Understanding the current freelance statistics can help you stay ahead of the curve when it comes to running and marketing your business.
The freelance industry is constantly evolving, so if you’re not up-to-date on the latest trends, you’re at a disadvantage.
In this article, we’ll provide an in-depth look at the latest freelance statistics and trends, including information on salaries, skills required, satisfaction levels, and more! Plus, don’t miss our statistics on high-end consulting at the end of the article.
Table of Contents
What do we mean by freelancing?
Simply put, a freelancer is self-employed. They work independently or with a select group of clients on projects ranging from just one hour to several years. Freelance workers consist of writers, designers, marketers, consultants, programmers, data entry professionals, etc.
So, when reviewing the “freelance statistics,” this data includes all kinds of freelancers and respective freelancing niches.
What do we mean by high-end freelance consulting?
Freelance consulting is a type of freelancing that refers to offering advice and recommendations on business-related issues. For example, consulting can involve helping clients with marketing, sales, advertising, public relations, project management, etc.
Freelance consultants sell their deep knowledge and expertise. Often, these consultants have advanced degrees or extensive industry knowledge. Many freelance consulting projects will range between $45,000 – $200,000 and could last several months.
So, when reviewing the “high-end freelance consulting statistics,” consider the profile of the freelance consultant and the type of projects they conduct.
General Freelance Statistics
Freelancing is rapidly booming in the U.S. and across the world. It offers greater flexibility and allows professionals to choose their projects and hours instead of working for a single company.
- 51.1 million, the number of independent workers in the U.S. grew sharply in 2021: up 34%, from 38.2 million in 2020. (MBO)
- 64% of professionals at the top of their industry are increasingly choosing to work independently. (Upwork)
- 17 million full-time, 34.1 million part-time, 23.9 million occasional independent workers in the U.S. (MBO)
- 50%+ of the workforce in the United States is predicted to be freelancers by the end of 2027. (Upwork)
- 17% of traditional workers say they will definitely or probably go independent in two to three years. (MBO)
- 15.3% is the U.S. tax rate for self-employed workers. (IRS)
- 3X the U.S. freelance workforce has grown 3 times faster than the overall U.S. workforce since 2014. (Upwork)
As you’ll see from the demographical freelance statistics, freelancers come from all walks of life, industry backgrounds, and years of experience.
A “State of Independence” study by MBO Partners found:
- 17% of freelancers that responded were Gen Z.
- 23% of total freelancers that responded were Gen X.
- 26% of total freelancers that responded were Baby Boomers.
- 34% of total freelancers that responded were Millennials.
- 68% of new arrivals to independent work are millennials or Gen Z.
- 55% of newcomers identified as female, up from 46% in 2020.
- 48% of the total independent workforce in 2021 were women.
Remote working is a hot topic because of the pandemic. The band-aid was ripped off as companies were forced to allow employees to work from home. Remote work included freelancers as well. Here’s how remote working impacts freelancers.
- 40.7 million American professionals will be fully remote in the next five years, up from 22.9% in our last survey conducted in November 2020. (Upwork)
- 53% of businesses say that remote work has increased their willingness to use freelancers. (Upwork)
- 83% of freelancers work from their homes. (Payoneer)
- 62% of freelancers feel more productive working remotely. (Upwork)
Hiring Managers Using Freelancers
As the Great Resignation continues to spread, more workers are shifting to freelancing. As a result, hiring managers are filling gaps by using freelancers.
- 71% of hiring managers plan to sustain or increase their use of freelancers in the next 6 months. (Upwork)
- 40% of users reported that accessing highly skilled workers through new digital talent platforms helped improve speed to market, boost productivity, and increase innovation. (HBS)
- 61% of hiring managers say working with external talent helps keep current employees up to date. (Upwork)
Life of a Freelancer
When you look at the freelance statistics below, you’ll start to understand why more people are choosing to go independent.
- 97% of now-independent workers have absolutely no desire to return to traditional work. (Catalant)
Freelancers seem to be feeling happier and healthier with no plans to return to traditional work.
