If it feels as if you hear about freelancing everywhere you turn these days, it’s not your imagination.
The gig economy is booming these days, especially among younger generations, and it’s not hard to see why.
Working as a freelancer allows a professional to pursue their passions and enjoy an incredible amount of freedom when it comes to their work lives.
Hiring freelancers — especially for digital marketing, content production, and other tasks that lend themselves well to outsourcing — helps companies save money and take advantage of greater hiring flexibility.
However, it’s only natural to still have questions about the world of freelancing, especially with how quickly it’s evolving these days.
Here’s a look at some key freelance statistics to get started with.
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1. Nearly 47% of global workers are currently self-employed
According to research estimates from the International Labor Organization, approximately 46.5 percent of the world’s workforce is self-employed.
That’s nearly half of working people today, which is a massive testament to the appeal of being in business for oneself.
However, you can expect self-employment rates to vary from country to country. For example, you may only see a third of the workforce working on a freelance basis in countries like America.
But in developing nations, a much more significant percentage of the population may be self-employed.
2. Around 36% of businesses outsource web design
Although just about anyone in any industry or field could decide to offer their services on a freelance basis, some tasks lend themselves better to a freelance dynamic than others.
Creative skills related to digital marketing and brand building are great examples.
According to PayPal, around 36 percent of today’s businesses outsource their web design tasks, making it the most popular option.
Nevertheless, it’s nearly as common to hire freelancers to handle jobs in graphic design, content creation, web development, or sales.
3. 40% of American freelancers have a college-level degree or better
Those not in the know in regards to freelancing sometimes make the mistake of assuming most freelancers aren’t formally educated.
In actuality, current freelance statistics don’t support that theory.
According to Statista, 40 percent of the freelance workforce in the United States has a college degree or greater.
That means that not only are freelancers educated people, but they’re passionate about pursuing formal knowledge about the topics that matter most to them.
4. Approximately 74% of freelancers aren’t getting paid on time
According to research from the Independent Economy Council, one of the most considerable challenges today’s freelancers face is timely payment.
A stunning 74 percent of freelancers say they have clients who don’t pay them on time, with 16 percent going unpaid for two or more months.
Meanwhile, only about 20 percent say their clients typically pay them within a day or so. So what do freelance statistics like these tell us about working as a freelancer (or hiring one)?
They tell us freelancers should carefully evaluate potential clients and need a strategy in place for making sure people pay (such as a “50 percent upfront, 50 percent upon completion” policy).
They’re also proof that timely payment is one of the most effective ways clients can keep their best freelancers happy.
5. Google employs more freelancers than it does traditional employees
Another common myth staunch traditionalists believe about freelancing is that only startups, small businesses, and companies with little to no employment budget hire freelancers.
However, while freelancers do offer smaller companies more flexibility and lower costs, big companies love working with freelancers, too.
According to recent data, 54 percent of the Google workforce were freelancers and other independent contractors — over half.
So, yes, dedicated freelancers have the opportunity to work for any type of company they wish, including undisputed giants like Google.
6. The vast majority of freelancers work out of their homes
Although there are definitely exceptions out there, the vast majority of freelancers do not commute to a corporate office in order to work on their projects.
Most — around 86 percent — work out of their homes.
About 40 percent of freelancers also like to change the scenery and work from their favorite local café or coffee shop, while about 25 percent at least occasionally commute to a remote location.
In other words, current freelance statistics tell us freelancers can (and do) work from wherever they wish.
7. Most freelancers offer more than one service
Although many freelancers do prefer niching down and offering just one highly specialized service, it’s actually a lot more common for them to wear more than one hat.
According to research, 61 percent of modern freelancers offer two or three different services to their clients.
For example, it’s not uncommon for a creative digital-age freelancer to work as both a content writer and an editor.
Alternatively, you may find graphic designers or web developers who also dabble in SEO or digital marketing. Really, any combination goes.
8. Around 30% of modern freelancers offer unskilled services
Although close to half of today’s freelancers do provide skilled services like IT or programming — about 45 percent — there’s ample room in the freelance world for laborers of all trades and skillsets.
According to Upwork, 30 percent of today’s freelance workforce specializes in an unskilled service.
Examples include dog walking, babysitting, ridesharing, and various personal tasks.
Another 26 percent sell physical goods via eCommerce interfaces instead, and there are still more activities that don’t necessarily fit neatly into any one category.
9. About 42% of freelancers actually need to work independently
Although many freelancers start working independently because they genuinely prefer it to keeping a traditional 9 to 5, some choose freelancing due to lifestyle necessities.
In fact, according to freelance statistics, 42 percent of freelancers say they wouldn’t be able to work at all otherwise.
In this way, freelancing offers people who might not otherwise be part of the workforce at all a chance to work, earn, and do something meaningful for a living.
Examples include disabled people, full-time caregivers, and the elderly.
10. Most freelancers say freelancing allows them to live the way they want to
A standard 9 to 5 job may be rewarding, but it also comes alongside its share of limitations.
Workers must arrange the rest of their lives around someone else’s schedule, as well as sort out additional issues like transportation and childcare.
However, 84 percent of freelancers say their choice in working styles lets them live the way they’d most like to be living.
They can maintain any lifestyle they prefer, as their work schedule is set according to the rest of their activities instead of the other way around.
11. 75% of freelancers earn more than they did at their former jobs
Some people wrongly believe going freelance means buying one’s professional freedom at the cost of good pay.
In reality, current freelance statistics say the average freelancer earns more per hour than your average traditionally-employed person.
That said, it makes sense that 75 percent of freelancers say they make the same, if not more, as independent workers than they did at the salaried position they held previously.
Freelancing also offers the handy option to take on more or less work as needed, making it easy to scale income.
12. Content writers make approximately $15-80 per hour on Upwork
Content writing is among the most popular types of freelance work, especially on top online marketplaces like Upwork.
Most freelance content writers are also incredibly well-paid. According to recent data, the average Upwork content writer makes around $15-80 an hour.
Other types of freelancers tend to earn even more. For example, web developers who are moderately to highly skilled make $35-100 per hour, while graphic designers rake in $20-150 per hour.
13. 59% of non-freelancers plan on freelancing in the future
Of workers who have yet to start freelancing in any capacity, 59 percent say that they intend to start at some point in the future.
Those numbers will likely continue to climb as freelancing increases in popularity and becomes even more the norm.
And according to data from the same study, over half of current freelancers — 51 percent, to be exact — say they love freelancing so much that they wouldn’t trade it for a traditional job no matter how much it paid.
14. Freelancing is actually good for a person’s health
Freelancing isn’t just potentially good for a person’s wallet. For many, going freelance was also the factor that helped them improve their health.
Well over half of modern freelancers — about 64 percent — have reported greatly improved health since going indie with their services.
Most credit the positive change to no longer having to commute long distances or spend many hours sitting behind a desk at an office someplace.
However, others love the way freelancing makes it easier to get enough sleep, eat right, and exercise regularly.
Although current freelance statistics prove many of today’s freelancers absolutely love their professional lives and wouldn’t change a thing about them, most still say there’s a lot they wish they’d known going in.
They would have made fewer mistakes and wiser choices when it comes to clients, fee-setting, and more.
Get your existing or future freelance career started in a positive direction by checking out our comprehensive write-up on the top freelancing mistakes to avoid for a positive working experience.
You’ll learn why you should never work without a contract in place, how to manage your time wisely, best self-marketing practices, and more. Get started today!