More and more Americans are shifting toward freelance work, either on a full-time basis, or as a part-time contractor on the side of their day jobs. Last year, in 2022, over 36% of the US workforce stated that they participated in freelance work. People are attracted by the idea of earning more money, having more flexibility in their schedules, having full control over their financial futures, and being their own boss.
In addition, freelancers have reported being happier in all areas of work, and even in their personal lives, compared to non-freelancers. Freelancers reported higher satisfaction scores for things like daily tasks, work and life balance, working environment, and personal relationships.
Interested in starting your freelance career? Here’s every major statistic around freelancing in the US for 2022 and 2023.
How many freelancers are there in the US?
Freelancers contributed $1.35 trillion to the US economy in 2022. This is a $50 billion increase from the previous year in 2021.
There were 70.4 million freelancers in the US in 2022, and is expected to grow to 73.3 million by the end of 2023. They account for over 36% of the US workforce.
By 2028, the number of freelancers in the US is expected to grow to a staggering 90.1 million workers, accounting for over 50% of the workforce in the country. For comparison, in 2014, there were only 53 million freelancers in the country, accounting for 34% of the workforce.
Which age group has the most freelancers in the US?
By far, Gen Z has the highest percentage of freelancers. 50% of Gen Z (ages 18 to 22) have stated they participated in freelance work in the past year. In comparison, only 44% of millennials (ages 23 to 38) and 30% of Gen X (ages 39 to 54) have stated they freelance either part-time or full-time. The age group with the lowest percentage of freelancers is 55+ with only 26% of people stating they’ve freelanced in the past year.
What kind of work do freelancers do?
Over half of all freelancers in the US provide knowledge services. For the art and design, marketing, computers and mathematics, and construction industries, freelancer make up for over 50% of the workforce. Here are the exact numbers below.
The industries with the largest percentage of freelancers
- Art and design – 77% of the workforce in the art and design industry work as freelancers.
- Marketing – 58% of the workforce in the marketing industry work as freelancers.
- Computers and mathematics – 53% of the workforce in the computers and mathematics industry work as freelancers.
- Construction – 52% of the workforce in the construction industry work as freelancers.
- Personal care and wellness – 48% of the workforce in the personal care and wellness industry work as freelancers.
- Transportation – 39% of the workforce in the transportation industry work as freelancers.
- Finance and business – 37% of the workforce in the finance and business industry work as freelancers.
- Sales – 33% of the workforce in the sales industry work as freelancers.
- Education – 31% of the workforce in the education industry work as freelancers.
Full-time or part-time?
About 65% of freelancers in the US work part-time, often on the side of their full-time day jobs, while only 35% of the freelancer workforce work on a full-time basis as their main gig.
Why do people choose to freelance?
Surprisingly, 25% of freelancers who were part of the surveys we used to collect these statistics have stated their main reason for freelancing were “out of necessity to support basic family needs,” somewhat indicating that they didn’t necessarily choose to freelance for the benefits it might offer, but were forced into it to make help ends meet. As it can often be easier and faster to find a client or two than to find another full-time or part-time job, this statistic makes sense.
On the bright side, another 25% have stated their main reason for freelancing as the “autonomy and flexibility it offers” and another 25% have stated their main reason is that they “enjoy the work.” The majority of freelancers who chose this were high earners making over $150,000 per year with their freelancing practice.
The answer we didn’t see in this list is job security, but that’s understandable because that really only comes when you have an established freelancing business with a full roster of clients. Once you build up your freelancing business to a consistent income, you’re less vulnerable to layoffs and cuts than if you worked full-time for a single employer.
Another freelancing benefit we didn’t see listed as a “main reason” is the potential to make a higher income. Unlike a W-2 salary, you’re not making a fixed salary, but can grow to as high as income as you like if you’re successful and can scale effectively.
What education level do freelancers have?
Many might guess that people without a college education would be more inclined to freelance, mainly due to many companies having a post-secondary education as part of their job application requirements.
However, the opposite is true: the more education people have, the more specialized they may be considered in their field of work, which would ultimately result in a higher demand and stronger pay. As a result, professionals with post-graduate degrees have the highest percentage of freelancers.
- High school diploma or less: 31% of people who have a high school diploma, or dropped out of high school, work as freelancers in the US.
- Bachelor’s or associates degree: 35% of people with a Bachelor’s degree or an associate’s degree work as freelancers in the US.
- Post-graduate degree: 51% of people who have completed their post-graduate studies work as freelancers.
Freelancing income statistics
How much do freelancers make?
Freelancing rates are typically determined by a number of different factors including years of experience, skill set demand, education/training, reviews and references, and location.
With so many different industries and levels of experience, it doesn’t make sense to distill potential earnings as a freelancer down to a single average number. But some freelancing platforms have stated that the average freelancer charges between $20 to $28 per hour.
Average income broken down by type of work
Again, these are just rough averages. Obviously, higher demand and more experience can attract top-tier clients who may be willing to pay significantly more for your expertise. Your yearly income also depends on your ability to attract and maintain relationships with clients.
- Writers earn an average of $30 to $40 per hour with an annual income of around $42,000.
- Editors can earn around $25 to $35 per hour, or $40,000 per year.
- Developers can earn anywhere between $50 to $75 per hour, or up to $120,000 per year.
- Graphic designers can earn between $40 to $45 per hour and make around $90,000 per year.
- Marketers can earn between $40 to $50 per hour and make around $100,000 per year.
- Photographers can charge between $35 to $45 per hour and make up to $42,000 per year.
More interest statistics around freelancing income
- 60% of freelancers who left a full-time job to freelance have stated they make more money freelancing than at their day job.
- 43% of freelancers have raised their rates in the past year, with the main reasons for doing so being: More experience, inflation, and higher demand.
- 57% of freelancers have stated they’re satisfied with their earnings. In comparison, only 42% of non-freelancers were satisfied with their incomes.
- 77% of freelancers say they’re optimistic about their income and salary increases for the next year.
- 71% of freelancers have stated freelancing has allowed them to better support their families.
- 64% of freelancers have stated that the flexibility in schedule from freelancing has allowed them to have stronger personal relationships.
Are you a freelancer? You might be eligible for a solo 401k, the most powerful retirement plan for independent workers. Learn more by downloading the free Solo 401k Handbook: Everything you need to know about a solo 401k in a handy PDF format.