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  • Diana Schneidman

How do you compare to other freelancers?

Ed Gandia, founder of International Freelancers Day and a freelance writer himself, has just issued his 2011 Freelance Industry Report, which compiles August 2011 data on more than 1,200 freelancers in diverse professions around the world.

The 53-page (!) report is impressive for the amount of data gathered and the timeliness of its release.

Let’s start with some of the key findings:

Thirty percent of respondents are writers or copywriters, the largest professional category participating in the study. Designers, translators and web developers follow. Thirty-seven professions took part in the survey.

Two-thirds of the freelancers are women, and two-thirds freelance full-time. Half are the primary income earners in their households. Nine out of 10 work in a home office.

Freelancers are a happy, optimistic bunch. Fifty-nine percent are happier since they have started freelancing, and over half say “no way” would they accept a regular day job rather than freelance. The majority has not been impacted by the economic downturn or has experienced only a very small impact. And more than three-fourths are optimistic about their businesses’ prospects during the next 12 months.

As for pay, the largest percentage (14%) earn between $50 and $59 per hour, with a fourth earning at least $80 per hour. Check the full study for more data by gender, specialty, billable hours, etc.

For me, the most interesting findings relate to marketing:

More than one-third reports that their biggest challenge is finding clients or breaking the feast-or-famine work cycle. In other words, they need more successful, consistent marketing efforts. Still, a fourth does prospecting or marketing less than two hours per month, and another quarter limits this activity to three to five hours per month.

The most effective ways to gain clients have been word of mouth, referrals, and tapping their personal / professional network, with one of these three reported by 63%.

One of my preferred methods, cold calling, was reported as the most effective by less than 2% of those surveyed. Interestingly, cold calling is most favored by those who have freelanced for more than 10 years relative to less experienced competitors. However, 12% anticipate spending more time and resources on cold calling during the next 12 months.

As an aside from the study, sometimes I think, what would happen if every freelancer and consultant embarked on an intense cold calling campaign?

Well, actually, I think it would be quite wonderful. If they do it as I recommend—only phoning likely prospects for work at which they are already highly qualified and they do the calls themselves—companies would welcome calls from these people who can serve them effectively.

But I don’t see this happening. Lots of freelancers are blind to this opportunity. So when I do my phoning, the conversation is between me and the possible client, with no one else for me to be concerned about.

Here’s a link if you wish to obtain the Freelance Industry Report for yourself.

Originally posted 9-13-11

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