New ‘Independent Economy’ Creates Freelance and Gig Opportunities During Pandemic

Hidden terrorist COVID-19 is creating havoc for more than 20 million newly unemployed Americans and some four million anxious graduates in the Class of 2020.

Entry-level public relations openings have shriveled up, which is tragic since job prospects at the start of this year were quite strong. Graduates are now entering the toughest job market in half a century. Even with this potentially depressing outlook, I’m impressed with the “can-do” resilience of most of graduates I’ve talked with in recent days. Although disappointed about rescinded internships and job offers, many new grads are refocusing on landing temporary employment until the economy improves.

“After an incredible month in the internship of my dreams, the world came crashing in on me when they told us the program was being shut down,” said a soon-to-graduate DePaul student. “I admit to tears and feeling sorry for myself for a couple of days, but then I decided to pick myself up, get motivated and find something to do so I won’t have to move home with my parents.” Within a few days, this student had interviews set up for two part-time gigs that should tide her over until the economy rebounds. Another Class of 2020 graduate said he intends fallback on his barista gig while he cobbles together freelance assignments that eventually allow him to work on his own full time.

While many job seekers interchange the terms gig and freelance, I view gig as temporary, almost transient activity whereas freelance can be a full-time career. Together, they point to self-independence or as some freelancers say: “You eat what you kill.” Most certainly, freelancers are becoming a major component of the U.S. workforce.

Even before COVID-19, more than 57 million Americans were doing freelance work and more than half of them say they have no desire to return to traditional jobs. Why should they since skilled freelancers average $28 an hour, which is more money than 70% of the overall U.S. workforce. Entry-level PR freelancers earn between $20 and $50 an hour, while seasoned pros can charge between $100 and $500 an hour, depending on industry-specific experience and knowledge. You can gain additional insights about freelance vs. full-time jobs in the article and infographic Is the Grass Really Greener.

Freelance Generation: Gen Z

A survey conducted last year by Upwork and Freelancers Union provided several fascinating insights, including the fact Gen Z is freelancing more than any other generation of workers. Other insights from the survey:

  • Freelancing is becoming more of a long-term career choice. For the first time in the survey’s six year history, as many freelancers said they view this way of working as a long-term career choice as they do a temporary way to make money.
  • Freelancers are most likely to be skilled professionals. Skilled services are the most common type of freelance work, with 45% of freelancers providing skills such as programming, marketing and consulting.
  • Freelancing enables opportunities for those who otherwise might not be able to work. 46% of freelancers agree freelancing gives them the flexibility they need because they’re unable to work for a traditional employer due to personal circumstances.
  • The younger the worker, the more likely they are to freelance. Every generation had more than 1 in 4 workers who freelanced in the past year. The ascent of freelancing is clear in generational results: 29% of Baby Boomer workers (ages 55+) freelanced, 31% of Gen X workers freelanced (ages 39-54), 40% of Millennial workers (ages 23-38) freelanced and 53% of Gen Z workers (ages 18-22) freelanced—the highest independent workforce participation of any age bracket.

Career Coach Tim Conway is bullish on freelance opportunities in the U.S. and abroad. “The Gig Economy continues to expand globally,” says Conway, who works with the nonprofit Career Transition Center in Chicago. “Freelance contractors in marketing/communication can secure ideal projects by highlighting a specialty capability along with an industry or category niche. Plus, solo professionals must conduct ongoing self-promotion to attract future clients.”

Freelance Job Boards

As an increasing number of organizations are turning to freelances, there are a plethora of job boards attempting to link talent with relevant assignments. Until you get established with your own client base, you might want to try some of these job boards. Based on feedback from freelancers, you should avoid job boards that charge fees and promise to make you rich. I prefer job boards that charge firms to advertise to prospective freelancers since the quality of assignments and compensation are normally higher. For instance, Problogger charges advertisers $70 to post their assignments.

Thanks to Tim Conway, readers and my own experience, I’ve pulled together the following 10 freelance job boards you might want to check out:


Creative Circle






Task Rabbit



Do you have a favorite job board not listed? Please share in comments below or send to me directly.

Photo by Ali Yahya 

Infographic by Upwork

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