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  • 405 Freelance Statistics for 2022: Market Size, Profile Data & Salary Rates

405 Freelance Statistics for 2022: Market Size, Profile Data & Salary Rates

At no point in human history are there more powerful forces at play than the ongoing ones unraveling before our own eyes. Take your pick: cutting-edge technologies from virtually every field, revolutionary digital transformation processes, an unheard-of rise of the freelance-based economy, or the ferocity of a raging COVID-19 pandemic. More tellingly, each one is entangled with the other.

In this aggregation of freelance statistics, we will see just how entangled these myriad forces are with one another. If you’re a business, these statistics will shed insights critical to how you optimize freelance platforms. If you’re a freelancer, let this article help you gauge if gigs are the way to go for a career.

freelance statistics - infographic

Digital Transformation: The Freelance Enabler

It cannot be said enough, but freelancers and the organizations that hire their services owe it all to core technologies whose emergence allowed workers to work from virtually anywhere in the world an internet service is available. These technologies include, among others, the following remote work tools:

Power in the hands of the workers

Freelancing in the age of digital transformation has upturned the nature of employment and talent management in many ways. As freelancers gain a better understanding of industries and the labor markets, they have leveraged this knowledge with decisive strategies to market their talents. The result is that they are earning more, are happier at work and in their private and social lives in general, and scale work and pay anytime they want or need. In short, digital transformation and the rise of freelancing have totally disrupted employment, with talent now dictating a company’s strategy and speed of innovation. The price could be costly if they don’t or even do it late. Amid all these, Upwork (Upwork, 2020) noted the following developments:

  • 70% of companies updating their digital transformation strategies saw very little progress due to the operational and economic difficulties presented by COVID-19
  • These same companies realize that their survival hinges on completing their digital transformation, to allow them to create digital offerings
  • 45% of organizations that froze headcounts to conserve cash are pressured by the possibility of never catching up once they fall behind
  • 3 out 4 organizations are hampered by skills gaps that are limiting their service levels and/or business growth
  • 61% of hiring managers are not fully satisfied with their staffing agencies, a development that plays in favor of hiring agile freelancers instead.
  • 37% – the drop in global staffing revenue in 2020, up 14% from the previous year (SIA, 2020)

On the other hand, enlightened leaders who foresaw and planned ahead are rewarded by their foresight. Talents from the outside are hard to come by, so why not develop them in-house? The result:

  • Organizations are 1.5x more likely to report a successful digital transformation when they develop talent and skills throughout the organization. (McKinsey & Company, 2018)

At no other time in history are workers feeling more empowered. Combining talent, skills, and a good grip of the talent market and the technology that deeply undergirds it, freelancers find it easier to work on their own terms (Upwork, 2020).

  • 77% of freelancers say that technology made it easier to find freelance work
  • 64% of professionals at the top of their industry are increasingly choosing to work independently
  • 50% – the estimated rise in freelancer signups on Upwork since the COVID-19
  • 35% (57 million) of the US workforce freelanced in the previous year
  • 51% of hiring managers would consider using an online talent solution to engage independent talent

So what is the culmination of all this partnership among freelancers and digital transformation over the years? It all paid off handsomely, to the point that hiring managers now prefer independent talent rather than those provided by staffing firms for the following reasons (Upwork, 2020):

  • 62% – to complete projects faster
  • 55% – to reduce costs
  • 49% – access to highly skilled quality talent
  • 49% – to increase transparency in the process

Source: Upwork, 2020

Number of Freelancers Worldwide Statistics

Freelancers are what independent workers typically call their employment position. Along with the number of US freelancers, how do other independent workers see themselves? Here are the numbers (AND.CO, n.d.):

  • 38% – freelancers (consistent with world and US numbers)
  • 26% – self-employed consultants
  • 14% – side hustlers
  • 12% – founder/owner – without employees
  •  6% – founder/owner – with employees
  •  4% – something else

How many freelancers are there in the world?

  • There are an estimated 1.1 billion freelancers worldwide. (Website Planet, 2021)
  • Of the 3.5 billion total global workforce, this represents a 35% global freelancers’ share. (DDIY, 2021)
  • 65% – the expected growth rate of full-time remote work over the next five years, up from 30% (Ozimek, A., 2020)

Breakdown of Global Freelancers

By type of freelancers, The Simple Dollar (2020) breaks down the share of freelancers as:

  • 40% – independent contractors
  • 27% – moonlighters
  • 18% – diversified workers
  • 10% – temporary workers
  •   5% – freelance business owners

Looking at freelancers worldwide in terms of age composition and earning shares, Payoneer’s Cross-Border Freelancing Trends report (2019) reveals the following numbers:

Number of global freelancers by age
  • 16% – 18-24
  • 48% – 25-34
  • 23% – 35-44
  •   9% – 45-54
  •   5% – 55+
Percentage share of earnings of global freelancers by age
  •   6.9% – 18-24
  • 46.2% – 25-34
  • 32.5% – 35-44
  •   9.4% – 45-54
  •   4.9% – 55+

Which regions have the most freelancers?

