FlexJobs recently surveyed nearly 1,000 freelancers about key topics related to their freelance career, lifestyle, and work style. We’ve got insights from the survey, as well as a look at 30 companies that have been hiring the most freelancers in 2018!
Based on this survey, the profile of the average worker who freelances as their sole source of income is a female gen Xer working in the writing, marketing, editing, and creative career fields, primarily for small companies and individuals, juggling two to three gigs at a time. She freelances by choice (rather than simply not being able to find an employee role), has been freelancing for at least three years (although has also worked at a traditional company), and envisions continuing her freelance career for the long-term.
Freelance work is still a new experience for many current freelancers. While 45% have been freelancing for three or more years, 38% have been freelancing for less than one year, and 18% for one to two years.
When asked how common they feel freelancing is among their peers or friends, 77% of respondents said, “some people do it,” compared to 18% who said, “no one does it,” and only 4% who said, “everyone does it.”
Learn more about what it’s like to be a freelancer from the freelancers themselves, and find out about the top 30 companies hiring freelancers in 2018:
How Freelancers Work: Side Gigs, Business Owners, and More
Of freelancers who are currently employed in some capacity, 22% are employed at an established company and also do freelance work. Additionally, 2% are employed at a startup company while also freelancing. Fifteen percent freelance part-time. Only 12% consider themselves self-employed or business owners, and 11% freelance full-time but do not consider themselves business owners.
However, when asked if freelancing is their primary source of income, 43% said yes, while 58% said no. Forty-five percent have chosen to freelance rather than have a traditional job. Twenty-four percent have chosen to work a combination of freelance and employee jobs. Only 14% are freelancing because they cannot find a traditional office job.
Freelancers often work in multiple fields. The top fields of our survey respondents include:
- Writing: 29%
- Customer Service: 23%
- Administrative: 21%
- Data Entry: 20%
- Education & Training: 19%
- Art & Creative: 18%
- Editing: 18%
- Marketing: 17%
- Computer & IT: 15%
- Consulting: 14%
- Research: 13%
- Communications: 13%
- Project Management: 12%
- Medical & Health: 10%
- Sales: 10%
Including both their employee and freelance hours (if they work both types of jobs), 39% of freelancers work between 21 and 40 hours per week, 35% between 1 and 20 hours per week, and 26% more than 40 hours per week.
The majority of freelancers described themselves at the intermediate or management levels of their careers (51%); 27% said they are at the senior level or executive level in their careers. Only 12% said they are entry-level.
Finding Jobs and Keeping Clients
People often want to know how freelancers actually find their clients and how many gigs they’re juggling at any given time, so we asked!
Networking (56%) and job sites like FlexJobs (47%) are the two most common ways that freelancers find clients. Social media is also a common source (35%). Interestingly, freelancers tend to work for individuals (56%), followed by small companies (46%), mid-size companies (30%), and large companies (17%).
How many clients do freelancers manage at one time?
- 1 at a time: 29%
- 2–3 at a time: 36%
- 4–5 at a time: 7%
- 6 or more at a time: 5%
- It varies: 24%
When it comes to getting paid, freelancers mainly take on the bookkeeping tasks themselves (85%) and it seems to be working for them: 51% are not currently owed money by clients. Ten percent are owed $500 or less, 9% are owed $1,000 or less, and 5% are owed $5,000 or less. Forty-five percent pay their freelance-related taxes annually and 21% pay quarterly.
Most freelancers (75%) do not have a website to support their freelance business, and 73% have not created an LLC for their freelance business.
The Freelance Lifestyle: Benefits and Challenges
A full 92% of freelancers said the freelance lifestyle is either extremely (55%) or somewhat (37%) important to them.
