Upwork is a trusted leader transforming traditional staffing, and their new report is a pivotal trendsetter. The Freelance Forward Report providing insights from more than 6,000 U.S. workers, found that approximately 59 million Americans freelanced in the past 12 months, representing 36% of the U.S. workforce.
Do not abandon freelance work if you’re looking for a full-time job as it can likely lead to something else while keeping your skills and growth current. I know freelancing has some negative connotations, and it doesn’t fit the traditional career success path. Still, it’s a great way to explore projects and add skills and experiences if you want to make a career change. I’ll include answers to some of your potential questions below but first, here a few key takeaways from the report:
- Hiring managers are increasingly turning to independent talent: 73% of hiring managers say they’re maintaining or increasing their hiring of freelancers even amid the pandemic.
- An essential pillar of the U.S. economy: Freelancers contributed $1.2 trillion dollars to the U.S. economy in annual earnings – a 22% increase since 2019.
- Freelancing increases earning potential: Of those who quit their full-time job to freelance, 75% say they earn the same or more in pay than when they had a traditional employer.
- Freelancers are increasingly high-skilled: 50% of freelancers provide skilled services such as computer programming, marketing, I.T., and business consulting, 45% increase since 2019.
Your questions answered via the findings
Is there enough work?
58% of freelancers have had more than 5 clients in the past 6 months, up 3 percentage points from 2019
Who is freelancing?
50% of Gen Z workers (age 18-22), 44% of Millennials (age 23-38), 30% of Gen X (age 39-54), and 26% of Boomers (age 55+) freelanced
How many non-freelancers are considering this as a career move?
- 58% of non-freelancers who are new to remote work due to the pandemic are now considering freelancing in the future
How do first-time freelancers feel about their future?
The pandemic has caused 12% of the U.S. workforce to began freelancing for the first time. Of those that started:
- 48% already see it as both a full time and long-term career opportunity
- 60% say that no amount of money would convince them to take a traditional job
- 86% of freelancers say that the best days are ahead for freelancing
Nancy Van Brunt, Senior Director of Talent Success at Upwork, had these words to share so you can effectively tap into this growing career trend.
Rachel Montañez: How can someone get the best out of Upwork as a freelancer?
Nancy Van Brunt: Create a detailed and thorough profile. Be very specific about your area of expertise to stand out and make it easier for clients to find you. My second tip is to show, don’t tell. Build out a portfolio of your design work; keep it up to date, and make sure it emphasizes the type of work you’re currently seeking. Clients want to see what you’ve accomplished — and what you can do for them.
Last but not least, think long-term. In my experience, the most successful freelancers view each job as a stepping stone towards repeat work. When an enterprise client offers a small job, make sure they’re thrilled with the final outcome to get your foot in the door — ideally, it will lead to ongoing projects.
Rachel Montañez: If someone is stressed or on the verge of burnout, what’s one thing to be mindful of with freelancing?
Nancy Van Brunt: While independent work certainly has its benefits, including choosing your projects, controlling your rate and maintaining your own schedule, it’s not without its challenges. It’s easy to take on too much work or get overwhelmed by workload considering the very nature of freelancing is that the more you work, the more you earn. It’s important to work on a schedule and don’t shy away from saying no to things that don’t align with your interests.
If you follow my work, you know I’m all about approaching our careers through a holistic lens. We can’t have effective career conversations without touching on wellness. Stress impacts how we weigh risks and rewards, and what you feel on the inside comes out in how you approach your career. Start steering the ship and don’t sleep on labor market trends – freelancing is a hugely positive one.
Rachel Montañez is a holistic career coach. Take her career clarity quiz.