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50 Noteworthy Freelance Statistics in 2019

July 9, 2019

We’re going to need more coffee shops.

The workforce is mobilizing, strapped with laptops and AirPods. And there’s a very clear correlation between the rise of homey, artisan cafes and the growing prevalence of freelance platforms.

What’s that — you want your honey almond latte with a side of work-life balance? Well, you’re in luck. Not only is wireless technology enabling boatloads of work to be performed outside the traditional office, employers are discovering the benefits of this modern philosophy. For jobs like writing, graphic design and coding, freelancers are often more cost-effective to hire and less demanding of a business’ time and resources.

See the Highest-Rated Freelance Platforms, Free →

Think pieces on the subject abound, and the debate will rage on. There is nothing quite like the collaboration and camaraderie of an in-house team. Employee engagement is far easier when you can dole out personal high fives for a job well done and spitball solutions at the lunch table. But to deny the freelancing revolution is a fool’s errand. Some of the world’s most talented people have adopted the “gig life” and are not looking back. To work with these individuals, businesses must understand how the freelance game is played.

We’ve gathered some recent statistics related to freelancing and the people who do it. A number of these figures were discovered by the Upwork report, “Freelancing in America,” a survey of U.S. adults who did some form of freelance work in 2018.

50 freelance statistics

  • 56.7 million Americans were doing freelance work as of October 2018. (Forbes, 2018)
  • The number of American freelancers has increased by 3.7 million since 2014. (Forbes, 2018)
  • Americans are spending more than 1 billion hours per week freelancing. (Upwork, 2018)
  • The number of freelance hours Americans work each week has increased by 72 million since 2015. (Upwork, 2018)
  • More than 1 in 3 Americans freelanced at some point in 2018. (Upwork, 2018)
  • 74% of the freelance workforce started freelancing in the past 5 years. (Upwork, 2018)
  • 28% of freelancers are full-time, compared to 17% in 2014. (Upwork, 2018)
  • 43% of freelancers are aged 18–34, compared to 32% in 2014. (Upwork, 2018)
Freelance statistics age groups
  • 61% of freelancers started freelancing by choice rather than necessity, compared to 53% in 2014. (Upwork, 2018)
  • 28% of freelancers engage in freelance work on a daily basis, while 30% engage on a weekly basis. (Upwork, 2018)
  • 42% of freelancers engage in freelance work on a less-than-weekly basis. (Upwork, 2018)
  • 73% of millennials are now going straight into freelancing. (Forbes, 2019)

Benefits of freelancing statistics

  • 59% of U.S. companies now use a flexible workforce (freelancers and remote workers) to some degree. (Forbes, 2019)
  • Freelancers comprise 23% of the small agency workforce, with 8% based at large companies. (Forbes, 2019)
  • Freelance workers contribute more than $715 billion to the U.S. economy. (Forbes, 2019)
  • 57% of businesses save costs by using free agent talent. (Forbes, 2018)
Freelance statistics remote workforce
  • 43% of companies using gig workers are saving at least 20% in labor costs alone. (Forbes, 2018)
  • 36% of businesses use gig workers because of time saved on tasks such as onboarding and recruiting. (Forbes, 2018)
  • 26% of businesses use freelancers and gig workers as a means of creating early relationships with talent. (Forbes, 2018)
  • 42% of large and midsize businesses use contingent workers to meet seasonal demands. (Forbes, 2018)

Freelance education statistics

  • 70% of full-time freelancers participated in skill training in the past 6 months, compared to 49% of full-time non-freelancers. (Upwork, 2018)
  • 66% of full-time freelancers are updating their skills to ensure they are marketable as the job market evolves, compared to 53% of full-time non-freelancers. (Upwork, 2018)
  • 81% of freelancers consider skill-related education or training to be valuable. (Upwork, 2018)
  • 53% of freelancers cite cost as a barrier to accessing training, and freelancers are more likely to pay for their own training than non-freelancers. (Upwork, 2018)
  • 45% of full-time freelancers who left a traditional job participate in more training and education than when they were full-time employees. (Upwork, 2018)
Freelance statistics skill training
  • 53% of college-educated freelancers say skill-related training and education is very useful, compared to 43% who say their college education was very useful. (Upwork, 2018)
  • 28% of freelancers say they covered the cost of their most recent skill-related training. (Upwork, 2018)
  • 27% of freelancers say their employer or client covered the cost of their most recent skill-related training. (Upwork, 2018)
  • 21% of freelancers say education or training was offered for free. (Upwork, 2018)

Work-life balance statistics

  • 42% of freelancers agree freelancing gives them the flexibility they need due to personal circumstances that limit their abilities or availability. (Upwork, 2018)
  • 84% of full-time freelancers and 72% of all freelancers feel their work allows them to live the lifestyle they want. (Upwork, 2018)
  • 70% of full-time freelancers say freelancing is less stressful than working in a traditional job. (Upwork, 2018)
  • 87% of millennials say they want to work on their own, according to their own schedule. (Forbes, 2018)
Freelance statistics work life balance

Freelance compensation statistics

  • 31% of freelancers make at least $75,000 per year, up from 16% in 2014. (Upwork, 2018)
  • 69% of freelancers make less than $75,000 per year, down from 84% in 2014. (Upwork, 2018)
  • The average global freelancing hourly rate is $19. (Forbes, 2019)
  • 61% of freelancers would consider moving to a different city for a tax break of less than $5,000. (Upwork, 2018)
  • 51% of freelancers say no amount of money would get them to take a traditional job. (Upwork, 2018)
  • Only 60% of freelancers deal with their taxes annually, with 20% never reporting. (Forbes, 2019)
  • The average freelancer misses out on $5,000 in annual tax deductions for an income of $50,000. (Forbes, 2019)

Technology and the internet

  • More than 3 in 4 freelancers say technology has made it easier to find freelance work. (Upwork, 2018)
  • 64% of freelancers found work online in 2018, a 22-point increase since 2014 (Upwork, 2018)
  • The percentage of work found online increased for 67% of freelancers in 2018. (Upwork, 2018)
  • 33% of freelancers would like additional training or education to improve their computer skills. (Upwork, 2018)

The future of freelancing

  • Nearly 9 in 10 freelancers believe the industry’s best days are still ahead. (Upwork, 2018)
  • 48% of all freelancers and 70% of full-time freelancers view it as long-term, compared to 35% of freelancers in 2014. (Upwork, 2018)
  • By 2027, it’s estimated that more than 50% of the U.S. workforce will be freelance workers. (Forbes, 2019)
  • 92% of millennials say they want to work remotely. (Forbes, 2018)
  • 81% of managers who place people in freelance or gig positions are millennials. (Forbes, 2018)

Other findings

  • Freelancers are 19 points more politically active than non-freelancers. (Upwork, 2018)
  • More than 72% of freelancers say they’d be willing to cross party lines to support candidates that support freelancer interests. (Upwork, 2018)

From coffee shops to coworking spaces, you can expect to see freelancers everywhere you turn in the coming years. If you have a business in need of remote talent, or if you’re a recent grad thinking of kickstarting your career as a freelance graphic designer, we hope these statistics help drive home the point. Freelancing is not just a flashdrive in the pan — work is evolving before our eyes, and mobility is the new normal.

If you are considering some remote hires or already have a freelance roster, freelance management platforms can be fantastic tools for organizing these employees and tasks.

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