Whether it’s writing, designing, or marketing, freelancing is the way to go. Although many a company is in dire need of experts, an increasing number of them are turning to freelancers over full-time workers to cut on costs and dip into a much broader pool of talent.
The latest freelance statistics reveal that freelancing isn’t just a fluke or a passing trend; it will not only continue to thrive but will also grow over the course of the following years with further technological advancements being made and the rising need for experts in different niches.
Whether by choice or by necessity, today’s freelancers are happy with the work they do and the lifestyle freelancing offers. Many would choose to continue freelancing even if they were offered more money to return to a traditional job.
If you wish to know more about freelancing, then check the most important stats below.
A freelancer is an individual who offers a specific service and usually works with more than one client on several jobs at a time. Freelance work is generally short-term and is modeled on a project-by-project basis where freelancers offer their unique services only for the duration of the project. Most freelance jobs are virtual and most freelancers typically offer their writing, photography, website design, and IT skills. Consequently, there are plenty of services that a freelancer can provide, depending primarily on the skills of the individual in question.
Remote work statistics reveal that there is quite a diversity in the way freelancers deal with their clients, especially so when it comes to billing. Although more than half of all freelancers work on a fixed basis, 29% do so by the hour. The remaining 23% use both methods depending on the job and the client.
According to freelance statistics, jobs that entail this (gig) workforce include dog walkers, assistants, and other positions that are not done virtually. This drastically lowers the average earnings of the whole group to about $36,500 compared to the $62,500 earned by full-time workers with a single employer; generally, freelancers don’t work full 40-hour weeks and take on gigs only as an additional income.
Again, this entails all gig workers, including those outside the digital sphere. When all types of gig workers are included in the statistics, Baby Boomers earn more than both the Gen Xers ($36,300) and Millennials ($27,500).
Technology has greatly improved the quality of life of freelancers, helping them find new work opportunities a lot easier. Today, many a platform caters to businesses and individuals looking for freelancers to complete certain tasks for them. As a result, this allowed freelancers to connect with both individuals and companies that require their services making them more optimistic about their line of work than ever before (according to 83% of them).
(A Freelance Life)
This number continues to mount, making a lot of people question whether there is still room for them to join the freelancing trend or not. The problem with freelancing is that the competition is fierce; there are freelancers coming from different countries with different economies across the globe.
This makes it all the more difficult for freelancers based in countries with better economies as they have to compete with a plethora of lower-paid freelancers. Still, a specialized freelancer that offers more experience, knowledge, and expertise (in small, niche markets) has plenty of freelance opportunities.
According to Upwork and the Freelancers Union, the number of freelancers continues to rise, particularly over the past five years. The first time the survey was conducted back in 2014 there were around 53 million freelancers in the US; meaning, freelancers make up about 35% of the entire US workforce. This number will continue to go up as more freelancing opportunities become available and more freelancers leave their full-time jobs and start working from home.
Over the last couple of years, the economy has accomplished quite a boom with freelancers looking for more flexible jobs that allow them to share their knowledge and expertise during an uncertain economic climate. Apart from freelancers, companies are also to “blame” for this trend as an increasing number of them are looking for high-quality talent that only works at a fraction of the cost of full-time employees. Consequently, companies gain access to amazing talent without having to pay for any additional training, office space, insurance, and taxes.
This is the most significant concentration of freelancers of any market. The total revenue for these workers in 2017 was estimated at about $24 billion. The second-largest market for specialized independent professionals is the metropolitan area of Los Angeles where there are about 400,000 skilled independent professionals. Their estimated earnings were about $18 billion. In the US, the Chicago metropolitan area takes third place with 185,000 independent professionals earning an estimated $6.7 billion in total revenue in 2017.
Today, the number of freelancers earning (well) over $100,000 is rising, making freelancing an extremely lucrative opportunity for experts and specialists in their respective niches. With companies turning to freelancers over in-house workers when looking for expert help, freelancers are never short of work.
Freelancing is taking over the public sector. According to Fiverr, in some regions of the US freelancers represent 1–2% of the GDP. Hence we can safely say that freelancers are pushing the economy forward by replenishing the local treasuries. What’s more, a lot of freelancers are pushing for the creation of co-working, co-housing, and co-living spaces or opting to move to smaller, rural communities that were left abandoned due to people looking for work in big cities.
52% of the American workforce will either be freelancing or will have freelanced sometime throughout their careers by 2023, according to 2019 projections. With the rising popularity of freelancing, and due to the many benefits it offers, more specialized workers are opting — either by their own choice or due to various circumstances — to engage in freelancing.