Respondents said the top factors in deciding to freelance included:
- Work-life balance: 70%
- Desire to choose when I work: 62%
- Freedom: 56%
- Desire to choose where I work: 55%
- Desire to be my own boss: 49%
The biggest benefits of being a freelancer, according to respondents, included:
- Flexible schedule: 84%
- Work-life balance: 66%
- Freedom to work where I choose: 61%
- No commuting: 60%
- Self-development: 39%
And they said the biggest challenges are:
- Finding clients: 65%
- Predictable income flow: 64%
- Handling the business aspects of freelancing (taxes, insurance, etc.): 31%
- Getting clients to pay: 26%
- Perceptions of freelancers: 24%
When it comes to the impact being a freelancer has on overall quality of life, 63% said it had a “positive impact.” Sixty percent said freelancing has helped them become healthier, 66% said they are less stressed as a freelancer, and 59% said they are either less financially stressed or feel no difference from when they worked in a traditional job.
The Top 30 Companies Hiring Freelancers in 2018
To help freelancers interested in finding freelance jobs, FlexJobs has also compiled a list of the top 30 companies hiring for freelance jobs in 2018. The list is based on an analysis of freelance job listings from over 50,000 companies in the FlexJobs database between January 1, 2018–October 31, 2018.
- Kelly Services
- Real Staffing
- Onward Search
- Dahl Consulting
- Computer Futures
- Addison Group
- Robert Half International
- Accounting Principals
- Aquent | Vitamin T
- EXL | Overland Solutions
- Apex Systems
- Creative Circle Media Solutions
- Horizontal Integration
- Judge Group
- MATRIX Resources
A Look at Full-Time Freelancers
We also wanted to take a look more specifically at people who freelance as their sole source of income. As more people take up freelancing and more employers look to hire contract workers, more people may turn to freelancing as their employment option of choice.
Here are some details about solopreneurs who make their living strictly from freelancing:
- Generational differences: More members of gen X (35%) and the baby boomer generation (33%) are freelancing as their sole source of income than millennials (22%).
- Choice or necessity: The majority (63%) choose to freelance rather than have a traditional office job.
- Hours Worked: Only 19% work more than 40 hours a week (the average American works 44 hours per week)
- Clients: They work primarily for small companies (55%) and individuals (52%).
- Number of Gigs: 40% have two to three active gigs at one time, 23% focus on one gig at a time, and 6% juggle more than six at a time.
- Finding Jobs: They find their clients primarily through networking (63%), job sites (47%), and social media (37%).
- Workspaces: 83% do most of their work at home, not at a coffee shop or coworking space.
- Collecting Payment: 82% don’t use an outside service for bookkeeping purposes, such as to collect payments or track invoices.
- Websites: Only one-third have an official website to support their freelance business.
- Skill Development: Online courses (65%) and on the job (59%) are the primary ways they develop their professional skills.
- How Much They Make: One-quarter make more money as a freelancer than they did working a traditional job and 21% make similar amounts of money.
- Stress Levels: Even though 52% make less money as a freelancer than they did working a traditional job, 68% are less stressed.
- Retirement and Insurance: Approximately half are saving for retirement (49%) and 69% have health insurance.
- Career Development: Just 5% worry a lot that being a freelancer will hurt their career progression.
- Challenges: Their biggest challenges are finding clients (69%) and having a predictable income flow (69%).
- Freelancing with or Without Kids: Freelancers without children are choosing to freelance rather than have a traditional job at a higher rate (48%) than freelancers with children 18 and under (38%).
- People without children aren’t as worried that being a freelancer will hurt their career progression or prospects as freelancers with children. When asked if they worry a lot about this, 73% of freelancers without kids said not really vs. only 59% of freelancers with kids who said they were not really worried.
Overall Freelancer Demographics
- Age: 19 or younger (1%); 20–29 (13%); 30–39 (21%); 40–49 (19%); 50–59 (24%); 60–69 (17%); 70 or older (4%)
- Gender: Female (74%); Male (25%)
- Children: Children under age 18 (31%); No children under 18 (69%)
- Generations in the Freelance Workforce:
- Gen Z: 2%
- Millennial/Gen Y: 21%
- Gen X: 33%
- Baby Boomer: 35%
- The Silent Generation: 8%
- High school degree or equivalent (e.g., GED): 6%
- Some college, but no degree: 19%
- Associate degree: 9%
- Bachelor’s degree: 37%
- Graduate degree: 28%