Freelancers Now Make Up 39% of Workforce, Study Says

Freelance Writer

Some 60 million Americans performed freelance work at some point over the last 12 months, according to Upwork. That represents 39% of the total American workforce, the company said in its study of independent workers, Freelance Forward: 2022.

“Freelancing continues to gain popularity among skilled professionals as more people evaluate their priorities and values around work,” said Margaret Lilani, Upwork’s vice president of talent solutions. “The 9-to-5, in-office, single employer model is not what all people want anymore.”

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The study found freelancers contributed $1.35 trillion in annual earnings to the U.S. economy, $50 billion more than they did in 2021. With today’s economic uncertainty and the rise of movements such as the Great Resignation and Quiet Quitting, many professionals are undergoing a rare reassessment of what it means to have a fulfilling career, the company said.

More and More Professionals

In fact, a record number of professionals turned to freelancing in 2022 as the workforce redefined what works means beyond traditional career pathways and sought alternatives.

The report also found that:

  • Nearly three-quarters of freelancers (73%) say that perceptions of freelancing as a career are becoming more positive, up from 68% in 2021.
  • Gen Z and Millennials are the most likely to explore freelancing: In 2022, 43% of all Gen Z professionals and 46% of all Millennial professionals performed freelance work.
  • Over half of freelancers provide knowledge services: 51% of all freelancers, or nearly 31 million professionals, provided knowledge services such as computer programming, marketing, IT and business consulting during 2022.
  • Some 17% of U.S. workers are now diversified, meaning they seek multiple sources of income from a mix of traditional employment and freelance work. That’s up 3 percentage points from 2021.
  • About 26% of all U.S. freelancers hold a postgraduate degree, up from 20% in 2021.

Upwork said a number of professionals have begun freelancing in order to take control of their careers, whether they’re looking for more flexibility or greater fulfillment. Others use independent work as a way to transition to a new career, or lto ook to freelancing to create more stability.

Image: iStock

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