The pandemic accelerated the growth of freelance work, as more employers and workers embraced its convenience and flexibility.
To help illustrate the current impact of freelance work and what the future of the industry holds, we’re presenting these 77 statistics, trends, and predictions.
- Freelance workers are expected to account for 60% of the U.S. workforce by 2027
- The U.S. has the largest client base of any region
- Freelance work contributes up to $60 trillion to the global economy
General Freelance Statistics
1.57 Billion Freelancers Globally
The very nature of freelance work means that it is difficult to get an exact figure on the number of people that are freelance workers; however, the World Bank estimates that there are in the region of 1.57 billion. That translates to around half (47%) of the entire global workforce.
Occasional Freelancers Are the Fastest Growing Segment
The occasional freelancer does freelance work at least once a month, usually to supplement their current income. This segment of freelancers is the fastest growing, more than doubling since 2019. There was phenomenal growth in 2021 (51%) and 2022 (34%), meaning there are now at least 32 million occasional freelancers active in the U.S. today.
$1.35 Trillion Annual U.S. Earnings
With more Americans than before turning to freelance work as a primary or secondary source of income, freelance workers are contributing to the U.S. economy more than ever. The most recent studies conclude that freelance workers contributed approximately $1.35 trillion, which is $50 billion more than a year earlier.
Most Common Freelance Job Postings
U.S. Most Wanted
U.K. Most Wanted
Freelancers by Gender
Freelance Workers More Likely to Be Male
Although individual country statistics do vary, globally, there’s a general 60/40 split between male and female freelance numbers. One place where this trend may be different is America. Several studies show that U.S. male and female freelancer numbers are almost evenly split, and some studies show that females are outnumbering their male counterparts already.
Older Freelance Workers More Likely to Be Female
Between the ages of 18 and 34, males make up a larger portion of the freelance workforce. However, studies of older freelancers show that females tend to take the lead and become the more prevalent gender within the freelance workforce. This could possibly be attributed to reduced family and household commitments as we age, but studies haven’t found anything conclusive.
Males & Females Freelance for Different Reasons
For three-quarters of women surveyed, the top reason that they choose to freelance is because of the flexibility that it affords them. For men, on the other hand, around 7 in 10 said that the main reason they chose to start freelance work was so that they could be their own boss. What’s interesting about these results is that the results are almost the same as in previous years.
Almost Half of Female Freelancers Make Less than $25,000 a Year
While around a third of male freelancers fall into this income category also, male freelancers are also four and a half times more likely to earn $150,000+ a year. On paper, this looks like the gender pay gap at work, yet there could be several reasons for this: women are more likely to do freelance work part-time, and males dominate the skill areas that are in high demand.
Freelancers by Age
Millennials & Gen-Z Make Up 62% of Freelancers
The American workforce has rapidly shifted to remote work in the last few years, but it’s the more technically savvy generations that have really embraced this kind of work. Millennials make up 34% of U.S. freelancers, Gen-Z makes up 28%, and Gen-X accounts for 15%.
Half of U.S. Gen-Z Have Tried Freelance Work
Younger generations are far more likely to see the benefits of freelance work than older generations. Gen-Z is the best example of this as more than half (53%) of them state that they have performed some type of freelance work. One of the reasons freelance work could be so prevalent within this age bracket is that they have grown up being shown alternative ways of earning money through social media.
40% of U.S. Millennials Are Freelance Workers
Millennial workers have embraced freelance work more than most other generations with 40% of them choosing freelance work over any kind of traditional employment. There are likely many reasons for this including stagnating wages, higher cost of living, multiple financial crises, a growing distrust in the stability of traditional employment, and the knowledge that they are on track to be the first generation to be poorer than their parents.
Freelancers by Education
Worldwide, Most Freelancers Have a Postgraduate Degree
Studies carried out by freelance and payment platforms show that the average freelance worker is educated. Most (51%) hold a postgraduate or bachelor’s degree (35%). However, those studies haven’t been updated in a few years, and people from all walks of life are more willing than ever before to try out freelance work.
U.S. Freelancer Education Levels Evenly Distributed
U.S. freelance worker education levels are quite different from global trends. In the U.S., there is a much more even distribution across education levels, with the “high school graduate or less” category even currently having a very minor lead.