- 63% of independent workers said that working independently was their choice completely in 2021.
- 77% said they were very satisfied with independent work.
- 87% of full-time independents said they’re happier working on their own.
- 78% said working on their own is better for their health.
- 68% also said they feel more secure working independently than at traditional jobs.
- 76% of full-time independents said they’re optimistic about the future of their careers.
Running a Freelance Business
One of the hardest challenges a new freelancer faces is learning to run a business. But many are succeeding by prioritizing their time between working “in” their business versus “on” their business.
- 56% of independents said they wanted to remain solopreneurs. (MBO)
- 48% of a freelancer’s time is spent running their business (marketing, invoicing, networking, accounting, etc.) (Upwork)
- 52% of a freelancer’s time is spent on billable work. (Upwork)
Freelancer Skills & Training
To be a successful freelancer, you don’t need a college degree. However, you do need some sort of training. Interestingly, based on these freelance statistics, independent workers spend more time on self-study and training than do their counterparts in the traditional workforce.
- 59% of freelancers have participated in skills training in the last 6 months vs. 36% of non-freelancers.
- 54% of freelancers say soft skills like communication and people skills are very important to their work.
- 81% of freelancers say their college education is useful to the work they do now, of those with a 4-year college education, 65% wish they had instead obtained a 2-year degree and supplemented their education with online training.
Why People Freelance
As you can see from these freelance statistics, there’s a wide range of reasons why people freelance. Many of those reasons are tied back to being in control.
When you’re a freelancer, you have almost complete control over your life and work.
Global Survey on Freelancing
- 66% freelancing offers me an attractive career opportunity.
- 66% freelancing offers me the chance to build expertise in interesting areas.
- 64% to be able to pursue work I am passionate about or find meaningful.
- 56% freelancing gives me the chance to meet and work with interesting colleagues.
- 69% freelancing gives me the chance to meet and work with interesting clients.
- 66% freelancing gives me the opportunity to work on challenging problems.
- 78% freelancing offers me the flexibility and independence I value.
- 66% freelancing allows me to enjoy the quality of life I hope for.
- 47% freelancing makes it possible for me to achieve my financial goals.
Freelance Forward (Upwork)
- 66% to work from the location of my choosing.
- 66% to be my own boss.
- 71% to have flexibility in my schedule.
- 55% to be able to spend more time with my family.
- 66% to be in control of my own financial future.
How Freelancers Rate Themselves
A 2021 Global Survey on Freelancing asked 1900 freelancers to rate themselves for specific skill sets. The results were fascinating. Interestingly, most of the lowest ratings relate back to skills important to sales and marketing.
How Freelancers see Themselves: Highest Ratings % Strongly Agree
- 66% flexible and adaptable
- 59% shows real grit; resilient
- 70% meet commitments
- 70% accepts accountability and responsibility
- 63% creative
- 74% work well with people at all levels
- 78% values-based; strong ethics
How Freelancers see Themselves: Lowest Ratings % Strongly Agree
- 34% good networker
- 48% effective planner and time manager
- 47% speaks other languages
- 45% makes business connections
- 44% persuasive
- 43% sensitive to how others perceive me
- 40% risk-taker
Look at the lowest ratings. If you want to be a successful freelancer, continue to build your skills in sales, marketing, networking, and communication. Even slight improvements in these areas will have profound effects on your freelance business.
- 3.8 million independents make more than $100,000 per year. Up 30% from 2020. (MBO)
- 73%, of part-time independent workers, cited supplementing their income as a reason for going independent. (MBO)
- 45% of freelancers are paid a fixed fee. (Upwork)
- 32% of freelancers are paid hourly. (Upwork)
- 23% of freelancers are paid both fixed and hourly rates. (Upwork)
In two different studies, the vast majority of freelancers earn the same or more money than the job they left to start freelancing.
