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In Most Countries, Freelancers Earn More Than Average Workers

In Most Countries, Freelancers Earn More Than Average Workers
Credit: hin255/Shutterstock

In just about every industry, freelancing has become a popular option for professionals looking for more control over their careers and work experiences. The freedom to set your own pace, work from anywhere and take on projects for numerous different companies sounds appealing to those tired of the 9-to-5 office grind, but what's the reality of earning a living as a freelancer in the modern world?

Payoneer, a global payment platform, surveyed more than 23,000 freelancers from 180 countries to uncover trends in billing rates, experience levels and expectations when it comes to their work. According to Payoneer's data, the average freelancer works 36 hours a week at a rate of $21 per hour, giving them an annual pretax salary of more than $39,000. This is significantly higher than the average non-freelance wages in most of the countries in the survey. It's important to note, however, that these numbers are only global averages, and freelance take-home pay can vary greatly depending on the industry, billing method, and whether freelancing is a person's primary source of income.

Jonny Steel, vice president of marketing at Payoneer, said one of the most surprising data points uncovered by the survey was that freelancers with a college degree typically earn $20 an hour,  less than the $22 an hour earned by those whose highest education level is high school. This, he said, suggests that companies who hire freelancers favor experience and client reviews over formal education. [Want to Be a Full-Time Freelancer? What You Need to Know]

"Not everyone has the same access to traditional higher education, but the beauty of the Internet is that as long as you're connected, you have access to an almost infinite amount of knowledge," Steel told Business News Daily. "People can learn skills from watching online tutorials, reading e-books and following the latest trends on top-notch blogs. So when it comes to making an impact on the freelance marketplaces, it matters a lot less where you acquired your skills from, as long as you can do the job."

Scott Galit, CEO of Payoneer, echoed what many freelancers have discovered in recent years: Today's hyper-connected, "borderless world" has created unprecedented work opportunities for talented professionals, no matter where they're located.

"There's an obvious appeal to freelancing — businesses worldwide can tap into a larger and more diverse talent pool than ever before, and ... freelancers and service providers [can] secure work with international companies," Galit said in a statement. “Freelancing offers smart, talented, hardworking professionals and business owners in emerging economies such as Argentina, Bangladesh, India, the Philippines and Serbia a major breakthrough in job prospects and earning potential that they would have never thought possible a few years ago."

For freelancers who want to market themselves better and earn more money, Steel advised creating a presence across multiple freelancing networks and asking clients to leave reviews on those sites. He also noted that branding yourself and promoting your work through a blog and social media channels can help you gain exposure, credibility and, ultimately, business growth.

"If you're good at your job, there really is no limit to how much you can grow your business," Steel said. "Many of the most successful entrepreneurs we come across just keep growing, and it's because they're bold and eager to promote themselves. Companies will be more drawn to you — and be willing to pay more — when they see you're serious."

To view the full Payoneer Freelancer Income Survey 2015 report, visit Payoneer's download page.

Nicole Fallon

Nicole received her Bachelor's degree in Media, Culture and Communication from New York University. She began freelancing for Business News Daily in 2010 and joined the team as a staff writer three years later. Nicole served as the site's managing editor until January 2018, and briefly ran Business.com's copy and production team. Follow her on Twitter.