21+ Freelancer Statistics to Make You Ditch Your 9-5 in 2020

“But freelancing isn’t even a real job!“

… would have said aunt Debra in the 90s.

Today, freelance jobs are taking over the workforce. People kissing their corporate workplaces goodbye.

It’s the new normal!

Do you have an aunt Debra in your life?

We have the numbers to prove her wrong!

Check out these freelancer statistics and start planning your digital nomad life now!

Fascinating Freelance Facts (Editor’s Choice):

  • 57 million – this is the number of freelancers in the US in 2019.
  • Do you know what percentage of the workforce is freelance? 35% of all workers are independent in 2019!
  • 51% of freelancers wouldn’t go back to their 9-5, no matter how much money they’re offered!
  • Getting contracted is easier than ever – 66% of freelancers find their gigs online.
  • In the EU, freelancers have increased by 45% in a single year!
  • They are constantly developing themselves – 70% of full-time freelancers have taken part in skills training (significantly more than their nine-to-five counterparts).

The freelancer economy is growing and we have the numbers to prove it.

Let’s get started, guys:

What Is Freelancing?

First things first:

Let’s get the freelance definition right:

What is a freelancer? 

Any worker that sells their services to different people/organizations. That’s basically every employee out there.

However:

A freelancer doesn’t work for a company in the conventional sense. While they do contract work, they’re not an employee but rather, self-employed.

An image of a person working on his laptop at the beach.

It’s an opportunity to be your own boss, pick interesting projects by your preferred clients, and work from any corner of the world. I hear a lot of people choose Thailand (cheap, beautiful, and the food is to die for… you can’t have that in an office).

Next order of business:

Is freelancing a career? 

It could be.

Some people start with freelancer jobs on the side and turn it into their main thing. Others only take up projects from time to time.

Freelancing is what you make of it.

(Come to think about it, Picasso was also a freelancer and nobody doubts he had a great career!)

Besides, do you know how many freelancers are there in the US in 2019? 57 million people!

To put that into perspective, do you know how many people work in America? 156.92 million.

In other words, 35% of the American workforce is freelancing.

These aren’t unskilled workers or people who were forced to quit their ‘regular job’, either. The gig market largely consists of skilled workers, most of them in the creative or tech industries.

The vast majority of gig workers chose to quit their 9-to-5 job in favor of a more flexible and enjoyable lifestyle. The second biggest reason to go for freelancing is extra income (among part-time independent workers).

Being forced into it? This is the exception, not the rule!

Can you guess how many freelancers are there in the world? More than we can count! There aren’t any comprehensive global surveys on the gig economy. However, let’s assume international trends are similar to what we see in the US:

The number of employed people in the world is close to 3.5 billion people. If 35% of them are freelancers, this gives us 1 220 977.36. Over 1 billion freelancers worldwide! And this is a conservative statistic because in some countries independent work is a lot more prevalent than the US.

As more and more people wave goodbye to their day jobs, you have to wonder: why? 

And more importantly:

Should I Start Freelancing?

Remote work is more popular than ever. From flexibility and living drama-free to (surprisingly) job stability and the opportunity to work on your own terms, here are 9 evidence-backed reasons why you might want to give it a go:

Choose Your Office

1. 71% of freelancers say they can do their job from any corner of the world. 

(Source: Upwork/Freelancers Union)

With remote work, you could work from the beach, a co-working space, or the comfort of your own sofa. Becoming a “digital nomad” is a fascinating opportunity that most workers wouldn’t trade for anything – not even money!

An image of a man typing on a laptop

Do Meaningful Work

2. 74% of full-time freelance workers are doing it because they get to choose their projects. 

(Source: Upwork/Freelancers Union)

In a traditional corporate job, you rarely pick your assignments, instead doing what is thrust upon you. This couldn’t be further from the truth for freelancers! Gig-workers get to decide on projects based on expertise and passion, which leads to more fulfilment (and arguably, a job better done)!

Job Security

3. 45% of freelancers say they feel more secure in their employment this year, compared to last.

(Source: The Slash Workers)

Having a diversified job portfolio means you can’t get fired (not in the traditional sense).

This is huge because we’re currently losing jobs to automation. A whopping 1.7 million have vanished since 2000 and 375 million more will be wiped by 2030! 