Freelancers by Region
Over 64 Million U.S. Freelancers
The number of American workers reporting that they have carried out some form of freelance work (full or part-time) varies from around 60 million to 73 million depending on the source used. What is clear (whichever survey is used), is that the number has increased by anything up to 70% over the last 2–3-year period and is expected to carry on growing in the near future.
37% of U.S. Professionals Have More than One Job
With public confidence in the security of traditional employment waning, more and more workers are attempting to diversify their income sources. Today that means that almost four out of every ten U.S. workers have at least two sources of income, with freelance work being the most popular way to supplement their existing income.
~32 Million Occasional Freelancers
The number of occasional freelancers (defined as people who earn money by occasional freelancing at least once a month), has doubled over the last two years. In 2020, the number was just 15.8 million, but by the close of 2022, that number had risen to almost 32 million.
Full-Time Freelancers Grew 59%
The number of U.S. workers taking up freelance work for 15 hours or more a week is the fastest-growing segment of freelance workers. Between 2020 and 2022 there was a 59% increase, increasing from 13.6 million to 21.6 million.
15.77 Million Freelance Workers in Japan
The most recent surveys available show that there are more than 15 million freelance workers in Japan today, which is around 20% of the total workforce. The Japanese freelancer economy is now worth an estimated ¥24 trillion or $182 billion.
~4.5 Million U.K. Freelancers
In the U.K., studies show that between 4.3 and 4.7 million people are currently performing some kind of freelance work. Although this is down from the 2020 high of 5 million, the number is still trending upward overall. With falling living standards and a growing perception that traditional employment doesn’t offer the same kind of short and long-term benefits that it once did, this trend is expected to continue and may even speed up in the near future.
U.K. Freelance Workers Average 27 Hours per Week
Freelance workers from the U.K. post the lowest number of hours worked per week anywhere in Europe with an average of 27 hours. This may be attributable to U.K. freelancers being more likely to do freelance work as a means of supplementing traditional employment salaries.
Low-Income Economies Have More Freelancers
Low-income economy workers are far more likely to do freelance work than in high-income economies. In fact, in low-income economies, the average percentage of the workforce doing freelance work is a staggering 80%!
Freelancer Statistics for Freelancers
20% of Full-Time Freelancers Earn $100,000+
More U.S. freelancers than ever before are earning $100,000 or more a year. Although there was a slight dip between 2018 and 2020, the number of freelancers reporting high incomes shot up by 27% in 2021, and a further 16% last year.
$19 per Hour
This is the global average hourly salary of a freelance worker. Although it’s slightly lower than a few years ago (when it was $21 per hour), this is still significantly higher than the average hourly salary of a traditional worker. The slight decrease can be attributed to a rising number of workers trying freelance work following their experiences of working from home during the pandemic lockdown, and also the large number of freelancer workers from emerging economies who are enjoying improved internet infrastructure to access freelance platforms more reliably.
$33 per Hour in U.S.
The average hourly salary for U.S. freelancers is the highest in the world with different studies placing it somewhere from $23 to $33 per hour and an annual salary range of approximately $65,676 – $68,950. What’s worth noting though, is that the annual salary for U.S. freelance workers ranges from as little as $15,000 up to $158,000.
No Amount of Money Could Convince Freelancers to Become an Employee
For half of all freelancers, the freedom, flexibility, and financial independence that freelancing provides them with is more important than any salary a traditional employer could give them. As such, 51% of freelancers say “they would never go back” to traditional employment regardless of the money offered. Around 30% would consider a return if offered up to $10,000 and ~4% would do it for $100,000 or more.
Design Has Potential to Be Highest Earner
High-end freelance jobs that earn $100,000 or more a year are generally an exception rather than a rule. However, studies show that freelancers working in the Design category can earn anything up to $260,000 a year, or $22,000 per month. The design category includes website design, photoshop, and UX design, among others.
