The gig economy is thriving —even those stuck into 9-to-5 jobs often rely on some extra income on the side, while the global pandemic and lockdowns around the world have made working from home the norm. Layoffs across different industries meanwhile have prompted a growing number of professionals to turn to freelancing which has the added benefits of flexible schedules and multiple employers. To keep you up-to-date with the gig economy, we’ve prepared these essential freelance statistics. They cover the latest goings-on in the field, along with future trends for this exciting industry, so read on to find out more.
Freelance Statistics (Editor’s Choice)
- There are 1.1 billion freelancers worldwide.
- For 44% of freelancers, their gig is the primary source of income.
- Freelancing Americans have contributed $1.2 trillion to the economy during the pandemic so far.
- Skilled services constitute 45% of the freelancing workforce.
- The global gig economy is projected to reach $455 billion by 2023.
- Freelancing accounts for 5% of the US GDP.
- Roughly 45% of American freelancers have a postgraduate degree.
- About 58% of professionals will likely consider freelancing in the future.
General Freelance Statistics
1. There are an estimated 1.1 billion freelancers worldwide as of 2021.
The global freelance workforce accounts for 35% of the total global workers. For reference, there are over 3.5 billion global laborers at the moment. The expected growth rate of full-time remote work expected in the next five years will additionally push up the number of freelancers. In 2020, this growth was 60%.
2. Only 7% of freelancers do it for the financial benefits, freelance statistics show.
Apparently, financials are not the only motive for people to switch to freelancing. Or that’s what a recent study confirms. Namely, freelance work often comes with other perks like more freedom to do the things you love. The results, therefore, indicate that 40% of freelancers cite personal growth as the number one reason for entering the gig economy. The second most popular reason was flexibility.
3. For approximately 68% of people, life has improved since they switched to freelancing.
According to freelancing statistics, jobs in the gig economy for 77% haven’t improved their financial situation — for 43%, it got worse, and for 34%, it remained the same. And yet, the happiness levels for over two-thirds of people who became freelancers soared.
4. Some 84% of workers said that they found the real purpose of working as freelancers.
Salary is not the only factor for happiness, a survey from Freelancers Union and Upwork shows. Freelancing life brings other benefits like choice, freedom, flexibility, and they all provide happiness. ReportLinker also confirms that freelancers are more optimistic than traditional workers. Finally, McKinsey’s report shows that 97% of independent contractors cite they felt much happier than those in traditional jobs.
5. For 44% of US freelancers, their gig is the primary source of income.
For nearly half of people working in the gig economy in the US, this is their primary income source. For those aged 18 to 34, the percentage is even higher at 53%. Freelance workforce statistics show that 80% of self-employed with gigs as their primary source of income, couldn’t comfortably face an unexpected expense of $1,000. The high Anxiety Index score among those relying solely on gig employment should come as no surprise.
6. Four out of five freelancers focus on 1-3 projects at once.
One of the benefits of the gig economy is that you can work on multiple projects at the same time. The time freelancers spend on said projects, however, varies. Typically, 50% of freelancers work 30-50 hours a week. Further, 22% work 20 hours on their freelance assignments, and only 10% work over 60 hours. The industries clocking in the most hours per week (39 on average) are HR, management, and finances. Legal services freelancers work the least (33.6 hours on average).
7. The median annual salary for a freelance web designer is $77,200.
Typically, web design and development are some of the most common freelance career ideas for skilled people. The main job for this role would be to plan and code web pages. However, some other skills are also a must-have, such as a good eye for design, knowledge of different platforms for design, and basic SEO. Based on freelance statistics, jobs for these professionals are available at many different web design agencies.
(Intuit Mint Life)
8. SEO specialists are another well-paid freelancer category, with an average salary of $59,871.
SEO specialists work as freelancers in companies specializing in SEO, or digital agencies. These types of freelancers assist clients in creating and managing content that will place them higher in the search results for Google, other browsers, or even YouTube. It turns out that this field is highly profitable because it increases ROI for businesses.
(Intuit Mint Life)
Freelance Workforce Statistics
9. Freelancing Americans have contributed $1.2 trillion to the economy during the pandemic so far.
The US freelancers comprised a significant portion of the total American workforce in 2020. For reference, 59 million Americans engaged in the gig economy last year, accounting for 36% of the total workforce.
