30 Mind-Boggling Freelance Statistics (2021 Edition)

As you’ll see from the freelance statistics listed in this article, escaping the corporate nine to five world has become the new business trend. Why do so many people choose to become freelancers?

In addition to the benefit of working from anywhere you please, freelancing provides the unique opportunity to choose your own clients, projects, and work hours. Statistics show that freelancers are happier and more productive, and they can even earn more than their peers in traditional jobs. Here’s our list of 30 statistics showing the benefits, and setbacks, of freelancing:

10 Key Freelance Statistics and Facts

  • A third of the US workforce has done freelance work at some point in their career.
  • 61% of freelancers went into this type of work by choice.
  • Around 50% of freelancers are highly skilled.
  • Freelancing contributed $1.2 trillion to the US economy in 2020.
  • While they’re more likely to earn more, male freelancers are also more likely to be tricked by clients.
  • Web designers, SEO specialists, and sales representatives are the top three most in-demand jobs in 2021.
  • There are 12 million registered freelancers on Upwork.
  • Content writers earn $15–$80 per hour on Upwork.
  • Developers earn $15–$150 per hour on Upwork.
  • Graphic designers earn $20–$150 per hour on Upwork.

Freelancer Statistics: How Many Freelancers Are There and How Do They Work?

1. 38% of independent workers identify themselves as freelancers.

(Source: And Co)

“Freelancer” is the term most independent workers use to describe their position. 28% of independent workers consider themselves self-employed consultants, 14% are side-hustlers, 12% are founders with no employees, 6% are founders with employees, and 4% of them proclaim to be “something else.”

2. Around 33% of freelancers worldwide had their working hours reduced due to Covid-19.

(Source: Forbes / Upwork)

There isn’t really any escaping from Covid-19. Upwork statistics revealed that at least one out of three freelancers worldwide had their working hours reduced due to the pandemic. The number is a far cry from over a billion working hours of American freelancers when the pandemic wasn’t in anybody’s imagination yet. 

3. As much as 41.8% of Americans remain freelancers despite the pandemic.

(Source: Forbes / Upwork)

As Forbes reported, approximately a third of the US workforce has done freelance work at some point in their career. The freelancing boom that the US has been in for the last five years made the Americans trust the process.

How many freelancers in the US still remain working fully remote despite the pandemic? A staggering 41.8%, as shown in Upwork’s 2020 year-end pulse report.

4. 61% of freelancers specialize in 2 to 3 skills.

(Source: And Co)

In fact, just 5% of freelancers search for work based on a single skill. 95% of freelancers take jobs that require them to adjust and improve on their skill set. Essentially, they’re “slash workers.” 

5. 61% of freelancers say they freelance by choice.

(Source: Upwork)

In 2014, freelance workforce statistics show that 53% of freelancers said they went independent by choice. These days, the percentage of those who willingly choose freelance over traditional work has become even more significant, with 61% of freelancers finding the former their cup of tea. 

The rest were either laid off or otherwise forced into freelancing. Either way, with a wealth of job boards, powerful business proposal templates, and other useful tools, finding online work is becoming much simpler than before.

6. 51% of freelancers say they will not go back to a traditional job.

(Source: Upwork)

According to the freelancing statistics from Upwork’s sixth annual “Freelancing in America” study, more than half of freelancers refuse to return to a traditional nine to five, regardless of the money offered. With 51% of them agreeing, there’s no doubt that the freedom that comes with freelancing is a great perk.

7. Around 50% of freelancers are highly-skilled.

(Source: Upwork)

Gone are the days when white-collar jobs required you to wear a suit and tie in an office. Looking at the freelance statistics for 2021, half of the global workforce can now wear anything they want while working and still perform to the highest standards.

8. As much as 12% of the US workforce began freelancing for the first time during the pandemic.

(Source: Upwork)

Year after year, freelancers’ success conditions are more easily met, and 2020 was no different despite the pandemic. The freelance workforce statistics point out that 12% of the US workforce joined the bandwagon in 2020.

Additionally, 42% of small businesses employ freelancers. With the increase in job offers, the perception of freelancing as a viable full-time career keeps growing.

9. 43% of the working US population will turn to freelance work over the next few years.