41% of U.S. Freelancers Use Talent Platforms
Upwork, Fiverr, and other talent platforms are the preferred way for many U.S. freelancers to locate new clients. Before the pandemic, in 2018, they were being used by just 22% of American freelancers; this year that figure is 41%
Social Media Is the New Word-of-Mouth
Freelancers have long used word-of-mouth to get more clients. This typically meant a previous client personally recommending the freelancer to a friend, colleague, or acquaintance. However, as social media has matured, word-of-mouth now also includes mentions on Twitter, LinkedIn, and similar platforms. The number of U.S. freelancers finding new clients this way has increased to 36%.
North America Is Best Source of Clients
According to the popular online payment and digital banking firm Payoneer, North America is the best region for freelancers to locate new clients. This is followed by Europe and then Latin America. North America takes first place due to hosting a reliable and consistent internet infrastructure, the region with the highest number of potential clients, and the highest average pay rates of any region.
How, Where, & When, & Why Freelancers Work
Freelancers Are Healthier
An astonishing 80% of U.S.-based freelancers say that freelance work is better for their overall health than traditional employment. This is a pretty significant increase from the 69% that reported the same thing in 2019.
Freelance Workers Are Happier
It wouldn’t be controversial to say that prior to the pandemic, the happiness of workers was a fringe concern of employers and governments. However, the forced shift to remote work gave workers the opportunity to reflect on what things matter to them the most, and many came to realize that traditional employment norms were negatively affecting their overall happiness. Freelancers, on the other hand, reported being happier in day-to-day life on a much bigger scale. In fact, 87% say that freelance work makes them happier.
Most Freelancers Earn More
65% of freelance workers say that they earn more than through traditional employment. Although this may seem unintuitive at first, we do need to remember that the vast majority of freelance workers come from what are traditionally seen as low-income economies where workers’ compensation and benefits can be much lower.
131% More Digital Nomads
With advancements in technology and internet infrastructure over the course of the last ten years, location-independent freelancing has become a more realistic possibility for people. With the shift to remote work that occurred due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of Americans who refer to themselves as digital nomads is now 16.9 million. That’s an increase of 131% since 2019.
Weekly & Daily Work Is Normal for 60% of Freelancers
In the past, perceptions of freelance workers tended to lean toward them being lazy and frequently not working. However, for most freelance workers today, the truth is that they are working daily or supplementing their regular income with weekly freelance work. Far from being lazy, freelance workers are working just as much as traditionally employed workers, and in some cases more.
2 – 4 Projects At Once
Freelance workers appreciate the ability to diversify their income streams, and this couldn’t be more evident in study results that show the average freelancer is juggling anything from two to four projects at a time.
Home Is a Freelancer’s Favorite Workplace
Approximately four out of five freelance workers report that working from home is their preferred work location. Local coffee shops were the second most preferred location but came in a distant second to home. Coworking spaces have seen a boom in recent years, but all studies seem to show that they are the preferred work location for a small minority.
Freelance Workers Save Up to $7,000 per Year
A major benefit of the freelance worker lifestyle is avoiding the need to commute to work. As housing prices force workers to live further and further away from where work is located, the time and money workers are required to spend on the commute gets increasingly larger. As freelance workers are free to work from anywhere and as most choose to work from home, they can save substantial sums of money over the course of a year.
Freelance Workers Feel More Financially Secure
For the majority of freelance workers, the ability to find multiple clients and sources of income gives them a stronger sense of financial stability than traditional employment does.
Increased Career Advancement Opportunities
Freelancers say that they have more time to learn new skills that will help them improve their work and find new clients that they wouldn’t have the opportunity to do with a traditional employer. As such, freelance workers often report feeling having more control over the advancement of their careers.
57% of Full-Time Freelancers Say They Are Getting the Most Out of Life
When asked about life goals, more full-time freelancers (57%) reported meeting key personal aims and goals than traditional employees.
Freelance Worker Problems & Concerns
Half of Freelancers Haven’t Been Paid
This is more of an issue with male (~60%) freelancers than it is with females (~35%), but around half of all freelancers report that they’ve not been paid for work completed at least once before. This is why freelance platforms like Upwork and freelance.com, which have escrow systems, are popular tools for finding clients.
Freelancer Predictions for the Future
Half of Freelancers Plan to Use Talent Platforms
Approximately half (46%) of freelancers surveyed in America say that they will be using at least one talent platform to find new work over the next 12 months. At the start of the pandemic, this number was only 29%.
