The gig economy is booming, and it’s not predicted to slow down any time soon. Instead of spending every day working a 9-to-5 job, it’s increasingly common to have multiple income sources from freelancing gigs. This work shift allows freelancers to have job flexibility, where they can work when they want and where they want, instead of following a strict schedule. Not to mention, freelance work offers creative freedom, the ability to choose your clients, and allows you to be your own boss.
So what does the future of the freelance community look like, and what jobs can you choose that will pay you well? We’ve compiled a comprehensive list of freelance statistics to help you better understand what it takes to thrive in a gig economy. Feel free to jump to the infographic for some quick stats.
Note: The data listed below is from the Intuit QuickBooks and Gallup 2019 Gig Economy and Self-Employment Report, unless otherwise noted.
The Current State of Self-Employment in the U.S.
Self-employment continues to be an important source of income for many citizens of the United States. Here are some statistics about the current state of self-employment in the U.S. to give you an idea of where the trends are heading.
- There are currently 44 million self-employed individuals in the United States.
- Growth in sole proprietors has been the fastest in transportation services, such as taxi services, with a growth rate of 722% from 2000 to 2017.
- Self-employed individuals earn the highest annual income in Northeastern states like New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.
- 54% of people who are self-employed also work in traditional jobs.
- In 2017, 17% of adults in the United States engaged in self-employed work, which is an increase from the less than 10% average in the early 1980s.
- 28% of self-employed workers in the U.S. reported to have worked multiple jobs at some point in a given week to make extra income.
- A considerable amount of people who are self-employed do so out of a desire — not a necessity — to supplement their primary source of income.
- The number of people who considered freelancing as a long-term career option increased from 18.5 million to 28.5 million between 2014 and 2019. (Fast Company)
- Self-employed workers are less satisfied with their job stability and predictability compared to traditional employees.
- The independent contractor tax rate in the U.S. is at 15.3%.
- 57% of sole proprietors work in these five sectors: professional services, repair and personal services, construction, retail trade, and administrative services.
- 23% of those who use digital gig platforms to find work opportunities are students. (Pew Research Center)
- The average self-employed individual brought in an average of $34,751 in annual revenue in 2017, compared to traditional employees who brought in around $40,800.
- More than 50% of the workforce in the United States is predicted to be freelancers by the end of 2027. (Upwork)
- Almost one-tenth of Americans have earned money in the last year using a digital platform to perform gig jobs. (Pew Research Center)
- The U.S. freelance workforce has been growing 3 times faster than the overall U.S. workforce since 2014. (Upwork)
- Around 2% of Americans have made money driving for rideshare services like Uber and Lyft. (Pew Research Center)
- Americans younger than the age of 50 and those with higher levels of income and education are more likely to be online sellers. (Pew Research Center)
- 53% of America’s independent workers are male. (Statista)
Gig Economy Statistics and Trends To Know
Freelancers primarily earn their money by working for multiple companies performing gigs or jobs, instead of committing to work for one company. This allows freelancers to attract multiple clients at once and work from a variety of places. What does the data on freelancing look like? Here are the freelance statistics you need to know.
- 50% of freelancers provide highly skilled services such as computer programming, IT, and business consulting. (Upwork)
- 80%of major corporations plan on greatly increasing their use of flexible workers in the coming years.
- In Deloitte’s annual Global Human Capital Trends report, more than 33% of companies surveyed reported using gig workers extensively.
- For gig workers between the ages of 18 and 34, half of them rely on their gig job as their main source of income. (Edison Research)
- 1 in 6 traditional employees want to become a primary independent earner. (McKinsey)
- In Deloitte’s latest millennial study, more than 64% of full-time workers surveyed said they want to do side hustles to make extra income.
