Number of freelancers holds steady even as Covid-19 hit: Upwork survey


The number of US freelancers held steady since the start of Covid-19, according to a new study, “Freelance Forward: 2020,” released today by online staffing platform Upwork Inc. (NASDAQ: UPWK).

A survey for the report found 36% of the US workforce, or 59 million Americans, freelanced over the last 12 months. That compares to 35% of the workforce, or 57 million workers, in 2019.

It also found that 12% of US workers began freelancing since the start of the pandemic. As reasons for beginning to freelance, 54% of those workers cited necessity and 75% cited the need for financial stability.

Some freelancers stopped their independent work, according to the study. It found 28% of freelancers have paused their freelancing since the Covid-19 pandemic began. They were typically working in areas impacted by social distancing and were in work that was not done remotely. The survey also found that 34% of freelancers began working freelance after Covid-19 hit. New freelancers tended to operate more in the finance and business operations and in computers and math.

Earnings from freelancing was $1.2 trillion, according to the report. The median hourly rate for freelancers was $20; looking at just skilled freelancers, the median hourly rate was $25.

Another finding: Half of Gen Z adults, those ages 18 to 22, have freelanced in the past year. Of those, more than a third started after the onset of Covid-19.

Upwork’s survey included 6,001 workers in the US over the age of 18. Of those, 2,132 were freelancers and 3,896 were not. The survey took place online between June 15 and July 7. Survey results were weighted to ensure demographic representation in line with the US Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2019 Current Population Survey and American Community Survey.