Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Some freelancers can pull in more than $100 an hour for management consulting, programming or graphic design. Others struggle to make much more than $10 an hour, beholden to "gig work" platforms like Uber or TaskRabbit.

Why it matters: Being one's own boss, with the flexibility it brings, can be lucrative for people who can differentiate themselves from competitors. For the rest, it can be quicksand.

The big picture: Freelance work makes up nearly 5% of U.S. GDP, according to a new study commissioned by Upwork, a site for high-earning freelancers to find jobs. And more people than ever — 28.5 million people, or half the freelance workforce — say it's a long-term plan.

  • Freelancers who are "significantly better than average" at their jobs tend to do well, says Stephane Kasriel, Upwork's CEO. "Stronger pros can really dictate their terms."
  • Gig work apps capitalized on this dream to attract millions to their platforms: Work whenever you want to make some spending money on the side, they promised.

But for those without a rare or standout skill, reality hasn't quite panned out that way.

  • "People turn to this work, but it's not as lucrative as they think it's going to be," says Alexandrea Ravenelle, a UNC professor who interviewed dozens of workers for her recent book, "Hustle and Gig."
  • "I'm finding a considerable number of workers end up turning to gig work, they think, for the short term — and they're still doing it 4 years later," Ravenelle says. There's no time to network or send out resumes when you're spending every working moment hunting for the next job.

The bottom line: "Given that being in the traditional workforce typically comes with benefits and protections, I think most workers would be better off being there rather than having to constantly hustle for the next gig," says Ravenelle.

Go deeper

Judge orders Eric Trump to testify in New York probe before election

Photo: Ira L. Black/Corbis via Getty Images

A judge on Wednesday ordered Eric Trump to comply with a subpoena to testify before the presidential election in a New York probe into the Trump family business.

The state of play: New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) last month said her office had filed a lawsuit to compel the Trump Organization to comply with subpoenas related to an investigation into whether President Trump and his company improperly inflated the value of its assets on financial statements.

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Reid Hoffman and Mark Pincus on the rise of Silicon Valley SPACs

Silicon Valley venture capitalists are no longer content with investing in startups and then eventually handing them off. Instead, many are now forming SPACs, or blank-check acquisition companies, to ride tech unicorns into the public markets themselves.

Axios Re:Cap digs into this trend with the co-founders of a new tech SPAC called Reinvent Technology Partners: Reid Hoffman, a co-founder of LinkedIn and partner at Greylock, and Mark Pincus, the founder and former CEO of Zynga.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 2:30 p.m. ET: 31,717,955 — Total deaths: 973,014 Total recoveries: 21,795,005Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 2:30 p.m. ET: 6,913,046 — Total deaths: 201,319 — Total recoveries: 2,646,959 — Total tests: 96,612,436Map.
  3. Health: CDC director says over 90% of Americans have not yet been exposed to coronavirus — Supply shortages continue to plague testing.
  4. Politics: Fauci clashes with Rand Paul at COVID hearing: "You're not listening" — FDA chief vows agency will not accept political pressure on coronavirus vaccine.
  5. Vaccines: Johnson & Johnson begins large phase 3 trial — The FDA plans to toughen standards.
  6. Sports: Less travel is causing the NBA to see better basketball.

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