A look back at 2021
Last year was a strange one.
The pandemic changed our lives and the ways in which we work, but it also revealed just how much freelancers could do to adapt and support the economy.
Before we look at all the latest trends, stats and information to provide a freelancer’s guide to the current state of freelancing in 2022, let's take a look back at 2021.
From the presidential election, to the global pandemic, to the passing of Betty White, it’s safe to say that 2021 was a year filled with its fair share of challenges. It was also a year of change:
- We had some crazy weather (snow, sleet, hurricanes, historic heat).
- Wall Street went wild.
- Kim and Kanye called it quits
- Clubhouse debuted… and disappeared.
…we even had The 2020 Olympics…in July 2021?
Perhaps most importantly — as we prepared for a possible end to mask-wearing and social distancing — the coronavirus that first emerged in late December 2019 and spread across the globe in 2020 looks to be ending for most locations.In 2021, we saw the world stop in its tracks as the pandemic spread around the world, shutting down many countries, confining people to their homes and making remote work a necessity.
A large portion of freelancers were already working remotely before this time, with one-third of European freelancers stating they had been doing so for over a decade. But lockdowns prompted many more businesses to make the switch to remote working, with 53% of US managers saying they would allow some staff to continue working from home after normal service resumes.
With remote working becoming more prevalent and people’s day-to-day lives changing dramatically, it felt like a huge year for freelancing.
Freelancing grew in 2021. Freelance workers have contributed $1.3 trillion to the U.S. economy in annual earnings this year, up $100 million from 2020, according to a report from Upwork. The study also found that 59 million Americans — about 36% of the entire labor force — did some kind of freelance work in the past 12 months.
Freelancing always thrives in times of adversity and uncertainty. If you were running a business through a pandemic, would you prefer the expense of and commitment to full-time employees, or the flexibility of resources you could pick up, drop and scale at will?
The pandemic forced millions of Americans out of their offices and into their homes as businesses across industries shifted to remote work at breakneck speed. While some have since returned to their workplaces, many have not — and many aren’t going back anytime soon. This is especially true for freelancers and gig workers who were already used to working remotely and outside of traditional 9-to-5 careers.
As we head into 2022, we can expect this new normal to become even more deeply ingrained in our work lives as companies move forward with plans to embrace hybrid models of work that allow employees to come into the office when they want or need but also provide them with the option.
The freelance market has boomed this past year, and will continue to do so – creating a wealth of opportunities for freelancers and businesses alike.