According to Inc.com,, the majority of freelancers are found in the following regions (Inc.com, n.d.):

  • 35.5% – Europe
  • 29.2% – Latin America
  • 28.0% – Asia
  •  10.1% – Africa
  •    4.1% – North America

What are the leading freelancing countries in terms of revenue growth?

According to Payoneer (Payoneer, 2020), the fastest growing freelancing countries in terms of YoY revenue growth are:

  • 208% – Philippines
  • 160% – India
  •   87% – Japan
  •   86% – Australia
  •   79% – Hong Kong
  •   72% – Mexico
  •   71% – Canada
  •   69% – Pakistan
  •   66% – Argentina
  •   66% – Spain

What are the leading freelancer client locations?

The top source of Freelancing clients by geography are the following regions (Payoneer, n.d.)

  • 36% – North America
  • 27% – Europe
  • 11% – Latin America
  • 10% – Asia
  •  7%  – Australia
  •  5% – Middle East
  •  4% – Africa

What is the average salary of a freelancer?

According to Payoneer (Payoneer, 2020):

  • The average freelancer fee is $21/hour.
  • The average freelancer works 36 hours a week.
  • Given these figures, the average freelancer earns $39,000 pretax per year.

Payoneer also reveals the average hourly rates of freelancers based on their level of education:

  • $24 – postgraduate degree
  • $19 – bachelor’s degree
  • $22 – high school graduate

How much do freelancers contribute to the world economy?

  • If we extrapolate from the 1.1 billion freelancers worldwide and $39,000 average annual earning of freelancers (from Payoneer, above), then we arrive at a very huge annual contribution of freelancers to the world economy: $42.9 trillion.
  • Using the $1.2 trillion contribution to the US economy by 57 million American freelancers referred by Business 2 Community (Business 2 Community, 2021), we can extrapolate an average of $21,052.63 average annual earning. Applying that to the global 1.1 billion freelancers, we arrive at $23.16 trillion contribution by freelancers worldwide to the global economy. This is almost half of the above figure but still immense by any reckoning.
  • In conclusion, global freelancers contribute around $23.16 to $42.9 trillion to the world economy annually.

how many freelancers are there in the world

Freelancers Profile Statistics

High level of education, relative youth, proactive skills training, and multiple avenues to find work best characterize global freelancers. Tellingly, they are mostly untouched by the gloomy developments in traditional work, like the prospect of select professions disappearing in the labor market.

How educated are global freelancers?

Different figures appear from various research on this metric. From Payoneer’s 2020 Freelancer Income Report (2020), we see the following:

  • 24% (31% of females and 22% of males) have postgraduate degrees
  • 57% (55% of females and 57% of males) are holders of bachelor’s degrees
  • 19% (14% of females and 21% of males) graduated high school

Freelancermap (2020), on the other hand, scores the highest education level attained by freelancers from its survey as:

  • 40% – university
  • 34% – university of applied sciences
  • 11% – abitur (comparable to International Baccalaureate)
  • 10% – GCSE
  •   3% – other degrees
  •   1% – secondary school

The majority of freelancers are holders of bachelor or certificate degrees according to Website Planet (2021):

  • 54% – bachelor’s or certificate degree
  • 25% – master’s or PhD
  • 20% – no degree

Gender Breakdown of Freelancers

From DDIY (2020), the following figures describe the composition of freelancers by gender:

  • 65% – male
  • 35% – female

How do freelancers view skill training?

An overwhelming 93% of freelancers with a four-year college degree say that skill training is useful, although training cost can be an issue (Upwork, & Freelancers Union, 2018):

  • 93% – useful
  • 79% – college education is still useful for current work
  • 70% – full-time freelancers who took part in some form of skill training in the last six months
  • 49% – full-time workers who took part in some form of skill training in the last 6 months
  • 53% – affected by skill training cost

How many skills do freelancers actively sell?

Most freelancers possess more than one skill, making them capable of taking on more job opportunities across a range of project types (AND.CO, 2021):

  • 61% – 2-3 skills
  • 34% – more than 3 skills
  •   5% – 1 skill

How often do freelancers work?

According to Website Planet (Website Planet, 2021), around 40% of all freelancers work less than a week. This means most freelancers likely have other more traditional sources of income. Around 60%, however, work daily or weekly, making them the majority of freelancers.

  • 31% – daily
  • 29% – weekly
  • 10% – bi-weekly
  •   4% – every other month
  •   5% – 3-4 times a year
  •   2% – 1-2 times a year
  •   4% – once a year

How do freelancers find work?

