The state of the US freelance economy during the coronavirus pandemic

The state of the US freelance economy during the coronavirus pandemic
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The latest Upwork study “Freelance Forward” revealed the state of the US freelance economy during the coronavirus pandemic.

Findings showed that over one-third of the American workers freelance during the pandemic, injecting $1.2 trillion into the US economy. The figures indicate a 22% increase since 2019, and it was caused partly by younger but highly-skilled individuals looking for flexible alternatives to their usual work routines.

Upwork’s seventh annual study on the US freelance economy polled over 6,000 US workers over the age of 18. Results revealed that 59 million Americans had freelance work in the past year, accounting for 36% of the American workforce. This is an increase of two million freelancers since 2019. The survey was held from June 15 to July 7.

Data showed that 75% of those who left their full-time jobs say they earn the same or more in pay than when they were employed by a company.

Meanwhile, 58% of non-freelancers who have dove into remote work due to the Covid-19 pandemic are now thinking of freelancing in the future.


Half of the Gen Z workforce (age 18-22) has freelanced in the past year, and of those, over a third (36%) began when the pandemic hit the country.

The report found a surge in demand for people to support customer services as well as e-commerce development, and web and mobile design.

“It’s not surprising freelancing is on the rise in this era of uncertainty,” said Upwork president and CEO Hayden Brown.

Growth in remote work is another factor. “We expect this trend to continue as companies increasingly rely on freelancers as essential contributors to their own operations,” she said.

The most popular freelance jobs are in computers/mathematics and in finance/business operations according to Upwork’s data. It also showed that 26% of freelancers worked entirely remote and 46% worked remotely more than half the time during the pre-Covid-19 period.

“The changing dynamics to the workforce that has occurred during the crisis demonstrate the value that freelancing provides to both businesses and workers,” said Adam Ozimek, Upwork’s chief economist.

Freelance job market

The number of freelance jobs increased amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to Freelancer’s “Fast 50” report on the freelance job market.

Findings showed that the number of freelance jobs rose by more than 25% during the April to June quarter of 2020, compared to the first three months of the year.

The report identified patterns from the top 50 fastest growing and declining jobs on the site’s marketplace. It covers Europe, North America, and Asia.

Companies now reevaluate budgets and choose to run a more flexible workforce. However, Freelancer’s CEO Matt Barrie pointed out that it signifies a growing interest among employees to pursue independent work.

“While Covid-19 has been the trigger of the already upward trending freelancer movement, this exponential growth can also be attributed to the strong demand for individuals to finally start their own freelance enterprise, work on their own terms and supplement their income,” said Barrie.

Freelance job postings increased by 41% to 605,000 in the second quarter of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019, the report shows.