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In recent years, more people have been working as freelancers. Technology has made building a consulting or freelance career easier than ever, and there are more opportunities for people from all places and backgrounds.
Upwork's 2022 Freelance Forward survey found that 39% of the US workforce, or 60 million Americans, performed freelance work in the past year.
Freelancing and consulting jobs have a better work-life balance and earn more money than similar "regular" jobs. Businesses can also benefit from cheaper costs, the ability to hire specialized talent quickly, and the convenience of finding immediate help on a project anytime.
But how much money a freelancer or consultant earns depends on many things. This article will show you the average hourly rates for freelancers and consultants in different fields, regions, and experience levels.
The worldwide average hourly rate charged by freelancers is $28, according to the 2022 Payoneer Global Freelancer Income Report.
However, the exact amount that freelancers charge varies depending on a series of factors
Freelancing and consulting hourly rates vary widely because many things affect how much that person charges. These include:
Reviews and proven deliverables
Freelancers and consultants can work from anywhere in the world, but where they live still impacts how much they make.
For instance, many English-speaking clients prefer to work with someone fluent in English. Freelancers based in English-speaking regions often charge more because of this preference.
Similarly, the cost of living in some countries is low compared to North America, meaning freelancers residing in those areas can afford to charge less.
According to a survey by YouTeam covering the wages of offshore developers, the average hourly rate of a software engineer in California is $57.07. In Eastern Europe and Latin America, you would pay less - anywhere between $30 to $47 per hour. The lowest hourly wages for the same level of expertise are in Asia ($24-$35) and Africa ($22-$30). However, the most expensive freelance software engineers are in Western Europe.
Here is a breakdown of the average salary in US dollars per hour, according to the Payoneer 2022 Freelance Report.
However, it’s not just the freelancer’s location that affects how much they earn. According to the freelancing platform Upwork, in many cases, the client’s location also significantly influences how much they will spend on projects.
A client in India, for example, won’t pay the same rate as someone living in the United States. This is especially important for freelancers working locally because their earning potential is much lower if they’re from a developing country. Here are the average wages per hour for developers on freelancing platforms, according to this YouTeam report:
One key finding in the 2020 Payoneer report is that experience matters. They surveyed 7,000 people in 150+ countries and found that experienced 55-year-old freelancers earn twice as much as those 18 to 24 years old.
To demonstrate, this is the average amount freelance attorneys and accountants charge per hour based on experience:
Freelance junior accountants in the US make an average of $27 per hour. In the UK, they make the equivalent of $15 and $17 in Australia.
Freelance junior attorneys charge an average hourly rate of $47 in the US and $20 in Australia.
Intermediate accountants and attorneys have a few years of experience on the job but not proven leadership skills. Their average wages look like this:
Accountant - $31
Attorney - $76
Accountant - $20
Attorney - $34
Accountant - $23
Attorney - $34
Senior accountants have at least 3 to 5 years of experience, though attorneys may require more than 5 to get a senior-level position. On average, these are their hourly wages:
Accountant - $109
Attorney - $96
Accountant - $30
Attorney - $49
Accountant - $30
Attorney - $43
To further emphasize the importance of work experience, these are all the average wages for all kinds of freelancers in 2023 across all age groups:
18-24 years – $16/hour
25-34 years – $19/hour
35-44 years – $24/hour
45-54 years – $27/hour
55-64 years – $36/hour
65+ years – $34/hour
Not surprisingly, freelancers and consultants with track records of successful projects typically earn more than those who don’t.
User ratings on platforms such as Upwork, Fiverr, and Freelancer help clients judge a freelancer's skills and experience. Past customers give ratings based on factors like the quality of work, professionalism, and whether or not deliverables were on time.
A low-rated freelancer may have a more challenging time finding work, while someone with many excellent ratings can justify a higher price.
Other freelancers choose to put their work on their website. They can add reviews and samples of work they did. This way, people will get a good idea of the quality of work they will get if they hire them.
Freelancers are hired to do a specific job for a client. The project is finished when the freelancer delivers their work and gets paid.
Consultants, on the other hand, offer guidance and support while the client does the work themselves. There may or may not be any tangible deliverables involved.
The work that consultants do has lasting impacts. Instead of solving a short-term problem, they give clients the tools and skills to get results for years to come. Because of this long-term value, consultants tend to earn more than freelancers.
According to Bonsai, a marketing consultant charges between $25 to $300 per hour, with $100 being the average.
Generally speaking, consultants earn higher average hourly wages ($40) than freelancers ($21) across all industries.
A 2022 analysis of freelance employees in the US found that the men working as freelancers were out-earning their female counterparts by $22.28. The average hourly rate for a freelance woman was $46.30.
According to the 2023 Payoneer report, the gender pay gap is slightly smaller than the one reported last year (90 cents to $1), and it is also significantly smaller than the gap reported in the general population (77 cents to $1).
