25+ Freelance Statistics & Surprising Trends (2021 Update)

Freelance statistics have shown a dramatic shift following the global shakeup caused by Covid-19.

There are a few reasons for this sudden shift—most of which you’ll understand as you dive into the freelance statistics below—not the least of which is this:

Millions of people lost their jobs or were forced to work from home in 2020.

Never before in the history of modern work have so many people lost their job at one time (forcing exploration of alternatives like freelancing). Among those that kept their jobs, never in modern history has such a work-from-home exodus been so massive.

And so, here we are. Freelancing statistics are skyrocketing. Remote work is more common than ever before. Work is changing. And the freelance stats below will help you see just how big this shift really is.

We’ll update these freelancing stats on a regular basis to document the ever-changing workforce landscape.

General Freelance Statistics

First, let’s look at the big picture when it comes to freelance stats. Freelancing is a force to be reckoned with in this world. Here’s a glimpse at why:

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  • There are an estimated 1.2 billion freelancers around the world (nearly 1/3 of the total global workforce).
  • 59 Million Americans reported having freelanced in 2020—equalling 36% of the overall American workforce.
  • U.S. Freelancers generated a whopping $1.2 trillion in annual earnings in 2020.
  • The vast majority of people who try freelancing, expect to keep freelancing into the future on some level.
  • Skilled freelancers report a median $25/hour rate from their clients. 32% of freelancers work exclusively on an hourly basis.

Freelance Growth Statistics

Not only is the freelance workforce a powerhouse in its own right, but it’s also on an upward trajectory. Freelancing statistics show the freelance workforce is growing faster than ever before. Take a look:

  • It’s estimated that the total number of freelancers in the U.S. alone by 2028 will surpass 90 million. (We think it’ll be higher.)
  • 50% of Gen-Z workers participate in the freelance economy, while only 26% of Baby Boomers do.
  • 90% of freelancers estimate their income will either remain the same or go up year-over-year.
  • Clear back in 2016, already 80% of the current US workforce was willing or interested in taking on additional freelance work outside of their day job.
  • 71% of freelancers report they believe public perceptions of freelancing as a career are becoming more positive each year.

Covid-19 Freelance Statistics

Of course, no list of freelancer stats would be complete without diving into how Covid-19 has recently impacted the freelance workforce. While some freelancers were forced to take a break in response to the pandemic, Covid seemed to be somewhat positive for most freelancers:

  • An estimated 2+ Million workers have joined the freelance economy so far due to the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.
  • Remote work has opened employees’ eyes to freelancing as a viable future career. 58% of workers who are new to remote working say they’ll consider freelancing in the future.
  • An estimated 10% of freelancers put their freelance work on hold due to Covid-19. However, 88% of those “on hold” expect they’ll return to freelancing when possible.
  • Freelancers who started freelancing during the pandemic have reported a positive financial impact and a massive 96% of them expect to continue freelancing into the future.
  • 1/3 of Gen Z freelancers began their freelancing journey during the pandemic. And most plan to continue freelancing into the future.

Freelance Marketplace Statistics

Freelance marketplaces make up a huge portion of the freelance industry since it’s where many freelancers get their start and how many veterans continue to find new clients. It’s easy to see why when you review these stats:

  • Upwork features 12 categories and 173+ sub-categories in which you can find freelance clients.
  • 59% of freelancers use marketplaces and job boards to find new freelance clients, beating out referrals and social media among others.
  • Revenue generated through leading freelance site Upwork has more than doubled from 2016 (164 Million) to 2020 (373 Million).
  • 91% of freelancers who have used freelance job sites to find work would recommend them to someone just getting started as a freelancer.

Freelance Workday Statistics

A freelancer’s workday is a bit different than a typical 9-5 job—mostly in a positive way. Here’s what freelancers around the world have to say about the time they put in during “work hours”:

  • 51% of freelancers report working fewer than 40 hours a week, even if they’re “full-time” freelancers.
  • 69% of freelancers report having enough work to keep them actively freelancing on a daily or weekly basis.
  • Half of the freelance workforce reports filling their workday with skilled labor, providing skilled services to clients.

Freelancer-Client Statistics

Without clients, a freelancer is really just a hobbyist. So it makes sense that many freelancer statistics focus on the freelancer-client relationship. Here are just a few:

  • 58% of freelancers report they have more than 5 clients at any given time.
  • 57% of freelancers say they set their own rates for clients to pay them.
  • Freelancers report spending about 25% of their time marketing, prospecting, or searching for new clients.
  • 47% of freelancers who use freelance marketplaces do so because they believe it’s a good place to find trustworthy clients.

