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Wethos 2020 Report: The Power of Freelance Founders

Freelancers are under-represented and under-supported as small business owners, and very infrequently viewed as employers. As a consequence, there are very few tools to help them scale up teams to take on bigger opportunities.

In May and June 2020, we set out to fill what we see as a massive research gap. By examining the attitudes and behaviors of high-earning freelancers, we knew we could uncover a sizable segment with habits that starkly contrast with typical “gig workers,” and instead offer a lens on the freelancers who proactively create jobs for their community.

Our team completed sixty hours of qualitative research through focus groups and 1:1 interviews, and fielded a fifty-question quantitative study with an independent research partner and a representative online sample of (n=300) US-based freelancers earning more than $75K annually and working across the tech, marketing, and creative sectors.

Executive Summary

THERE’S MORE TO FREELANCE THAN GIGS
– 84% have been full-time freelance for 4+ years, and 30% for 10+ years
– 17% of our respondents report earning more than $200K annually

34% OF FREELANCERS THINK LIKE FOUNDERS
– These entrepreneurial small business owners have long-term ambitions
– Only 11% would prefer to “stay behind the scenes” rather than lead

75% OF FREELANCE FOUNDERS ARE EMPLOYERS
– Their top motivation for growing their business is creating jobs for others
– 71% say they keep track of who they’ve worked with and would hire again

62% OF FREELANCE FOUNDERS IDENTIFY AS SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS
– 63% have registered operating entities such as LLCs, LLPs, S-Corps and C-Corps
– They’re spending 19+ hrs a month on financial management and staffing

FREELANCE FOUNDERS TEAM UP TO EARN MORE
– 66% view other freelancers as collaborators, not competitors
– 83% say they’ve referred a lead to someone else in their professional network

FREELANCE FOUNDERS ARE THE FUTURE OF AGENCIES
– Rather than wait for traditional agencies to catch up with new standards for diversity, equity, and inclusion, they’re building their own progressive workplaces
– Less overhead means lower prices for clients and more money directly in the pockets of the people doing the work — we haven’t felt a power shift like this in decades


If this segment of high-earning Freelance Founders can find support in the form of new technology, education, and more favorable freelance laws that take their specific business needs into consideration, they may unlock a whole new job market.


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