In October, Upwork and Freelancers Union released the results of “Freelance in America: 2018.” The fifth annual study estimates that 56.7 million Americans freelance, an increase of 3.7 million in the past five years.
More than one in three (35 percent) of American freelanced in 2018. Whereas the freelance workforce grew 7% in five years, the non-freelance workforce grew just 2 percent (from 103 million to 105.3 million) in five years.
Full-time freelancers now make up 28% of the workforce, up 11 points since 2014. The percentage of part-time freelancers has declined 9 percent since 2014, and the number of full-time workers who earn some income from freelance work has risen by 1 percent.
The full study results are available here.
Here are a few key findings:
People are increasingly starting to freelance by choice. Asked whether they started freelancing more by choice or necessity, 61% of freelancers said by choice. This is up from 53 percent in 2014. Younger generations are freelancing more than any other generation in the workforce.
Americans are spending more time freelancing.The average weekly hours spent freelancing increased from 998 million hours a week in 2015 to more than one billion hours per week.
Technology makes it easier to find work. 64% of freelancers found work online, a 22-percent increase since 2014.
Lifestyle matters most. Both freelancers and non-freelancers prioritize achieving the life they want, but freelancers are more likely to get it. Fifty-one percent of freelancers say no amount of money would entice them to take a traditional job.
Freelancers place more value on skills training. 70 percent of full-time freelancers participated in skills training in the past six months, compared to only 49 percent of full-time non-freelancers. Many freelancers are seeking training to enhance their skills in technology, networking, and business management. Freelancers are more likely than non-freelancers to pay for the training themselves.
About 69 percent of freelancers have an annual personal income of less than $75,000. Only 14 percent make $100,000 a year or more.
Freelancers feel anxious about all they have to manage and the unpredictable nature of the work. Sixty-three percent said they are anxious about managing financials, taxes, insurance, etc. The same number expressed anxiety about the unpredictability of their assignments and workloads. Fifty-six percent said freelancing can make them feel isolated.
On the flip side, 76 percent said they feel more stimulated by the work and 77 percent said freelancing has given them more time for the people and things they care most about.
“The Freelancing in America survey remains a touchstone in for anyone interested in the true measure of freelance work in the U.S. today,” said Louis Hyman, Director of the Institute for Workplace Studies at the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations. “As a collaboration between Upwork and Freelancers Union, it is an interpretation from both sides of the client-freelancer.”
“Freelancers play a critical role in our economy and shaping the future of work,” said Stephanie Kasriel, president and CEO of Upwork. “Despite an economic boom that has created a record number of full-time, 9-to-5 openings, Americans are increasingly choosing to freelance.”
She notes that technology is freeing people from the time and place work constraints that are no longer necessary for today’s mostly knowledge-based work: “This year’s results reveal that most workers prioritize lifestyle over earnings, but freelancers are much more likely to attain the life they want.”
Kasriel believes professionals with the most in-demand skills will increasingly choose to freelance.
“The 2018 Freelancing in America report demonstrates the remarkable growth of the freelance workforce over the past five years,” said Caitlin Pearce, Executive Director of Freelancers Union. “Freelancers are the backbone of our economy, but this crucial segment of America’s workforce faces unique challenges, including access to affordable healthcare and workforce development training to update skills in a competitive environment.”
Upwork is the largest global freelancing website. It enables businesses to find and work with highly skilled freelancers and is freeing professionals everywhere from having to work at a set time and place. Upwork is based in Mountain View, California and has offices in San Francisco and Chicago.
About Freelancers Union
Freelancers Union is the largest and fast-growing organization representing the millions of independent workers across the country. It gives its 400,000 members a voice through policy advocacy, benefits, and community.