November 01, 2017

Insights from “Freelancing in America: 2017”

A study was recently released by Upwork and Freelancers Union that surveyed 6,000 American workers in order to analyze the size of the freelancer economy. This is the fourth year that this study has been conducted. The report revealed some interesting insight that we will discuss in this article.


The study estimates that 57.3 million Americans are currently freelancing; this makes up 36% of the U.S. workforce. These freelancers contribute approximately $1.4 trillion to the economy annually, an increase of almost 30% from last year.


Freelance Growth

Source: Upwork & Freelance Union

Other noteworthy findings include:

  • Freelancers are preparing for the future: 54% of the American workforce says that they are not confident that the work they do will exist in 20 years, and are thus looking into reskilling. Among those surveyed, 55% of the freelancers have participated in skill-related education in the last 6 months. Meanwhile only 30% of non-freelancers have done the same.


  • A new definition of stability: Freelancers are increasingly believing that having a diversified portfolio of clients is more secure than a single employer. Most freelancers have an average of 4.5 clients per month.


  • Majority of workforce by 2027: Based on the growth rates of this year, it is expected that freelancers will make up the majority of the U.S. workforce by 2027. The freelance workforce has grown at a rate three times faster than the overall U.S. workforce since 2014.


  • Online work: Freelancers are finding more work online, with 71% saying that the amount of work they obtained online increased in 2017.


  • Impact of AI & Automation: 49% of full-time freelancers indicate that their work has already been impacted by AI and robotics, compared to only 18% of full-time non-freelancers.


  • Terminology preferences: Freelancers overwhelmingly (49%) chose the term “freelance economy” as their preferred term for this means of finding work. “On-demand economy” was second at 25%, followed by “sharing economy” at 13%, and “gig economy” at 10%.


Projected Future Freelancer Size (in millions)

Source: Upwork & Freelancer Union