However, this gap fluctuates depending on the freelancer's location. Here’s how much freelancers who are women make compared to men on average around the world in 2022:
Both male and female workers can increase their salary on freelancing platforms as they gain more experience.
A report from Website Planet shows that, when starting, freelancers usually price their services low. This way, they can find jobs that are easy to get so they can get the ball rolling. However, women tend to charge less than men even after gaining experience.
The male and female freelancers surveyed had similar job success rates. But despite charging less, women had a higher success rate by a percentage point or two in many cases.
Another interesting point the report makes is that women tend to have longer work histories on freelancing platforms.
The report concludes that the pay gap on freelancing platforms can directly result from women undervaluing their skills and experience. By expecting less, they often get less as a result.
According to Statista, the average hourly earnings of all American workers have decreased from $11.22 in July 2021 to $11.02 in September 2023. In 12 months, the July 2021 average wage per hour was the lowest.
Going back to 2019, Statista shows the usual median hourly rate of American employees between 20 and 24 years old at $12.54. For workers aged 35-44, the median wage per hour was $17.52. These are the median wages for all the other age categories:
16-19 years: $10.21
25-34 years: $15.90
45-54 years: $17.52
55-64 years: $17.85
65 and older: $15.03
Payoneer explains that despite the fears of a global economic slowdown in 2023, 46% of the respondents saw an increase in demand for their work, increasingly from digital businesses that are growing across borders with a need to augment their teams, and 29% saw demand at the same level as last year.
That could be a reason for increasing the average hourly earnings to $30.73 for all employees on US private nonfarm payrolls. However, in June 2020, the same earnings had a record low of -1.30 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The federal minimum wage remains at $7.25 per hour.
Hourly rates for freelance work vary based on the industry. For example, according to Upwork, an intermediate Android developer charges an average of $32 per hour, whereas an intermediate legal professional charges $66 per hour.
One of the many reasons for such differences is the oversaturation in specific fields, driving down pay. For example, freelancers and consultants who cash in on the demand for technical skills might find their income has declined as competition has increased.
The most appealing freelancer industry is web/graphic design, programming, and IT. By contrast, the most untapped field is finance.
Here is a list of the primary fields of freelancing and what percentage of freelance workers choose them, according to the 2022 Freelancer Income Report by Payoneer:
Web & Graphic Design 22%
Content writing 10%
Multimedia production 9%
Administrative tasks 3%
Now, let’s look at how much freelancers make on average in the top 10 highest paying fields:
Multimedia production: $33/hour
Project management: $28/hour
Content writing: $24/hour
Web and graphic design: $21/hour
According to Upwork, there was an increase in freelancers who held a postgraduate degree last year. In 2022, 1 in 4 (26%) freelancers hold a postgraduate degree, up from 1 in 5 in 2021.
Still, the freelancing field remains diverse in the scope of education levels.
Freelancers with a high school diploma or less: 27%
Freelancers with an associate degree: 25%
Freelancers with a bachelor’s degree: 23%
Freelancers with a postgraduate degree: 26%
According to Zippia, here is how hourly rates break down by level of education, on average, in 2023.
Freelancers and consultants worldwide charge average hourly rates depending on their location, freelance projects, experience level, desired income, industry, gender, and ratings. However, potential clients don’t necessarily pay attention to diplomas and degrees but instead focus on how much value the freelancer brings to their team and how many hours they work.
There’s an insignificant difference in the average hourly wage when comparing freelancers with postgraduate degrees to freelancers with just high school diplomas. This suggests that clients are most likely to hire freelancers who demonstrate their skills and pay a consistent market rate.
Freelancers in countries with a low cost of living charge less, especially if they are not native English speakers. Similarly, clients from developing countries have lower budgets for projects than those living in industrialized nations.
Unfortunately, the gender pay gap still exists between male and female freelancers and consultants. However, this has decreased in recent years and will hopefully continue.
But the good news is that The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows positive insights about the recent changes in the average hourly earnings of American workers overall.
When considering hiring a freelancer, it's crucial to consider various factors, including freelancer rates and minimum hourly rates. While cost-efficiency is essential, it's equally important to recognize the value experienced freelancers bring.
Before finding a freelancer, set a budget and determine the minimum hourly rate or minimum acceptable rate for the task you’re looking to hire someone to help with. Then, determine the average hourly rate and set money aside in your budget. When you find a freelancer you would like to work with, ask them their freelance rates and determine if it fits your budget.
To make an informed decision, delve into pricing strategies that accommodate your budget while reflecting the value of the freelance services you require. Remember that business expenses incurred by freelancers may influence their rates, so it's beneficial to understand these components.
Opting for value-based pricing ensures you pay for the quality and results you seek rather than just the lowest freelance rate. Hiring a freelancer should be a strategic investment in your project's success, emphasizing both affordability and the expertise necessary to achieve your goals.
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