(Elite Content Marketer)
10. Skilled services constitute 45% of the freelancing workforce.
According to Upwork statistics, freelancers generally gravitate toward skilled services. To clarify, skilled services consist of programming, marketing, IT, and business development. It’s no wonder these professionals take this route, given that the median rate per hour in this category is $28. This is also higher than the hourly earnings of 70% of workers in the US economy as a whole.
11. Google employs 120,000 freelancers and contractors, more than its permanent employees.
Google’s freelance workforce surpasses the number of permanent workers, freelance statistics show. In 2019, 120,000 freelancers were working for the tech giant, as opposed to 102,000 permanent workers. So it’s 54% against 46% in favor of independent contractors.
12. The average age of a freelancer is 40.
The average freelance worker is two years younger than the average traditional worker. Also, the younger the worker, the more likely they are to be a freelancer; as many as 53% of Gen Z 18-22 years old) report they have freelanced. For millennials, it’s 40%, dropping to 31% of GenX, and 29% for Baby Boomers.
Freelance Economy Statistics
13. The global gig economy is projected to reach $455 billion by 2023.
The gig economy’s worth in 2021 is estimated at $374 billion and is projected to reach the figure of $455 billion in 2023. In fact, the growth between 2018 and 2023 will happen at a CAGR of 17.4% (for reference in 2018, its value was $204 billion).
14. Freelancing accounts for 5% of the US GDP.
The freelancing industry has grown so vast in the US that its impact on the nation’s economy amounts to almost $1 trillion, freelance economy statistics show. A freelance industry report shows that it can be compared to some other major industries, like the information sector or nearly 50% of the manufacturing sector. No wonder, since the number of freelancers in the country grew from 17% to 28% of the share of the total workforce in 2019, even before the pandemic.
15. Job openings for freelancers surged over 25% between April and June 2020.
The pandemic drove significant growth in the gig economy. According to freelance statistics, jobs in this field grew by a quarter, compared to the first three months of the year. Job postings in the reported period meanwhile soared 41% to 605,000 year-on-year.
16. Freelancers make on average about $21 per hour.
A Payoneer survey comprising 7,000 people from 150 countries worldwide, has shown that freelance workers earn differently depending on the industry. However, 24% of freelancers fall under the category of $6-$10 per hour. Only a ‘chosen few’ (or 4%) earn $51-$100 per hour. Around 16% earn the lowest rates (under $5/hour).
17. The most profitable industry for freelancers is legal.
Legal is the most profitable field in terms of freelancing according to freelance statistics, with five jobs in the field listed in the top 10 best-paid freelancing jobs. Tax lawyer is the best-paying freelance job with $30/hour, followed by legal consulting with $29, paralegal and contracts with $28, and fraud analysis with $27. The least profitable freelance jobs meanwhile are a data entry clerk and virtual assistant, both paying $11/hour, followed by administrative support and customer service ($12).
18. Since 2000, freelancer numbers in Europe have increased by 45%.
Although the popularity of the gig economy gained momentum amid the pandemic, this category has been growing for over two decades now. Based on the data from Freelancer.com, the number of jobs in the freelance market increased by 25% in Q2 2020, YoY. With the increase of freelancers, the European Commission moved to acknowledge them as a category of employment.
19. Freelance writers earn $24 per hour on average.
Content writing is a popular category for freelancers today. Many people start working as copywriters or content writers, and typically they earn a solid hourly wage. Those in the top 10% of earners get up to $55 per hour, freelance writing statistics show. The bottom 10%, however, earn as little as $12.
20. The US is the largest freelancing market in the world, with 78% earnings growth for freelancers in 2019.
The top 10 countries with the highest number of freelancers in the world, based on the earnings growth 2018/2019 are:
- United States – 78%
- United Kingdom – 59%
- Brazil – 48%
- Pakistan – 47%
- Ukraine – 36%
- Philippines – 35%
- India – 29%
- Bangladesh – 27%
- Russia – 20%
- Serbia – 19%
Freelance statistics show that Asia recorded the highest growth, with a 138% increase across four top countries.
Freelancing in America
21. The majority of freelancers in the US work in the creative field.
The creative industry attracts the largest number of freelancers in the US. Namely, arts and design are employing the highest share of gig workers. In fact, 75% of all workers in arts and design are freelancers. Next we have entertainment as the largest employment area for this type of worker with 55%, according to freelancer statistics.
