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Three common misconceptions about freelancing

Three common misconceptions about freelancing

Insights from freelance knowledge worker respondents to the “Freelancing in America” survey help understand why 54% say “there is no amount of money where they would definitely take a traditional job

New data from Upwork, the largest freelancing website, suggests that most people don't understand the freelance lifestyle.

According to Freelancing in America: 2018, the most comprehensive study of the U.S. independent workforce, conducted by independent research firm Edelman Intelligence and commissioned in partnership by Upwork and Freelancers Union. Findings address common misconceptions about freelancing in areas including pay, quality of life and work opportunities. More than three in four (76 percent) freelancers say that they are happier working independently than they were working for an employer.

“There is incredible diversity within the freelance economy,” said Adam Ozimek, Chief Economist of Upwork. “What many don’t understand is that the skilled work performed by independent knowledge workers is in important ways more similar to full-time professional jobs rather than the one-off, relatively low-skilled gigs many associate with the freelance economy. We find that clients are rarely seeking the lowest cost option, and instead have a clear preference for quality, which in turn requires skills and experience.”

Here are three common misconceptions about freelancing that the new data addresses:

There aren’t meaningful career opportunities for freelancers and it’s only a matter of time before the fad ends.

A prominent misconception that persists is that independent workers will have to go back to traditional work with an employer because freelancing does not provide meaningful career opportunities. However, new data shows that the majority of freelance knowledge workers say they are satisfied with the amount of work they’re bringing in and are optimistic about the future of independent work.

  • 72% have the amount (or more) of work that they want
  • 92% expect work opportunities for freelancers to increase in the future
  • 90% believe the best days are ahead for freelancing

“I receive multiple job requests every day, many of which are from well-known brands,” said Pep Dekker, a Top Rated Google Ads expert on Upwork. “The majority of those are from businesses looking to hire for long-term, strategic work that’s critical to their business. The volume and caliber of job invitations leads me and many others I know to believe that freelancing is here to stay.”

Freelancers don’t earn enough money to make a living.

Another common misconception about freelancing is that these professionals may not earn enough to make a living or support their lifestyle, especially for the long term. According to the new data, however, the vast majority of freelance knowledge workers say they are getting paid fairly for the work that they do:

  • Two-thirds (66%) say they earn more as a freelancer than they did at their job with a traditional employer.
    • Of those, 81% say it took them less than a year to earn this level of income.
  • 82% say that in the past year, they’ve earned more compared with others who do similar work and have similar experiences.

“As a freelancer, I have more personal and financial freedom than I ever did working at a traditional job,” said Anthony Agreste, a Top Rated graphic designer on Upwork. “In my first year on Upwork, I was able to quickly reach the six-figure mark and triple my salary because I’m in complete control of my rates. This has enabled me to do things I didn’t think I’d be able to, like paying off our home loan early and maximizing our 401(k).”

The stress and uncertainty that comes with independent work takes a toll on freelancers’ happiness.

While many question what it’s like to be a freelancer, the majority of freelance knowledge workers say that being in control of their own destiny and schedule improves their overall quality of life.

  • 62% of freelancers started freelancing by choice (vs. necessity)
  • 76% say that they feel happier freelancing than they felt in a traditional job
  • 78% say their freelance work allows them to live the lifestyle they want
  • 54% say there is no amount of money where they would definitely take a traditional job

“As a military wife, I’ve moved seven times in nine years but thankfully freelancing has brought stability and consistency to my life,” said Laura Pennington Briggs, a Top Rated SEO writer on Upwork. “I used to have to start over every time my family and I moved but today, my clients are with me wherever I go. I’m happier than I have ever been before and wouldn't trade this lifestyle for anything.”