Freelance Statistics 2023

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Freelance Statistics 2023: Trends, Market Growth, Prominent Industries, and the Future of Work

Table of Contents

Freelancing has become progressively prevalent amongst those working in remote-friendly industries, with technological advancements making it increasingly accessible for professionals to balance business processes alongside their workload. Furthermore, the rise of remote work has led many freelancers to adopt the digital nomad lifestyle, combining their travel aspirations with financial sustenance. 

This research report explores crucial insights into the dynamic landscape of freelancing, including trends and statistics related to market expansion, key industries, the burgeoning digital nomad community, and other pertinent facts that define the realm of freelancers in 2023. 

Key Freelancing Facts & Statistics

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  • World Bank data shows that an estimated 46.4% of the world’s workforce is self-employed.
  • American freelancers contributed approximately $1.35 trillion in annual earnings to the US economy; an increase of $50 billion compared to 2021. 
  • 37% of freelancers identify as female, while 63% identify as male. Additionally, female freelancers reportedly make just 95% of what male freelancers make, regardless of industry or other demographic factors.
  • 78% believe that AI in the workplace has the potential to transform industries.
  • 41% of freelancers report using AI tools such as ChatGPT in their workflows.
  • 51% of freelancers work in the information sector, offering services such as computer programming, marketing, IT, and business consulting.
  • 59% of non-freelancers are considering doing freelance work in the future.
  • The most affordable countries for freelance digital nomads include Thailand, Spain, Albania, and New Zealand.
  • Becoming a freelancer has improved mental health for 64% of independent workers.
  • 60% of freelancers who left a traditional job to become self-employed earn a higher income than they did in their previous positions.
  • 64% of freelancers report feeling lonely in their day-to-day lives.
  • 77% of freelancers say that they have had to reject projects due to clients offering insufficient compensation for their time.
  • 64% of freelancers rely on passive methods such as referrals and customer retention for project acquisition.

Market Size, Growth Rates, and Market Drivers

There is no doubt that the freelance market has grown exponentially in recent years, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic urged technological advancements that made remote work more accessible. Below are some facts and statistics regarding the freelance market, growth rates, and market drivers.

How Big is the Freelance Industry?

Freelancers are not as uncommon as you may think; in fact, World Bank data shows that an estimated 46.4% of the world’s workforce is self-employed5. These numbers show no signs of stopping any time soon, with reports projecting that 86.5 million people will be freelancing in the US by 2027 – which is more than 50% of the US workforce1. Upwork’s 2022 Freelance Forward survey also revealed that 39% of the US. workforce performed freelance work in the past year, an increase from the year prior.3

What is Driving Workers to Start Freelancing?

Freelancing has become a lucrative alternative to full-time work, with 31% of freelancers saying they make $75,000 or more each year. However, that isn’t the only reason why so many professionals are deciding to pursue independence; 81% of freelancers made the change for financial reasons, and 73% did so for increased flexibility and work/life balance.2

The Freelance Economy

American freelancers contributed approximately $1.35 trillion in annual earnings to the US economy, which is an increase of $50 billion compared to 20213
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Most In-Demand Skills for Freelancing

As the freelance economy grows and technology advances at a rapid pace, employers are looking for an advanced skill set when hiring freelance workers. Below are some of the most in-demand skills for freelancers. 

The Most Valuable Hard Skills for Freelancers

The top job categories hiring managers need to fill most urgently are:
  • Accounting (33%)
  • IT & Networking (30%)
  • Operations (29%)
  • Customer Support (52%)
  • Programmers who are proficient with Python (46%)4
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The Most Valuable Soft Skills for Freelancers

When it comes to essential soft skills, 70% of freelancers say that good communication skills are crucial for success. (6) Studies have also found that freelancers and other self-employed professionals place more importance on continuous learning than the average person.7

AI and Freelancing

Many industries are rapidly adopting Artificial Intelligence in the workplace, and freelancers are no different. With tools like ChatGPT and Salesforce Einstein freely available online, independent professionals can automate their workflows and increase productivity. Below are some insights into how AI is integrating into the freelance community. 

What Do Freelancers Think About AI?