Most freelancers find work through friends, family, and social media according to Edelman and Upwork (2020). More specifically, here are what freelancers use to look for work:

  • 46% – friends and family
  • 40% – social media
  • 38% – previous freelance client
  • 36% – professional contacts
  • 27% – online ads/classifieds
  • 23% – online job boards
  • 23% – general freelance websites
  • 17% – previous full-time employer
  • 16% – specialized freelance websites
  • 14% – employment agency/staffing firm
  • 14% – sharing economy websites or apps
  • 14% – local newspaper
  •   4% – other

How many projects do freelancers juggle at a time?

On average, the majority of freelancers work with up to four projects at any given time (AND.COM, n.d.)

  • 13% – 1
  • 70% – 2-4
  • 13% – 5-9
  •   4% – 10+

Where do freelancers work?

AND.CO (n.d.) gave the following numbers:

  • 86% – home
  • 40% – local coffeeshop/cafe
  • 25% – remote city/location (work-travel)
  • 11% – client offices
  • 19% – coworking space
  • 15% – own office
  • 11% – library or university
  •   2% – other

How Freelancers Perceive Their Work

  • 57% – full-time freelancers who find their work interesting. (Web Planet, 2021)
  • 94% – consciously chose to freelance (AND.CO, n.d.)
  • 45% – feel more secure in their employment this year compared to their last employment
  • 96% – believe that freelancing has changed in recent years.
  • Among companies actively hiring freelancers, 25% would consider a freelancer for an HR role. (Web Planet, 2021)
  • 41% intend to freelance forever (AND.CO, n.d.)

How freelancers view traditional employment

According to Upword and Edelman Intelligence (2020), the majority of freelancers would prefer to stick to freelancing no matter the amount of money on offer to switch back to traditional employment. As for the rest, they would switch depending on the amount of money on offer:

  • 51% – no amount of money could make them switch.
  • 29% – less than $5,000
  •   2% – $5,000 to $9,999
  •   4% – $10,000 to $19,999
  •   5% – $20,000 to $49,999
  •   5% – $50,000 to $99,999
  •   4% – $100k+

How freelancers perceive globalization

  • 71% – as an opportunity for expansion (Web Planet, 2021)
  • 21% – not a threat, neutral (Web Planet, 2021)
  •   8% – a threat due to increased competition (Web Planet, 2021)

What do freelancers think is missing from freelancing?

According to AND.CO (n.d.), here are what freelancers see as missing from the nature of their employment:

  • 61% – A stronger community and more chances to collaborate
  • 50% – Streamlined business operations and more available resources
  • 48% – More opportunities to work remotely
  • 41% – Better protection of freelancer rights
  •   4% – Others

The Role of Freelance Platforms

Since the freelancing platform pioneers Elance and oDesk started serving freelancers in 1999 and 2003, respectively, freelancing has grown tremendously in the last few decades. Right now, the top 3 freelancing platforms in terms of the number of users—including freelancers and clients—are (DDIY, 2021):

  • 31 million – Freelancer.com
  • 17 million – Upwork
  •   7 million – Fiverr
Upwork Statistics
  • Earned $87.5 million in the last quarter of 2020—approximately $.15 per share. (DDIY, 2021)
  • $350 million – estimated 2020 revenue. (Forbes, 2020)
  • $400 million – projected 2021 revenue for a 15% YoY growth rate. (Forbes, 2020)
  • 20% – Upwork charge for the first $500 freelancer earning (Upwork, 2021)
  • 10% – Upwork charge for freelancer earning between $500.01 and $10,000 (Upwork, 2021)
  • 5% – Upwork charge for freelancer earning beyond $10,000 (Upwork, 2021)
Fiverr Statistics
  • A contract is won every 4 seconds. (Fiverr, 2021)
  • Went public in June 2019 at $21/share, traded at $228.21 as of April 16, 2021. (Google Finance, 2021)
  • 20% – Fiver charges for freelancer earnings (Fiverr, 2021)
Freelancer.com
  • $618.5 million – gross payment volume in 2020, up 12.9% from 2019. (SIA, 2021)
  • 1.5% – net revenue increase for 2020 from 2019. (SIA, 2021)
  • $0-59.95/month – employer or employee membership fee range (Young, 2019)
  • 10% – commission rate for hourly projects. (Young, 2019)
  • 10% or $5.00 (whichever is greater) – commission rate for fixed-price projects (Young, 2019)
  • 10% or $5.00 (whichever is higher) – commission rate for contests (Young, 2019)
  • 20% – commission rate for total service price (Young, 2019)
  • 15% – commission rate for Preferred Freelancer Program (Young, 2019)

Source: AND.CO

Freelance Market Statistics

The freelance market is looking bright. For one thing, companies are looking to engage more independent workers. At the other end of the spectrum, many first-time freelancers want to do more remote work or stick to the arrangement.

