A Record Number of US Workers Freelance

By: Nancy Bilyeau · December 13, 2023 · Reading Time: 3 minutes

More People Shun Staff Jobs

A staggering 39% of the U.S. workforce, or 60 million Americans, performed freelance work in 2022, breaking the previous year’s record and revealing that many people find deeper fulfillment when they opt out of full-time staff jobs, according to a recent survey by freelancing platform Upwork .

Freelancers contributed $1.35 trillion to the U.S. economy in annual earnings in 2022, up $50 billion from 2021.

While pandemic office shutdowns and furloughs may have kick-started a turn to freelance gigs, the all-time high number of people pursuing this different approach to work in 2022 indicates a “once-in-a-generation reassessment of what it means to have a fulfilling career,” according to Upwork.

The Appeal of Freelance Life

People are choosing the freelance path for a number of reasons, from a quest for more flexible and fulfilling work, to prioritizing a greater balance between work and life, or exploring entrepreneurial endeavors. Among the respondents, 68% said freelance work made them feel happier compared to a traditional job.

But a key finding is that for many, freelancing is also about diversifying their revenue stream. In 2022, 37% of all U.S. professionals had more than one employer, job, or contract project, holding two part-time jobs with different employers, or holding one full-time job and engaging in freelance work, the survey found.

When asked about the reasons for freelancing, earning extra money (83%), and having flexibility in their schedule (73%) topped the list of reasons, followed by being able to work from any location of their choosing (69%).

More Than the 9 to 5

Freelancing is growing in popularity among the most educated: 26% of all U.S. freelancers hold a postgraduate degree, up from 20% in 2021.

Over half of the surveyed freelancers provided knowledge services. Looking at the national breakdown, 51% of all freelancers, or nearly 31 million professionals, provided knowledge services, such as computer programming, marketing, IT, and business consulting in 2022.

And, not surprisingly, Gen Z and Millennials are the most likely to explore it: In 2022, 43% of all Gen Z professionals and 46% of all Millennial professionals performed freelance work.

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