Updated · Feb 07, 2023
Freelancing is no longer just a hobby or a side hustle reserved for pursuing passion projects that bring supplement income at best.
Hundreds of millions of workers worldwide have made a conscious decision to reject the traditional employment model.
Self-employment promises independence, personal growth, flexibility, healthy work-life balance, and higher earnings.
So, are the merits of independent work worth it?
What’s the price of freelancing?
Will this global phenomenon remain sustainable and permanently change the meaning of work as we know it?
All questions our carefully curated collection of essential freelance statistics will answer.
So keep reading to know what the numbers say about the present and future of freelancers.
We’ll start with:
Engaging Facts About Freelancing You Must Know
- 1.57 billion people in the world are freelancers, which is almost 47% of the global workforce.
- There are 73.3 million freelancers in the US in 2023, up from 70.4 million in 2022.
- UpWork has over 16 million freelancers.
- The global freelance market size was estimated at $4.43 billion in 2022 and is expected to reach $12.01 billion by 2028.
- On average, freelancers bill an hourly rate of $28.
- Among freelancers, 52.3% are women and 47.7% are men.
- The average freelancer age is 37 years old.
- 55% of freelancers in North America are between the ages of 25 and 44.
- Female freelancers earn, on average, 84% of what male freelancers earn.
- Nearly 3/4 of independent workers get paid late.
- Freelance software consultants command more than $92,000 a year.
- 3 in 10 Fortune 100 companies source freelance talent from Upwork.
- 58 million employed Americans engage in independent work.
- 51% of post-grade workers in the States freelance.
- In 2023, the global gig economy is on pace to cross the $ 455 billion mark.
How Many Freelancers Are There in the World?
1. There are 1.57 billion freelancers in the world out of a total global workforce of 3.38 billion people.
(Source: World Bank)
According to World Bank data, 46.4% of all workers are self-employed.
2. Freelancers charge, on average, $28 an hour.
Project management, multimedia production, sales, programming, marketing, finance, and IT are the fields that pay above-average hourly freelance rates.
North Americans receive the highest average remuneration for their services ($44), while the lowest hourly pay goes to Central & Eastern Europeans ($22).
General Freelance Statistics
To understand how prevalent freelancing is worldwide and why to check out these figures:
3. There are 73.3 million freelancers in the US in 2023 and 76.4 million are expected in 2024.
(Source: Statista, Zippia)
There were 70.4 million freelancers in 2022, up from 67.4 million in 2021.
It is predicted that in 2028, 90.1 million people will be freelancing in the US.
|Year||Number of Freelancers in the United States, in millions|
4. Freelancers average salary in the United States is $68,947 annually or $33 hourly.
The annual salary for freelancers in the US ranges from $15,000 to $158,000.
5. On average, 46.5% of the world’s workers in 2021 were self-employed.
As the digital economy matures, the barriers to self-employment decrease.
Suddenly, workers no longer have to rely on geographically restricted jobs to make money. Thanks to the internet, they can gain and improve their skills and work in their PJs without leaving the house.
Unless we go back to the Stone Age, more and more workers will embrace the concept of independent work.
Curiously, this percentage is much higher in low-income economies, rising to 80.3%, while the average for high-income ones is just 12.2%.
6. The US heads the top 10 freelancing countries list, posting the highest revenue growth of 78%.
To facilitate our “compare and contrast” approach, let’s rewind back to the pre-pandemic times…
Joining the Americans at the podium for 2019 were the Brits and the Brazilians, with year-over-year earnings up 59% and 48%, respectively.
However, Payoneer freelancing stats revealed Asia had the strongest regional growth in earnings that quarter, at 138%.
Pakistan, the Philippines, India, and Bangladesh were collectively responsible for this figure.
If you study the demographics of these Asian countries, you’ll learn that they all have young labor forces.
Youth correlates with freelancing tendencies. So, independent work won’t go out of fashion in these corners of Asia in the foreseeable future.
7. 48% of Gen Z workers are freelancers.
(Source: Fast Company)
The youngest of workers are spearheading the freelancing trend.
The centennials view independent work as more stable than traditional employment, making them less vulnerable to layoffs.
8. 86% of freelancers work from home.
(Source: Fiverr Workspace)
According to Fiverr statistics, many still go to a local coffee shop in a typical week.
But only some freelancers rent a coworking space or come to a client’s office, maybe to save money.