- 46% of U.S. freelancers say that their current working style gives them the flexibility they’re looking for. (Upwork)
- Independent workers consistently report that they are much healthier and satisfied with working for themselves. (MBO Partners)
- There are around 170 gig economy workers in the U.S. that primarily hire remote employees. (CNBC)
- Approximately 9% of U.S. freelancers use on-demand economy platforms such as Freelancer or Upwork to find work opportunities. (Staffing Industry)
- Freelancers who rely mainly on the income they earn from gigs are also more likely to opt for jobs that involve physical labor rather than remote online tasks. (Pew Research Center)
- The average age of freelancers is 40 years old, which is younger than traditional workers at an average age of 42. (Forbes)
- 26% of gig platform users consider themselves employees of the services they use to find work opportunities, while 68% view themselves as independent contractors. (Pew Research Center)
- 46% of freelancers said they can’t have a traditional 9-to-5 job because of personal circumstances. (Upwork)
A Snapshot of the Freelance Job Market
- Among the total group of freelancers, 30% sell unskilled services, 26% sell goods, and 26% provide other services. (Forbes)
- There are more than 1.1 billion freelancers around the world out of the 3.2 billion total workforce population. (International Labor Organization)
- 80% of freelancers work on up to three projects simultaneously. (Inc.)
- 83% of full-time freelancers have health insurance. (Forbes)
- Freelancers spent more than 1 billion total hours a week working in 2018, up from 998 million hours in 2015. (Forbes)
- The U.S. has the fastest growing freelance market in the world, with a 78% growth in yearly earnings. (Payoneer)
- 30% of Fortune 500 companies hire through various freelancing platforms like Upwork. (Fortune)
- 7 out of 10 freelancers say technology has made it easier to find gigs. (Upwork)
- Around 60% of freelancers have received business-related training in the past six months to sharpen skills relevant to their field. (Forbes)
- 98% of remote workers would like to work remotely for the rest of their careers. (Buffer)
- The best countries for freelancing are the U.S., the U.K., Brazil, Pakistan, Ukraine, the Philippines, India, Bangladesh, Russia, and Serbia. (CNBC)
- About half of freelance workers work 30 to 50 hours per week. (Inc.)
- Full-time freelancers say the best things about self-employment are flexibility (77%), not having a boss (77%), and working wherever they like. (Forbes)
- The U.S. gig economy gross volume is expected to reach $455 billion by 2023. (Statista)
- According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 17% of U.S. freelancers are African American, 16.4% are Hispanic, and 5.8% are Asian.
- Around 52% of freelancers worldwide have lost their job due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Statista)
- The number of gig economy workers over the age of 65 climbed from 8.5% to 14.1% between 2005 and 2017. (Economic Policy Institute)
- 92% of freelancers expect their work opportunities to continue to increase in the coming years. (Upwork)
Freelance Statistics Regarding Income and Expenses
- U.S. freelancers earned nearly $1 trillion in 2018, which is equivalent to 5% of the total U.S. GDP. (Upwork)
- About 36% of freelancers now make more than $75,000 every year. (LinkedIn)
- Freelancers around the world earn an average of $19 per hour. (Forbes)
- The median annual salary of freelancers with at least 3 years of experience is around $70,000. (Nation 1099)
- 53% of freelancers claim that cost is the main barrier to leveling up their professional skills. (Skill Scouter)
- 60% of freelancers say they earn more than they did working as traditional employees. (Upwork)
- Among U.S. freelancers, 50% say no amount of money would make them want to work a traditional job again. (Forbes)
- 6 in 10 freelancers would move to a different city for a tax break of less than $5,000. (Upwork)
- Only 17% of independent workers using on-demand platforms for job opportunities made an income of $75,000 or more, with 56% earning $40,000 or less, and 36% of workers reporting earnings of $25,000 or less (MBO Partners).
Is Freelancing the Future?
Freelancing is a flexible opportunity that allows you to work from anywhere in the world, which makes it an attractive job prospect for many people. Many employees transitioned into remote work opportunities during COVID-19;since then, more than 65% have reported a desire to be full-time remote workers post-pandemic.
However, not all industries are allowing this permanent remote job change, which has pushed many working people to turn toward freelance work. This, coupled with the number of workers who lost their jobs during the pandemic, created an influx of freelance workers. In fact, at the rate the gig economy continues to grow each year, more than 50% of the workforce is predicted to be in a freelance position by 2028.
How Much Do Freelancers Make?
It’s clear that freelancing has become a popular option for those who want to control their work and career experiences. However, with that freedom comes the reality of earning a living as a freelancer, which can be unpredictable. The average salary for freelancers in the U.S. is $63,448, according to the most recent freelancer statistics by ZipRecruiter.
It’s important to note that this is significantly higher than the average for most other countries, and not everyone will make this type of money freelancing. The actual take-home numbers may differ depending on the billing method, industry, and amount of experience the freelancer has.
