A quiet quitting phenomenon mixed with an enduring pandemic and the Great Resignation created the perfect storm of career disenchantment, economic uncertainty and free time in 2022. As a result, a growing percentage of the U.S. workforce sought out freelancing opportunities as a way to earn money, advance their career and take charge of their professional lives.
Upwork’s 2022 Freelance Forward study found that 39% of the U.S. workforce, or 60 million Americans, worked in a freelancing role during 2022, an all-time high. Of all generations, Gen Z and Millennials were the most active in this category, but perceptions around freelancing are changing, with 73% viewing it positively, which may give more members of older generations permission in the coming years to explore it as well.
Most freelancers (51%) worked in knowledge service professions, like computer programming and consulting, and this career path is increasingly becoming the route for the most educated. More than a quarter of U.S. freelancers have a postgraduate degree or higher, but the survey illustrated that freelancing is becoming “a more appealing career choice regardless of qualification level.” What’s the biggest draw for workers switching to freelancing? Additional income (83%), schedule flexibility (73%), taking control of their financial future (72%) and being their own boss (70%) topped the list for motivation. Satisfaction is also driving this shift. More than two-thirds of freelancers report feeling optimistic about their job opportunities, feel more stimulated and report being happier as a freelancer than they were at a traditional job. What’s more, all of this work-life balance is resulting in greater health and wellbeing for freelancers, 73% of whom report that they have more opportunity to address their personal, mental or physical health needs, and 64% report stronger personal relationships because they can better support their family.