New data addresses misconceptions about the freelance lifestyle

Insights from freelance knowledge worker respondents to the
“Freelancing in America” survey help understand why 54% say “there is no
amount of money where they would definitely take a traditional job

($UPWK), the largest freelancing website, today released new data from
freelance knowledge worker respondents to Freelancing
in America: 2018
, the most comprehensive study of the U.S.
independent workforce, conducted by independent research firm Edelman
Intelligence and commissioned in partnership by Upwork and Freelancers
Union. Findings address common misconceptions about freelancing in areas
including pay, quality of life and work opportunities. More than three
in four (76 percent) freelancers say that they are happier working
independently than they were working for an employer.

“There is incredible diversity within the freelance economy,” said Adam
, Chief Economist of Upwork. “What many don’t understand is
that the skilled work performed by independent knowledge workers is in
important ways more similar to full-time professional jobs rather than
the one-off, relatively low-skilled gigs many associate with the
freelance economy. We find that clients are rarely seeking the lowest
cost option, and instead have a clear preference for quality, which in
turn requires skills and experience.”

Here are three common misconceptions about freelancing that the new data

There aren’t meaningful career opportunities for freelancers and it’s
only a matter of time before the fad ends.

A prominent misconception that persists is that independent workers will
have to go back to traditional work with an employer because freelancing
does not provide meaningful career opportunities. However, new data
shows that the majority of freelance knowledge workers say they are
satisfied with the amount of work they’re bringing in and are optimistic
about the future of independent work.

  • 72% have the amount (or more) of work that they want
  • 92% expect work opportunities for freelancers to increase in the future
  • 90% believe the best days are ahead for freelancing

“I receive multiple job requests every day, many of which are from
well-known brands,” said Pep Dekker, a Top Rated Google Ads expert on
Upwork. “The majority of those are from businesses looking to hire for
long-term, strategic work that’s critical to their business. The volume
and caliber of job invitations leads me and many others I know to
believe that freelancing is here to stay.”

Freelancers don’t earn enough money to make a living.

Another common misconception about freelancing is that these
professionals may not earn enough to make a living or support their
lifestyle, especially for the long term. According to the new data,
however, the vast majority of freelance knowledge workers say they are
getting paid fairly for the work that they do:

  • Two-thirds (66%) say they earn more as a freelancer than they did at
    their job with a traditional employer.
    • Of those, 81% say it took them less than a year to earn this level
      of income.
  • 82% say that in the past year, they’ve earned more compared with
    others who do similar work and have similar experiences.

“As a freelancer, I have more personal and financial freedom than I ever
did working at a traditional job,” said Anthony Agreste, a Top Rated
graphic designer on Upwork. “In my first year on Upwork, I was able to
quickly reach the six-figure mark and triple my salary because I’m in
complete control of my rates. This has enabled me to do things I didn’t
think I’d be able to, like paying off our home loan early and maximizing
our 401(k).”

The stress and uncertainty that comes with independent work takes a
toll on freelancers’ happiness.

While many question what it’s like to be a freelancer, the majority of
freelance knowledge workers say that being in control of their own
destiny and schedule improves their overall quality of life.

  • 62% of freelancers started freelancing by choice (vs. necessity)
  • 76% say that they feel happier freelancing than they felt in a
    traditional job
  • 78% say their freelance work allows them to live the lifestyle they
  • 54% say there is no amount of money where they would definitely take a
    traditional job

“As a military wife, I’ve moved seven times in nine years but thankfully
freelancing has brought stability and consistency to my life,” said
Laura Pennington Briggs, a Top Rated SEO writer on Upwork. “I used to
have to start over every time my family and I moved but today, my
clients are with me wherever I go. I’m happier than I have ever been
before and wouldn’t trade this lifestyle for anything.”

About Freelancing in America: 2018

in America
is conducted by independent research firm Edelman
Intelligence and co-commissioned by Upwork and Freelancers Union. 6,001
U.S. working adults over the age of 18 were surveyed for it online
between June 21, 2018 – July 12, 2018. Of those, 2,100 were freelancers
and 3,901 were non-freelancers. Results are weighted to ensure
demographic representation in line with the United States Bureau of
Labor Statistics’ 2018 Labor Force Statistics from the Current
Population Survey and the American Community Survey. The overall sample
size of this newly released segment of “freelance knowledge workers” is
536, with a margin of error of +/- 4.2% at 95% confidence. Freelance
knowledge workers include freelancers who spend 25+ weekly hours
freelancing and working in at least one of the following: Accounting &
Consulting, Admin Support, Arts & Entertainment, Customer Service, Data
Science & Analytics, Design & Creative, Engineering & Architecture,
Healthcare & Wellness, IT & Networking, Legal, Sales & Marketing,
Translation, Web/Software Development, Writing, Education, Service.

To see further insights from Freelancing in America, please visit here
for access to the full results deck and other materials.

About Upwork

is the largest freelancing website. It enables businesses to find and
work with highly skilled freelancers. As an increasingly connected and
independent workforce goes online, knowledge work — like software,
shopping and content before it — is shifting online as well. This shift
is making it easier for clients to connect and work with talent in near
real-time and is freeing professionals everywhere from having to work at
a set time and place. Our company’s mission is to create economic
opportunities so people have better lives.

Upwork is headquartered in Mountain View, Calif., with offices in San
Francisco and Chicago. For more information, visit our website at
or, join us on Twitter,
and LinkedIn.

About Freelancers Union

With over 375,000 members nationwide, Freelancers Union is the
fastest-growing labor organization representing the independent
workforce. We believe all workers should have the freedom to build
meaningful, connected, and independent lives – backed by a system of
mutual and public support. Freelancers Union members join together to
build community, access benefits and educational resources, and form a
powerful political constituency. For more information, visit


Elisabeth Copper

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