Older Workers, Women Benefit From Freelance Lifestyle

Experience counts, as those over 50 report highest hourly wages
Freelance workers

Freelancers of all ages likely enjoy the freedom that comes with working for themselves, but a new study suggests that certain demographics particularly profit from the freelance economy.

Global payments platform Payoneer surveyed more than 7,000 freelancers from 150 countries to gain insight into the freelance market and learn more about how much freelancers earn and what they gain from the freelance lifestyle. A majority of the freelancers surveyed (69%) were under the age of 35, with the age breakdown of survey respondents as follows:

  • 21% were between 18 to 24
  • 48% were between 25 to 34
  • 22% were between 35 to 44
  • 6% were between 45 to 54
  • 3% were between 55 to 64
  • 1% were 65 and over

Although younger workers make up more of the freelance market, the survey found that older, more experienced workers tend to make more money. Those between the ages of 55 and 64 had the highest average hourly rate of $36 per hour compared to:

  • $16 per hour for those between 18 to 24
  • $19 per hour for those between 25 to 34
  • $24 per hour for those between 35 to 44
  • $27 per hour for those between 45 to 54
  • $34 per hour for those 65 and over

Freelance gender wage gap not as pronounced

Older workers aren’t the only ones making headway when it comes to freelance earnings. The survey also found that the wage gap between male and female earnings is smaller among freelancers than it is in the general job market. According to the study, female freelancers across the world earn, on average, 84% of what men make across all fields. In comparison, the global gender pay gap was 68% in 2018, according to the World Economic Forum.

When it comes to the wage gap, female freelancers do well particularly in the field of marketing, where they earn an average of 17% more than men. Women also come out ahead in web and graphic design, where they earn 4% more, on average, compared to men.

However, women continue to trail men in other areas. For example, when it comes to finance, women make only 53% of what men make, and for project management, women earn only 56% of what their male counterparts earn.

Not all freelancers get all of their work through the gig economy either. The majority of respondents — 69% — freelance exclusively, but the rest divide their time between freelancing and a full-time job. The oldest workers and the youngest were most likely to freelance exclusively, with the age group breakdowns as follows:

  • 76% of those 18 to 24 freelanced exclusively
  • 67% of those 25 to 34 freelanced exclusively
  • 67% of those 35 to 44 freelanced exclusively
  • 68% of those 45 to 54 freelanced exclusively
  • 76% of those 55 to 64 freelanced exclusively
  • 81% of those 65 and older freelanced exclusively

For those frustrated by the slow progress in closing the gender wage gap, the freelance economy may provide more equitable opportunities for women, particularly in certain fields. However, women freelancers should still do their research to find out how much men are being paid for the type of work they do so they can better negotiate a fair rate. Freelancers should also leverage their experience and try to negotiate higher pay for their expertise, just as an employee would argue for a raise in their workplace.

Tamara E. Holmes

Tamara E. Holmes is a Washington, DC-based writer who covers personal finance, entrepreneurship and careers.