Research reveals 94 percent of micro businesses love the control that independence provides, but 85 percent agree current small business programs aren’t a fit given their size

In consideration of National Small Business Week, Invoice2go fielded a survey of more than 600 independent workers that self identify as a “contractor” (16 percent), “freelancer” (21 percent), “side gigger” (8 percent) or a “micro-business” (54 percent), defined here as 5 or less workers, to assess sentiment on their working experience.

Among the key findings, 93 percent say working independently gives them greater control over their career path and earning potential than working for an employer. The upsides of such control far outweigh their top concern over inconsistent income (67 percent).

Female customer being served at counter of a record shop

This sentiment is fueling a new economic reality – businesses with five or less people represent 92% of the country’s total businesses according to the Association for Enterprise Opportunity. Despite their prominence, institutional support doesn’t match up with the unique needs of this substantial segment. The Invoice2go survey reveals 85 percent of businesses owners in this category feel more resources (e.g. better access to health care, and protection against lost income) are needed to help them flourish.

 

A national debate is underway about labor practices and new business models that connect the smallest of service providers directly with consumers. On one side stand those that believe “gig” workers and freelancers should be offered the benefits matching that of full-time employees, while the opposition suggests that workers desire independence, and with that comes no obligation for companies to supply these programs. Today’s reported findings indicate that workers that fall into the micro business category would like to introduce a new paradigm; a system where they still self direct on their career path and earning potential, while being provided access to resources to help guide and insulate them from fluctuating market conditions.

“The punch line here is that work and income opportunities have evolved, but current programs designed for small businesses aren’t serving the needs of the micro businesses, a rapidly growing category,” explains Greg Waldorf, CEO of Invoice2go. “Nearly 40 percent of our respondents left traditional work to strike out on their own, and we estimate more than 80 percent of all Invoice2go users have less than five workers, with plans to remain that way. At Invoice2go we are backing this type of entrepreneurial spirit. It is our hope that the government will begin to take note and to support the specific needs of the smallest of businesses.”

The Invoice2go Micro Business Sentiment survey asked U.S. businesses to share their main concern as an independent worker or micro business. The findings show how unique the needs of this segment are:

  • Consistent Income: 67 percent indicated “inconsistent cash flow / earnings,” making it the top concern from respondents.
  • Building Trust: 32 percent indicated that establishing trust as an independent worker (when competing against larger companies) is the biggest hurdle.
  • Access to Benefits: 31 percent of micro businesses cited lack of employee-sponsored benefits (i.e. health insurance, retirement plan, etc.)
 as their main concern.

Further, 64 percent of those surveyed believe competition in the micro business space is growing.

Established programs like the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 and ScaleUp America Initiative have been extremely valuable for small businesses, but tend to focus on provisions for traditional SMBs, bigger ‘small’ businesses (typically up to 500 employees, and in some cases up to 1,500), such as loans and training for expansion.

Very small businesses are unique, and programs to support them should be devised with different goals in mind. When asked to name “what kind of additional support would help?” the majority of Invoice2go survey respondents said “the ability to purchase better health insurance” and “better tax incentives.” Numerous respondents also made a plea for “better retirement plans,” help managing cash flow,’  “access to legal help” and “business training.”

Is anyone listening?

Organizations such as the Freelancers Union have taken note of the discrepancy in programs befitting the new types of independent workers, and are making inroads to draw attention to their unique needs. With their mission of “Building a better future for the independent workforce,” they’ve most recently embarked on a campaign to award freelancers more rights in collecting payment for work. In an article outlining the initiative, Freelancers Union leader Sara Horowitz describes the essence of the “Freelance isn’t Free Act” which would give independent workers legal recourse to collect payment from services already rendered.

How can micro businesses get involved?

Invoice2go encourages micro businesses to join the Freelancers Union Movement. Free membership garners access to resources including contract templates, guidance on benefits and discounts on numerous services.

Methodology

This survey of 601 micro business owners who use Invoice2go was conducted online in the United States on April 15, 2016.