(Source: Small Business Trends / Upwork)

If you’re wondering how many freelancers there will be in the US in the next few years, you’re in for a wild ride here. By the end of 2021, 42% of the US workforce will consist of freelancers, the latest startup statistics reveal. By 2024, 43% of the US population that can work will either try out or fully transition to freelancing. By 2027, the majority of them will be freelancers.

10. Freelance statistics show that 63% of freelancers agree that having multiple clients is more secure than sticking with just one.

(Source: Upwork)

When it comes to job security, most freelancers would rather diversify their portfolio with clients than stay with a single contractor for extended periods. This is probably why the average freelancer has 4.5 clients per month.

11. 70% of freelancers work on 2–4 projects at a time.

(Source: And Co)

Freelancing statistics indicate that just 13% of freelancers work on a single project at a time. The same percentage of freelancers (13%) is juggling anywhere between 5 and 9 projects. Just 4% of freelancers are brave enough to get into 10 or more projects simultaneously, while the rest work on two to four. 

12. 33% of freelancers work in creative fields.

(Source: And Co)

A third of all freelancers work in creative fields. 21% are in consulting/professional services, 17% are writers, journalists, and content service providers, 15% are in tech/web development, while 14% make a living in other fields, according to the gig economy statistics.

13. Web designers, SEO specialists, and sales representatives are the top three most in-demand jobs in 2021.

(Source: Freelancers Union)

Freelancers who know their way around web designing, SEO, or selling shouldn’t worry about job opportunities, as these are the most heavily demanded skills on the freelancing market these days.

14. 25% of freelancers say their ideal work environment is their home.

(Source: And Co)

The number of freelancers in the world saying that working from the comfort of their own home is their ideal work situation is 25%. The same percentage needs their own office to separate their work and personal lives, and 23% of freelancers prefer being on the road. Hubs and co-working spaces are the ideal spots for 20% of freelancers, while 4% choose their clients’ office, 2% go for coffee shops, and 1% have other preferences.

15. Freelancers in the management and human relations sectors commit the most time to work.

(Source: Website Planet)

Based on the global freelance statistics, we see that freelancers who work in management and human relations work the longest, with 39 hours per week on average. Engineering and manufacturing freelancers work 38.2 hours per week, on average. Finally, IT personnel work 37.4 hours, and translators and writers work an average of 34 hours per week.

Gig Economy Statistics: How Much Do Freelancers Make and Can You Live Off of Freelancing?

16. Freelancers prefer using the term “freelance economy.”

(Upwork)

When asked which term they preferred, 49% of freelancers surveyed said it’s “freelance economy.” The second most popular option was “on-demand economy” (25%), followed by “sharing economy” (13%) and “gig economy” (10%).

17. Freelancers contributed $1.2 trillion to the US economy in 2020.

(Source: Upwork)

According to the freelance statistics, jobs performed by freelancers had a massive contribution to the US economy last year that amounted to $1.2 trillion. This was a 22% increase from their contribution in 2019, as there was an influx of younger professionals wanting freedom from traditional employment.

18. Working from home can improve performance by 13%.

(Stanford Graduate School of Business)

By inducing a sense of comfort and relaxation, working from home leads to improved productivity. Additionally, employers who’ve implemented a work-from-home strategy saw a yearly profit increase of $2,000 per worker, as shown in the freelance economy statistics derived from Stanford’s survey.

19. Around 75% of freelancers say that freelancing increases their earning potential.

(Source: Upwork)

According to the latest survey from Upwork, the majority of freelancers who left their traditional employment say that they either earn the same or even more as freelancers.

20. 30% of freelance writers make under $10 per hour during their first year.

(Source: Small Business Trends / Make a Living Writing)

How much do freelance writers make? Well, during their first year at least, not so much. According to a survey from early 2019 that involved more than 1,400 freelance writers, close to a third of them earned less than $10 per hour during their first freelancing year. Even after that, the same portion of them stayed below the $20 per hour threshold. And it’s considering that 31% of blog posts take six hours to write. On the other hand, 10% of the participants reported earning more than $76 an hour. 

