Freelancing Statistics, Anyone?

document on top of stationery

For more than a decade, the Philippines has been one of the centers of the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry in the world. Not only has the BPO industry given rise to the Philippine economy during the 2000s to 2010s, but it has also brought about the birth of the “gig economy” in the Philippines. And because of the gig economy, online workers emerged as a new breed in the labor workforce.

For those who have not known me, I used to work in a large BPO company for almost seven years. I felt stuck in my daily 9 pm to 6 am routine job plus the long commute hours from Pasong Tamo Avenue, Makati to Bgy. Pasong Tamo, Quezon City. If not for the novel I longed to finish writing, I wouldn’t have decided to resign in 2012 and started working from home as a freelance writer.

In 2019, 45% of freelancers Upwork surveyed said that they have done some skilled services as part of their freelancing.

Then, the COVID-19 pandemic came and forced us to stay at home. Within two years, while other companies started allowing their employees to work remotely, many people lost their jobs due to layoffs or company closures. These prompted a growing number of jobless professionals to turn to freelance.

At that time, some people think that freelancing would just turn out as another trend that would fade after the COVID-19 pandemic has passed. However, with the things happening right now, it seems that freelancing is the new normal way of working.

In the said report from Upwork, the percentage of freelancing went up to 53%. It shows that there was an 8 percentage point increase in the past two years and is more likely to increase in the future.

% of freelancers from 2019 to 2021

According to the World Bank, there are 1.56 billion freelancers worldwide. According to the National Wages and Productivity Commission, the Philippines is the 6th fastest-growing market for the gig economy, with a 35% growth in earnings in 2019. In fact, it is projected in another study that the global gig economy’s worth will reach $455 billion by 2023. Here in the Philippines, freelancers comprise around 2% of the population, which is an estimated 1.5 million Filipinos.

Top 10 Freelancing Countries

In this article, I’m sharing with you more information about the numbers surrounding freelancing to provide you with objective data about it, understand its nature, and gain insight from it. It has been challenging for me to come up with this piece as my sources were mostly from foreign reports and only a few were from local sources.

Come, join me as I present to you the who, what, where, when, why, and how of the gig economy in numbers. Could the Philippines be an ideal setting for the gig economy to flourish? Read on and let me know what you think.

Who are the freelancers?

A freelancer is a self-employed professional who offers his or her services to one or more companies in exchange for wages, often with no long-term commitment to any of them. It came from the term “free lance” which described a medieval mercenary warrior in the 19th century as the book The Life and Times of Hugh Miller (1809) said.

“But when the battle was hottest, Hugh Miller was a loyal combatant, not a free lance;…”

– Thomas N. Brown, The Life and Times of Hugh Miller (1809)

In other countries around the world, 76% of freelancers are men, dominating the global gig economy. However, according to the National Wages and Productivity Commission in the Philippines, it’s the other way around. Females dominate the freelancing workforce with 62% as compared to 38% of their male counterparts.

It is interesting to note, that even at this time of openness and tolerance, the studies or reports I’ve got present only two genders. There seems to be no such information regarding other gender identities like LGBTQ+ in freelancing. I believe that there are many members of the LGBTQ+ community that are freelancers.

What are the jobs of these freelancers and how much are they paid?

According to the same report from the National Wages and Productivity Commission, 64 % of Filipino freelancers collectively are engaged in virtual assistance, administrative work, data entry, and customer service jobs. However, they also register the lowest hourly rates at around $5.35.

On the other hand, those who operate their own businesses and engaged in highly-skilled professions like web design, graphic design, and programming earned the highest, but only make up 5% of total freelancers collectively.

It is good to note that writing and online marketing strategies like blogging, SEO, and social media are popular job categories for freelancers today. Just like the 13% of Filipino freelancers, I work as a web content writer and earn a solid hourly wage.

Where in the Philippines are the freelancers?