AI has proved extremely controversial since the release of OpenAI’s ChatGPT, as many fear their employers replacing them with artificial intelligence. However, freelancers seem optimistic about their outlook; 78% believe that AI in the workplace is highly important and has the potential to transform industries.6 Additionally, 73% of business owners believe that technology and AI will increase productivity by 100% by 2035. 

The Use of Artificial Intelligence Among Freelance Professionals

A survey conducted by Freelancermap found that 41% of freelancers use AI tools in their workflows. 66% of this group cite increased productivity as the main reason, and around 50% use AI for information research. The three most common tools used by freelancers include ChatGPT, Youchat, and Copilot.6

Freelancer Career Paths

While freelancers span across a variety of different industries, there are a few career paths that prove the most lucrative and viable for self-employed professionals.

The Most Common Industries for Freelancers

51% of freelancers work in the information sector, offering services such as computer programming, marketing, IT, and business consulting.3 The second most popular industry for freelancers, at 33%, is creative services, such as graphic design and copywriting.9
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Companies Outsourcing Freelance Work

Despite the fact that many freelancers work independently for a specific client, large companies have been able to benefit from outsourcing freelance work. A 2022 survey found that 73% of tech companies now comprise blended teams, made up of both full-time employees and freelancers. 71% of business leaders from the same study cited “greater agility during times of economic uncertainty” as the main reason for this choice.8 Furthermore, 79% of businesses reported that working with freelancers resulted in increased innovation in the workplace.4

The Future of Freelance Work

While the current outlook for freelancers is positive, many may wonder what the future holds for independent professionals. Below are some statistics that give some insight into the future of freelance work. 

Do Freelancers Plan to Continue Working Independently?

Despite common misconceptions about freelancing not being a viable long-term option, statistics seem to prove the opposite; 41% of freelancers say that they plan on freelancing permanently, and only 6% say that they would return to traditional employment given the opportunity. Furthermore, 59% of non-freelancers are considering doing freelance work in the future.10 
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Freelance Job Outlook

It seems as if job opportunities for freelancers are set to increase in the coming years; remote work has had a positive impact on businesses’ willingness to use freelance talent, with 60% of hiring managers planning to increase their outsourcing efforts over the next six months, and 66% over the next two years.4 Not only will there be more job opportunities, but Xolo predicts that we will start to see the world adjusting to independent work, with freelancer-friendly insurance deals and better protection from exploitation for gig workers.11

Freelancing and Digital Nomads

Due to the flexibility of freelance work, many have opted to adopt the digital nomad lifestyle. Traveling while working is an ideal arrangement for those looking to see the world but lacking the resources to do so without a consistent income. Below are some insights into freelancers and the nomadic lifestyle.

How Many Digital Nomads Are There in the World?

By the second half of 2022, there were an estimated 16.9 million digital nomads from the US13. Globally, 64% of freelancers have opted for the nomadic lifestyle, in order to pursue their dreams of traveling the world.6 

Digital Nomad Income

In the first quarter of 2023, an estimated 36% of digital nomads worldwide had an annual income of between $100,000 and $250,000.14 This is significantly higher than the global average yearly income of approximately $9,733.19 However, it is important to note that the global average does account for those working in under-developed countries and in lower-income areas.

The Most Affordable Countries for Digital Nomads

As of 2023, 43 countries offer digital nomad visas to travelers looking to work while living abroad.12 The most affordable countries for digital nomads to live in include Thailand, Spain, Albania, and New Zealand. Albania is by far one of the cheapest options, with the average cost of living being only $365 per month, followed by Thailand at only $400. All of the above countries offer visas targeted at digital nomads, with the exception of New Zealand, which has a visa available for independent and remote workers looking to live on the islands for up to 9 months.15

For more insights, explore our comprehensive digital nomad report here.

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Freelancers’ Mental Health

Self-employment can be highly stressful, and prioritizing self-care is crucial to prevent issues such as freelancer burnout. Below are some statistics that illustrate the mental health of freelancers around the world.

