The Reality of Freelancing: How It’s Growing, and Why it Rocks

Carol Tice

How Freelance Writing Is Growing and Why It Rocks. Makealivingwriting.comAre you nervous about going it alone as a solopreneur and freelance writer? Well, today I’ve got a big shot of hope for you.

With the second annual International Freelancers Day coming on Friday, the event organizers have released an interesting study on the state of freelancing. You might be expecting gloom and doom as the economy continues to snooze along, but this report shatters some myths.

Is it a race to the bottom on prices out there? Hardly. Reports of freelancer poverty turn out to be exaggerated.

The report gives great, concrete info on what’s working in marketing for freelancers today. By the way, the biggest chunk of the respondents in this study were freelance writers, too.

A quick summary of the big news:

  • Freelancers prefer the independent lifestyle. Forty-eight percent of freelancers have more free time now than they did as an employee. And, 54 percent said that they wouldn’t even consider working as an employee again, regardless of what the job paid or what it entailed.
  • Finding clients was the biggest challenge facing freelancers today (cited by 22 percent of participants). 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.
  • Freelancers earn healthy rates for their work. Although the range varies widely, 45 percent of freelancers earn between $20 – $59 per hour. Furthermore, 26 percent earn $80 or more per hour and 17 percent earn $100 or more per hour.
  • The economy’s impact has been exaggerated. The majority of freelancers (52%) either have not been impacted by the economy or have faced only a very minor impact. Only 19 percent said that they have been significantly affected.
  • Optimism is high. An overwhelming 78 percent said that they are optimistic about their business prospects over the next year.
  • Old-school marketing methods work best. Word of mouth (23%), referrals, and tapping their own personal and professional networks (17%) are freelancers’ most effective methods for finding and landing clients. Online job boards (9%) such as Elance and oDesk ranked above networking (7%), social media (3%) and cold-calling (2%).
  • Social media grows in importance. Social media (46%) and tapping their own personal/professional networks (46%) ranked as the top tactics freelancers are planning to do more of in the coming year.
  • “Accidental” freelancers fare well. Professionals who are freelancing as the result of a layoff or being downsized are more likely to earn less as a freelancer than peers who planned their way to self-employment. However, 80% of these “accidental” freelancers are much happier now than they were as employees. Seventy-four percent of them are also optimistic about their business prospects. And fully 30% of them are earning $80 or more per hour.

There’s more good news outside this study on the trend toward freelancing. If you’re getting into freelancing now, I think you’re smart.

Why? Companies have tried outsourcing in this downturn, and they love it. Many aren’t going back to paying the big marketing staffs they once had. Forecasts are that in the future, more freelance writing will be done by contractors, along with graphic design, software development and other tasks.

Those of us who learn how to run a freelance business now are positioned to benefit in the years to come. Others will catch on later — but by then, you’ll have a leg up.

Are you optimistic about your freelance earning potential for the coming year? Leave a comment and let us know.


  1. Lucy Smith

    I can certainly see how the transition is easier for people who’ve had a chance to prepare for taking the plunge. You’ve got time to build up a client base slowly, while still earning and squirrelling away money, and learn the ropes before you essentially just change jobs.

    It’s much harder when you get dropped in at the deep end – I never thought, or dreamed, of working for myself but when I finished my (unrelated) study and couldn’t find work, what are you to do? Two-and-a-half years later I’m finally getting somewhere, and I’m proud to say I never worked for $10-for-500-words slave rates, but it’s a really, really tough road with some very steep learning curves. It would have been nice to have some preparation for it.

    But that said, I don’t think I’d change anything now – I love not having to travel to work, I love not having to deal with office politics, and I love the fact that the only performance reviews I have to go through are those I give myself!

    • Carol Tice

      I’m sorry there wasn’t Freelance Writers Den back when you started…that’s my whole goal with it, is to shorten the ramp to where you’re making a good living from your writing.

    • Rose

      Thanks for the information on the report. It’s definitely more fuel for my fire. On another note-Carol’s BlastOff class is worth the time and money, for those who are looking for a speedy ramp up map. I got a really great gig following her guidance, and now, after I learned about the TRUE state of freelancers from this post, I’m planting my flag in freelance territory and claiming it.

    • Carol Tice

      Thanks for the positive feedback on the Blast-off, Rose! It’s been exciting to see all the success participants have had.

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