For workers, freelancing can be as crucial as diversifying for a stockbroker. You lose one client? On comes another! In an ever-changing labor market, this could be the difference between financial stability and bankruptcy.

Commutes Will Be a Thing of the Past

4. 7 in 10 freelancers want to live away from the big city (and now their job allows it). 

(Source: Upwork/Freelancers Union)

Busy city life isn’t for everybody. With a freelancing job, you can skip the pollution, long commutes, expensive life, dangerous neighborhoods. The option to move anywhere you please is a huge perk for most freelancers – whether they choose a cabin in the woods or a flat in Brooklyn is completely up to them.

Better Quality of Life

5. 68% of freelancers say their quality of life improved after going independent. 

(Source: The Slash Workers)

This might be the reason why they’re not going back to their 9-to-5, even if they’re offered more money. These professionals aren’t doing it for a better income, or out of necessity – their life is better, happier, and more fulfilled when they’re freelancing.

Flexible Lifestyle

6. 45% chose to freelance because a corporate job doesn’t fit their personal circumstances. 

(Source: Upwork/Freelancers Union)

Stay-at-home parent? Disabled? Relocated and struggling to find a rewarding job? Freelance jobs are flexible enough to accommodate these needs. People who couldn’t contribute to the economy before are finding new and exciting opportunities!

Earn from Your Talents – All of Them

7. 95% of freelancers do varied gigs, depending on the client. 

(Source: The Slash Workers)

Most freelancers don’t limit themselves to a single skill. In fact, the vast majority employs 2-3 different talents on a regular basis. This is nearly impossible at a corporate job – especially if your best skills are graphic design, meal planning, and Java programming.

Stress Less

8. 82% of telecommuters reduced stress, 80% improved morale. 

(Source: PGI – Slideshare)

In a world where mental health issues are on the rise, anything that reduces stress and anxiety is worth trying.

The Best Is Yet To Come

9. 91% believe freelancing is only going to get better from here. 

(Source: Upwork/Freelancers Union)

As freelancing becomes more respected, lucrative, and an option for even more professionals, the heyday of remote work surely lies ahead.

An image of a man working in a cafe and enjoying his day.

Worried about finding a gig? With the rapid development of technology, this is becoming less of a problem. It’s estimated that mobile banking alone will produce 95 million jobs in the future!

What Are The Downsides?

It’s not all sunshine and roses for remote workers. While freelancing can have some amazing benefits, here are some of the cons to be aware of:

  • Savings and income predictability are major concerns for freelancers. 76% of them are worried about being able to put enough money away, 75% are uneasy about retirement options, and 72% consider unpredictable income to be a source of concern. (Source: Upwork/Freelancers Union)
  • 44% of freelancers have been stiffed, blaming gaudy contracts and companies not taking them seriously for the issue. (Source: The Slash Workers)
  • 61% of gig-workers miss the sense of community and belonging that comes from an office job. (Source: The Slash Workers)

All of that said, freelancers and non-freelancers share 4 out of 5 major concerns – affordable healthcare, retirement, fair wages, and savings. Freelancers are a lot more likely to do something about it.

However:

51% of them are politically active, compared to just 33% of non-freelancers! 

Now:

Freelancers Union: Here To Protect You

According to freelance economy statistics, nearly 5% of the US GDP is contributed by freelancers. Independent workers are increasingly aware of their importance and power. This is where the Freelancers Union comes in!

Considering gig-work? Check out their site ASAP. Some of the key resources they provide include:

    • Freelance 101 toolbox complete with guides on finance, healthcare, and even handling client non-payment.
    • Freelance contract creator to protect yourself and your work. 
    • Special discounts on everything from online accounting to coworking costs.
    • Insurance options tailored for freelancers

There are currently 450,000 members of the freelancers union and joining them is free. You can get involved in some of their campaigns, join events, and even use their coworking space in Brooklyn for free (8 days per month).

What Are The Best Freelancer Websites?

Freelancing clearly has its’ perks. So how do you even get started? Here are our favorite places to find freelancing jobs in the USA and beyond:

Fiverr: A Rising Star

Fiverr is gaining traction and popularity even outside the independent worker community. This freelance jobs marketplace is the perfect launching ground for your future career. That said, it is also getting competitive, as more and more people sign up to sell their services there.

How do I make it big on Fiverr? 

