Freelance Statistics: The Freelance Economy in Numbers

freelance statistics

Freelance statistics are a great way to show you how you’re not alone in wanting to go freelance, how others are finding the freelance environment and how freelancers contribute to the overall economy.

Following this post and discussion on definition of freelancing, we’ve pulled together more freelance stats from the US, UK, Europe, Japan and further afield for you to get an idea of how freelancers are faring across the world.

Arm yourself with these stats if anyone asks you “Why would you want to go freelance?” and show them that you’re not alone!

US Freelance Statistics

“Freelancing in America” is the most comprehensive measure of the independent workforce. How many Americans are freelancing? Why? How will they play a critical role in the rapid evolution of work?

The study, conducted by an independent research firm and commissioned in partnership by Upwork and Freelancers Union, surveyed more than 6,000 U.S. workers.

In its fifth annual year, findings show Americans are spending more than 1 billion hours per week freelancing.

Beyond quantifying the amount of freelancing happening, new insights delve into why people are increasingly choosing to work this way.

The five most notable findings reveal:

  • Americans are spending more time freelancing: Average weekly hours spent freelancing increased 72 million hours per week from 998 million in 2015 to more than one billion hours per week of freelancing this year.
  • Technology is making it easier to find work: 64% of freelancers found work online, a 22 point increase since 2014.
  • Lifestyle matters most: Both freelancers and non-freelancers prioritize achieving the lifestyle that they want but freelancers are more likely to get it.​ 51% of all freelancers say no amount of money would get them to take a traditional job.
  • Freelancers are more politically active: In this election season, freelancers indicated they are 19 points more politically active than non-freelancers. More than seven in 10 (72%) said they’d be willing to cross party lines to vote for candidates who support freelancer interests.
  • Freelancers place more value on skills training: ​93% of freelancers with a four-year college degree said training was useful versus only 79% who said their college education was useful to the work they do now; and 70% of full-time freelancers participated in skills training in the past six months compared to only 49% of full-time non-freelancers.

Freelance Statistics - The Freelance Economy in Numbers

The Freelancers Union “53 million” report contains data results of the most comprehensive survey of the U.S. independent workforce in nearly a decade. Here are a few of the main stats from the report:

  • There are 53 million people doing freelance work in the US – 34% of the national workforce
  • People who freelance contribute an estimated $715 billion in freelance earnings to our economy
  • Twice as many freelancers have seen an increase in demand in the past year as have seen a decrease – 32% experienced an increase versus 15% who have seen a decrease
  • 80% of non-freelancers say they would be willing to do work outside their primary job to make more money
  • Earning extra money (but not financial necessity) and schedule flexibility are the top drivers of freelancing
  • Finding work and, correspondingly, income stability are the top barriers to doing more freelancing work
  • 69% of freelancers said technology has made it easier to find freelance work
  • 77% of freelancers say the best days are yet ahead for freelancing
  • 65% said freelancing as a career path is more respected today than it was three years ago
  • 36% of moonlighters who have a primary job have thought about quitting to work completely independently

UK Freelance Statistics

In the UK, the Professional Contractors Group estimates that:

  • There are 1.4 million British freelancers working across all sectors
  • This has grown 14% in the past decade
  • The flexibility offered by Britain’s freelancers is worth £21 billion to the UK economy in added value
  • 78% of the UK public think that freelancing and flexible working help promote a good work/life balance
  • 72% think freelancing has a positive effect on family life

According to a report by freelance job site, Elance:

  • In 2013, the number of businesses hiring freelancers online increased 46%
  • Payments to freelancers increased 37% year on year
  • The average hourly rate for UK freelancers increased 6.7% in 2013
  • IT & Programming (at 41% of all hires); Design & Multimedia (24%) and Writing & Translation (18%) make up the majority of freelance jobs online

A February 2014 report on Gen Y and Freelancing looked at “the transformation of UK graduate career aspirations and what this means for businesses”. Here are the key stats from the report:

  • Freelancing is now seen as a highly attractive and lucrative career option by 87% of students with first or second class degrees
  • his compares to 77% of those with lower class degrees.
  • 21% of graduates with first class honours say they have already chosen to work as a freelancer, suggesting that the freelance economy’ is beginning to take hold among those graduates with the strongest degree results
  • 29% of all graduates say freelancing is part of their career strategy for the next five years, a fact that suggests the freelance economy will continue to gather pace in the UK
  • The flexibility offered by freelancing is cited as the biggest career draw, with over two thirds (69%) of all graduates saying they feel independent work offers them a better work-life balance.
  • The opportunity to work on a variety of different projects and across sectors is also appealing, with over a third (38%) saying this is a significant pull
  • Respondents are also attracted to the earning potential of freelance work with 38% saying they feel they can earn as much, if not more than they could in a traditional job
  • Elance data shows that the average hourly rate for UK freelancers increased 6.7% in 2013

The Labour Force Survey, conducted by the Office of National Statistics, showed a breakdown of the self-employed by sector:

  • Senior Managers – 15% self-employed
  • IT Professionals – 13% self-employed
  • Engineering Professionals – 12 %
  • ‘Associate Professionals’ in Design and Media – 40%
  • ‘Skilled tradespeople’ in construction – 56%

European Freelance Statistics

According to a report called “Future Working: The Rise of Europe’s Independent Professionals”, the European freelance economy looks like the following:

  • Freelance numbers have increased by  45% from just under 6.2 million to 8.9 million in 2013, making them the fastest growing group in the EU labour market

According to the Professional Contractors Group:

  • Spain and Slovakia have both have 13% rates of self-employment
  • Italy has a 21% rates of self-employment

Japan Freelance Statistics

  • The Japanese Cabinet Office estimates that up to 3.4 million people work as freelancers, or about 5 percent of the nation’s 66 million-strong workforce.
  • Some private-sector estimates put the number at more than 10 million, depending on the definition of freelancing.
  • According to the Cabinet Office, people who freelance as their main job account for 2.7 percent of the nation’s workforce — compared with 6.9 percent in the United States.
  • The 3 million to 3.4 million freelancers in the Cabinet Office estimate include 1 million to 1.6 million company employees and housewives who freelance on the side.
  • There are roughly 1.7 million people who, despite a lack of employment contracts with their clients, have quasi-employment status — being paid for the services they provide to corporate clients on their orders.
  • The construction sector accounted for about 20 percent of people who freelance as their main source of income.
  • According to an earlier survey by the Fair Trade Commission, roughly 60 percent of freelancers experienced some form of disadvantage in dealing with companies that give them business orders.

We’ll keep adding to these as I come across more research, but if you find any freelance statistics that would be worth adding here then leave a comment and a link below.

freelance statistics

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  1. Thanks for the awesome post. I have been struggling to explain to my relatives that I’m not unemployed. Maybe some of the sited statistics that you shared will change their mind.

    I’m getting ready to make a nice home office soon.

  2. Interesting and motivating stats for the lot of us freelancers.

    I just wrote an article about freelancing and have mentioned you and your statistics. I hope that’s okay.

    There is also a link which will bring the reader here

    here is the link to my article
    http://www.truelancer.com/blog/can-freelancing-be-a-full-time-profession/

  3. Thank you for gathering all these statistics Ben, this is very informative.

  4. Hey, the information is very helpful indeed. Being an Asian Freelancer I would urge you to create such a post about Asian and Indian freelance too! These are undoubtedly big freelance markets

  5. Hi, where will i get a full list of world countries showing me the number of freelancers??

    1. I’m not sure if one exists – maybe I’ll create the first one?

  6. This is great information. Might you have any statistics on Canada you could share?

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