Just how big is the freelancing market? You may be surprised

Just how big is the freelancer market? Bigger than the economies of Switzerland or Saudi Arabia.

That’s according to a new report from Upwork and Freelancers Union, which finds freelancing income exceeds the gross domestic product of some major countries, at nearly $1 trillion–an amount that’s almost 5% of the United States’ GDP.

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The sixth annual study, which surveyed more than 6,000 U.S. workers over the age of 18, also estimates that 57 million Americans freelance.

And in case you were wondering which workforce generation freelances more than any other? It’s Gen Z, of course.

“Freelancing is a respected, long-term career path,” said Stephane Kasriel, president and CEO of Upwork. “The future of work is now, and freelancers are leading the way.”
Other notable findings from the report include:

  • Freelancing is becoming more of a long-term career choice For the first time, as many freelancers said they view this way of working as a long-term career choice as they do a temporary way to make money. In addition, the share of those who freelance full time increased from 17% in 2014 to 28% this year.
  • Freelancers are most likely to be skilled professionals – Skilled services are the most common type of freelance work, with 45% of freelancers providing skills such as programming, marketing, IT and business consulting.
  • Freelancing enables opportunities for those who otherwise might not be able to work 46% of freelancers agree freelancing gives them the flexibility they need because they’re unable to work for a traditional employer due to personal circumstances.
  • The younger the worker, the more likely they are to freelance Every generation had more than 1 in 4 workers who freelanced in the past year. The ascent of freelancing is clear in generational results: 29% of Baby Boomer workers (ages 55+) freelanced, 31% of Gen X workers freelanced (ages 39-54), 40% of Millennial workers (ages 23-38) freelanced and 53% of Gen Z workers (ages 18-22) freelanced–the highest independent workforce participation of any age bracket since FIA’s 2014 launch.

“With a strengthening labor market, we will increasingly see people work on the terms that they prefer, and for many that means freelancing,” said Adam Ozimek, Upwork’s  chief economist. “The stronger economy provides more optionality and opportunity, and as a result, more people are seeing freelancing as a long-term choice, and fewer are doing it on a temporary basis. Freelancing already has an economically significant impact on the U.S. economy, and these compositional shifts will be important to understand as we near full employment.”

Michael O'Brien
Michael J. O'Brienhttp://
Michael J. O’Brien is former web editor with Human Resource Executive®.