Wednesday October 02, 2013 | 03:45 PM

Maine has a disproportionate number of self-employed workers. An August 2011 brief from the Maine Department of Labor estimated that 10.3% of workers in Maine are their own bosses — 66,000 workers in all. That's substantially higher than the national rate, which hovers around 7%.

Many of Maine's traditional industries are rooted in self-employed workers: lots of farmers, fishermen, carpenters and forestry workers are sole proprietors of their own enterprises. But a lot of the trendy "creative economy" workers that cities like Portland, Biddeford and Bangor are trying to attract are also independent contractors. The idea is that places in Maine with good quality of life and an internet connection can poach freelancers and telecommuters from the bigger cities to our south — effectively relocating bigger companies' back offices one worker at a time.

Back when the above-referenced report was published in 2011, I myself was one of those self-employed workers, writing copy and building websites for a living. Some of my clients were based down the street, while others were based in Boston or Seattle.

This is fairly common among Maine's freelancers. Just last week, for instance, I noticed that local freelance photographer (and MaineToday contributor) Greta Rybus snagged a nice gig for London's Guardian newspaper, which presumably added a few British pounds to Maine's gross state product. There's not a whole lot of work here in Maine, so if you're a freelancer, you hustle a lot to get work and commissions from clients in bigger cities.

So Maine's self-employed workers spend a fair amount of time importing jobs from out of state. Kind of like a horde of economic development recruiters who stimulate Maine's economy piecemeal, one invoice at a time.

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I'm an economics wonk and an online content producer for the Portland Press Herald.

You can get in touch with me by emailing cmilneil [at], or by calling 791-6307, or by following @vigorousnorth. Also check out my business and economics list on Twitter.

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