Are Freelancers Jumping Ship?

What did those on the frontlines have to say about “Jumping Ship?” After all, they are in the field, on assignments, and in the pipeline as freelancers, contractors, temporary or permanent employees.

When the economy gets rocky, are freelancers “Jumping Ship” or leaving the freelance life? That’s something Creative Circle wanted to know. So it designed a survey with this title and theme and sent it to its Influencer Panel.

The Influencer Panel leverages the opinions of Creative Circle’s deep pool of candidates across the U.S. and Canada. This group took root late last summer to serve a sounding board on issues of interest to the Creative Circle community. By sharing their views, the participants are helping to shape the experiences for both valued candidates and client companies.

Diving into the Survey

What did those on the frontlines have to say about “Jumping Ship?” After all, they are in the field, on assignments, and in the pipeline as freelancers, contractors, temporary or permanent employees.

This post reveals the findings and more. Beyond the raw data, it addresses what can we learn from the aggregated views of the 239 survey participants?  And of utmost importance, how can we best put the results to use?

Here’s a snapshot of the respondents:

  • More than 60% of the participants derive their main source of income from freelancing
  • About 80% are between the ages of 27-58, divided fairly evenly into: 27-42 (41%) and 43-58 (39%)
  • Some one-third (33.5%) has freelanced for more than 10 years; slightly less (30%) has been earning income as freelancers for 4-10 years; and (28%) for 1-3 year years
  • More than half (52%) describe their freelance work schedule as “inconsistent” and “fluctuating;” the balance is equally divided (24% each) between “consistently 40+ hours a week” or “consistently less than 40 hours a week”
  • Of the myriad reasons they choose to freelance, the top three are: the ability to work remotely, flexible schedule, and variety of work; next in line was: control over the type of work, followed by control over who I work with; significant votes also went to better pay and fulfilling work
  • The overwhelming majority consider the current economic climate challenging; almost three-quarters (72%) deem it “uncertain;” the remainder falls into two fairly equal segments: 15% disagree with this premise, 13% don’t know.

In all, these sample participants have a history of working as freelancers and know the ins and outs of the freelance life.

So What’s the Verdict? Leave Freelancing or Stay Put?

Employers have been showing freelancers the money

Freelancers report that their rate of pay has increased. Make that increased significantly. Creative Circle confirms this trend. The firm acknowledges that the average pay rate for freelancers has bumped up 15% over the past 12 months.

Those who may leave seek more stability and then some

The reasons for disembarking the freelance ship center mainly on stability and consistency. Most respondents cite the quest for “a more stable paycheck” as their number one motivation. There are other factors too, such as wanting to have “a more consistent schedule.” Some also link leaving the freelance life with the desire “to collaborate and connect with co-workers.”

What’s ahead for those who depart freelancing

Those who decide to bolt from the freelance are not abandoning the workaday world. About three-quarters (74%) plan to seek a full-time job as a W-2 employee. Another 15% will set out to find a part-time job as a W-2 employee and about 4% will look for a job in another industry.

What freelancers want most

The top three things freelancers look for in typical assignments are: the ability to work remotely (69%), followed by great pay (62%) and flexibility (42%). Coming in next are: long-term assignments (31%), work that is fulfilling (23%), tasks they are excited about (20%), variety of work (12%) and benefits (8%).

Freelancers are holding steady in their area of expertise

Despite choppy seas, freelancers are not jumping ship. They’re in it and sticking to it. That’s the consensus of at least 72% of respondents, who will hold the freelancing reins tight in this economy. Of those in this category, 53% are “very likely” to continue freelancing for the next 12 months. Add to that 19%, who are “likely” to remain. Only 13% are thinking about bailing: 5% are “very unlikely” and 8% are “somewhat unlikely” to continue as is.

Temperature Check on the Ground and in the Cloud

Has business been in slo-mo?

Over the past 12 months, almost half (47%) of the freelancers felt business has been slower. Another one-third (34%) considered it business as usual and almost 20% thought it was busier.

That said, has the amount of freelance hours work fluctuated?

Interestingly, the largest segment of responses—almost one-third (32%)—reported that their freelance hours stayed the same over the past year. Beyond that, survey participants were equally divided (15%) in each major category, from hours increased by 11-50%, decreased by 11-50%, and decreased by more than 50%.

What comes in goes out?

As for expenses over the same period, have they increased, decreased, or remained the same for freelancers? It’s no surprise that increases dominate the picture. One-third (33%) reported increases of 11-50%, 27% experienced increases of 1-10% and 11% said that their expenses increased more than 50%. Another significant chunk of responses fell into the category of staying the same–almost 22%. Decreases were negligible.

How do cloud labor sites rate for getting freelance work?

More than two-thirds (69%) have not used sites such as Fiverr or Upwork to secure freelance gigs, although more than half of this non-use group (37%) is considering trying this out. Of the almost one-third who have gone this route: the largest proportion (19%) did not get any paid work whereas only 12% successfully secured paid work.

What was the cloud experience?

Of those who used cloud labor sites for freelance work, more than half (54%) rated the experience as “negative,” 28% were neutral and the remaining 17% were “positive” or “very positive.”

Would they reach for the cloud again?

The largest category of responses (44%) was “maybe.” Almost one-third (32%) indicated “no” and the balance (24%) would do it again.

Putting Insights from the Survey into Practice

Aside from understanding the trend line of responses from the survey and details surrounding it, are there things both ends of the freelance equation can do to their advantage? Yes.

Employers: The Time Is Now to Engage Freelancers

  • Bring freelancers into your organization to make up for lost headcount. Available and eager to work, freelancers can replace the staff shortfall from cuts in the payroll during a harsh economic environment
  • Likewise, add freelancers to supplement staff to help meet and expand business needs
  • Use freelancers for strategic work not only for tactical tasks; they seek assignments that they find stimulating and rewarding
  • Regarding rewards, offer market-based pay rates or better to attract and retain the best freelancers
  • Accommodate freelancers’ preferences for remote work and flexible schedules
  • Be aware: engaging freelancers is only the front end; once the decisions and selections are made, savvy employers should onboard these resources in ways that make them part of the team
  • For more information, see Freelancing Is Surging! How to Integrate Contract Workers into Your Marketing Strategy Now

Freelancers: It’s Your Time Too!

Difficult economic times do not necessarily spell reduced need in the marketplace for freelance talent; in fact, the opposite may be true: the word is out that freelancing is on the rise!

For those on the fence about leaving the freelance fold, keep with it if at all possible, especially in light of reported information about increased pay rates

Remember the advantages the freelance life potentially offers, from remote work arrangements to flexibility and variety of work

Stay current on your skills and get additional training to expand your capabilities and possibilities

Keep your resume, work samples, LinkedIn profile and website up to date, error-free and attractive; stay alert to trends in the market and position yourself accordingly to prosper

Network, network, network

If you’re having trouble identifying and landing gigs, reach out to and register with Creative Circle


About the author.
You name it, she covers it. That’s the can-do attitude Sherry M. Adler brings to the craft of writing. A polished marketing and communications professional, she has a passion for learning and the world at large. She uses it plus the power of words to inform and energize stakeholders of all kinds. And to show how all of this can make a difference, she calls her business WriteResults NY, LLC.