As the coronavirus pandemic caused widespread unemployment and layoffs this year, more people turned to full-time freelance work as a way to earn, according to a new survey.
Freelance is the term used to describe the variety of ways people can work outside of traditional employment. These include side jobs people do in addition to their regular jobs (moonlighting), independent contractor roles, temporary jobs and even some small businesses. Even before unemployment soared this year, interest in freelance work was growing because of the flexible hours and work-from-home opportunities it provides. AARP Foundation recently launched a Freelancing Resource Center that offers older adults information on how to get started working independently.
Each year, Upwork — a job website that specializes in flexible employment — conducts a nationwide survey to gauge how people who take freelance roles feel about their livelihoods. This year's survey, conducted by independent research firm Edelman Intelligence, took place between June 15 and July 7, when the unemployment rate for all workers was roughly 10 percent and more than 30 million people were receiving unemployment insurance benefits. Upwork's survey gathered insights from 6,001 working adults — 2,132 freelancers and 3,869 nonfreelancers.
Side hustles are becoming full-time jobs
Their research offers revealing insights about how people are navigating the employment crisis the pandemic has caused. While the overall size of the freelance workforce (36 percent of all workers) remained roughly the same as it has been in recent years, the proportion of respondents who said they are freelancing full-time has grown when compared with last year's survey. Among workers who do freelance jobs, 36 percent said they were doing that position full-time in 2020. Only 28 percent reported freelancing full-time in 2019.
At the same time, the number of people who said they work full-time but earn extra income from freelance gigs dropped from 25 percent in 2019 to just 14 percent in 2020. The suggestion is that people may have switched to full-time freelancing after they were laid off or were furloughed from regular jobs. Many people essentially are turning their side hustles into their full-time jobs this year.