Freelance work via the gig economy has skyrocketed in recent years, offering new nontraditional work opportunities across industries in the US. The more than 57 million Americans who work freelance jobs contribute nearly $1.4 trillion to the economy every year, according to a study from Upwork and the Freelancers Union. And by 2020, Intuit projected that 43% of the US workforce will be represented by gig economy jobs,
While there are many opportunities available, it's crucial for freelancers to carefully decide where to start working these jobs, if possible, to get the biggest bang for their buck, according to a recent report from FitSmallBusiness.com.
Gig economies are strongest in metropolitan areas with greater demands for service industry needs, the report found—think ridesharing services like Uber or Lyft, short-term rentals like Airbnb, and freelance task services, like TaskRabbit. These areas are also popular for startups and tech companies that rely more on nontraditional employees, as well as those that run pilot programs of new service platforms, the report noted.
SEE: IT jobs 2018: Hiring priorities, growth areas, and strategies to fill open roles (Tech Pro Research)
The report analyzed publicly-available data from 20 cities to determine which are best for gig economy jobs. In ranking the cities, the report took into account current per capita gig revenue, the average cost of a one-bedroom apartment, and growth of the gig economy. As a tiebreaker, it also considered resources for nontraditional employees in each city, such as the availability of shared workspaces and high-speed internet.
1. San Francisco
Despite a high cost of living (a one-bedroom apartment typically costs $3,460/month), San Francisco offers high earning potential and accelerated growth of the gig economy, leading it to rank no. 1 on the list. The city had a per capita revenue of $9,272 for technical gig-based jobs, and experienced a 93% growth rate in its gig economy industries between 2012 and 2014 alone.
Specialized gig economy jobs brought in $4.7 billion in 2017, giving Atlanta a per capita revenue of $9,665. The city also ranked highly on cost of living, with an average $1,328/month for a one-bedroom apartment.
Atlanta tied with no. 3 Los Angeles for this spot, but the city's Google Fiber network and number of co-working spaces gave it the edge, the report noted.
3. Los Angeles
Between 2012 and 2014, LA experienced a 79% increase in its "rides and rooms" economy, with the ground transportation industry alone increasing 136% in that time. While a one bedroom apartment is costly at $1,949/month, the city's per capita revenue for specialized gig jobs was $4,575 in 2017.
Home to many top universities, Boston's per capita gig revenue was $7,882 in 2017, with gig economy growth at 59%. While rental costs are relatively high at $2,260/month for a one-bedroom apartment, the overall cost of living was sixth on the list.
5. Washington, DC
The nation's capital had the second-highest per capita gig revenue on the list, at $11,240 in 2017. With an average one-bedroom rental cost of $1,966/month, the overall cost of living makes it the third most affordable city on the list. While growth of the gig economy was lower than many other cities at 36%, DC has a number of services available to local freelancers.
Dallas offers the second-lowest rental costs on the list, at an average of $997/month for a one-bedroom apartment. This low rent combined with an annual per capita gig revenue of $4,698, and 40% growth in the industry between 2012 and 2014, help Dallas rank highly for overall cost of living and gig opportunities.
7. San Jose
San Jose ranked no. 2 for gig economy growth, with a 91% increase in gig economy jobs from 2012 to 2014. However, a high cost of living of $2,548/month for a one-bedroom apartment led it to drop in the rankings.
8. San Diego
San Diego had among the lowest per capita revenue for gig jobs of the cities on the list, as well as high rental costs of $1,547/month. However, the city ranked fourth for growth, with a 66% increase in gig jobs in the years studied, and offers high-speed internet and a number of highly-ranked coworking spaces.
Miami saw the highest per capita gig revenue on the list, at $16,402 in 2017. While the average rent of $2,000/month is high, the high earning potential and growth in the gig economy makes up for it, the report said.
Phoenix, AZ has the most affordable housing options of any city on the list, with an average monthly one-bedroom apartment rent of $770. Combined with 46% growth in gig jobs in the period studied, Phoenix is a strong contender as a city where a gig workers can live comfortably and make money..
The big takeaways for tech leaders:
- The cities where gig economy workers can make the most money and have the best quality of life are San Francisco, Atlanta, and Los Angeles. — FitSmallBusiness.com, 2018
- Gig economies are strongest in metropolitan areas with greater demands for service industry needs. — FitSmallBusiness.com, 2018
- The gig economy: An insider's guide (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
- Won't get fooled again: Gig economy second wave begins to break (ZDNet)
- Here are the 20 most in-demand skills for freelance workers (TechRepublic)
- Cheat sheet: How to become a data scientist (TechRepublic)
- Drivers lose out in gig economy (CNET)
- Report: Why women work in the gig economy (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.