  • 59% of hiring managers were estimated to have engaged some form of flexible talent in 2020 (Upwork, 2020)

For which types of work did hiring managers engage freelancers? The distribution is as follows (Upwork, 2020):

  • 58% – writing
  • 58% – creative/design
  • 51% – web, mobile, and software development
  • 46% – marketing
  • 35% – IT/networking and database admin
  • 33% – engineering

Agile, hybrid teams point the way forward

As companies find it hard to fill skill gaps in their organizations through traditional staffing agencies, they are increasingly creating an agile workforce composed of external talent and current employees. The hybrid teams are carefully selected based on clear criteria and specific time (Upwork, 2020).

  • 57% engage talent for ongoing strategic partnerships across multiple projects
  • 4.1 months – the average length of independent talent engagement
  • 61% – say working with external talent helps keep current employees up-to-date

Reskilling current workforce for remote work means more freelancers

Post pandemic, many jobs will permanently remain remote, preparing workers for more freelancing life. This development entails reskilling on new roles and activities incorporating the latest tools for this type of work setup. It is easier said than done, however, with business budgets already strained too much and stretched too thin by the effects of the pandemic. How are things looking right now? The following figures are instructive (Upwork, 2020):

  • 42% of core skills used now to perform existing jobs will change by 2022
  • 85% of hiring managers agree that it is important to train or reskill the workforce
  • Only 25% of hiring managers believe that their companies are investing enough in reskilling
  • Only 30% of hiring managers believe that their teams have the skills needed to support business needs in the next 3-5 years.
  • 75% of CFOs plan to transition up to 20% of onsite workers into permanent remote positions as part of their survival strategy
  • 3 out of 4 hiring managers are not fully convinced that retraining employees is more efficient than engaging independent talent.

leading freelancing works

General Freelance Statistics

Here are more striking numbers, some of them pertaining to freelance statistics jobs, productivity rates, and savings, among others.

  • 73% of staffing agencies rank talent shortages as their top hiring challenge, likely due to the migration of talent, along with freelancing opportunities. (Upwork, 2020)
  • 1.07 billion hours are spent freelancing each week, for an average of 19 hours per freelancer. (Edelman Intelligence & Upwork, 2020)
  • 70% of freelancers prefer living away from big cities. (Web Planet, 2021)
  • 92% of freelancers cannot take a proper vacation (CNBC, 2019)
  • 55% of freelancers still have full-time jobs. (DDIY, 2021)
  • 67% – freelancers who went independent within the last 3 years. (AND.CO, n.d.)
  • 33% – freelancers who went independent after 3+ years (AND.CO, n.d.)
  • The entertainment industry hires the majority (55%) of its staff from the freelance markets. (Web Planet, 2021)
  • On average, people who work from home are 13% more productive than those who do not. (Web Planet, 2021)
  • Remote workers save between $2,000 and $7,000 per year. (Web Planet, 2021)
  • 33% – Fortune 500 companies that turn to freelance sites to outsource their work. (DDIY, 2020)
  • 30% – remote work companies with a female CEO or founder. (Web Planet, 2021)
  • Among companies actively hiring freelancers, 25% would consider a freelancer for an HR role. (Web Planet, 2021)
  • 75% – share of freelance staff employed in the arts and design industry.  (Web Planet, 2021)
  • 35.5% of freelancers are located in Europe, making it the region with the most freelancers. (Web Planet, 2021)
  • 3.4 million – number of freelancers in Japan, equivalent to 5% of the country’s workforce. (Web Planet, 2021)
  • 4.7 million – number of freelancers in the UK. (SmallBizGenius, 2021)
  • 27 hours – the average hours of work per week by UK freelancers, which is significantly lower than that in the rest of Europe. (Web Planet, 2021)

Small businesses are frequent clients of freelancers

LinkedIn (2018) found the following connection between freelancers and SMBs:

  • 70% have hired a freelancer in the past
  • 81% of SMBs that have hired a freelancer in the past plan to hire a freelancer in the future
  • 83% of SMBs that frequently hired freelancers agree that freelancers greatly helped in getting the job done
  • 64% of SMBs that frequently hired freelancers said that using freelancers who are located off-site helped them build their business as a virtual team
  • 62% cited lack of experience in their current teams to complete the project/task as the top reason for hiring a freelancer
  • 47% – cited reduced cost as the second leading reason for hiring a freelancer

The Emergence of Digital Nomads

  • There are 4.1 million digital nomads—people who fund their travel through freelancing. (Web Planet, 2021)
  • 17 million – the number of people who desire to be a digital nomad. (Web Planet, 2021)
  • 90% – digital nomads who are satisfied with their work.
  • 76% – cite an improved quality of life since going independent (AND.CO, n.d.)
  • There are 10.9 million digital nomads in America, up 49% from 2019. (Web Planet, 2021)
  • 60% – freelancers who expressed interest in pursuing a nomadic lifestyle (AND.CO, n.d.)