17% of Workers Plan to Become Freelancers
Prior to the pandemic, 13% of non-freelancers in the U.S. said that they were considering becoming freelancers within 2-3 years. Between 2020 and 2022, that number rose to 17%. That might not seem like much, but you should remember that many non-freelancers did become freelance workers during that period, so the pool of people to sample from actually shrank during that period.
60% of U.S. Workforce Will Be Freelancing by 2027
Studies conducted by several independent sources show that the American workforce will be dominated by freelance workers by 2027. This is being driven by several factors, including but not limited to: the relatively high skill levels of the workforce, falling confidence in the ability of traditional employment to provide the basic essentials, and growing concerns that employers don’t have workers’ interests in mind.
Freelancers Think There Are More Opportunities Ahead
The majority of freelancers (68%) surveyed believe that there are more opportunities now than there were before the pandemic and that there will be more moving forward. This is driven by a belief that freelance workers have seen more widespread acceptance since the pandemic, with the public and businesses now seeing it as a legitimate source of income and skilled talent.
Freelancer Statistics for Business
Freelancer Economy Contribution
Freelancers Worth $455 Billion to U.S. Economy
The actual value to the American economy varies depending on the study being used, but when combined and averaged, the value comes out at just under half a trillion dollars. The last few years have seen this rise by more than $100 billion alone, and with the proportion of the American workforce doing freelance work expected to continue growing for at least another three years, the economic contribution of freelance workers is only going to get larger.
$25 – $60 Trillion Contribution to Global Economy
Figures on this one differ wildly depending on the survey used but conservative estimates say that freelance workers contribute approximately $25 trillion to the global economy. The more adventurous estimates suggest that the contribution could be as high as $60 trillion. Using the data that we’ve collected while writing this article, we estimate freelance work to contribute approximately $56 trillion.
Reasons to Use Freelance Workers
Freelancers Complete Projects Faster
The number one reason that employers choose to use freelance workers is to finish projects faster. Why this is exactly is a little unclear, but it could be because directly hiring a freelance worker is often faster than it is to go through a staffing agency.
Freelance Workers Save Companies Money
Having full-time employees requires employers to pay for things like health insurance, paid time off, sick pay, and in some cases, training costs too. Freelance workers aren’t full-time employees, and so employers are not required to provide any of these. Freelancers are also typically hired on a project-by-project basis, meaning companies can save money by only paying for the workers they need at any given moment in time.
Access to Skills Your Company Doesn’t Have
Companies often need a worker with a specific set of skills that their current workforce lacks. Retraining an existing employee or hiring a new staff member with the correct set of skills for a task or project that may only last for a few weeks is a time-consuming and expensive task, especially for small and medium-sized businesses. Freelance workers are ideal in these situations as employers can find workers with the right set of skills and only for the time that they are needed, quickly.
Hiring Managers Are Unsatisfied with Agency Staff
The majority of hiring managers report that freelance workers are a better option than using staffing agency workers. Some reasons for this are the relatively slow speed at which staffing agencies operate, the perception that the staff they supply are less qualified and committed than freelance workers, and the higher costs associated with agency fees.
Employers Save $11.60 per Hour per Employee
With all of the associated costs of employing a traditional worker, hiring freelance workers can be a great money-saving option for employers. In many countries, employers are required to pay full-time employees things like holiday pay, health insurance, and paid sick leave, plus the employee doesn’t always have sufficient work to maintain productivity levels.
Freelance Hiring Is 17+ Days Faster than Traditional Staffing Agencies
One major advantage of using freelance workers is that companies and businesses can typically locate a worker with the skills needed and hire that worker much faster than if using staffing agencies. The average freelance worker can be hired within three days, whereas staffing agencies can often take 20 or more days to provide the correctly skilled worker.
Hiring Freelancers Gives More Work Opportunities to People with Health Issues
Diversity and inclusivity are hot topics within public and political discourse at the moment, and there are growing calls for businesses to provide more opportunities to people from all socio-economic backgrounds. Workers suffering from health conditions that limit their capability to work within the traditional employment space are one such group of people that are currently being under-represented. Through the hiring of freelance workers, businesses boost the number and types of opportunities that are available to these kinds of workers, and they also help improve business’ inclusivity metrics without any further changes within the business being needed.