9. In hourly terms, gig workers make 40% less than the minimum wage.
(Source: Rest of World)
Many freelancers may be financially satisfied but have to work longer hours to earn the amount they’re happy with.
10. Clients don’t pay 74% of freelancers on time.
(Source: Independent Economy Council)
Most have to wait at least two months to get paid, even if they specify the remittance date.
Even worse, almost the same number of freelancers have gotten stiffed by a client in the past. The majority of unpaid independent workers have outstanding invoices worth $50,000 or more for completed work.
Experiencing late payouts and being ghosted are signs that the freelance community still doesn’t get enough respect.
11. Male freelancers are 350% more likely to be earning beyond $150,000 than their female counterparts.
(Source: Fiverr Workspace)
Despite the seeming gender pay gap, women are more likely to be paid than men in the freelancing world.
Almost half of the independent male workers have been left high and dry. Whereas clients don’t disappear on 62% of female freelancers they hire.
Freelance Industry Statistics
Time to analyze the key stats about the most influential brands in the world of freelancing.
12. The global market size of freelance platforms was worth $4.43 billion in 2022, up from $3.81 billion in 2020.
The global freelance platform market is expected to grow with a CAGR of 15.4% and reach $12.01 billion by 2028.
The biggest players that currently control the freelancing space are Upwork, Fiverr, Freelancer, Toptal, and 99designs.
13. By September 2021, Google had employed more temps and contractors than full-time employees (150,000 vs. 144,000).
(Source: The New York Times)
Despite being a favorite destination of independent workers, Google was reportedly treating members of its temporary workforce as second-class employees.
The tech giant’s crackdown on its shadow workforce’s access to learning tools is a good case in point.
For example, unlike full-time employees, Google contractors would have to submit a formal request or purchase such skills training material themselves.
14. Uber has about 5 million drivers across the world.
There has been a driver shortage on the platform after the pandemic forced countries to impose lockdowns.
Now, the rising cost of living has forced many to accept gigs to supplement their incomes. That’s why the latest self-employed statistics reveal that Uber’s network in 2022 is 31% bigger than it was in 2021.
Despite soaring gas prices, Uber drivers have been making more money than they did pre-pandemic.
15. WeWork has more than 700 locations around the globe.
The company imploded in 2019 but took advantage of the pandemic to revive itself.
Now, the demand for flexible workspace is back and stronger than ever. WeWork, with its solid brand recall, is in a prime position to occupy the top.
Freelance Statistics Jobs
To know which skills are hot, chew on these stats:
16. 36% of freelancers are in the fields of web and graphic design and programming.
On the other end of the spectrum, only 1% of independent workers ply their trade in finance.
They may be few, but freelancers who work in finance make an average of $41 per hour compared to programmers who make an average of $25 per hour.
17. With an annual salary of $92,219, software consultants are the most compensated freelancers.
Likewise, freelance human resources advisors, videographers, web developers, and financial consultants all make above $75,000 a year.
18. According to Fiverr statistics, interest in promotional video ad production exploded by 453% from December 2021 to May 2022.
The other trending skills on the platform during this period were as follows:
- Social media content manager
- Logistic site-building
- 3D computer-aided design modeling
- NFT art creation
19. Freelance grave tenders make up to $28.50 per job.
(Source: Heaven’s Maid)
Certainly, one of the oddest gigs out there, grave tending, involves cleaning headstones and delivering flowers.
Typically, giving a standard flat grave marker, some TLC takes 5–15 minutes to complete. So, it can be a rewarding job for efficient grave tenders.
How big is this freelance juggernaut?
Here are its numbers:
20. There are over 16 million freelancers on Upwork.
To be clear, Upwork doesn’t disclose the size of its freelance community, nor does it confirm any third-party claim about it.
The above figure was an estimate from 2018.
If true, you can only imagine the actual number now after the COVID-19 pandemic and the Great Resignation have happened.
21. For $500 freelance earnings, Upwork takes a 20% commission.
The fee for Upwork depends on the client’s earnings, so when earning from $0 to $500, the freelancer will pay 20% for service, when earning from $500.01 to $10,000 - 10%, and when earning $10,000.01 or more - 5%.
22. Upwork revenue rose by 205.75% from 2016 to 2021.
Swelling its coffers from $164.45 million to $502.80 million in five years means business is more than flourishing right now.