Top 5 Highest Paying Freelance Jobs of 2021
Most industries hire freelancers, so you’ll have plenty of jobs to choose from if you decide to pursue independent work. However, there are a few freelancing gigs that tend to make more than others. We’ve put together the top five freelance gigs, job duties, and how much you can potentially make. Continue reading to learn the most profitable freelance jobs in 2021.
Social Media Specialist
Freelancers are needed more than ever in the social marketing world. Social media specialists handle a variety of tasks such as content planning, content writing, and social media management. You’ll have to be well-versed in cutting edge social media techniques and be able to write compelling captions or content that will attract an audience. The average salary for this role is $45,631.
An SEO (Search Engine Optimization) specialist works to optimize their client’s content and help them reach the top search results on YouTube, Google, or any other searchable platform. This is a very profitable niche because businesses need these higher-ranking spots for a larger return on interest. The average salary for this role is $59,871.
A freelance web designer works with clients to plan, create, and code web pages. This task requires a knowledge of web design, coding, and user experience in order to thrive. It’s important to have an eye for design, understand basic SEO principles, and have the know-how to create on various platforms. The median annual salary for this role is $77, 200.
A copywriter is a great option if you want to earn a high income. As a copywriter, you’ll write on various topics in multiple industries, depending on your client’s needs. This may include blog content, website pages, social media posts, sales scripts, email marketing campaigns, and so on. The best part of copywriting is that anyone can start in this industry and work their way up. The median annual salary for this role is $67, 120.
Everyone needs to sell their products or services, making sales one of the most sought-after skills each year. Thankfully, you can do presentations, phone calls, and send emails to clients from anywhere in the world. You’ll need to be comfortable and confident with cold calling and rejection to thrive in this role. The mean annual salary for this role is $45,750.
How To Stand Out and Make Money in the Freelance Market
With the number of freelancers growing as more people continue to leave their regular 9-to-5 jobs, the competition continues to increase. You’ll have to make yourself stand out among your competition in order to attract more customers by investing in your business. If you’re ready to make more money as a freelancer, follow these tips to establish yourself and thrive in the gig economy.
Pick a Profitable Niche
While it’s important to pick an area of work that you enjoy and excel in, it’s even more important to choose a profitable niche. Take some time to research what other people in your chosen field are charging for their work. Does this match up with the salary you’re looking to earn? If it doesn’t, you might want to consider a different money-making avenue.
Create a High-Quality Portfolio
When customers are seeking services like yours, they’re going to check out the previous work you’ve done. If you don’t have any examples of the quality, tone, or style of your work, you’re not likely to book clients. Potential customers want to know that they can trust you with their project, and without any portfolio, they’re more likely to move on to the next freelancer. Make sure to include examples of the best work you’ve completed. If you don’t have any samples, create your own.
Define Your Audience and Perfect Your Pitch
It’s essential to understand your target market. What problem are you trying to solve with your expertise? You’ll want to know the demographics and persona of your ideal client so you can better understand how to attract their business. Your pitch to them should center around solving their problems and making their lives easier, not bragging about your achievements or accomplishments.
Social proof is more important than ever, which is why more than 84% of people trust online reviews. At the beginning of your freelance career, it’s essential to build up your credibility with good reviews. Make sure to go above and beyond with your customers to receive a higher rating. When you do receive glowing reviews, make sure to post them everywhere for potential clients to see.
Leverage Your Network
As a beginner in your industry, it might be hard to get those first few orders or gigs. The best way to overcome this is to reach out to your network, either in person or via social media. Ask friends, family members, or business connections if they need your services. You’ll more than likely find a few of your first customers by using the connections you already have in your network.
More people than ever are now turning to the gig economy as a full-time job or a profitable side hustle. There is no quick way to gain an edge on your competitors or stand out. However, by finding the right niche, managing your business expenses, and positioning yourself correctly with your target market, you’re likely to make more money and thrive in the gig economy.
As you continue to uplevel your skills as a freelancer, don’t forget to take control of your finances. Though being your own boss comes with more freedom compared to traditional employees, living on a fluctuating income as a freelancer can cause stress. To reduce your financial worries, use budget tracking apps like Mint and manage your spending in an organized way.
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