Digital Nomads Are Emerging from the Ranks of Freelancers

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Sources: AND.CO, Web Planet, 2021

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Benefits of Freelancing Statistics

In a world where traditional workers face disappearing jobs fast, freelancing is heaven-sent for many workers facing displacement. But that is not the end of the story. The other side of it is that businesses also stand to gain much from this momentous shift in the nature of work.

For businesses:

  • On average, companies with at least 11% of freelancing staff earned $6,400 more than those that employed fewer freelancers. (Web Planet, 2021)
  • Employers save $11.6 an hour per employee by hiring freelancers. (Web Planet, 2021)
Faster hiring, no more middlemen
  • Companies can hire a freelancer within 1-3 days compared to 20+ days with traditional staffing firms (Upwork, 2020)
  • Companies save 30-50% on hiring costs, compared to the 80% markup by traditional staffing agencies (Upwork, 2020)
  • On average, companies gain 66 net promoter score hiring freelancers, against the -2 when using traditional staffing firms (Upwork, 2020)

For freelancers:

  • 93% of full-time freelancers feel they can simply work more if they need to earn more money. (Web Planet, 2021)
  • 76% of freelancers find this reasoning a strong argument for taking up freelancing, especially during a recession. (Upwork, 2020)
  • 65% say that they feel more secure financially having a diversified portfolio of income than just one employer. (Web Planet, 2021)

Top Reasons for Freelancing

Freelancers Union and Upwork (2018) gathered the following as the leading reasons for workers to take the freelancing path:

Among full-time freelancers
  • 81% – to be my own boss
  • 80% – to have flexibility in my schedule
  • 78% – to work from the location of my choosing
  • 77% – to have independence from things such as office dynamics
  • 77% – to have a schedule that enables me to pursue my personal passions
  • 76% – to earn extra money
  • 75% – to be able to choose my own projects
Among part-time freelancers
  • 66% – to be my own boss
  • 73% – to have flexibility in my schedule
  • 65% – to work from the location of my choosing
  • 61% – to have independence from things such as office dynamics
  • 67% – to have a schedule that enables me to pursue my personal passions
  • 76% – to earn extra money
  • 66% – to be able to choose my own projects
Freelancers have better work-life balance and health

Based on the study of Upwork and Freelancers Union (2018), freelancers enjoy a better work-life balance than when they were working traditional jobs. In addition, they are healthier than before too:

  • 77% – have more time for the things and people they care about
  • 76% – feel more stimulated by the freelance work they do, compared to the ones they did in a traditional job
  • 70% – say that working as a freelancer has been less stressful than working in a traditional job
  • 64% – say that their sleep has improved since they started freelancing

On the flipside, freelancing introduced them to novel sources of anxiety:

  • 63% – feel anxious about all that they have to manage—including financials, taxes, insurance—as a freelancer
  • 63% – feel anxious because of the unpredictable nature of their work as a freelancer
  • 56% – say freelancing makes them feel isolated working on their own
Full-time freelancers see much better flexibility in their day-to-day work than full-time non-freelancers

Full-time freelancers on day-to-day flexibility

  • 83% – gives me flexibility to work where I want
  • 84% – gives me flexibility to work when I want
  • 83% – gives me autonomy and freedom
  • 81% – provides the opportunity to pursue work I am passionate about or find meaningful

Full-time non-freelancers on day-to-day flexibility

  • 35% – gives me flexibility to work where I want
  • 38% – gives me flexibility to work when I want
  • 55% – gives me autonomy and freedom
  • 57% – provides the opportunity to pursue work I am passionate about or find meaningful
Freelancers see greater opportunity to advance their careers than traditional employees

Full-time freelancer

  • 72% – provides opportunity for upward mobility
  • 77% – provides pay appropriate for my skill level
  • 81% – gives me opportunities to learn new things
  • 77% – offers a long-term career path

Full-time non-freelancer

  • 53% – provides opportunity for upward mobility
  • 62% – provides pay appropriate for my skill level
  • 67% – gives me opportunities to learn new things
  • 69% – offers a long-term career path

Freelancing provides opportunities to those who otherwise might not be able to work

Edelman Intelligence (2018) gathered that freelancing offers work opportunity to people with difficult personal circumstances:

  • 42% – freelancers who agree that freelancing gives them the flexibility they need because they are unable to work for a traditional employer because of personal circumstances that could include health issues and childcare needs, among others
  • 73% – say that freelancing provides them with an alternative that allows them to support a family without holding a traditional job
  • 67% – Baby Boomers who say that freelancing gives them a good way to transition to retirement
  • 29% – cite health issues preventing them from joining traditional employment
  • 22% – say family-related issues hold them back from working in traditional settings
  • 24% – cite other reasons

businesses and freelancers mutually benefit from freelancing

Freelance Statistics in the US

The bulk of the best-earning freelancers are found in the US. Remarkably, American freelancers contribute heavily to the economy, are among the best earners in the industry, and are generally upbeat about their future.

