How many freelancers are there in the U.S. workforce?

Note that I said  “freelancers”, not “freeloaders” ….

So, how many?


Place to start is with a definition ….

According to a trade group called the Freelancers Union, there are 5  basic types of freelancers:

  1. Independent Contractors: These are the “traditional” freelancers who don’t have an employer and instead do freelance, temporary, or supplemental work on a project-to-project basis.
  2. Moonlighters: Professionals with a primary, traditional job who also moonlight doing freelance work. For example, a corporate employed web developer who also does projects for non-profits in the evening.
  3. Diversified workers People with multiple sources of income from a mix of traditional employers and freelance work. For example, someone who works the front desk at a dentist’s office 20 hours a week and fills out the rest of his income driving for Uber and doing freelance writing.
  4. emporary Workers:  Individuals with a single employer, client, job, or contract project where their employment status is temporary. For example, a business strategy consultant working for one startup client on a contract basis for a months-long project.
  5. Freelance Business Owners: Business owners with  between one and five employees who consider themselves both a freelancer and a business owner. For example, a social marketing guru who hires a team of other social marketers to build a small agency, but still  identifies as a freelancer.

OK, so what’s the answer?  How many?


According to a study done by Edleman (a full-service PR agency) …

There are 53 million Americans working as freelancers.

  • Independent Contractors: 21.1 million (40%)
  • Moonlighters: 14.3 (27%)
  • Diversified workers: 9.3 million (18%)
  • Temporary Workers: 5.5 million (10%)
  • Freelance Business Owners: 2.8 million (5%)

In total, that’s about 1/3 of the workforce … and the number is growing.

These freelancers bill out about $715 billion in fees for services.

That’s an average annual billing of about $13,500.


Also, according to Edleman, the drivers of the change are obvious …

From the demand side, companies are gearing towards smaller permanent workforces that are supplemented by specific-talent part-timers who are hired when needed … without burdensome benefits packages.

From the demand side, freelancers are looking for more flexible work schedules and venues … and less command-and-control supervision.

On the downside — muting the trend — freelancers have to scramble for work work and roll their own benefits packages.

Still, the numbers are big and getting a bigger.

A trend to watch … a veritable uber-workforce.



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