Freelancing or the gig economy is large — and it’s still growing with more people preferring remote work! Here are the freelancing statistics and trends as of 2021.
Throughout the years, the meaning of work has shifted and now means a lot of things to many people. To some, it could be a desk job or a job they do from 9 to 5. To others, it could mean doing things for many clients remotely or on flexible time. More and more businesses offer remote work as well simply because technology now allows it and workers start to demand it.
The freelancing industry is always expanding. Because the digital revolution supports the new work model, more people – especially the younger generation – jump into the world of freelance work or the so-called “gig economy.” Getting out from the confines of the corporate world, freelancers of all ages and nationalities pave their own way in the industry, proving that success is not limited to set hours or an office-based career.
According to the European Forum of Independent Professionals (EFIP), freelancers are the fastest growing sector in the EU labour market with about 11 million workers today. This population is widely distributed across multiple fields; all genders equally join the workforce for the same reasons.
Who are the freelancers?
According to the same survey by EFIP, about 30.9% of the freelancers in the UK are in the “marketing and communication” category — currently the largest group. Coming in second place is the “IT/tech” category with 26.5% of the total number of freelancers. Meanwhile, 18% are in the creative (arts, entertainment, and recreation) category. The remaining 26.4% of the freelancers work in other fields.
Freelancing is particularly becoming more popular among women who used to struggle with family-work balance in their previous employment. Freelancing are becoming more popular among mothers, in particular. At present, about 49.8% of the freelancers are female, 49.7% are males, and 0.5% identified as others.
Contrary to what many might believe, millennials actually do not take up the majority of freelancers! In the UK alone, 57% of the freelancers are beyond the age of 35. Millennials or freelancers between 25 and 24, on the other hand, only comprise 38% of the entire freelance population. However the rate of the younger generation joining the gig economy is steadily increasing with 50% of Gen-Z preferring freelancing over traditional careers.
One of the most appealing benefits of freelancing is its non-reliance to location. You can literally be anywhere in the world with internet connection and still offer your services to earn. Digital technology has allowed all this convenience and now, more and more people convert to freelancing. Despite the freedom to work remotely, however, trends suggest that in reality, many freelancers are more concentrated in specific areas over the others. This is because most freelancers like to be closer to their clients and networks. 67.8% of freelancers in Europe stay in large cities and 17.6% stay in mid-sized cities. Only the remaining population live in the countryside or small cities.
Here are the UK’s top 10 regional freelancer hotspots:
- The Midlands
- East Anglia
- North East England
- North West England
- South Central England
- South West England
- Northern Ireland
We’ve shared more about freelancers in the UK here. For the rest of the world, the number of freelancers are growing as well. From 18.5 million in 2014 to 28.5 million today, freelancers now comprise about 35% of the total global workforce!
Here are the countries with the most number of freelancers, based on data from 2019:
- United States – 78%
- United Kingdom – 59%
- Brazil – 48%
- Pakistan – 47%
- Ukraine – 36%
- Philippines – 35%
- India – 29%
- Bangladesh – 27%
- Russia – 20%
- Serbia – 19%
The EFIP further explains that “the choice to become a freelancer is generally justified by a strong desire for autonomy at work, flexibility in the organisation of one’s work, and the possibility to choose one’s missions.” The reasons mostly revolve around flexibility and the feeling of becoming one’s own boss.
What are the most in-demand freelance industries?
Is the thought of going freelance enticing you, if you’re not already part of the freelancing workforce yet? If you’re planning to pivot to freelancing or if you’re still trying to figure out which field to enter, check out some of the hottest freelancing industries in 2021:
Computer and IT
From hardware work to designing web pages, this industry will always be in demand. Especially with businesses going online, the computer and IT industry will always be in need of expert freelancers in the field.
Accounting and Finance
All businesses – small to big-sized – could use a bookkeeper or an accountant. From processing financial data to preparing tax returns, this sector will continue to be among the fastest growing industries not just in the UK but all over the world. In fact, the accounting sector is expected to grow by 6% in the next 10 years.
Virtual assistants are all over the freelancing industries and for a good reason too! In lieu of full-time secretaries and executive assistants, virtual assistants oversee all office operations and assist both the executives and the clients.
Freelance healthcare work can include providing medical care, therapy, or scheduling appointments. In the past 10 years, the freelance healthcare industry has grown to 191%.
This industry includes any type of digital art such as graphic design, illustration, video editing, etc. It is also one of the fastest-growing freelance industries with a growth rate of 103%.
Other freelancing industries that are high in demand are Digital Marketing, Real Estate, Writing, Customer Service, Legal Services, and Fitness.
While freelancing might have started out as supplementary side gigs to people with full-time jobs, freelancing has already become a long-term career choice to the rising number of freelancers. 75% of freelancers say that they wouldn’t even trade their current freelancing career with any other type of work and now we see why.
It may still seem like the Wild West to many, but the numbers definitely don’t lie. The changing times and the expanding digital world continues to create more opportunities for people who wish to have more control over their time and resources.