  • 59 million – Americans who freelanced in 2020, equivalent to 36% of the workforce (Upwork & Edelman Intelligence, 2020)
  • $1.2 trillion – total US freelancers’ earnings in 2020 (Upwork & Edelman Intelligence, 2020)
  • 41% of the American workforce freelanced in 2020, up 13% since 2013. (Web Planet, 2021)
  • Freelance workforce growth has consistently outpaced overall US workforce growth 3x. (Fundera, 2020)
  • For the same period, non-freelancers grew only by 2%. (Web Planet, 2021)
  • 80% of large US companies plan to switch to a flexible workforce. (SmallBizGenius, 2021)
  • 28% of Americans freelance full-time, up 17% from 2014. (Web Planet, 2021)
  • US freelancers contributed around $1.2 to $1.4 trillion to the US economy. (DDIY, 2021; Flexiple, 2020)
  • US freelancers earn more than 70% of professionals. (Web Planet, 2021)
  • The US freelance workforce is growing 3x faster than the overall US workforce. (Web Planet, 2021)
  • US freelancers earn the most, with YoY revenue growth of 78%. (Web Planet, 2021)
  • 40% of US freelancers are more educated than the average worker. (Web Planet, 2021)
  • 40% of US-based workers generate a large part of their income via the gig economy. (PYMNTS, 2018)
  • 53% of US Gen Zers opt to freelance. (Web Planet, 2021)
  • 40% of US Millennials are freelancing. (Web Planet, 2021)
  • Freelancers age 55+ make up 26% of US freelancers. (Upwork & Edelman, 2020)

Other patterns and numbers noted by the Edelman and Upwork study (2020) include:

  • 33% of freelancers quit or left a job in order to freelance, up 4% from 2019
  • 65% say they earn more as a freelancer than when they had an employer
  • $20.00 – median hourly rate among freelancers overall
  • $25.00 – median hourly rate among skilled freelancers
  • 45% are paid a fixed rate
  • 32% are paid hourly
  • 23% are paid both hourly and fixed
  • 60% of US freelancers say they make the same or more than they would make working for a traditional employer
  • 57% of skilled freelancers say they set their own prices

Composition of the US freelancing workforce

By age/generation

Edelman and Upwork (2020) have the numbers on how generations are represented in the US freelancing workforce:

  • 50% – Gen Z (18-22)
  • 44% – Millennials (23-38)
  • 30% – Gen X (39-54)
  • 26% – Boomers (55+)
By level of education
  • 45% – postgraduate
  • 32% – bachelor’s degree
  • 32% – some college + associate degree
  • 37% – high school graduate or less
By type of area living in
  • 43% – urban
  • 41% – suburban
  • 18% – rural
By skill levels
  • 50% – providing skilled services
  • 37% – providing unskilled services
  • 28% – selling goods
  • 17% – other activities

Source: Edelman Intelligence & Upwork

The Impact of COVID-19 on Freelance Work

As with many sectors of the world economy, the onset of COVID-19 severely tested the resilience of the freelance industry. The first few months proved crucial. As businesses rushed digitalization to square with stringent social distancing regulations, freelancers slowly recouped lost earnings as businesses themselves started to gain their footing.

COVID-19 confirmed that freelancing works

The coronavirus pandemic inadvertently served as an acid test for freelancing. As workers retreated to their homes, businesses were left with no other option but to hire freelancers to render remote work. Upwork (Upwork, 2020) measured the overall results, which indicated that:

  • 94% of hiring managers hired remote workers
  • 56% say that remote work performed better than expected
  • 62% believe their workforces will be more remote than pre-pandemic levels

freelancing works

The volatile state of employment amid the pandemic served as a wake-up call to professionals to wield more control over who they work with, the type of work they do, and how much they earn. The advancing state of digital transformation across industries is proving to be a catalyst in this development (Upwork, 2020).

