Tech freelancers' median hourly rate is 70% more than all US workers and many boast the current most-wanted tech-skills: ServiceNow, neo4j, relational databases and d3.js
Long gone are the days when freelancers were considered bohemian nonconformists and freelance work was primarily reserved for writers, artists and longshoremen.
Freelancing has unshackled those who want to work alternative hours in alternative locations. Tech makes freelancing easier, and tech workers are in the most in-demand group of freelancers, according to the report "Freelancing in America: 2019" which also revealed that freelance income totals almost an astonishing $1 trillion, or nearly 5% of the GDP, even more than major industries like construction.
Technology, and its associated devices, make freelance work possible for 57 million people. Today's freelancers are not mavericks looking for the open road—the study revealed that the largest group of freelancers (49%) are most likely to be skilled professionals, many who work in computer programming, IT and consulting. They're also among the highest-paid freelancers. Tech freelancers have a median hourly rate of $28, which puts them above 70% of all US workers (a median $18.80/hr.). Comparatively, freelancers in general make a median $20/hr.
SEE: The gig economy: An insider's guide (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
"Technological advances such as collaboration tools like Microsoft's Office 365, and Google Hangouts, as well as the ability to find work online [make] it possible for people to work from anywhere," said Adam Ozimek, chief economist at Upwork. He cites that the study "found that 77% agree that technology has made it easier to find freelance work."
Stephane Kasriel, Upwork CEO says tech comprises "approximately half of the $1.7 billion" of total work on Upwork, which includes the tech related 42% of U.S. workers in architecture/engineering freelance, 42% in computers/mathematics freelance, and 21% in production/manufacturing freelance.
The most commonly sited in-demand tech skills by those hiring include ServiceNow, neo4j, relational databases and d3.js.
"Freelancing is a huge force in tech for professionals," Kasriel said. "Many tech starts-ups [need] flexible benches of workers to help grow companies. Technology, in particular, tends to move fast," and "companies need easily accessible talent." Upwork's "skills index" ranks the 20 fastest growing skills each quarter, and the most recent includes 20 skills that appeared on the list for the very first time.
The report defines freelancers as "Individuals who have engaged in supplemental, temporary, project or contract-based work, within the past 12 months." More than 6,000 US workers over the age of 18 were surveyed, and they determined that freelancing is, more than ever, a respected, long-term career path. Nearly all (96%) said the freelance job-market changed in the past three years, and, critically, 71% say perceptions of freelancing as a career have become more positive. Generationally, Gen Z are the most likely to freelance.
"The technology industry in particular seems to be experiencing the benefit of this perception shift," Kasriel said, "as evidenced by the highest-paying skills for freelancers on Upwork.com, which shows that businesses are willing to pay independent professionals top dollar -- as high as $215 per hour."
"The tech makes [freelancing] more viable," said Maureen Harrington, a writer who estimates she's freelanced for approximately 40% of a heralded career and was once on staff at The Denver Post, as well as Time and People magazines. "Employers are getting used to the idea of using gig workers." The traditional journalism she's dedicated her career towards can no longer pay to compensate for the fact that "reporting is one of the most time-sucking jobs you can do." So Harrington is looking towards more "tech writing," after "taking a look at industries" that will continue "to thrive in the future."
Kasriel said freelancers are taking advantage of the benefits of having mobility, and making a "shift towards more rural areas. Many states are offering incentives to get people to move there, and this is contributing to the rise of remote work overall. The technology industry in particular lends itself to remote work as the nature of that type of work oftentimes doesn't require the worker to be onsite. And open source has also paved the way for many years for this way of working among the tech community."
For the first time in the study's six-year history, more freelancers consider it a long-term career choice, than they do as a temporary way to make money. Those who freelance full-time is at 28%, compared to 17% in 2014.
For more, check out the 10 best cities for freelance workers on TechRepublic.
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