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New data reveals Gen Z is more likely to choose to freelance than any other generation

As the youngest generation enters the workforce, new data commissioned by Upwork and Freelancers Union sheds light on its work preferences

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. – August 29, 2018 – Upwork, the largest global freelancing website, today released new data from Gen Z respondents to Freelancing in America: 2017, the most comprehensive measure of the U.S. independent workforce, conducted by independent research firm Edelman Intelligence and commissioned in partnership by Upwork and Freelancers Union. Findings show that Gen Z — the youngest segment of today’s adult workforce (people born between 1997-2000), is the most freelancing-inclined generation yet. Gen Z is foregoing traditional, corporate roles and freelancing by choice more than any other generation: nearly half (46%) of adult working Gen Zers freelanced last year. In addition, this generation is more likely than any other to choose freelancing proactively, with 73 percent saying they originally started by choice rather than necessity (versus 66% of Baby Boomers and 62% of Millennials).

“As Gen Z enters the workforce, they’re increasingly choosing non-traditional ways of working that are better suited to their desired lifestyle than a traditional 9-to-5 job is,” said Stephane Kasriel, Upwork CEO. “More than any other generation, members of Gen Z are seeking work they’re passionate about that also affords them freedom and flexibility. It’s important that companies adjust their hiring strategies in order to work with the best young talent, which accounts for more people than Gen X and Baby Boomers and will be the majority of the workforce in the next five years.”

Austin Trachsel, a 22-year old videographer from Wilmore, Kentucky, started freelancing while earning a B.A. in Media Communications from Asbury University and decided to freelance full-time upon graduating instead of getting a corporate job. “Freelancing has not only allowed me to pursue my passion of bringing stories to life through video but also afforded me the luxury of doing so from anywhere in the world that I can take my camera and computer,” said Trachsel. “When I graduated from college, continuing to build my freelance business instead of getting a traditional 9-to-5 was an easy decision because I’d already established relationships with clients around the world doing work that I love.”

Key takeaways from the Freelancing in America: 2017 Gen Z data include:

  • Nearly half of Gen Z is freelancing: Nearly half (46%) of Gen Z freelanced in the 12 months prior to the survey.
  • Gen Z is freelancing more by choice: More than any other generation before them, 73 percent of Gen Z-ers said they started freelancing by choice rather than out of necessity (v. 66% of Baby Boomers and 64% of Millennials who started by choice).
  • “The Net Generation” thinks tech-first to gain location flexibility: Gen Z, who are digital natives, believe technology makes it easier to find freelance work (74% agreed). In addition, tech is enabling them to work where they want; whether it’s in a co-working space, coffee shop or open-office, 41 percent of working Gen Zers said they work in a setting around other people — almost as many (39 percent) who said they work on-the-go.
  • Gen Z is among the least concerned about automation’s impact: Gen Z and Baby Boomers are least concerned about the impact of automation, with less than one-third (31%) and 23%, respectively, saying it will impact their livelihood. This is in contrast to Millennials, who are most concerned at 44% saying automation will impact them.
  • Young professionals are more prepared for the future of work: Gen Z freelancers are proactively preparing more than any other generation with 58% having participated in skills-related education in the past six months versus 56% of Millennials; 35% of Gen X; and 19% of Baby Boomers. As technology rapidly evolves, this younger demographic is keeping up with the need for increasingly specialized skills.

About Freelancing in America: 2017
To see further insights, please visit here for access to the full results deck and other materials. The study is conducted by independent research firm Edelman Intelligence. 6,000 U.S. working adults over the age of 18 were surveyed for it online between July 21, 2017 and August 14, 2017. Of those, 2,173 were freelancers and 3,827 were non-freelancers. Results are weighted to ensure demographic representation in line with the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2017 Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey and the American Community Survey. The study has an overall margin of error of ±1.27% at the 95% level of confidence. The overall sample size of Gen Z is 400 (n=183 for Gen Z Freelancers specifically) and MOE is +/- 4.9% at 95% confidence (MOE is +/- 7.2% for Gen Z Freelancers).

About Upwork
Upwork is the largest global freelancing website. It enables businesses to find and work with highly skilled freelancers. As an increasingly connected and independent workforce goes online, knowledge work — like software, shopping and content before it — is shifting online as well. This shift is making it easier for clients to connect and work with talent in near real-time and is freeing professionals everywhere from having to work at a set time and place. Our company’s mission is to create economic opportunities so people have better lives.

Upwork is headquartered in Mountain View, Calif., with offices in San Francisco and Chicago. For more information, visit our website at www.upwork.com, join us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

About Freelancers Union
With over 375,000 members nationwide, Freelancers Union is the fastest-growing labor organization representing the independent workforce. We believe all workers should have the freedom to build meaningful, connected, and independent lives – backed by a system of mutual and public support. Freelancers Union members join together to build community, access benefits and educational resources, and form a powerful political constituency. For more information, visit www.freelancersunion.org.

Contact
Christina Schultz
Upwork
press@upwork.com