U.S. Freelancers Earned An Estimated $1 Trillion in 2016

A new survey by Upwork, in partnership with Freelancers Union, has looked into the state of freelancing in America. The upshot is that freelancers are on the rise. They went from 53 million in 2014 to 55 million in 2016, making them a full 35 percent of the U.S. workforce and responsible for $1 trillion in the 2016 U.S. economy.

As Louis Hyman, Associate Professor and Director of the Institute for Workplace Studies at Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations, said in a press release about the survey:

“The freelance workforce is the fastest-growing component of the economy. Figuring out where it is going is the most pressing question of our digital age. Working together, Upwork and Freelancers Union are asking the questions that matter, and, through their unique position, finding the answers that we all want to know.”

It’s By Choice

Another interesting reveal from the online survey, which covered over 6,000 U.S. working adults older than the age of 18 between July 2016 and August 2016: Freelancers are increasingly choosing their vocation, rather than picking it as a last resort.

Here are the facts:

“Asked whether they started freelancing more by choice or necessity, 63 percent of freelancers said by choice — up 10 points (from 53 percent) since 2014. The majority of freelancers said that today, having a diversified portfolio of clients is more secure than having one employer.”

It’s Driven by the Tech

Naturally, a freelance gig site like Upwork would want to highlight this finding. Online work and technology advancements are on the rise, too:

“73 percent of freelancers said that technology has made it easier to find freelance work — up 4 points (from 69%) since 2014. Additionally, 66 percent of freelancers said the amount of work they have obtained online has increased in the past year.”

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Written by:
Adam is a writer at Tech.co and has worked as a tech writer, blogger and copy editor for more than a decade. He was a Forbes Contributor on the publishing industry, for which he was named a Digital Book World 2018 award finalist. His work has appeared in publications including Popular Mechanics and IDG Connect, and his art history book on 1970s sci-fi, 'Worlds Beyond Time,' is out from Abrams Books in July 2023. In the meantime, he's hunting down the latest news on VPNs, POS systems, and the future of tech.
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