There has been a seismic shift in the job market as more Americans turn to freelancing during the pandemic. Over the last 12 months, their ranks have swelled to 59 million across a wide swath of industries. They now account for 39% of the U.S. workforce, according to UpWork, a global freelancing platform.
The trend is due to a confluence of factors. These include the transition to remote work throughout the U.S. economy, more younger workers look for flexible alternatives to traditional employment, a burst of demand from companies looking for freelance help and a recognition a person can freelance and often earn the same or more than when they had a full-time job.
Of those who quit their full-time job over the past 12 months in order to freelance, 75% say they earn the same or more in pay than when they had a traditional employer, UpWork’s seventh annual study entitled Freelance Forward revealed. The study surveyed more than 6,000 adults over the age of 18. It was conducted June 15 to July 7.
In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, experts say that 2020 holds plenty of opportunity for those freelance workers with professional skills. Today, 50% of freelancers provide skilled services such as computer programming, marketing, IT, and business consulting, up from 45% in 2019. But there are opportunities in many sectors.
“It’s no surprise that freelancing is on the rise, especially now that we have fully disentangled ‘where’ we work from ‘what’ we work on,” said Hayden Brown, president and CEO of Upwork. “Companies are finding that these professionals can quickly inject new skills and capabilities into an organization and strategically flex capacity up and down along with changes in demand and workloads. We expect this trend to continue as companies increasingly rely on freelancers as essential contributors to their own operations.”
Freelancing is also a great way for people to hone their job skills in this era of uncertainty, Brown says. UpWork’s survey found that 59% of freelancers have participated in skills training in the last six months vs. 36% of non-freelancers.
A list of the high-paying freelance jobs, created for CNBC.com by UpWork, shows dozens of job categories in which freelancers can earn $80,000 per year — or more.