23. Freelancers in the US, India, and the Philippines accounted for Upwork’s $150.09 million revenue in 2021.
In comparison, independent workers from the rest of the world brought in $146.84 million in the same year.
These cash cows have consistently produced more milk than others for the company over time.
As Upwork’s pie grew bigger, so did the combined slice of these three.
According to 2016–2021 Upwork statistics, the contribution of this trio of freelance markets went from 48.38% to 50.55%.
24. 30% of Fortune 100 companies use freelance Upwork talent.
(Source: Fast Company)
Blue-chip corporations use different breeds of independent workers in various ways, as do mom-and-pop shops.
This helps disprove the notion that freelancing happens in the creative field only.
25. With 243 roles up for grabs, developers were the most sought-after professionals on the platform in May 2022.
(Source: Digital Information World)
On the contrary, data analysts had the least demand after having only five positions advertised that month.
Freelancing in America
The following stats solidify the States as a freelance powerhouse:
26. In 2021, freelancing contributed $1.3 trillion to the US economy.
This was $100 million higher than what freelancers collectively earned in 2020.
Considering that 2021 was rather turbulent, such an increase is proof of the resilience of freelancers amid economic challenges.
27. In 2021, 68% of full-time freelancers feel more secure working independently.
(Source: Harvard Business Review)
Historical freelancing stats say that only 32% and 53% of them had this sentiment in 2011 and 2019, respectively.
It goes to show that independent work now provides job security to a wider segment of the American workforce.
In fact, 29% of permanent employees agree that 9-to-5 jobs are riskier.
Who could blame them?
Even without any economic crisis like the Great Recession, countless American employees get axed in the name of corporate reconstructing.
28. 51% of US workers with graduate degrees freelance.
This is evidence that the allure of permanent employment to the most educated of workers is fading.
After all, freelancing can open the door to greater earnings, flexibility, and control over work hours.
29. 33% of employed Americans who make more than $150,000 work independently to some extent.
This independent worker group includes lawyers, actors, accountants, creatives, traveling nurses, and influencers.
However, those who are freelancing in America are usually low-income earners.
In addition to income level, race or ethnicity can determine one’s tendency to become an independent worker.
For instance, significantly more Latino and Hispanic employed individuals gravitate toward independent work than other racial or ethnic groups.
Moreover, first-gen immigrants are more likely to become freelancers than their succeeding generations.
30. With 50 easily accessible coworking spaces, Dallas is the most freelancer-friendly city in the States.
On average, these spots cost $267 a month and are only 0.1 miles away from the nearest public transportation.
31. With 2.4 spaces per 100,000 people, Colorado has the highest number of coworking spots nationwide.
Overall, the Centennial State is only the fourth-best state for freelancers.
After taking into account the self-employed population size, broadband speed, and cost of living, Texas, Tennessee, and Georgia outrank Colorado.
32. With 174,900 total Google searches, California demonstrated the highest demand for freelancers in 2021.
Despite this, the Golden State wasn't in the top 10 destinations for freelancers. That’s because it’s the second-most expensive state to live in and has the slowest broadband speed.
The Future of Freelancing
Let’s see what the proverbial crystal ball says about freelancing’s future.
33. The global gig economy will grow to $455 billion in 2023.
This figure stems from the 17.4% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2018 to 2023. In other words, the overall gig economy is expected to expand by 123% in this five-year period.
34. The freelance platforms market size worldwide could be worth $9.1 billion by 2027.
This projection is based on the CAGR of 15.3% from 2021 to 2027.
Although freelancers and clients can do business directly, intermediaries won’t go anywhere any time soon.
35. By 2027, there will be 86.5 million freelancers in the US.
(Source: Fast Company)
If this estimate proves to be accurate, half of the US’ employed population will be freelancing in the near future.
Freelancing isn’t for everyone.
However, it’s undoubtedly apparent that it’s becoming increasingly appealing to most workers.
Self-employment isn’t without risks. But its drawbacks are arguably way more palatable than the downsides to the traditional employment model.
If you watch out for its pitfalls and play your cards right, freelancing can have a net positive impact on your life.
Romj is a veteran copywriter who used to be a Jack of all trades. Now, he's trying to be a master of one: technology. He jumps down the rabbit hole to size the latest innovations up. As a content contributor for TechJury, he hopes to help you keep up in our fast-paced world with his discoveries.
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