Freelancers in the US earned $234 billion in 2020

Many American workers turned to remote and contract work during the pandemic, and are feeling optimistic about the future of freelancing.

Freelancing. Working from home

Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

As COVID-19 has meant layoffs for many Americans -- as of March, we're still at a 6% unemployment rate, according to a recent US Bureau of Labor Statistics report -- many of these workers turned to a new employment option: Freelancing. Especially because of the transition from the office to the digital environment required during the pandemic, online work has become a welcome option for many. In March 2021, 21% of all employed people worked from home. And the numbers reveal the effects of this clearly: A new report shows that in 2020, freelancers in the U.S. earned $234 billion, 1.1% of the total GDP.

The Freelance Economic Impact Report, released on Wednesday by Fiverr, culled revenue data from the Census Bureau and looked at 20 million tax returns to illustrate how 6 million skilled freelance workers have adapted to the post-pandemic world. These workers occupy fields in creative, technical and other professional positions.

Here are some of the primary findings:

SEE: Return to work: What the new normal will look like post-pandemic (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

  1. Freelancing isn't going anywhere. Freelancing existed before COVID-19, of course, but there's no denying that the global pandemic ushered in a new age of digital work. A majority of those surveyed, (63%), see the pandemic as having either no impact or a positive impact on their ability to work. And 75% are optimistic about the future of their work.
  2. Freelance income has been stable. Despite the volatility of freelance life, 59% of freelancers reported the same or more income last year versus pre-pandemic. And a whopping 80% of freelancers predict that they will make even more in 2021.
  3. Sunny climates attract more freelancers than ever. Perhaps because of their ability to work anywhere, more freelancers are occupying warm-weather markets. Miami is the third most popular freelancer destination, and Phoenix, Las Vegas and Portland have risen above Seattle, Baltimore and Riverside, respectively. The other top cities (in order of fastest-growing by population for freelancers) include Orlando, Florida; Nashville, Tennessee; Austin, Texas; Tampa, Florida; Las Vegas, Nevada; Charlotte, North Carolina; Dallas, Texas; Portland, Oregon; Houston, Texas; Denver, Colorado; Atlanta, Georgia; Los Angeles, California; San Diego, California; New York, New York; Sacramento, California; Washington, D.C; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; St. Louis, Missouri; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Boston, Massachusetts; San Francisco, California; Detroit, Michigan; Chicago, Illinois; San Jose, California; Minneapolis, Minnesota.

"2020 has been a challenging year but also one that propelled the digital workforce to heights we never could have imagined. For skilled freelancers, the pandemic exacerbated the difference between those that, up until now, had chosen to work offline, and those that had opened their eyes to online opportunities," said Micha Kaufman, CEO at Fiverr, in the press release. "The numbers don't lie and it's now abundantly clear to all that this form of work is a viable career choice for millions of people nationwide. Independent work is no longer a segment of the workforce that can be ignored." 

Editor's note: This article has been updated to correct the name Fiverr.

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