22. Roughly 70% of small and medium businesses in the US have worked with freelancers at least once.
For SMBs with lower budgets and a lack of resources, working with freelancers makes a lot of sense. Typically, these companies fuel the demand for freelancing jobs in the USA. In fact, 81% of these companies are planning on hiring freelancers again, while 83% confirmed that freelancers helped them a lot.
23. Approximately 59% of freelancers in the US are male.
This compares to 40% for women, according to freelancer statistics. For workers overall, the numbers are 53% who identify as male and 46% who identify as female.
24. Roughly 45% of American freelancers have a postgraduate degree.
It seems that most freelancers in the US boast some type of higher education. Just under a third of US freelancers have a Bachelor’s degree, and another 32% have a type of college or Associate degree. 37% are those with a high school degree or less.
The Future of Freelancing
25. About 58% of professionals will likely consider freelancing in the future.
A recent report shows that professionals working from home due to the pandemic are considering the freelancing route going forward. According to freelance statistics, jobs in the gig economy increase the earning potential of workers — out of those who quit a full-time job for freelancing, 75% say they earn the same or more now.
26. 12 out of 20 most in-demand skills in the gig economy involve development.
(Flexiple, Business Insider)
27. Upwork currently caters to 20% of Fortune 500 firms.
Although freelancing used to be largely for startups or small businesses, even large enterprises are shifting toward platforms like Upwork. Giants like Samsung are sourcing services from digital freelancers. Typically, Samsung finds people on Upwork or PeoplePerHour to cover marketing roles, design, IT freelancing, and similar positions.
28. For 77% of freelancers, technology made it easier to find work.
According to freelancing statistics, the technological boom has made it easier for the self-employed to work together and find different gigs. Tech tools such as Microsoft Office 365, Google Drive, Google Hangouts made it easier to collaborate remotely and find work even if you are at the other end of the world from your prospective employer.
The Bottom Line
These freelancing statistics underscore the significance of the gig economy, both before and after the pandemic. The ongoing digitalization for many companies globally will further propel this industry forward, prompting businesses to adapt their operating models and incorporate the services of freelancers.
What is freelance work?
Typically, freelancers work by themselves, have no company, no strict schedules, and no working time. These professionals are often self-employed, but can also work for other companies on different types of contracts. Most commonly, these are short-term gigs in a variety of industries.
Is freelancing worth it?
While that would depend largely on individual circumstances, a lot of freelancers do manage to support themselves. Also, the majority of freelancers report higher levels of happiness. For companies, freelance economy statistics show that it might be more cost-effective to hire someone per project rather than a full-time employee.
How many freelancers are there in the US?
There were 59 million people working as freelancers in the US in 2020. Compared to 2014, it’s a six million increase.
How many freelancers are on UpWork?
There are over 145,000 active clients on Upwork spending over $2.5 billion annually. On the other side, there are over 12 million registered freelancers on the platform, according to Upwork statistics from i-Programmer.
How many freelancers are there in the world?
The total global workforce comprises 3.5 billion people. Freelancers account for about 1.1 billion of those.
What percentage of the workforce is freelance?
In the US, the number of freelancers is set to reach 86.5 million people by 2027, or about 50.9% of the nation’s workforce. Worldwide, the number of freelancers is about 36% of the total workforce.
Are freelancers happier?
Freelancer statistics show that self-employed workers are happier and more positive than traditional employees. The report indicates that 84% of those surveyed said they found an actual purpose working this type of job. Another study from McKinsey shows that 97% of freelancers felt much happier than average legacy workers.
How much can a freelancer earn?
Freelancers in the US earn approximately $20 per hour. However, this much depends on the sector and type of services they provide. So freelancing statistics show that those in web development, accounting, legal, marketing earn on average up to $28 per hour.
How big is the freelance industry?
The global freelancing platforms (Upwork, Fiverr, Toptal, Freelancer.com, Guru.com, TaskRabbit, Catalant, etc.) constitute a market projected to reach $9.19 billion by 2027, up from $3.4 billion in 2020. This growth is expected to occur at a 15.3% CAGR between 2021 and 2027.
How many millennials are freelancers?
Based on freelance statistics, millennials are the second age group that tends to turn to freelance, with Gen Z ahead. Over 50% of the latter are freelancers, while about 40% of millennials engage in freelancing activities.