The Positive Impact of Freelancing on Mental Health

Statistics show that becoming a freelancer has improved mental health for 64% of independent workers21, which is likely due to increased levels of independence, schedule flexibility, improved work/life balance, and the freedom to choose clients and projects. Similarly, 84% of freelancers report feeling more personally fulfilled since transitioning to self-employment6. 68% also notice an improvement in their overall quality of life when freelancing.9
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The Negative Impact of Freelancing on Mental Health

If mental health and self-care are not prioritized, freelancers may experience feelings of burnout or anxiety in in their field. A study showed that 41% of self-employed professionals in 2022 were temporarily unable to work due to stress, anxiety, or poor mental health. However, this number drops to 30% for those who have an adequate support network in place. Furthermore, 80% said they experienced ‘impostor syndrome’ due to a lack of confidence.20

Freelancer Income Statistics

One of the most appealing aspects of becoming a freelancer is their uncapped earning potential. However, it can prove difficult to reach financial stability when first starting out. Below are some crucial statistics that show how much freelancers actually earn. 

The Highest Paying Jobs for Freelancers

Some of the highest paying fields for freelancers in the US include programming and CRM management, with an average yearly income of $120,000, followed by freelance data analysis with around $100,000 earned per year.17 Naturally, salaries will depend on an individual’s location, qualifications, and experience level; for example, freelancers with a university degree charge an average of 10% more for their services than those without 6

Are Freelancers Satisfied with Their Income?

The majority of freelancers make more working independently than when they were employed full-time. In fact, 60% of freelancers who left a traditional job to become self-employed earn a higher income than they did in their previous positions18. An estimated 62% of freelancers are highly satisfied with their income6, and 69% of freelancers even expect their income to increase in 20234.
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Common Challenges that Freelancers Experience

While there are a plethora of excellent advantages to becoming a freelancer, it does not negate the challenges that independent professionals face. 

Financial Challenges that Freelancers Face

Among the biggest mistakes that freelancers make as beginners is setting their rates too low, according to 64% of self-employed professionals6. Effective financial planning and management are also crucial to financial safety, and veteran freelancers recommend having a dedicated emergency fund available at all times. Some of the main concerns for freelancers include rising costs, inflation, cost of living, and the current economic situation7. Additionally, freelancers are at risk of late payments, and a startling 44% have experienced a client refusing to pay at all9

Social Challenges that Freelancers Face

Remote work can be isolating, especially for those who opt for the digital nomad lifestyle. In fact, 64% of freelancers report feeling lonely in their day-to-day lives16. 61% cite the lack of community that a traditional workplace offers as the main reason for these feelings, and 60% report experiencing a ‘freelancer stigma’ when dealing with clients and other professionals9.

Freelance Client Aquisition Statistics

One of the most time-consuming aspects of the freelance career path is client acquisition. Without clients, independent workers cannot earn an income. Below are some statistics that illustrate the client acquisition process for freelance professionals. 

Client Acquisition Challenges

37% of small business owners in the US cite customer acquisition as their primary challenge22. But what makes it so challenging? For freelancers specifically, 40% report unsuitable project inquiries as a major challenge in client acquisition. 77% also say that they have had to reject projects due to clients offering insufficient compensation for their time6.
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How Do Freelancers Successfully Gain Clients?

64% of freelancers rely on passive methods such as referrals and customer retention for project acquisition; in fact, up to 50% of freelance clients are repeat clients. Only 36% of independent professionals use freelance job platforms such as Upwork or Fiverr as their primary method for finding new clients, and 69% of freelancers prefer to market themselves through in-person networking6

Freelance Demographics

Freelance Gender Statistics

According to a survey conducted by the University of Toronto, only 37% of freelancers identify as female, while 63% identify as male26. Additionally, female freelancers reportedly make just 95% of what male freelancers make, regardless of industry or other demographic factors25.
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Freelance Ethnicity Statistics

The most common ethnicity among freelancers is White, which accounts for 70.2% of all freelancers in the US. In comparison, 10.6% of freelancers identify as Hispanic or Latino, 3.4% as Black or African American, and 10.4% as Asian.25

Freelancer Age Statistics

Globally, over two-thirds of freelancers are under the age of 3524, but the average age of freelancers in the US is around 38 years old.25 Younger generations are also becoming increasingly attracted to freelance work due to the growth of influencer content; it is estimated that 23% of all freelance work entails generating at least some influencer-style content. This number increases to 27% and 29% respectively among Gen-Z and Millennial freelancers.3 


