Is it the End of the “Job” as We Know it?

“For the first time in human history, individuals can design a life around the pursuit of interesting work.” — Richard Saul Wurman


A first-of-its-kind study, the 2016 Solo City Report examines how organizations and governments can best prepare for a workforce that will be filled largely with “soloists.” Rather than going to a traditional job to work in roles assigned by a company, soloists work independently taking on assignments and projects from, most likely, many sources. These soloists are freelancers, contract employees and free agents. And, as the Solo City Report points out, they’re not who you think, noting there’s “too much talk of Uber drivers; too little talk of increasingly indie attorneys, lawyers, software developers, and environmental engineers.”

The Solo City Report
(Image: The Solo Project)

Brought to you by The Solo Project, a media and research firm dedicated to supporting soloists, and funded by the Knight Foundation, the Solo City Report’s primary theme is: “The new world of work is here, and we’re not ready.” According to the report, there are currently 53.7 million soloists — a third of the U.S. workforce — and that figure is expected to jump to half the workforce in the next five years. Despite that fact, infrastructure around taxes, unemployment, family leave and workspaces is lagging, and education and training for workers in the new talent economy is practically nonexistent.

Deloitte’s 2016 Global Human Capital Trends study supports the Solo City Report theme noting that 51 percent of global executives surveyed said their organizations plan to increase or significantly increase the use of contingent workers in the next three to five years, while only 19 percent report their firms fully understood the labor laws governing contingent workers and only 11 percent had complete management processes in place for contingent workers.

With the Solo City Report, the Solo Project aims to start a conversation about the role that sectors such as government, universities and business can play in preparing for this rapidly changing employment landscape. By conducting one-on-interviews, roundtable sessions and town hall meetings with soloists and those involved in the solo movement, the report lays out 25 findings and key areas of opportunity. We’ve highlighted a few of them below:

• Finding: Soloists require a skill set and mindset not currently taught in schools or nurtured at home. Key qualities necessary in the new world of work include resilience, creative problem-solving, resourcefulness, financial savvy and the ability to create a personal brand.

• Opportunity: Cultivate these types of skills through community-based training programs and public education.

• Finding: New types of work require new workplaces, which is evident in the rapid rise of the co-working model. In just the last 8 years, the number of co-working spaces has jumped from 75 worldwide to 7,800.

• Opportunity: Communities can support this workplace evolution by providing open talent with necessary infrastructure, by reconfiguring libraries and public meeting spaces, for example.

• Finding: Half of soloists report trouble getting paid, according to the Freelancer’s Union.

• Opportunity: Create lists of the best companies to work for based on on-time payments. Spread the word far and wide.

• Finding: Understand that company employee type is not a binary, either-or proposition. Case in point, branding agency Mechanica has 25 core staff members but also engages with a network of 1,000 or so collaborators. Mechanica CEO Ted Nelson, an OpenWork board member, notes that this setup not only allowed access to great as-needed talent, but has also resulted in new business opportunities with “a third to a half” of new revenue generated by the collaborator network.

• Opportunity: Acknowledge the job-creation impact of hybrid firms and structure economic strategies accordingly.

• Finding: Soloists don’t exist in a vacuum. They require support services ranging from legal and financial advice to intermittent access to staff, space and business development.

Opportunity: Create opportunities for soloists and relevant support sources and government bodies to mix and mingle. Academic institutions, non-profits and public agencies have much to gain from soloists, and vice versa.

To learn more about the findings and the movers and shakers forming the “New Work Order,” read the full 2016 Solo City Report.


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