  • The pandemic forced an estimated 80 million Americans to work from home and many first-timers discovered they prefer the lifestyle
  • Among first-timers, 24% would rather stick to working from home more or entirely even when they’re called to return to their offices
  • Freelance job postings increased by 41% in the second quarter of 2020 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. (Web Planet, 2021)
  • 73% of freelancers have not changed their rates due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Web Planet, 2021)

Effects of COVID-19 on freelancer services, rates, and teams

Based on a survey by Payoneer (Payoneer, 2020) of global freelancers, the following pattern emerged:

  • 31.63% – freelancers who said that demand for their services has greatly decreased
  • 28.79% – freelancers who said that demand for their services slightly decreased
  • 22.85% – freelancers who said that demand for their services remained the same
  • 11.43% – freelancers who said that demand for their services slightly increased
  •   5.30% – freelancers who said demand for their services greatly increased
  • Nearly 75% said that their hourly rate remained unchanged
  • 74% – freelancers managing teams who say they are not downsizing their teams
  • 83% – freelancing managing teams who say they are not reducing their team’s pay

Freelancer rates

  • 23.07% – lowered rate
  • 73.48% – remained the same
  •   3.45% – increased rate

Rates given to teams

These represent 21% of those surveyed. Here are the figures:

  • 17.33% – lowered team rate
  • 76.89% – remained the same
  •   5.78% – increased team rate

  Decision to adjust team size

  • 25.66% – reduced team size
  • 61.50% – remained the same
  • 12.83% – increased team size

Freelancers’ revenue slowed down in the short-term but bounced back even stronger

As freelancers feared, the coronavirus pandemic severely pulled down their earnings during the first months of the pandemic. It didn’t take long, however, as income bounced back after just two months into the pandemic (Payoneer, 2020)

Monthly growth in global freelance revenue, Jan-Jun 2020
  • -9% – January
  • -7% – February
  •  8% – March
  • 17% – April
  • 15% – May
  • 28% – June

In the US, the recovery is more pronounced, as the following figures show (Payoneer, 2020):

Monthly growth in American freelance revenue, Jan-Jun 2020
  • -1% – January
  • -1% – February
  •  2% – March
  • 13% – April
  • 24% – May
  • 43% – June

In brief, these Payoneer statistics show that:

  • Month-on-month revenues by US freelancers increased by 11% between April and May 2020
  • Month-on-month revenues by US freelancers grew by 19% between May and June 2020

Effects of the pandemic on freelancer demand by region

Payoneer (2020) charted the effects of the pandemic on freelancer demand and revealed the following figures:

North America
  • 53.1% – decreased
  • 32.7% – remained the same
  • 14.3% – increased
Europe
  • 52.6% – decreased
  • 33.0% – remained the same
  • 14.4% – increased
Asia
  • 46.2% – decreased
  • 45.5% – remained the same
  •   8.3% – increased
Australia
  • 44.3% – decreased
  • 49.4% – remained the same
  •   6.3% – increased

Source: Payoneer, 2020

Effects of the pandemic on US freelancers

According to a study by Edelman for Upwork, the COVID-19 pandemic has the double effect of pausing work for existing freelancers and prompting others to start freelancing (Upwork & Edelman Intelligence, 2020). Here are the specific figures:

  • 10% – share of the US workforce that paused freelancing because of the pandemic
  • 12 – share of the US workforce that started freelancing
  • 41% of those who paused freelanced infrequently, usually less than once a month
  • 88% of those who paused freelancing say they are likely to freelance in the future
  • 58% of non-freelancers new to remote work are considering freelancing in the future
  • 61% of those who freelanced before and during COVID-19 have the amount of work they want or more
  • 3 in 10 freelancers applied for financial support
  • 48% – reported being caregivers
  • 33% – reported having a disability in their household
  • 50% – Gen Z workforce who have freelanced in 2019
  • 36% – Gen Zers who started freelancing since the pandemic
  • 9 out of 10 Gen Z freelancers overall and those who started during the pandemic are likely to continue freelancing in the future

Of those who paused freelancing,

  • 51% still have other sources of work
  • 28% are on leave/furloughed or unemployed
  • 17% are students, homemakers, or retirees

Of those who started freelancing,

  • 54% – did it out of necessity
  • 75% – did it to secure financial stability during the recession

Crucially US freelancers report a lower negative impact from COVID-19 compared to non-freelancers on the several major criteria:

  • Only 38% of freelancers say that COVID-19 impacted their overall well-being, compared to 47% for non-freelancers
  • 47% of freelancers report that the pandemic impacted their overall lifestyle, compared to 58% for non-freelancers
  • 41% of freelancers say that COVID-19 impacted their mental health compared to 49% for non-freelancers
  • 44% of freelancers report that the pandemic impacted their economic/financial well-being, compared to 50% for non-freelancers

The pandemic raised several concerns about the future. Notably, US freelancers reported being less concerned about the future than non-freelancers.