    • Start small and build your portfolio. At first, you might have to pick up lower-paying jobs to get some reviews up on the site. Clients are more likely to trust established freelancers so, for the first month, focus your efforts on getting glowing recommendations and take it from there.
    • Market yourself. If you have social media or a website dedicated to your craft, make sure you link to Fiverr. 
    • Create enticing ads. Sites like Canva help you make professional graphics with minimal technical skills. Take advantage and make your postings stand out!

Upwork: Safety First

Upwork has been a go-to marketplace for independent workers and one of the best freelance websites for years now.

Why Upwork?

  • Secure payments – employers pay in advance and Upwork holds the money in escrow. Once the job is completed, the freelancer receives the amount. This way, both parties are protected from fraud and you don’t have to worry about client nonpayment.
  • Billing is a breeze – Upwork has their own Work Diary and time-tracking system, allowing you to measure the hours worked and get paid according to contract.
  • Free signup – getting started with Upwork is free, though they do take a commission on your payments and charge you (through credits) for applying to jobs. It’s a positive and a negative, sure, but at least you get to test out what you’re paying for.

Freelancer.com: A Beginner’s Best Friend

Freelancer.com has thousands of postings from all over the world and it’s a fuss-free way of finding a gig, even if you have limited experience. It works like Ebay for odd jobs – employers post their job offerings and different professionals bid on them.

An image of a vintage table with a laptop on the beach.

Freelancer.com does charge a fee for using them but the membership plans are flexible and affordable. Annual subscription packages end up saving you a lot so I recommend checking them out, especially if you’re serious about freelancing on a long-term basis!

Toptal: For Pro’s

Toptal is short for ‘top talent’ and this is exactly what this platform specializes in. Whether you’re an experienced programmer, top finance expert, or a project manager superstar, Toptal has the best opportunities by companies like Zendesk, Airbnb, HP, and Shopify.

This is not your beginner-friendly marketplace, though. Toptal screens their freelancers extensively and takes pride in only hiring the top 3%. On the plus side, if you are an employer, they deliver top talent within 3 weeks and offer perks like a free trial period, full talent integration, and support in talent relocation.

Guru.com

This freelancer pool rewards expertise fosters long-term relationships and makes client-freelancer communication straightforward and hassle-free.

Guru encourages stable partnerships by offering up preferred freelancers, ones that have proved their expertise and consistency. This is great for businesses because it reduces the time to find a good candidate. However, it’s also great for workers, since it provides stability and rewards hard work, much like a traditional job might (but you still get all the freelancer freedom perks).

Freelancer Statistics: Main Takeaways Going Into 2020

If the past few years are any indicator, freelance work is here to stay. What’s more, independent workers now have more opportunities, unparalleled flexibility, job stability in a volatile economy, and, perhaps most importantly, better life quality than ever.

If there is any takeaway from this year’s freelance statistics it’s:

Freelancers do it better. 

A gig-worker:

  • can choose any place in the world to work from.
  • gets to pick inspiring and fulfilling projects.
  • monetizes their multiple talents.
  • chooses the clients they want to work with.
  • is more likely to advance their skills through training.
  • lives a flexible, less stressful, much happier lifestyle (and wouldn’t trade it for the world).

Finally, it’s time to do away with the myth of ‘freelancing means you can’t get a job’.

60% of independent workers started doing it by choice. 

(Source: Upwork/Freelancers Union)

It’s likely that more and more professionals will make that choice, too:

  • 59% of non-freelancers said they’re interested in doing independent work in the future.
  • 64% say that top professionals are increasingly moving to freelance work.
  • 53% of workers in the 18-34 age bracket are doing freelancer jobs.

(Source: Upwork/Freelancers Union)

If there is one takeaway from 2019’s freelancer statistics it’s that freelancing is here to stay. There are dozens of reasons to try it yourself and getting a job is easier than ever. Check out some of the freelance marketplaces above and come back to tell us your experience in the comments below!

Sources

  1. Upwork/Freelancers Union: “Freelancing in America: 2019”
  2. Upwork/Freelancers Union: “Freelancing in America: 2019”
  3. The Slash Workers
  4. Upwork/Freelancers Union: “Freelancing in America: 2019”
  5. The Slash Workers
  6. Upwork/Freelancers Union: “Freelancing in America: 2019”
  7. The Slash Workers
  8. PGI-Slideshare
  9. European Forum of Independent Professionals: “Future Working: The Rise of Europe’s Independent Professionals