Freelance Lifestyle Statistics

For many freelancers, they choose this alternative career because of the impact it will have on their lifestyle. As reported in the freelance stats below, the lifestyle implications of making the switch to freelance are mostly positive:

  • 71% of freelancers say they choose freelancing primarily for the schedule flexibility it provides.
  • 45% of U.S. freelancers are highly educated post-graduates with a Master’s Degree or above.
  • 54% of freelancers reported their biggest worry is lack of stability. Their second biggest concern was lack of financial security.
  • There are freelancers in almost all major industries including high-paying jobs like doctors, architects, consultants, lawyers, and tax professionals.
  • 65% of freelancers age 55+ see freelance work as a reasonable way to transition into retirement. They are less worried about saving for retirement than full-time employees.

Freelance Satisfaction Statistics

It’s not just a lifestyle improvement that is driving more and more people to adopt freelancing as a viable career path. We found lots of freelance stats suggesting there are plenty of other positive reasons for turning to freelancing. Here are some of the best:

  • 86% of freelancers all over the world report they believe the future is bright and their best freelancing days are ahead.
  • 65% of freelancers who left a typical day job to start freelancing report they make more money overall than they did working a 9-5 job.
  • Of the freelancers who make more than they did at their desk job, 57% of them reported they blew past their previous salary in less than 6 months.
  • 65% of freelancers reported they are constantly upgrading their skills while only 45% of full-time employees said the same.
  • 59% of freelancers say they have taken part in specific skills training in the last half-year compared with only 36% of their desk-job counterparts.

Freelance Statistics FAQs

During our research, we found a series of questions people frequently ask about freelance stats and have done our best to answer those questions below.

How many types of freelance work are there?

Popular freelancing site Upwork features 12 primary types of freelance work with 173 sub-categories. It’s impossible to put an exact number on how many different types of freelance work there are, but it’s safe to say there are a lot of options if you want to start freelancing.

How many hours do freelance writers work?

Most freelance writers report working anywhere from 20-30 hours/week. Since most freelance writers set their own hours, it very much depends on how many clients you have, how quickly you type, and how many revisions you receive from a client.

How many articles do freelance writers write?

Some writers have reported writing twenty to twenty-five 700-1000 word articles each month. This, of course, varies wildly depending on the quality, subject matter, or length of your articles.

How many hours in a freelance day?

One report suggests freelancers work an average of 36 hours/week which equates to 7.2 hours per day during a 5-day workweek. Of course, freelancers often set their own schedules which means you can theoretically work as many hours as you choose.

How many hours do freelance programmers work?

Depending on whether you’re aiming for growth or for lifestyle, freelance programmers can work anywhere from 20-60 hours in a week.

How many types of freelancers are there?

There are typically 3 different types of freelancers: skilled freelancers, unskilled freelancers, and other freelancers. Skilled freelancers offer a specific skill for sale to their clients. Unskilled freelancers participate in the gig economy. Other freelancers sell digital or physical goods to customers.

How many freelance photographers are there?

There are an estimated 92,700 freelance photographers in the United States alone. This number comes from approximately 147,300 registered professional photographers with 63% of them having self-identified as freelancers.

How many freelance writers are there?

There are approximately 238,000 freelance writers in the United Kingdom alone. Finding out how many freelance writers there are in the entire world is nearly impossible, but with an estimated 1.2 billion freelancers globally, it’s safe to estimate there are likely millions of freelance writers in the world.

How many freelance websites are there?

There are dozens of freelance websites all around the web. The most popular (with the highest number of users) are Upwork, Fiverr, and Freelancer.com.

For more options read this.

How many freelance journalists are there?

In the UK alone, it’s estimated there are over 50,000 self-identified journalists. But as the role of journalist continues to change and traditional magazines and newspapers begin to decay, it’s hard to identify how many freelance journalists there are globally.

Number of freelance jobs

Between Upwork, Freelancer.com, Fiverr, LinkedIn, Indeed, and more, there are millions of new freelance jobs posted online every single year. In addition, consider local freelance jobs posted in newspapers or local job sites. There is no shortage of freelance work.

Number of freelancers in the U.S.

A recent Upwork study estimates there are over 59 million freelancers in the United States and will surge to over 90 million by 2028.

What freelance jobs are in demand?

A recent study highlighted the top 100 freelance jobs in demand right now. The top ten included .NET Core, TypeScript, Landing pages, eBooks, Android, Electronic Design, Presentations, Sketch, Research, and Technical Recruiters.

How many freelancers on Upwork?

There are an estimated 18 Million freelancers on Upwork in a variety of different industries. This makes Upwork one of the largest freelancing platforms in the world.

How many freelancers on Fiverr?

In 2019, Fiverr reported a freelance user base of 830,000 freelancers in 160 countries. This means the competition is much smaller than on Upwork or Freelancer.com.

How many freelancers in India?

At last tally, India had around 15 Million freelancers, second only to the United States.

How many freelancers in Pakistan?

Currently there are over 900,000 freelancers working in Pakistan for global clients in a variety of industries.

Statistical Sources

Thank you to the many hard-working researchers who have run helpful, in-depth studies among freelancers working around the world.

In addition, we acknowledge the anecdotal work of unofficial researchers on Quora and Reddit who gather public knowledge to support our findings.

Here are the resources we used to compile this list of freelancer statistics.


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