21. Around 36% of freelancers make $75,000 or more.

(Source: LinkedIn)

The gig economy stats show us that even though it takes a lot of dedication and effort, you can also be one of the freelancers earning $75K or more per year. Freelance work can be an excellent way to make a living, and for over a third of all freelancers based in the US, it has become more than a reliable source of income. Here’s more; 12% earn more than $100k a year.

22. 48% of female freelancers earn less than $25,000 per year.

(Source: And Co)

The freelancing community isn’t immune to wage discrepancies; nearly half of all female freelancers make less than $25,000 per year. The gig economy trends on male freelancers show that 34% of them fall into this pay bracket. Another piece of data demonstrating the advantage men in the industry have over their female peers says they are 4.5 times more likely to make over $150,000.

23. Male freelancers are more likely to be tricked by clients.

(Source: And Co)

If it’s any consolation for the pay gap, female freelancers are less commonly tricked out of payments. According to the global gig economy statistics, 49% of male freelancers have had this negative experience, while for females, that number sits at 38%.

24. 63% of freelancers withdraw from their savings at least once a month.

(Source: Upwork)

For comparison, those who work traditional full-time jobs dip into their savings 20% of the time. As we can see, a freelancer’s income can sometimes be far from stable.

25. Freelance economy statistics find that 43% of freelancers consider themselves less financially stable after becoming self-employed.

(Source: And Co)

A high percentage of freelancers are less financially stable after leaving traditional work environments, yet they choose to keep freelancing. 34% of them say that they’re in the same financial situation as before, while 23% noticed an improvement in their finances after becoming self-employed.

Upwork Statistics: What Makes the Best Freelancing Platform?

26. Freelancers earn more than $1 billion per year on Upwork.

(Source: Upwork)

Upwork, one of the most popular freelancing platforms, helps freelancers from around the world find work. Using the platform, they earn over $1 billion every year from 3 million jobs. This makes Upwork the largest marketplace for freelancers. In Australia, Airtasker is the largest job marketplace.

27. Upwork has 12 million registered freelancers.

(Source: i-Programmer)

With this many freelancers registered, it’s no wonder that the amount of money going through Upwork exceeds a billion dollars. The freelance market size of Upwork tells us that 5 million clients are looking for the right person on the site.

28. Content writers make anywhere between $22–$80 per hour on Upwork.

(Source: Glassdoor / Upwork / Upwork)

The data available on Glassdoor shows that US freelance writers who choose Upwork as their job market make an average of $22 per hour, plus bonuses and additional compensation. The question of how much do freelance writers make per article is, however, trickier to answer. 

According to Upwork community boards, freelance writers on the platform earn anywhere between $5 and $1,000 per article. Some freelancers work for under a dollar per 1,000 words, while others make $8 or more per 100. You can see the list of the top-rated writers on Upwork, as well as their hourly pricing, here.

29. Front-end developers earn $15–$150 per hour on Upwork.

(Source: Upwork)

How much do freelance web developers make? WordPress developers earn $53,000 per year. Basic front-end projects that include fundamental skills in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript bring in $15–$50+ to Upwork developers. Jobs requiring intermediate to advanced skills (Angular JS, Bootstrap, LESS/SASS) pay $35–$100+, while full-stack developers (MEAN, LAMP, Ruby, and everything else) earn anywhere from $30 to $150+. You can see more by scrolling through Upwork’s highest-rated dev list.

30. The average rate for graphic designers on Upwork is $45 per hour.

(Source: Upwork)

Depending on their experience, project requirements, and ability to negotiate, Upwork freelance graphic designers can make anywhere from $20 to $150 per hour. The average rate sits at $45 an hour. So how much do freelance graphic designers make per project? 

To answer, you’ll need to know how many hours it typically takes to finish some of the most common projects. Flyers take 1–10+ hours, depending on demands, a log can take 5–20+ hours, and infographics take the same amount of time. For more insight into their rates and skill sets, you can find a list of the top-rated graphic designers on Upwork here.

Conclusion

Reading through the list above, we can easily deduce that freelancing is—much like any other type of work—not for everyone. The main setbacks are the uncertainty of payments and work availability, and isolation, which some consider a benefit. These freelance statistics show us that freelancing is rapidly becoming the future of the business world. They also convince us that freelancing might only be the way to live better and happier lives.

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