The number of Australians doing freelance activity increased to an estimated 4.1 million – up from 3.7 million in 2014 – according to the second annual “Freelancing in Australia” survey.
The study, conducted by independent research firm Edelman Berland and commissioned by freelance talent marketplace Upwork, is the only of its kind that quantifies the Australian independent workforce.
“Not only has the number of people freelancing in Australia grown by 370,000 since last year, but more people are starting to freelance by choice,” said Rich Pearson, SVP of International at Upwork. “As technology makes it easier for professionals to find freelance work, the independent workforce is able to make more than they would in traditional employment while also enjoying the more flexible lifestyle that freelancing affords.”
- Nearly 1 in 3 Australians are freelancing — The percent of the Australian workforce freelancing is measured at 32% (versus 30% in 2014). Based on the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ August estimate of the civilian labor force at 12.5 million, that equates to an estimated 4.1 million people who have done freelance work in the past year. This is 370,000 more freelancers than last year.
- Freelancers see freelancing and investment in digital infrastructure as keys to improving our economy — 77% of freelancers believe that increased opportunities for freelancers are a positive step for the economy, and 65% say investment in digital infrastructure will also help the economy grow.
- The majority (51%) of freelancers who left traditional employment now earn more — More than a third (37%) said they quit a job with an employer in order to freelance. Of those who earn more, 69% indicated they earned more freelancing within a year or less.
- Technology is making it easier to find freelance work (68% of freelancers agree compared to 59% in 2014) — The number of freelancers who have obtained a project online increased to 41%, up from 30% in 2014. Nearly 4 in 5 non-freelancers are open to doing additional work outside of their primary job to earn more money.
- Freelancing gives Australians extra confidence going into retirement — 72% of freelancers are confident that they will be able to maintain their current standard of living after retirement, compared to 60% of non-freelancers. The overwhelming majority (89%) of freelancers would consider freelancing after they retire to earn additional income.
The majority of freelancers are starting by choice — primarily driven by flexibility and freedom
57% of freelancers said they originally started freelancing by choice versus necessity — especially Millennials (60%) and Baby Boomers (65%). 63% of all freelancers agree that more people are choosing to work independently today compared to three years ago.
When asked why they freelance, people freelancing full-time cited flexibility and freedom with location and schedules. More than 60% agree that freelancing provides the opportunity to work from anywhere, and more than a third (43%) said they’ve been able to move to a different location because of the freedom freelancing gave them. The flexibility freelancing provides is especially important to Gen X (72%) and freelancers with children under 18 (66%).
Freelancers think we need more open discussion about freelancing
63% of freelancers think the Australian government should invest more resources in the country’s digital infrastructure. In addition, nearly two-thirds (62%) of freelancers say we need more open discussion about how to empower the freelance segment of our workforce. Half are more likely to vote for a candidate that supports their interests, and millennials in particular (57%) are more likely to vote for a candidate that supports their interests than non-millennials (44%).
Freelancers, especially Millennials, are optimistic about the outlook for freelancing
72% of freelancers believe the best days are ahead for freelancing — with Millennials, who are set to eclipse the working age population of Gen X within 15 years*, being even more favorable (75% of Millennials say the best days are yet to come). More than a third of all freelancers expect their income from freelancing to increase in the coming year, and nearly 3 in 4 (73%) would recommend freelancing to their friends and family.
Interest in freelancing is high among professionals, and many moonlighters are considering making the leap
Most non-freelancers are open to freelancing — 79% answered “yes” when asked if they would be willing to do additional work outside their primary job if it was available and enabled them to make more money. Meanwhile, 40% of moonlighters (professionals with a primary, traditional job who are also freelancing on the side) said that they have considered quitting their primary job to work completely independently. If those moonlighters were to quit, that would add 306 thousand independent contractors to the Australian workforce.
*ABS 3222.0 – Population Projections, Australia, 2012 (base) to 2101
Kirk Stanton, a graphic designer and front-end developer from Adelaide who has been freelancing for six years, previously worked at an agency but wanted more control over his time and work. “As a freelancer, I am in charge of my schedule and professional destiny, and being my own boss keeps me motivated. I look forward every day to meet new challenges, prioritize my projects and work with interesting professionals around the world.”
Chris Appleford of Melbourne has been freelancing for nearly two years as a content developer and online marketer. “The flexibility that freelancing provides is a huge benefit and not something I really had with traditional office jobs. I have peace of mind knowing that if I need or want to travel, take time to help family or friends or play with my son, I can do it because I set my schedule and work whenever I need to while earning a good income.”
About the “Freelancing in Australia: 2015” Study
To learn more about this study, see the results deck here, which includes additional insights into freelancing such as:
- The five freelancer segment definitions (independent contractors, freelance business owners, temporary workers, moonlighters and distributed workers)
For the study, 1,000 Australian working adults over the age of 18 were surveyed online between August 17, 2015 – August 23, 2015. Of those, 324 were freelancers and 676 were non-freelancers. Results are weighted to ensure demographic representation in line with the Australia Bureau of Statistics Labour Force Survey. The study has an overall margin of error of ±3.1% at the 95% level of confidence.
Upwork is the world’s largest freelance talent marketplace. As an increasingly connected and independent workforce goes online, knowledge work — like software, shopping and content before it — is shifting online as well. This shift is making it faster and easier for clients to connect and work with talent in near real-time and is freeing professionals everywhere from having to work at a set time and place.
Freelancers are earning more than $1 billion annually via Upwork. Upwork is headquartered in Mountain View, Calif., with offices in San Francisco and Oslo, Norway.