How to Conquer Top Freelance Challenges (Survey Results)

How to solve top freelance challenges, survey saysWhile most freelancers are optimistic about the future, they do face some big challenges, according to the Freelancing in America 2019 survey. The best days are ahead, say 91% of the freelancers surveyed. And 67% of full-time freelancers expect to make more money in the future. Conducted by Upwork and the Freelancers Union, the survey included more than 6,000 U. S. workers.

Surprisingly, there are now 57 million freelancers in the United States. That’s 35% of all workers.

Top Challenges Facing Freelancers, Survey Says

Despite the optimism among the freelancers surveyed, there are some challenges to freelance success. Big challenges include:

  • Being fairly paid: 72% of freelancers
  • Unpredictable income: 72% of freelancers
  • Difficulty finding freelance work: 62% of freelancers.

The problem is simple. Most freelancers don’t know much about marketing.

Taking low-paying work, having an unpredictable income, and difficulty finding work all come from bad freelance marketing or little or no marketing.

As freelancers, we will have uneven cash flow. But that’s different than unpredictable income. If your income is unpredictable, then you may not make enough money to pay your bills. Uneven cash flow just means that you‘ll make more money in some months than in other months. But your annual income will be plenty.

Why Freelance Marketing is So Hard

Most freelancers never have a chance to learn about freelance marketing. You may know you need to do it. But you probably don’t know where to start or what to do. Or maybe you know a little about marketing but hate doing it.

Nearly all freelancers—94%—find marketing to be a challenge, according to my survey, How Freelancers Market their Services in 2019.  Marketing is the biggest challenge or one of the major challenges for 59% of freelancers.

And now you’re probably thinking, “yes, this sounds like me!”  Later in this post in this post I’ll tell you how you can get the high-paying freelance work and clients you deserve.

What Surveys Say About How Much Freelancers Earn

The average hourly rate among what Freelancing in America 2019 calls skilled freelancers (writers, editors, designers, etc.) is $28.

When I freelanced part-time more than 23 years ago, I made more than this!

The freelancers who took my survey make much more than $28 an hour. 60% make at least $75 per hour.

Here’s why “my” freelancers make more than those who took the Freelancing in America 2019 survey.

Freelancers on Upwork Make Less Money

Since Upwork  is a co-sponsor of the Freelancing in America survey, many of the freelancers who took that survey use the freelance job site to get freelance work.

And freelance job sites suck. Most of the jobs are low paying. There’s stiff competition for every freelance job.  And freelance job sites take part of your fee for every job you do.

Upwork, the giant of freelance job sites, takes a percentage of your earnings with each client as its service fee. The percentage ranges from 5% to 20%. Giving Upwork 5% of your fee may not sound too bad—but you need to do more than $10,000 worth of business with a client to reach 5%. Upwork takes:

  • 20% for the first $500 you bill a client
  • 10% for billings per client between $500.01 and $10,000
  • 5% for billings per client over $10,000.

Most freelancers won’t make more than $10,000 per client on Upwork. So after paying the initial 20% fee on the first $500 billed, they’ll will end up paying 10% of their billings to Upwork.

Say that you bill $50,000 in your first year on Upwork and don’t reach $10,000 with any client. You’ll pay:

  • $100 on the first $500 billed
  • $4,550 for the next $45,500.

That’s a lot of money: $4,650 to Upwork in one year.

Learn more about freelance job sites 

Sick and Tired of Freelance Job Sites? Do This Instead

Freelancers who are Mighty Marketers Make More Money

But many of the people who took the How Freelancers Market their Services in 2019 survey come from my Mighty Marketer email list. The Mighty Marketer helps freelancers learn how to market their businesses the right way, based on what works best for freelancers.

Get your free guide to getting high-paying freelance clients

The Ultimate Guide to the Freelance Success You Deserve

Also, I’m a freelance medical writer, a high-demand, high-paying specialty. I present a lot at my main professional association, the American Medical Writers Association. So I know a lot of other medical writers and editors. In fact, 78%of the freelancers who took my survey are freelance medical writers or editors.

[ps2id id=’The’ target=”/]The Ultimate Guide to Freelance Success

Millions of freelancers use job sites because they don’t know what else to do.

But awesome, high-paying clients who need the help of talented freelancers are out there. And you can find them.

