20 Surprising Stats About the Gig Economy

20 Surprising Stats About the Gig/Freedom/Freelance Economy

More than a fourth of the U.S. is now officially part of the freelance gig economy, a recent report indicates. In the future, more and more people of all ages and ethnicity will declare their independence from the 9-to-5 daily corporate grind for the freedom, autonomy and self-determination that the freelance, gig economy lifestyle brings.

So says a new report from Spera, a provider of tools and resources for freelancers and entrepreneurs. It contains the following rather surprising statistics about what it refers to as the “freedom economy.”

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You might find these to be of particular interest if you’re considering throwing off the corporate cloak to take on the freelance mantle.

Gig/Freedom/Freelance Economy Statistics

U.S. Statistics

One in three Americans is a freelancer, making the sector a critical part of the labor market.

  • Nearly 54 million Americans participated in some form of independent work in 2015. That’s more than 33 percent of the entire U.S. workforce and is an increase of 700,000 workers over the previous year.
  • Some researchers project that half of the working U.S. population will move into the gig economy within the next five years.
  • About 1 in 12 U.S. households — more than 10 million people — rely on independent work for more than half of
    their income.

Global Statistics

The U.S. isn’t the only place where the gig economy is thriving; the same phenomena is occurring across the globe.

  • Half of the United Kingdom’s working population will be self-employed in the next five years, estimates say.
  • The European Union saw a 45 percent increase in the number of independent workers from 2012 to 2013.
  • Independent workers comprise the fastest growing group in the European Union labor market.
  • India’s independent workforce, the second largest in the world at 15 million, fills about 40 percent of the world’s freelance jobs.

Economic Impact of Independent Workforce

Not only is the size of the independent workforce growing, but so is its contribution to the economy.

According to the report, in 2014, online freelance marketplaces like Upwork, OneSpace and Freelancer helped independent workers generate more than 1.1 trillion dollars in total revenue in the United States alone.

Millennials in the Gig Economy

Although the gig economy spans all age groups, Millennials make up the largest portion.

  • More than one-third of Millennials are independent workers.
  • In 2015, Millennials became the largest demographic age group in the workforce.
  • 32 percent of Millennials believe they will be working “mainly flexible hours” in the future.

Technology as the Driving Force

Technology has made it easier than ever before to enter the gig economy.

Mobile devices have untethered workers from their desks; social media now connects people across borders, and online freelance marketplaces make finding work easier.

  • 87 percent of Millennials say their smartphone never leaves their side, night or day.
  • Nearly half (45 percent) use personal smartphones for work (vs. 18 percent for older generations).
  • Some 41 percent are likely to download applications to use for work purposes in the next 12 months and use their own money to pay for them.
  • 80 percent use social media as a means of finding work.

Challenges Freelancers Face

As appealing as the “freedom economy” sounds, significant challenges have to be faced that include marketing, cash flow, business management and healthcare costs.

  • 63 percent of those interviewed in the report say marketing is the most important expense to grow their business.
  • 57 percent report experiencing cash flow issues at times during the year.
  • 64 percent use some form of project management software.
  • 70 percent use software to track finances.
  • 40 percent prefer to get paid via direct deposit versus other forms (e.g., check, PayPal).


Millions of people around the globe are opting for greater independence in their work lives. As a result, they are joining the growing movement that is the gig economy. Advances in technology have made it easier to accomplish than ever before.

Though it is not without challenges, more and more people are finding that the rewards of the gig economy outweigh the risks and that the lifestyle it offers provides the kinds of freedom and independence they could never experience in the corporate world.

Download the Spera report, to learn more.

Freelancer Photo via Shutterstock

Paul Chaney Paul Chaney is a Staff Writer for Small Business Trends. He covers industry news, including interviews with executives and industry leaders about the products, services and trends affecting small businesses, drawing on his 20 years of marketing knowledge. Formerly, he was editor of Web Marketing Today and a contributing editor for Practical Ecommerce.

7 Reactions
  1. Freelancing is great to supplement a steady income, but the inconsistency of jobs can be detrimental to the high percentage that are relying on freelancing for over 50% of their income. Hopefully they’re diversifying so that they don’t have all their eggs in one basket.

  2. Independent work is now becoming more common. Back then, there were only a few of us who are engaged in this work. But today, it seems that almost anyone can do it so long a they have Internet access.

  3. Many articles on this subject paint the “grass in greener” picture i.e. the advantages to the freelance career alternative. I would like to see the other side of the fence — what are employees running away from? Why are they seeking freedom, autonomy, and flexible schedules? I highly suspect that the finger should be pointed directly at employers and corporate America. There is good reason as to why people don’t want to show up 9-5 as a W2 employee — bad employers. Let’s face it, there are thousands of poor employer’s out there that treat their employees poorly, pay poor wages, and offer poor job satisfaction. The lack of quality leaders/management is astonishing to say the least — businesses that treat employees like a number, expect total “control” over the individual, and expect work to come first in their life before God, family, and friends. Employer’s living in a 1950 to 1990’s management style need to become woke. The old “this is how we do things” approach isn’t going to fly anymore, and thankfully, employees are taking a stand and simply saying, “No thanks, that is a bad deal, I’ll go do this instead and be much happier, even if that means more risk for me. I’d rather have more risk, work harder, and have less security, but at least be in control of my destiny, than work for you.” That is a profound mentality. Employers the figure is pointed at you, even if the articles like this don’t say it directly. It’s on you — evolve or die.

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