- 58% said they earn more money. (MBO)
- 65% currently earn more than from their previous work. (Upwork)
- 60% of freelancers say they are making the same or more money than working for a traditional employer. (Upwork)
- 57% of freelancers earned more money than the job they left within 6 months. (Upwork)
How to Find Freelance Work
How to find freelance clients is always a hot and debatable topic. Here’s the key takeaway. Companies will continue to use freelance platforms to find freelancers. Freelancers will continue to find work from referrals (word of mouth, previous clients, etc.). There is no silver bullet.
You need to immediately use your network to drive referrals when you start out. Prioritize getting one to two long-term clients from your network.
You should also test and analyze freelance platforms but push hard on both. Learn what works best for you.
Narrow down your sales channels to the most effective and efficient. Focus on 1-3 channels.
For example, the vast majority of my consulting work comes from referrals of previous clients. I make great money from these referrals ($). And, they are reoccurring in volume.
I focus on two freelance consulting platforms. My second highest value ($$) projects come from those platforms.
My highest value clients ($$$) come from search engine optimization (SEO) and LinkedIn. Companies searching for consultants using Google or LinkedIn. They find my website or social media, read my information, and then reach out. These are rare, one to two a year, but when they happen, they are big.
And it took me two years to narrow down to the most effective and efficient channels for my business.
- 90% of business leaders say talent platforms will be “somewhat or very important to their organization’s future competitive advantage.” (HBS)
- 60% of CEOs claimed these digital talent platforms were “very important” to future competitive advantage. (HBS)
- Since 2009, the number of digital talent platforms has grown from 80 to more than 330. (HBS)
- 40% of independents use an online platform to find work. (MBO)
- 25% of skilled freelancers typically find work on a freelance platform. (Upwork)
- 91% of skilled freelancers recommend “new” freelancers use a freelancing platform when starting out. (Upwork)
- 69% were loyal to one or two platforms rather than several. (Upwork)
- 31% of freelancers use 3+ freelance platforms. (Upwork)
Other Avenues For Finding Freelance Clients
- 51% of freelancers find work through word of mouth
- 25% of freelancers find work through other independents
- 46% of freelancers find work through friends & family
- 46% of freelancers find work through a previous client
- 33% of freelancers find work through professional contacts
- 24% of freelancers find work through online ads
- 42% of freelancers find work through social media
Promoting Freelancing on Social Media
- 72% Said social media is an important tool for building a professional reputation
- 36% Said social media is one of the top three methods in which they acquire work
- 34% of freelancers use Facebook to promote their work
- 28% of freelancers use Linkedin to promote their work
- 21% of freelancers use Instagram to promote their work
- 13% of freelancers use Twitter to promote their work
- 9% of freelancers use YouTube to promote their work
High-End Freelance Consulting Statistics
Freelance Consulting Trends
High-end freelance consulting is here to stay. In fact, it will continue to grow. We can also learn that when prospecting, consider the economic buyer is likely to be a VP or above.
This data helps us understand how to get clients as a consultant. Of course, this depends a little on the size of a company.
However, if you focus your relationship-building efforts at the Director and above levels, you’ll cover the influencers and economic buyers.
- 70% of survey respondents said they quit their former role to transition into independent work. (COMATCH)
- 80% of top executives we surveyed expect constant or increasing demand for freelance consultants. (Forbes)
- 69% of all high-end freelance consulting requests came from VPs and above. (Business Talent Group)
- 30% of high-end talent requests from C-level executives. (Business Talent Group)
- 70% increase in interim executive placements below the C-suite in 2021. (Business Talent Group)
- 74% of high-end consulting engagements were remote in 2021. (Business Talent Group)
In-Demand Freelance Consulting Skills
Project management was the top skill requested on Catalant Technologies and Business Talent Groups platforms. With that being said, you can see from the freelance statistics below, there are some huge YoY increases in specific skill sets.
Were the increases a direct function of the pandemic? We’ll need to wait and see.