Here’s how. Follow my proven 7-step process for freelance success:

  1. Choose Your Moneymaking Specialty(ies)
  2. Find the Right Prospects
  3. Reach and Attract the Right Clients with Direct Email
  4. Write a Complete, Client-Focused LinkedIn Profile
  5. Develop a Client-Focused Website
  6. Meet People Who Can Help and Hire You
  7. Be First in Line for Freelance Work.

You will need to work hard in the beginning. Because you need to build your marketing infrastructure. And it will take time and effort to get your first clients.

But my process focuses on working with steady, high-paying clients by doing what works best for freelancers. So you don’t waste your time.

And once you start getting steady, high-paying clients, momentum takes over. Those clients will refer you to other clients. And you’ll get more referrals through your networking, especially with other freelancers.

So you’ll be able to spend less time on freelance marketing and more time getting paid well to do what you love.

The Ultimate Guide to Freelance Success describes each step in my proven process and gives you:

  • Links to blog posts about each step.
  • Free checklists, templates, and swipe files to help you implement each step.

Many posts feature examples of freelancers who are getting clients by following this process.

Survey Offers Advice for New Freelancers

Freelancers who participated in Freelancing in America 2019 offered some advice for new freelancers. Here’s what they said.

“Research the demand for your skills and services.”

A key part of researching demand is to make sure you have a specialty with lots of clients who need your services who can afford to pay you what you’re worth.

“Start freelancing on the side before diving in fully.”

I started out freelancing part-time for about 4 years before launching my full-time freelance business. I learned how to freelance and created my marketing infrastructure and plan. When I went full-time, I had a few steady clients. So I wasn’t desperate to make money like most new freelancers.

“Reach out and talk to other freelancers”

Networking with other freelancers is the best way to learn about what you do or want to do, build your freelance business through referrals, and get advice and support. Other freelancers can serve as mentors to you.

“Participate in skill training or educational courses related to the work they want to do.”

“Seek out mentors or coaches.”

Always continue learning and improving your freelance and marketing skills. Ways to do this include reading blogs like this one, joining and being active in professional associations, taking online courses like Finding the Freelance Clients You Deserve, and paying for coaching (as part of an online course or alone).

About the Freelancers Who Took the Surveys

In the Freelancing in America 2019 survey, 45% of respondents offer services, such as writing, design, computer programming, IT, marketing, and business consulting. This is my definition of freelancers, and probably what most freelancers do.

Another 30% of survey respondents sell unskilled labor or services. The remainder sell goods (26%) or do other activities (29%). Personally, I would not call people who sells goods freelancers.

Younger people are most likely to freelance. Here’s the number of freelancers by generation:

Gen Z workers (ages 18-22)                                           53%

Gen X workers freelanced (ages 39-54)                 31%

Millennial workers (ages 23-38)                                 40%

Baby Boomer workers (ages 55+*)                           29%

My Survey

How Freelancers Market their Services in 2019 had 155 respondents, all freelancers who offer services. Most of the survey respondents—69%— were writers or writers and editors. The next largest group, at 21%, were editors or editors and writers. Most of the other freelancers were writers or editors who also did something else, along with a few designers.

I didn’t ask about age. But I did ask about freelance experience. Nearly half of the survey respondents—46%— had less than 3 years of experience. Another 29% had 4-9 years of experience. The remaining 26% had more than 10 years of experience. Here are the numbers:

Less than 1 year: 12%

1-3 years:  34%

4-6 years: 19%

7-9 years: 10%

10-19 years: 14%

20+ years: 12%

Get the full survey results

How Freelancers Market their Services in 2019

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Learn More About Freelance Challenges and Surveys

 Content from The Mighty Marketer

The Ultimate Guide to the Freelance Success You Deserve

How Freelancers Market their Services in 2019

Sick and Tired of Freelance Job Sites? Do This Instead

Want to Worry Less and Make More Money? Be a Specialist

Professional Associations: The Best Way to Get High-Paying Freelance Work

Why Other Freelancers Should Be Your Best Friends

3 Easy Ways to Get More Referrals from Your Clients

Word of Mouth: The Best Way to Get Better Freelance Work

Other Content

2019 Freelancing in America survey:


Press release, slide deck and more

Jessica Klein, 35% of the U.S. workforce is now freelancing—10 million more than 5 years ago