Predictions & Forecasts
78% of Companies Will Rely on Freelancers
Surveys by some of the leading freelance platforms discovered that approximately 4 out of 5 businesses have plans to rely on freelance workers in 2023. This is a win-win for everyone, as workers want more flexibility with work schedules and employers can enjoy the benefits of lower costs and faster project delivery times.
Companies Will Lack Skills They Need in 3-5 Years
Today’s workers need to re-train and re-skill more frequently than any generation of workers before them. As technology and automation techniques are improved, more workers than ever before are finding themselves without the skills that businesses want and need.
Unfortunately, the prohibitive costs of education, combined with the falling real-world value of wages, means that the average worker finds it extremely difficult, if not completely impossible, to have the resources needed for learning and mastering a new set of skills. Without adjustments to the way education and training are provided, businesses are expected to consistently lack access to workers with the relevant skills within 3-5 years.
4 Out of 5 Small & Medium-Sized Businesses Plan to Use Freelancers
Small and medium-sized businesses embraced the use of freelance workers during the pandemic. In fact, SMBs that haven’t used a freelance worker yet are very much in the minority. Approximately 80% of small and medium-sized businesses currently have plans to use freelance workers more in the near to mid-term future.
More Tech Jobs
The mass layoffs that began within the tech community in 2022, caused a large number of highly skilled workers to join the millions already using freelance platforms and sites. As these layoffs continue, it is expected that these companies will turn to freelance platforms to fill some of the gaps that appear. We’re already seeing evidence of this with various reports showing a surge in the number of tech jobs being advertised, some of them showing an increase of as much as 80% quarter-over-quarter.
Generative AI Jobs Will Explode
With the introduction of freely available AI tools like ChatGPT, Dall-E, and others, we can expect freelancers and employers to use these tools to support and enhance their work and businesses. Since January 2023, freelancer.com has already experienced a 268% increase in these types of jobs.
Impact of Covid on Freelance Work
22% Increase in Freelance Worker Numbers
The COVID-19 pandemic forced many people to work from home and many people took this opportunity to find freelance work that afforded them greater flexibility in their schedules. This was particularly prevalent amongst younger, high-skilled individuals and has caused the overall number of freelancers to grow by 22% since 2019.
Demand for Freelance Workers Increased Everywhere
The immediate effect of the pandemic on freelance workers was a reduction in the amount of work available to them. This is likely because as businesses adapted to work-from-home mandates, they experienced an overall slow-down in productivity. However, as the pandemic progressed, businesses began looking for skilled freelance workers to help them complete projects and boost productivity back up, which in turn has helped business leaders everywhere discover the benefits of hiring freelancers. This is true across the globe, with the majority of small and medium-sized businesses adapting their plans and budgets to allow for the hiring of more freelance workers. Around 70% of freelancers report that there are more clients and projects available post-pandemic lockdowns.
Freelance Platform Statistics
Over 18 Million Users
Upwork hasn’t released its user numbers to the public in a number of years, but it’s believed that there are more than 18 million user accounts today, making it one of the most popular platforms for freelance workers and clients to find each other.
U.S., India, & the Philippines Generate Most Revenue
In terms of Upwork revenue generated, U.S. freelancers were the largest contributors with $86.9 million. This is driven in large part by the much higher pay that U.S. freelancers receive when compared with the other biggest contributors India ($45.8m) and the Philippines ($39.9m).
$566 Million Revenue
Upwork revenue grew 23% over the previous year, rising from approximately $450 million to $566 million. However, a large part of this increase was driven by a raise in the price of connects (tokens that need to be submitted with project proposals), and less so by improving freelancer and client revenue generation.
~$90 Million Net Loss
Upwork saw net losses for the year increase by 60% to $89.9 million. A significant contributor to that net loss is the company’s Provision for Transaction Losses, which increased fourfold to account for 4% of revenue and cost the business $13.1 million last year.
$337 Million in Revenue
2022 was another successful year for the freelance platform, with year-over-year revenue increasing by 13% for a total of $337.4 million.