Highest year over year increases in requests for consultants with specific skills
- 700% YoY increase in requests for Consultants with skills in Compliance Strategy and Processes in 2021
- 450% YoY increase in requests for Consultants with skills in B2B Marketing in 2021
- 263% YoY increase in requests for Consultants with skills in Portfolio Strategy in 2021
- 260% YoY increase in requests for Consultants with skills in Forecasting in 2021
- 250% YoY increase in Consultants with skills in Channel Management in 2021
Why People Choose Freelance Consulting
There are many different reasons people choose to leave Corporate America and start freelance consulting. Based on a global study by (COMATCH), “The DNA of the Independent Consultant in 2020” the vast majority of Freelance consultants achieved their goals.
That’s fantastic news!
- 91% decide which topics I work on.
- 85 % have more flexibility in my schedule.
- 79% decide which clients I work for.
- 73% give more purpose to my professional life.
- 67% have more free time.
- 61% be able to work remotely.
- 54% gain more responsibility.
- 52% make more money.
- 72% decide which topics I work on.
- 90% have more flexibility.
- 70% decide which clients I work for.
- 62% found more purpose in my professional life.
- 73% have more free time.
- 55% work remotely more often.
- 51% gained more responsibility.
- 60% made more money.
When you view the freelance consulting statistics below, think about them like a Net Promoter Score (NPS). For example, “How likely are you to recommend independent consulting to a friend or former colleague?”
- 89% of respondents said they would recommend independent consulting to a friend or former colleague. (COMATCH)
Almost 9 of 10 freelance consultants recommend getting into the business. That’s a promoter’s level NPS, which means these consultants are loyal and enthusiastic about the industry.
Additionally, 94%…yes, 94% are as happy or happier than before they started freelance consulting.
- 94% are as happy or happier than they were in their former role. (COMATCH)
Freelance Consulting Salary
When it comes to determining a freelance consultant’s salary, it’s hard. Everything is variable and depends on your niche, industry, clients, how much you want to work, and last, your pricing.
But, if $49,500 was the average project size on the Catalant platform in Q1 2021, then you can see how much you can make as a freelance consultant. (Catalant)
Think about it this way. The average project size was almost $50K. Many projects are 2-3 months and aren’t full-time. If you landed three of these “average” projects, you’d be at $150K while working 6-9 months.
Some projects last 3-months and have a significantly higher price. Believe me, Catalant is one of my preferred platforms.
- 47% of independents revealed that they make more money now that they are self-employed (COMATCH)
Here’s another way to look at it. Upwork is a freelance platform that has all sorts of projects. It’s a good platform to start out with and you can make a great living. Many “new” consultants and some seasoned ones, use Upwork for smaller, but reliable clients.
Let’s say you work 20 hours a week and charge $50-$150 per hour. That’s $1000-$3000 per week, and $100,000-$150,000 per year if you take two weeks vacation.
Ranges of Consulting Fees on Upwork
- $50-$150 is the average range of freelance startup consultants on Upwork.
- $25-100 is the average range of freelance marketing consultants (digital marketing, campaign planning, market research) on Upwork.
- $30-100 is the average range of freelance accounting consultants (auditing, accounts payable and receivable, tax preparation) on Upwork.
- $35-175 is the average range of freelance HR consultants (administering benefits, mediating disputes) on Upwork.
- $40-140 is the average range of freelance IT consultants (establishing security protocols, penetration testing) on Upwork.
Special thanks to all the fantastic companies that produce detailed reports with freelance statistics. If I missed anyone, please let me know.
- Business Talent Group: High-End Talent Report 2021
- Business Talent Group: Skills Index 2021
- Catalant Technologies: Reimagining Work
- Catalant Technologies: The Freelance Economy Is a Huge Opportunity for Highly Skilled Workers
- COMATCH: The DNA of the Independent Consultant in 2020
- Forbes: Freelance Management Consulting In 2021: Optimism Abounds After A Tumultuous Year
- Global Survey on Freelancing: Jon Younger PhD
- Harvard Business School: Managing the Future of Work + BCG Henderson Institute: Building the On-Demand Workforce
- MBO Partners: State of Independence 2021
- Payoneer: Freelancer Income Report
- Upwork: Freelance Forward 2020
- Upwork: Freelancing in America
- Upwork: Future Workforce Report
- Upwork: How much does it cost to hire a business consultant?