More than 56.7 million Americans work freelance jobs today—an increase of 3.7 million since 2014, and representing 35% of the population, according to a Wednesday report from Upwork and Freelancers Union. These freelance workers are also spending more time working these jobs than in the past, the report found: Americans work freelance more than 1 billion hours per week on average, an increase of more than 72 million hours since 2015.
Technology has aided the growth of the freelance economy by making it easier to find work, according to the report. Some 64% of freelancers said they found work online—up 22 points from 2014.
US workers are increasingly turning to freelance work by choice, rather than necessity, the report found. Some 61% of freelancers surveyed said they chose this career—an increase of 8 points from 2014. This change is driven by an increase in freelancing among younger generations, as well as an increase in full-time freelancers, who now make up 28% of the freelance population.
SEE: IT jobs 2018: Hiring priorities, growth areas, and strategies to fill open roles (Tech Pro Research)
Freelancers prize the lifestyle that this type of work allows, the report found. More than half (51%) of freelancers said that no amount of money would make them take a traditional job.
These workers also place more value on skills training than traditional workers, the report found. Some 70% of full-time freelancers said they participated in skills training in the past six months, compared to 49% of full-time non-freelancers, the report found.
Freelancers remain optimistic about the future of their work, the report found: Nearly nine in 10 said they believe the freelance industry's best days are ahead.
"Freelancers play a critical role in our economy and in shaping the future of work," Stephane Kasriel, president and CEO of Upwork, said in a press release. "Despite an economic boom which has created a record number of full-time, 9-to-5 job openings, Americans are increasingly choosing to freelance. At the same time, technology is freeing people from the archaic time and place work constraints that are no longer necessary for today's mostly knowledge-based work. This year's results reveal that most workers prioritize lifestyle over earnings, but freelancers are much more likely to actually attain the life they want. Professionals with the most in-demand skills will therefore increasingly choose to freelance."
The big takeaways for tech leaders:
- 56.7 million Americans work freelance jobs today—an increase of 3.7 million since 2014. — Upwork and Freelancers Union, 2018
- Americans work 1 billion hours in freelance jobs each week on average. — Upwork and Freelancers Union, 2018
- The gig economy: An insider's guide (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
- Won't get fooled again: Gig economy second wave begins to break (ZDNet)
- How to become a developer: A cheat sheet (TechRepublic)
- Drivers lose out in gig economy (CNET)
- Here are the 20 most in-demand skills for freelance workers (TechRepublic)
Alison DeNisco Rayome has nothing to disclose. She does not hold investments in the technology companies she covers.
Alison DeNisco Rayome is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. She covers CXO, cybersecurity, and the convergence of tech and the workplace.