In fact, 50.9% of the U.S. population will be freelancing in 2027 if a current uptick in freelancing continues at its current pace, according to a 2017 study.
But, what makes some people gravitate towards freelance work while others shy away from freelancing?
To figure out why freelancing has grown so fast (apart from having a pandemic that accelerated the remote work trend) and shine a light on the under representation of people of color (POC) in the freelance economy, I sifted through studies, statistics and articles, pored over data, and interviewed experts.
I’m going to share what I learned. I’ll also show you a few resources to help you with your own work.
Let’s dive right in...
Where are all the freelancers who are not considered "white?"
With the freelance economy growing so much, it’s curious there aren’t more people of color freelancing.
This image depicts freelance workers and the general working population in the United States in 2019, broken down by racial background. In 2019, 62% of U.S. freelance workers identified themselves as white.
As you can see, only 16% of freelancers identified as Hispanic, 12% as African or African-American, and 5% as Asian or Asian-American.
Combine this with mainstream media tending to be dominated by individuals who are young, white, and male and you can see how some POC have trouble envisioning themselves freelancing.
There’s definitely a lack of representation.
And it mirrors the traditional employment market.
According to The Aspen Institute Future of Work Initiative, “the racial composition of the non-traditional workforce is similar to that of the overall workforce... Agency temps, on-call, and contract company employees are more likely to be African American or Hispanic, whereas freelancers, consultants, and independent contractors are more likely to be white.”
“According to a 2015 study from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Whites continued to be more likely than Blacks or Hispanics to operate their own businesses. In 2015, the unincorporated self-employment rate for Whites was 6.9% while the rates for Blacks and Hispanics were 3.6% and 6.4%, respectively. The rate for Asians was 5.6%. Incorporated self-employment rates were highest for Asians and Whites (4.0% for both groups).”
Bottom line is whites are more likely to freelance than people of color.
This naturally begs the question then: “Why, exactly, don’t more people of color freelance?”
Glad you asked.
We’ve seen the statistics showing POC are less likely to seek work outside of standard employment arrangements… even as the concept of the “safe and steady job” becomes outdated.
So, what are some of the reasons more POC don’t freelance?
Many people of color are hesitant to pursue careers that are perceived to have a lack of security.
Many people of color don’t know anyone who they can identify with that freelance successfully. This lack of representation means POC can’t easily identify mentors and opportunities to help them further their career.
Many people of color don’t have the support structure other freelancers take for granted. An aspiring freelancer in a single parent household -- or single income household for that matter -- can’t depend on the cushion of a partner with another source of income.
As Megan Williams of BlackFreelance notes, “Black people are sold a unique narrative around the salvation and benefits in having a “good job.” This narrative persists even as the benefits of these jobs continue to disintegrate. (See: Thoughts on Black Labor)
These are valid concerns. But there is another side to the conversation.
It may be easier than ever before for anyone with a skill, passion, and drive to start freelancing, regardless of age, sex, or race.
5 Reasons why all POC should consider freelancing
As the idea of reporting to a centralized, physical location to work faces an uncertain future, freelancing offers an attractive alternative. Here are five reasons why:
Freelancing increases your earning potential -- In the U.S., the average freelancer makes 45% more than your typical worker. And, when people who quit their full-time job to freelance were asked, 75% said they earn the same or more in pay than when they had a traditional employer. Other data shows 60% of freelancers who left a traditional job earn more freelancing, with 3 in 4 earning more within the first year.
Freelancing gives you more control over your time -- Because you make your own schedule, you can arrange your day to fit your personal preferences.
Freelancing gives you more employment opportunities -- As a freelancer, you’re not restricted to local labor markets. That means you can work with clients all over the world.
Freelancing gives you morecontrol over where you live -- If you don’t have to “go” to work, you have a degree of location independence. You can work from the coffee shop or the Caribbean. You can live where you want without worrying if it’s too far away from work.
Freelancing offers an inexpensive pathway to entrepreneurship -- Many freelance careers have a relatively low cost of entry. That makes freelancing the perfect way to start a business without investing in inventory, hiring employees, or renting a physical storefront. And, depending on how you structure your freelance business, you may be eligible to take advantage of more tax deductions than a traditional employee.
Useful resources for freelancers … and an option for those who don’t want to go it alone
Here are a few resources that make life easier for freelancers:
Upwork -- Upwork is the largest freelancer marketplace in the world with more than eighteen million registered freelancers and five million registered clients. Freelancers on Upwork earned more than $2 billion in 2019 alone.
Incluzion -- Incluzion connects a community of Black & Latinx professionals working remotely & flexibly with companies looking for diverse, remote freelance talent on a full-time and part-time basis.
Freelancers Union -- Freelancers Union is the largest and fastest-growing organization representing millions of independent workers across the United States. The organization offers members policy advocacy, benefits, and community.
BlackFreelance -- BlackFreelance is a community for Black freelancers that offers a blog, tips on finding freelance work, improving your skills, specializing as a freelancer, and training in various areas.
Black Girl Group -- Black Girl Group is a freelance staffing agency that connects African American women freelance creatives to companies looking to outsource work.
GiveJobs -- GiveJobs is a platform connecting freelancers in developing countries with companies seeking workers.
Hectic -- The Hectic app is a single place to start, manage, and grow your entire freelance business. Hectic helps freelancers become unstoppable.
More about Hectic
Hectic gives you the platform, tools, resources and community (to come) to freelance. It’s everything you need to get started freelancing. Your first client is always free and after that it’s just $11.99 a month, a price that is accessible to anyone.
Hectic offers everything you need to get started and run your freelance business like a pro. Tools like:
Proposals and contracts
an easy‑to‑use client relationship management system
Here’s what the future of work looks like for freelancers of color.
As you can see, freelancing offers you freedom, flexibility, and financial reward when pursuing your own vision.
Working as a freelancer is a viable option for people of color. Whether you use freelancing to complement your day job or you take the plunge and freelance full-time, you can tap into technology and communities that will help you succeed.