In 2018, almost 5% of the US GDP was contributed by freelancers. Although this may not seem like much, it offers a lot more than the construction industry, for instance. Likewise, it provides about the same amount of contribution as the information industry and almost half of that of the manufacturing industry. Keep in mind that these two industries are significant contributors to the US GDP, showing that the freelance workforce deserves a great deal of attention too. What’s more, this number is expected to rise even further for 2019.
A lot of individuals who are new to freelancing worry about the ways they can acquire new clients; rightfully so, seeing how many experts are vying for work. Finding clients requires a lot of hard work and many freelancers end up spending most of their time competing for projects. However, when a freelancer earns a name for themselves, clients start turning to them for help (on their own). The competition may be fierce, but the rewards are well worth it.
According to the most recent Upwork survey, one of the most significant benefits of freelancing is the added flexibility and the freedom to manage your own time. The study revealed that almost 31% of freelancers worked every day, whereas there was 29% of those that worked only once a month or less. In addition, another 29% worked once a week, and 10% worked twice a week.
Upwork reveals that the average price that freelancers charge for the top 100 skills is 88% greater than that of the average worker in the US economy. What’s more, the top 100 skills are in high demand, but cost a lot if hired full-time. Freelancers provide companies with the opportunity to engage workers on a project-by-project basis rather than full-time, saving them a lot of time and money regardless of the high hourly rates.
This is the most significant type of freelance work offered and includes everything from business consulting, marketing, IT, design, writing, computer programming, app design, and much more. The other, less widespread, freelance types include unskilled services (30%) which include cleaning, ridesharing, personal tasks, dog walking, etc. Moreover, providing services and selling goods like Airbnb, eBay, consignment shops, and drop shipping sits at 26%. The wide variety of freelancing jobs shows that there are opportunities for almost anyone regardless of their skill level.
Due to a stable economy in 2018, the number of freelancers dropped from 57.3 million in 2017 to “just” 56.7 million in 2018. One of the reasons for this was the significant influx of freelancers in the year 2017. The improved economy (of 2018) combined with the unemployment rates dropping from 4.1% to 3.7%, resulted in there being about 600,000 fewer workers on the freelance market that year.
Almost half of the freelancers offer specialized skills, including legal, management, consulting, and more. In the US they are most concentrated in three cities. Technical service providers such as data scientists, developers, and designers are about 1/3 of all freelancers and are mainly accumulated in New York, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles. The creative workers are the least of all freelancers and consist of artists, photographers, and video producers. They are mainly concentrated in Los Angeles and New York.
Education seems to play a significant role in the success of freelancers and the number of freelancers. The higher education provides them with additional skills and expertise, thus allowing them to find clients easier and faster, all the while making more money. Freelancers with an advanced degree are the majority, whereas those with a bachelor’s degree take up at least 33%. On the other hand, freelancers with some form of college or equivalent associate degree, including those with a high school diploma, make up 35% of all freelancers.
One of the main reasons freelancers choose this type of work is because it allows them to decide exactly how much they work, where, and when. This enables them to have a better work-life balance and to work when they feel like they are most productive. Although these are great benefits, the life of a freelancer doesn’t come without its challenges.
There are many benefits to working from home. One is that most workers feel they are more productive when they are at home due to fewer interruptions and distractions, reduced stress, and the lack of commuting. They don’t have to worry about office politics and deal with co-workers as much. Freelancers can create a quiet environment that is more personalized and comfortable. Of the individuals surveyed, 32% said they feel just as productive both at home or in the office, while only 3% revealed that they are less productive at home.
Although the majority of freelancers are optimistic, Millennials are the ones looking to the future of freelancing and the many possibilities it will offer them the most; this number went up from 77% back in 2014. Freelancers have already noticed an increased demand for their services and 78% of freelancers would recommend freelancing to their family and friends. Millennials are most likely to recommend freelancing at 84% and opt to freelance by choice over need.
Whether by choice or need, freelancers love what they do. Even if they are offered more money and more opportunities, most will not trade their freedom and comfort for said benefits. Moreover, achieving their dream lifestyle is more important than the amount of money a freelancer is offered after they have become used to working for themselves.
78% of freelancers say they feel happier and are healthier over traditional workers. When it comes to the benefits and income security, freelancers and full-time employees are more or less equal. Freelancers also feel more satisfied with the kind of work they do, the number of hours they work, and the creativity they are allowed to express while working. They also feel they receive more recognition for their hard work.
(Small Biz Labs)
Once they’ve tried freelancing and achieved success, most freelancers plan on continuing with this kind of work and staying independent. Approximately 12% of all freelancers are considering turning their freelancing into a business, and only 11% of them are considering returning to traditional full-time work. These answers were based on questions regarding their work plans over the next 2–3 years.
