used to do in the past, to thinking about work on a project basis," said DuDell.

Already we are seeing signs of the freelance economy changing how America hires and works.