According to Amelita Dejardin’s 2021 working paper with the International Labor Organization (ILO), there are two major types of online freelance work in the Philippines. The first is working through online job platforms and the second is working directly with clients overseas or in the Philippines using the internet and IT technologies without the intervention of an online job platform.

The majority of the freelancers are concentrated in Metro Manila. This is followed by the CaLaBaRZon area (22.65%) and the Central Luzon region (12.54%). This shows that roughly 75% of the study’s respondents reside in Luzon Island.

Outside of Luzon, Central Visayas, Western Visayas, and Davao regions have a considerable amount of freelancers. This is nothing to be surprised about because most provincial branches of large BPO companies are present there, too.

Why do people prefer freelance work?

Before the COVID-19 pandemic happened, people thought of freelancing differently. A PayPal study done in 2018 showed that the main reason why freelancers pursued freelancing is to get away from the routine work schedule and long commute and be their own boss (50%). Others cite working from anywhere (46%), choosing the work they enjoy (38%), flexible work schedule (37%) as reasons for going freelance. It was all about freedom of choice.

Everything changed when COVID-19 hit us. The pandemic and its subsequent lockdowns and other restrictions have offered many professionals a different perspective on freelancing. Nowadays, freelancers prefer control. They value physical and mental health more when it comes to their careers (59%).

Take a look at the present reasons why people go freelancing. The number 4 reason (flexible work schedule) became the number 1 reason (72%) in a recent study. Being your own boss is no longer the main reason. Freelancing is not only freedom but also control and preferences (choosing the work that I enjoy = 64%). These new reasons will be more likely the reasons why skilled professionals would go freelancing in the future.

When do Filipino freelancers work?

In Dejardin’s work, it shows that freelance jobs are usually time-based. It could be full-time (usually 35 to 48 hours a week) [36.67%], or part-time (less than 35 hours a week) [35.33%]. Other freelancers say that they are on call (28%), meaning that they only report to their clients when needed.

These work schedules may be fixed like a 9 to 5 job (60.53%) or flexible (39.47%). However, even with flexible schedules, there is generally an agreement between the client and the freelancer about the number of hours devoted to the job or the daily deliverables.

How are freelancers paid?

89% of freelancers collectively prefer to be paid via online payment apps like PayPal, Xoom, GCash, etc. Others still prefer cheques (34%), bank deposits, or fund transfers (58%), and surprisingly, a few prefer cryptocurrency (11%) as payment.

On Contracts and New Learnings

Since we are already at it, I would like to bring up the part of Dejardin’s study about contracts. The majority of the respondents said that they had all of their agreements written (34.21%), which is good to know. 50% (collectively) said that they have had both written and verbal agreements, probably depending on the client or their relationship with the client. However, it is a little bit disturbing that 15.79% of the respondents relied on verbal agreements with the clients, which could cause misunderstandings along the way.

Another issue I would like to include in this piece is the question of what freelancers want to learn about. Initially, this was my reason for research which eventually became this article.

The PayPal study reported that the majority of freelancers would like to receive support and information about different aspects of freelancing. 38% of the freelancers surveyed would like to know how to attract new clients and how to retain them. Developing new skills (30%) and advice on how much should they be charging (28%) are the second and third aspects they would like to know.

I don’t know what “international development” means in the context of the study. But rest assured that I’ll try my best to come up with articles that would answer these needs.

My Thoughts

Having all of this information has given me a picture of the world of freelancing. Nowadays, freelancing is not just about work. For most of us, it is our way of life. Freelancing is not a trend, it is here to stay. As these statistics show, freelance work is on its way to transforming anyone’s career path. It will not be surprising if the Philippines’ ranking in the global gig economy increases in the future.

Let me know your thoughts about this, I’d appreciate your feedback. If you like to receive updates on freelance writing, creative writing, and productivity, subscribe and join the tribe.

%d bloggers like this:
Protected by CleanTalk Anti-Spam