  1. Statista’s Gig Economy Report: https://www.statista.com/statistics/921593/gig-economy-number-of-freelancers-us/ 

  2. Fiverr Freelance Statistics in 2023: https://enterprise.fiverr.com/blog/73-of-freelancers-will-turn-to-freelancing-in-2023/ 

  3. Upwork Freelance Foward Report 2022: https://www.upwork.com/research/freelance-forward-2022 

  4. Upwork Future Workforce Report https://www.upwork.com/research/future-workforce-report-2022 

  5. Worldbank Self-Employment Data: https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SL.EMP.SELF.ZS?end=2019&start=1991&view=chart 

  6. Freelancermap Survey 2023: https://www.freelancermap.com/market-study?utm_source=blog&utm_medium=banner&utm_campaign=FreelancerSurvey&utm_content=EnglishWorkingHours 

  7. Statista’s Self Employed People & Freelancers in the US Report: https://www.statista.com/study/119500/target-audience-self-employed-people-and-freelancers-in-the-united-states/ 

  8. MassChallenge Report 2022: https://masschallenge.org/announcement/new-tech-work-reports-reveals-shift-toward-the-office-and-freelance-workforce-amidst-market-downturn 

  9. Fiverr’s Slash Workers Report: https://workspace.fiverr.com/slash-workers/ 

  10. Freelance Forward Economist Report https://www.upwork.com/research/freelance-forward-2021 

  11. Xolo – The Future of Freelancing: https://blog.xolo.io/future-of-freelancingl 

  12. Statista’s Countries Offering Digital Nomads Report: https://www.statista.com/statistics/1298969/top-countries-granting-visas-digital-nomads-worldwide/ 

  13. Statista’s Number of Digital Nomads in the US Report: https://www.statista.com/statistics/1298313/number-digital-nomads-united-states/ 

  14. Statista’s Digital Nomad Income Report: https://www.statista.com/statistics/1298865/digital-nomads-by-income-level-worldwide/ 

  15. Fiverr’s Cheapest Countries to Live In as a Freelancer: https://workspace.fiverr.com/blog/the-x-cheapest-countries-to-live-in-as-a-freelancer/ 

  16. Viking’s Freelance Loneliness Report: https://blog.viking-direct.co.uk/freelancer-loneliness-survey 

  17. Upwork’s Freelance Income Report 2023: https://www.upwork.com/resources/how-much-do-freelancers-make#:~:text=According%20to%202020%20freelancer%20research,higher%20%2428%2Fhour%20average%20wage 

  18. Upwork Study 0f 54 Million Freelancers in America: https://www.upwork.com/press/releases/freelancers-union-and-upwork-release-new-study-revealing-insights-into-the-almost-54-million-people-freelancing-in-america 

  19. Statista: https://www.statista.com/study/119500/target-audience-self-employed-people-and-freelancers-in-the-united-states/ 

  20. Gallup’s Wordwide Median Household Income Report: https://news.gallup.com/poll/166211/worldwide-median-household-income-000.aspx#:~:text=WASHINGTON%2C%20D.C.%20%2D%2D%20The%20median,according%20to%20new%20Gallup%20metrics

  21. Leapers Annual Report on Freelance Mental Health: https://www.leapers.co/research/2022/report/ 

  22. Finances Online Freelance Statistics: https://financesonline.com/freelance-statistics/ 

  23. Customer Acquisition Report by Digital Marketing Community: https://www.digitalmarketingcommunity.com/indicators/customer-acquisition-priority-challenge-37-us-marketers-drip/ 

  24. Payoneer’s Freelance Income Report https://pubs.payoneer.com/images/2020-Freelancer-Income-Report.pdf 
  25. Zippia Freelancer Demographics: https://www.zippia.com/freelancer-jobs/demographics/ 
  26. University of Toronto Global Freelancing Survey: https://utsc.utoronto.ca/globalfreelancing/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/Global-Survey-on-Freelancing-final-report-9.20.pdf 

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