May 21, 2024 - News

Freelance work and earnings are on the rise in San Diego

Line chart showing annual freelance earnings in the San Diego metro area by service offered from 2011 to 2023. Overall, freelancers in San Diego earned an estimated $47k in 2023, compared to $39k in 2011. Technical services earned $57k, professional services earned $49k, and creative services earned $25k in 2023.
Data: Census Bureau via Fiverr; Note: Analysis includes tax returns for non-employer entities with at least $1,000 in annual receipts; Chart: Axios Visuals

San Diego freelancers are making more money than they used to, but the size of the local workforce has been shrinking, according to a new report exclusively shared with Axios by freelance platform Fiverr.

The big picture: Freelancers account for 4.1% of the U.S. labor force, per the report. Many saw revenue bumps last year and expect to earn even more in 2024.

  • About 29% of them nationwide also have a traditional job, though the share who solely freelance is growing.
  • About 29% of them nationwide also have a traditional job, but the share of those who solely freelance is growing.

Zoom in: Freelancers in San Diego and 29 other major metros saw double-digit growth in revenues from 2018 to 2023.

  • That growth was fueled in part by inflation that led to higher service prices, per the report.

By the numbers: In San Diego, they earned on average $47,310 in 2023, up about 13% from $41,744 in 2018. The estimated 2023 earnings by category:

  • $56,793 for technical services (data processing, architecture, design, engineering, computer/IT, etc.)
  • $48,506 for professional services (legal, accounting, marketing, etc.)
  • $25,214 for creative services (artists, writers, performers, video and sound production)

Between the lines: With about 83,000 independent professionals in 2023, San Diego's workforce ranked 15th among the top markets.

  • That number decreased slightly since 2018 — and in other California cities — which the report attributes to the economy and relocation.
  • Yes, but: In the past year, freelancers have risen in number.

Zoom out: San Jose, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., are America's freelance capitals, with the highest annual earnings per freelancer among the 30 biggest U.S. metros.

  • People in San Jose averaged an estimated $60,135, followed by $59,979 in San Francisco and $53,147 in Los Angeles.
  • The markets with the most new freelancers from 2018 to 2023: Orlando, Florida; Miami; Las Vegas; Houston; Tampa, Florida; and Nashville, Tennessee.

The fine print: The report, which freelance platform Fiverr published in partnership with market research firm Illuminas, is based on data from several government sources, researchers' estimates, and a survey of 801 freelancers conducted between Jan. 26 and Feb. 7, 2024.

  • The report's earnings data is based on individual tax filings as a "good approximation" for freelancers.

Reality check: While freelancing can have its benefits — like flexible schedules and locations — it can also be tough to get started, to be treated well, to get paid promptly by clients and to get health care and other benefits.

What we're watching: California lawmakers are considering a bill called the Freelance Workers Protection Act that would give them the right to contract and be paid within 30 days of finishing the work.

  • If they aren't paid on time, they would also be able to seek damages up to twice the unpaid amount.

The bottom line: It's hard to make a living freelancing in San Diego.


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