  • 72% of freelancers are concerned about an economic downturn in the next few years, compared to 81% for non-freelancers.
  • 70% of freelancers are concerned about being able to put enough money into saving, compared to 77% among non-freelancers.
  • 68% of freelancers worry about unpredictable income, compared to 64% among non-freelancers.
  • 68% of freelancers are anxious about savings or retirement, in contrast to 76% among non-freelancers
  • 67% of freelancers are concerned about being paid a fair rate, compared to 69% for non-freelancers
  • 65% of freelancers worry about access to affordable healthcare, in contrast to 72% among non-freelancers
  • 64% of freelancers are anxious about high taxation rates, compared to 74% for non-freelancers
  • 62% of freelancers are anxious about the difficulty in finding work, in contrast to 57% among non-freelancers
  • 61% of freelancers are concerned about debt, compared to 64% for non-freelancers
  • 60% of freelancers and non-freelancers worry about forgoing the purchase of things they need

France

  • Around 32% of self-employed French people considered filing for compulsory liquidation, similar to bankruptcy in the US. (Web Planet, 2021)

Italy

The coronavirus pandemic badly affected freelancers in Italy. In particular:

  • 89.3% reported contracts being canceled or suspended during the second week of March 2020, from 62.9% just 3 weeks ago. (Web Planet, 2021)
  • An estimated 56% reported a decrease of up to 60% of freelance earnings. (Web Planet, 2021)

How small businesses responded to the coronavirus pandemic

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 60% of small- and medium-sized businesses reduced spending due to loss in revenue. However, 30% of them were optimistic that the economy will recover to the same growth rate or even higher around three months after the outbreak is contained. How did they cope meanwhile? A sudden surge in SMB registration on Payoneer offers a clue:

  • a 33% month-on-month increase in SMBs in the US registering to the platform in order to pay international freelancers confirms that businesses see independent talents as a crucial solution to the challenges they were facing. (Payoneer, 2020)

Projections for the Global Freelance Workforce

In general, the outlook for global freelancers is as strong as it could be. It simply confirms that freelance remote work is an emerging new normal. Inclusive even of freelance for teens, it’s gathering pace and momentum with no predictable end in sight as of yet.

  • On the whole, 90% of freelancers believe the industry has a brighter future ahead. (SmallBizGenius, 2021)
  • 80% – the oft-cited estimate of freelancers worldwide by 2030. (Peerism, 2017)
  • By the end of 2021, 56% of companies will facilitate global remote work, with 16% of them employing the entirety of their staff as global remote workers. (Web Planet, 2021)
  • On average, permanent remote work will make up 34.4% of the workforce of companies, up from 16.4% pre-pandemic figures. (Web Planet, 2021)

estimated share of freelancers of the total workforce

Projections for the US freelance workforce

  • 50.9% – the projected share of the US freelancers in the US workforce by 2027. (Web Planet, 2021)
  • 42.0% – share of Americans freelancing by the end of 2021. This is equivalent to 67.6 million freelancers. (Web Planet, 2021)

Demand projection for global freelancers

The projected demand for global freelancing services is shown in the chart below. It is composed of two parts: figures since the pandemic and figures post-pandemic. Notable developments include:

  • 60% – reported a decrease in demand for their services in the past three months but only 26% think it will remain so after the pandemic. (Payoneer, 2020)
  • 17% – reported the opposite in the last three months and 53% percent believe it will pick up after the pandemic. (Payoneer, 2020)
  • Those who were not affected in the last three months and think it will remain so after the pandemic hover around 21%. (Payoneer, 2020)
How freelancers see demand postpandemic
  • 19.4% –  will greatly increase
  • 34.0% – will slightly increase
  • 20.9% – will remain as before
  • 18.4% – will slightly decrease
  •   7.8% – will greatly decrease

Source: Payoneer, 2020

Freelance Industry: An Economic Force to Reckon With

From being considered as a fringe, curious movement at the onset of its emergence, freelancing—along with remote work and telecommuting—has been thrust into the limelight by the interplay of crucial factors discussed in this article. The convergence of many factors indicates that freelancing is not only here to stay but is also poised to take an increasing role in the global economy.

With disruptions seemingly bound to occur any minute, freelancers find themselves leading the world in vigilance and readiness. Global industries could yet learn many lessons from the playbook of world freelancers.

 

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Nestor Gilbert

By Nestor Gilbert

Nestor Gilbert is a senior B2B and SaaS analyst and a core contributor at FinancesOnline for over 5 years. With his experience in software development and extensive knowledge of SaaS management, he writes mostly about emerging B2B technologies and their impact on the current business landscape. However, he also provides in-depth reviews on a wide range of software solutions to help businesses find suitable options for them. Through his work, he aims to help companies develop a more tech-forward approach to their operations and overcome their SaaS-related challenges.

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