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Upwork’s new Freelance Forward 2022 Report reveals that 60 million Americans performed freelance work in the past 12 months, representing 39% of the U.S. workforce, an all-time high.

The study also reveals that freelance professionals contributed $1.35 trillion to the U.S. economy in annual earnings, up $50 billion from 2021. The study also found that 51% of all American freelancers, or nearly 31 million professionals, provided knowledge services including computer programming, marketing, IT and business consulting in 2022.

At a time when U.S. companies continue to face a persistent talent shortage, Upwork’s new report reveals the extent to which American professionals are turning away from traditional, full-time 9-5 careers and are moving instead toward a more flexible, independent model that offers better pay and more autonomy.  

Infographic illustrating stats from the Freelance Forward 2022 report from Upwork.
Image source: Upwork.

“Freelancing continues to gain popularity among skilled professionals as more people evaluate their priorities and values around work,” said Margaret Lilani, VP of talent solutions at Upwork. “The in-office, single-employer model is not what all people want anymore. Instead, freelancing allows professionals to build meaningful careers with the work and clients that they choose, and many are taking advantage of this opportunity.”

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Additional key findings include:

  • Freelancers contributed $1.35 trillion to the U.S. economy in annual earnings in 2022, up $50 billion from 2021.
  • The share of professionals freelancing increased to 60 million Americans, up three percentage points from 2021 to 39%.
  • Nearly three-quarters of freelancers (73%) say that perceptions of freelancing as a career are becoming more positive, up from 68% in 2021.
  • In 2022, 43% of all Gen-Z professionals and 46% of all millennial professionals performed freelance work.
  • Over half of freelancers provide knowledge services: 51% of all freelancers, or nearly 31 million professionals, provided knowledge services such as computer programming, marketing, IT and business consulting in 2022.
  • Diversified workers become more common: 17% of U.S. workers are now diversified, meaning they seek multiple sources of income from a mix of traditional employment and freelance work, up three percentage points from 2021.
  • Freelancing continues to grow among the most educated: 26% of all U.S. freelancers hold a postgraduate degree, up from 20% in 2021.

Upwork’s study was conducted by independent research firm Edelman Data and Intelligence. 3,000 U.S. working adults over the age of 18 were surveyed online between September 21, 2022 – October 7, 2022.

Read the full report from Upwork.

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