Up to 8% Growth Expected for the Year Ahead
Fiverr expected the use of freelance workers to continue growing and based on recent trends expects revenue for 2023 to grow from 4% – 8%. This would put 2023’s forecasted revenue somewhere in the region of $350 million to $365 million.
4 Million Active Users
Fiverr freelancers enjoy one of the largest active buyer bases of all freelance platforms. Fiverr reports that there are 4.3 million active buyers on the platform, which is a phenomenal figure when you consider that Fiverr’s main rival within this space (Upwork) reports having just 814,000 active buyers.
Average Budget of $262
Fiverr may have a much larger active buyer base than Upwork, but the average budget of each couldn’t be more different. Whereas Upwork clients have an average budget of approximately $5,000, a Fiverr client’s average budget is a much lower $262. This could be explained by the type of clients that typically use each platform, with small businesses and individuals preferring to use Fiverr.
60 Million Plus Visits a Month
Fiverr is easily the most visited freelance website in the world with around 66 million visitors each month. Upwork has caught up significantly in the last few years but still only attracts 50 million visitors a month, and freelancer.com can only muster 6.9 million visits per month.
50 Million Accounts
Freelancer.com was already considered the number one place for freelancers and clients to find each other prior to the pandemic when it had 38 million registered users. The pandemic certainly accelerated interest in the site and today boasts more than 50 million users.
Audience Dominated by Millennial Males
Audiences of a majority of the top freelance sites are dominated by males with a roughly 60/40 between males and females. This holds true with freelancer.com with 63.62% of the audience identifying as male. Younger audiences are also generally more prevalent across these types of sites and approximately 82% of freelancer.com’s audience is under 44 years.
Traditional Marketing Enjoyed a Revival
The global economic slowdown, and the recent surge in tech and IT company layoffs, have meant that businesses have been reducing costs wherever possible, and paid advertising is one expense that many businesses cut back on first. One area that has seen a boost is traditional marketing, with the number of projects that relate to flyer design and packaging increasing by approximately 30%.
114 New Skills & Categories Added
New skills and job categories are added to freelance platforms regularly so that employers can find correctly skilled workers and so that freelance workers are able to find the projects that are most suitable for them. Some notable recent additions are language-learning AIs (ChatGPT, Open AI), AI-image generators (Dall-E, Midjourney), and Twitter Spaces.
Freelancer.com’s Highest Earning Categories
|Job Category||Per Year Earnings|
|Design – |
UX Design, Illustrator, Website Design, Photoshop
|$75,789 – $263,571|
|Game Development –|
Game Design, Unity
|$56,493 – $258,501|
|Coding – |
HTML, Java, PHP, CSS, Backend
|$101,250 – $219,108|
|Mobile App Development – |
|$56,493 – $145,200|
|Website Development – |
WordPress, PHP, HTML, MySQL
|$63,586 – $141,923|
Freelancer.com’s latest studies show that the highest earning categories are Design, Game Development, Coding, Mobile App Development, and Website Development. With the recent layoffs within the big tech community, these are all categories that are expected to see increased competition moving forward.
Freelancer Skills Vs Project Skills Needed
The most commonly registered freelancer skills have some overlap with the most requested skills, but there are some gaps that freelancers with the right skills are going to find very lucrative.
|Most Registered Skills||Most Requested Skills|
|1||Data Entry||1||Graphic Design|
|6||Article Writing||6||Logo Design|
|8||Logo Design||8||Article Writing|
Frequently Asked Questions
Estimates suggest there are currently 1.57 billion freelance workers globally.
Millennials are the most likely to freelance currently. However, Gen-Z is a close second, and about half of them are interested in trying freelance work in the future.
The U.S. is considered the country with the most freelancers, with more than 60 million American citizens doing freelance work in some capacity.
Graphic design is the most common freelance job posting in several countries. Other jobs most in demand are website design, illustration, logo design, and coding.
Neither company has released exact numbers to the public in a few years, but best estimates believe that more than 20 million freelancers use the platforms.
Freelancers can get paid by the hour, by milestone, or by the project. Payment can be processed through a freelance platform, PayPal, Payoneer, or other payment handlers.
In addition to our own research, we’ve used parts of data from Payoneer, Statistsa, Pew Research, Upwork, Fiverr, LinkedIn, Forbes, Sec.gov, SimilarWeb.