Average Hourly Rates for Freelancers & Consultants (2021)
In recent years, more people have been working as freelancers. Technology has made it easier than ever to build a consulting or freelance career, and there are more opportunities for people from all places and backgrounds.
Freelancing and consulting jobs can be good for people. They have a better work-life balance, and they earn more money than they would in 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 at any time.
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 levels of experience.
Factors that impact hourly rates
Freelancing and consulting hourly rates vary widely because lots of 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, a lot of English-speaking clients prefer to work with someone who is also 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, which means that freelancers living in those areas can afford to charge less.
According to a 2021 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 U.S. dollars per hour:
*Political stability ratings come from The World Bank’s Worldwide Governance Indicators.
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 has a significant influence on 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:
Entry-level/Junior (0-1 year)
Freelance junior accountants in the U.S. 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 U.S. and $20 in Australia.
Intermediate (1-3 years)
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-level (3-5 years and beyond)
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 2021 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
Reviews and proven deliverables
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 harder time finding work, while someone with a lot of great 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 that they will get if they hire them.
Freelancers vs Consultants
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 a client 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) compared to freelancers ($21) across all industries.
Hourly rate by gender
According to the 2020 Payoneer report, female freelancers make less than male freelancers across all industries. On average, women make 84% of the rate that men charge.
However, this gap fluctuates depending on the freelancer's location. Here’s how much women make compared to men around the world:
North America: 69%
South and Central America: 78%
Africa and the Middle East: 77%
There are also significant average wage differences between men and women in several fields:
Web & Graphic Design
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 out, 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 once they gain experience.
The male and female freelancers surveyed had similar job success rates. But despite charging less, in many cases, women had a higher success rate by a percentage point or two.
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 be a direct consequence of women undervaluing their skills and experience. By expecting less, they often get less as a result.
Statistics on "Average wage and salary in the U.S."
According to Statista, the average hourly earnings of all American workers have decreased from $11.36 in July 2020 to $11.22 in July 2021. In the span of 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 between the ages of 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
Trading Economies explains that throughout the summer months of 2021 there has been an increased demand in labor due to the recovery from the pandemic.
That could be a reason for the increase of 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.
Although the weekly earnings have increased, the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) also rose 0.3 percent in August 2021 on a seasonally adjusted basis, after rising 0.5 percent in July.
Hourly rates by industry
Hourly rates for freelance work vary based on the industry. For example, an intermediate Android developer charges an average of $32 per hour, whereas an intermediate legal professional charges $66 per hour, according to Upwork.
One of the many reasons for such differences is the oversaturation in certain fields, which is driving down pay. Freelancers and consultants who cash in on the demand for technical skills, for example, might find that their pay has declined as competition has increased.
The most appealing industry for freelancers is web/graphic design, followed by 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 2020 Freelancer Income Report by Payoneer:
Web & Graphic Design 30%
Multimedia Production 8%
Content Writing 8%
Customer Support 2%
Project Management 2%
Now, let’s look at how much freelancers make per hour across multiple industries:
Maintenance - $42/hour
HR - $33/hour
IT - $36/hour
Business - $75/hour
Telecommunications engineer - $31/hour
Product designer - $25/hour
Hardware engineer - $25/hour
Level 1 - $34/hour
Level 2 - $44/hour
Level 3 - $54/hour
Consultants - $30/hour
Home Inspection - $29/hour
Home Appraisal - $40/hour
Level 1 - $26/hour
Level 2 - $30/hour
Level 3 - $37/hour
Construction worker - $18/hour
Construction manager - $55/hour
Top Construction Executive - $115/hour
Marketing agency - $34/hour
Level 1 - $28/hour
Level 2 - $33/hour
Level 3 - $41/hour
E-commerce Specialist - $15/hour
E-commerce Marketing manager - $47/hour
Hourly rates by education
According to the latest Payoneer freelance income report, having a higher education doesn’t always translate into higher wages.
Despite 57% of the respondents finishing college or university, freelancers holding only a high school diploma earn more ($22 vs $19 per hour).
Those who hold post-graduate degrees have the highest average hourly earnings ($24 per hour). Still, this rate is only slightly higher than what freelancers with a high school diploma earn.
Payoneer concludes that clients are not interested in the level of education freelancers and consultants have. Instead, they are more likely to check ratings, portfolios, and work experience before hiring a freelancer or consultant.
Key takeaways about average hourly rates
Freelancers and consultants all over the world charge different average hourly rates depending on their location, level of experience, industry, gender, and ratings. However, clients don’t necessarily pay attention to diplomas and degrees.
In fact, there’s an insignificant difference in the average wage per hour when comparing freelancers with postgraduate degrees to freelancers who hold just high school diplomas. This suggests that clients are most likely to hire freelancers who can demonstrate their skills.
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 to do so.
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.
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