Freelancing In 2018: Stats & Trends

See how much freelancers are making, which fields are most popular, the largest drawbacks, and more.

The freelance arena is evolving and it’s growing. Whether you’re currently in the game or weighing the option, here are some things you should know about freelancing in 2018.

Freelancing Is In A growth Phase

There were 57.3 million freelancers in the U.S. at the end of last year. That’s over 1/3 of the nation’s workforce.

Between 2014 and 2017, the number of freelancers grew 8.1% whereas the overall workforce only grew 2.6%.  If freelancing continues to grow at the current rate, over half of the U.S. workforce will be freelancers by 2027.

Source: Freelancing in America survey / Forbes

Most Freelancing By Choice

Three years ago, the Freelancing in America survey found the number of people freelancing by choice and by necessity was almost equally divided. Now, 63% of freelancers say they’re doing it by choice.

And, half of those attracted to freelancing were influenced by seeing someone else do it, Paypal’s U.S. Freelancer Insights Report found.

Top Freelancing Fields

The top five computer/Internet-based freelancing fields are :

  1. Data entry / Internet research
  2. Consultant
  3. Customer service
  4. Graphic design / Illustration
  5. Web design

Web marketing and sales, copywriting, photographer and videographer, virtual assistant, and market research round out the top 10.

Source: U.S. Freelancer Insights report

Freelancing Income

Only about 40% of freelancers earn over $31,000 and only 5% are crossing the $100,000 mark. The average freelance income is $30, 797, according to Paypal.

Freelancing is the sole source of income for 29% of those who do it, up from 17% three years ago. The number of people who moonlight and freelance part-time is declining, meaning more people are going all-in.

Source: U.S. Freelancer Insights report / Freelancing in America survey

Freelance Finance

Non-payment is common for freelancers. Almost half say they have had at least one experience where they haven’t been paid for work they did. But only 12% say they’ve been stiffed more than twice.

Related: What to Do When Your Invoice Isn’t Paid

Volatile income is also a common issue for freelancers. And because of it, 63% of freelancers dip into their savings at least once a month, which is over three times the number of fulltime non-freelancers who dig into their savings monthly.

Source: U.S. Freelancer Insights report / Freelancing in America survey

Business Is Good

Over half of those freelancing say business is stable and another 21% report steady growth, meaning the majority of freelancers are in a good place.

Source: U.S. Freelancer Insights report

Freelance Business Costs

Freelancers largest business expenditures are business travel, which consume an average of $564 a year, and costs related to computers, phones, and software, which average $549 a year.

Source: U.S. Freelancer Insights report

Freelance Payment Preferences

The most widely used payment method for freelancers is Paypal, with 70% using the service. Payments by credit and debit cards come in second, and bank transfer round out the top three.

On average, freelancers spend $139 on banking and currency fees, says Paypal.

Source: U.S. Freelancer Insights report

Freelance Clients

Most freelancers think having a diversified portfolio of clients is the most secure way to operate. On average, freelancers have 4.5 clients a month.

The top five ways freelancers are marketing is word of mouth and referrals, social media networks, online job boards or newsletters, freelancer platforms, and freelancers’ personal websites.

See Also: Reminder from Losing a Major Client
Source: U.S. Freelancer Insights report / Freelancing in America survey

International Freelance Clients

Most freelance work in the U.S. comes from domestic clients. But, over half of freelancers have at least one international client, which represents 19% of the total freelance workload.

The top two sources of international work are Canada and the UK.

Source: U.S. Freelancer Insights report

Time In the Field

Only 16% of freelancers have been in the game for over a decade. The average time spent freelancing is about six years.

On average, freelancers work 36 hours a week.

Source: U.S. Freelancer Insights report / Freelancing in America survey

What Freelancers Like Most

The most attractive trait of freelancing is the freedom of being your own boss. Freelancers also highly revere the flexibility to choose where they work, when they work, and which projects they work on.

Source: U.S. Freelancer Insights report / Freelancing in America survey

What Freelancers Dislike Most

Freelancers deem unpredictable income as the biggest downside of the business. The competitive nature of freelancing and finding work are the second largest concerns. And freelancers also cite low income and lack of benefits as key drawbacks.

Source: U.S. Freelancer Insights report / Freelancing in America survey