More than half of all freelancers work independently, not out of need, but out of choice. In 2014, when the first Upwork survey was complete, 53% of freelancers in the US already stated that they freelanced by choice.
In 2014, freelancing was seen merely as a temporary solution for around 34.5 million freelancers. This number dropped to 29.2 million in 2017, with a slight increase in 2018 (29.4 million). The exact opposite is true with freelancing as a full-time option which has increased drastically over the years.
The future of freelancing looks more than promising. With the advent of technology and the rising need for specialized workers, mainly in the digital sectors, to keep companies moving forward, freelancers will have a lot more opportunities to shine in the years to come. Seeing how the majority of projects freelancers engage in are only temporary, companies see the benefits of hiring freelancers over hiring new or re-training old in-house staff.
This puts Millennials as the (future) leaders of the global workforce. Younger people are more adept at technology and related trends. By 2025 they will be in the age bracket that will be the prime choice for major companies that hire freelancers on a variety of digital projects, boosting the freelance economy even further.
The future of the gig economy and remote workers in the US will continue to grow as more companies see the benefit of having a more flexible workforce. In turn, they will increase agility, efficiency, productivity, and overall flexibility.
(Man Power Group)
The freelancer number will continue to grow over the years as many Americans are interested in transitioning from their traditional jobs to freelancing and similar types of independent work. This number is the same for other countries too. 97% of people living in Mexico and India are also considering freelance, temporary, independent, or contractor work. When we take a look at the demographics of the countries with the highest number of people considering freelancing in the future, we see that these are generally younger people.
Fiverr argues this estimation. Their findings reveal that this kind of growth will happen much sooner than Upwork estimated when considering the top 25 markets for freelancers as the speed of growth continues to increase. Freelancers are primarily based in the largest US metropolitan areas such as Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York. However, with the added freedom of living anywhere you want, freelancers are quickly moving to smaller cities such as Portland, Orlando, Nashville, and Austin. From 2011 to 2016, the number of freelancers in the 25 leading markets grew by more than 20% in Nashville and Austin alone.
Many of these statistics encompass all freelancers, regardless of how much or how often they freelance. Yet, a lot of freelancers don’t work exclusively like this; they do it more as a side gig. A survey from 2017 revealed that less than 30% of freelancers work independently full-time. Of the freelancers that work independently part-time, 85% don’t make more than $500 a month.
Currently, there are around 57 million workers in the US that are engaging in various freelancing work. This makes up as much as 35% of the current US workforce. Since the year 2014, the number of freelancers in the US has increased by 4 million and this trend is only gaining in popularity and there are no signs of it slowing down any time soon.
(A Freelance Life)
Although it is somewhat difficult to pinpoint the exact number of freelancers globally, recent studies have revealed that their numbers sit around the 75-million mark. In addition, it’s worth pointing out that a lot of these freelancers aren’t registered anywhere, and some don’t even use typical freelance platforms, which are the main ways of counting them, making it extremely difficult to determine the exact number.
According to statistics, as of 2017, Upwork has approximately 14 million freelancers that are registered on their platform and around 5 million clients. Every year some 3 million jobs are posted with a combined worth of a staggering $1 billion. During 2017, Upwork was the global leader of the entire freelancer marketplace and remains so to this very day.
The younger generations are more susceptible to becoming freelancers than older generations; Millenials in particular. At the moment, 47% of all working Millennials are, in fact, freelancers. Not only that but freelancing is also becoming a lifestyle of choice for many a Millennial as an increasing number of them opts to freelance as a full-time job in place of more traditional work.
(Upwork; Home Working Club)
The client pays the rate that is agreed upon with the freelancer and a standard 3% fee. There are also paid plans available.
As for freelancers, the Upwork fee depends primarily on the amount of money they make. For work valued at less than $500, they take a 20% commission. Between $500 and $10,000 they charge a 10% commission, and for jobs over $10,000 the commission is a mere 5%. As of May 2019, each Upwork Connect costs $0.15 each.
According to Intuit, the percentage of Americans in the gig economy was 34% in 2016 and is expected to grow to 43% by 2020. Upwork alone had $1.756 million in revenue from freelancers and their clients in 2018.
There is no end in sight when it comes to the popularity and growth of freelancing. The statistics speak for themselves. More people are considering freelancing and freelancers are not willing to return to traditional jobs. On the other hand, companies are more open to working with freelancers over hiring full-time staff.
The freelance statistics above reveal that the future of freelancing is bright indeed; it’s not too late to jump into the world of independent work.