Findings from the 2011 Freelance Industry Report

Posted September 15th, 2011 by in

Source: 2011 Freelance Industry Report by Ed Gandia

The 2011 Freelance Industry Report was released this month and shows some interesting findings about the nature of the profession. As most of my readers know, I have written about freelance journalism in the past and the topic has remained of interest to me. While the data in this report reflects the US freelance market, there’s no reason why we can’t learn a thing or two from the information gathered regardless of our geographical location. In a nutshell, I have put together a summary of the major findings with a specific focus on freelancing across the journalism and editorial spaces:


> Who are freelancers and what do they do?
Interestingly, writers composed the biggest professional category of freelancers (18%), followed by copywriters (12%) and editors/copyeditors (6%). Of the survey respondents, 72% of freelancers were based in North America, 13% lived in Europe, 6% lived in Asia and 3% were from South America. Australia accounted for only 1.2% of respondents while 0.3% of respondents were from Oceania.

While the freelancing profession attracted a wide age range, from teens through to people in their 60s, the largest represented group in the survey was the 30-39 year old segment (28%), closely followed by those in their 40s (25%) and 50s (24%).

An overwhelming ninety per cent of freelancers work from home while almost 8% work either in a private office away from home or in a shared work environment.


> What are the biggest challenges facing freelancers today?
Twenty two per cent of participants said finding clients was their biggest challenge. Interestingly, obstacles such as getting paid on time (4%) and competing against lower-cost freelancers (3%), which are commonly cited as having reached alarming levels, were not among the top-ranking concerns for freelancers in 2011. Looking deeper into the data, copywriters (32%), cited that they were more likely to struggle finding clients than peers in other fields. Staying productive is also a big concern for writers (13%) and editors named “getting out of the feast-or-famine cycle” as a top challenge. European (26%) and African (25%) freelancers cited finding clients as a top challenge while maintaining work/life balance is a top issue for freelancers in Oceania (50%).


> How do freelancers find work and source clients?
Freelancers cited the most effective methods for sourcing and landing work was via word of mouth (23%), referrals, and tapping into their own personal and professional networks (17%). Online job boards (9%) such as Elance and oDesk ranked above networking (7%), social media (3%) and cold-calling (2%).

“When it comes to clients, the overwhelming majority of freelancers (75%) go after businesses. However, 16% work mainly for individual consumers, 6% work for non-profits, 2% pursue government work and 1% focus on associations.”


Source: 2011 Freelance Industry Report


> Fact: Freelancers are more satisfied with their lifestyle
Forty-eight per cent of freelancers have more free time now than they did as an employee and 59 per cent are happier now than they were before becoming self-employed. In fact, 54 per cent said that they wouldn’t even consider working as an employee again, regardless of what the job paid or what it entailed. But don’t be fooled, freelancers are hardworking professionals. One-third of them work more than 40 hours per week and another 26% work 31-40 hours per week.

Twenty-six per cent of respondents said they chose to freelance to have more freedom and flexibility, while 21% said it was mostly about following their passion. Almost 16% said they wanted to be their own boss. Interestingly, almost half of the respondents reported having more free time as a freelancer. Fifty-nine per cent of writers and fifty-seven per cent of copywriters reported getting the most free time after going solo.


> Freelancers earn healthy rates for their work.
Although the range varies widely, 45% of freelancers earn between $20-59 per hour. Furthermore, 26% earn $80 or more per hour and 17% earn $100 or more per hour. When it comes to pricing and billing for their services, 60% of freelancers quote and charge flat project fees. One-third bill by the hour, 5% work mostly on retainer and 1.7% employ more creative performance-based models. Hourly rates vary however, writers (18%) and editors/copyeditors (22%) cited earning between the $50-59 per-hour range while copywriters fell into the $100-150 per-hour range.


> Social media ranks as top tactic for freelancers
In the coming year, freelancers plan to engage in social media (46%), utilise their own personal/professional networks (46%) and encourage more business via word of mouth (43%). It’s interesting to see social media climb to the top of this list for future marketing plans – perhaps an indication of its value when it comes to self-promotion, exposure and using innovative ways to source clients?

To download a free copy of the 2011 Freelance Industry Report, visit: