Remote Companies More Likely To Hire Freelancers, Upwork Study Reveals

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It seems that remote work is having a wildly positive effect on freelance hiring. Studies already showed that white collar freelance hiring is up year over year. But now a new study puts data behind the assumption that remote companies are more likely to hire freelancers.

In the new Future Workforce study commissioned by Upwork, there’s a direct correlation between a company being remote and a company hiring freelancers.

Pre-COVID, 16.6% of companies that hired freelancers were remote. In contrast, only 10.3% of companies were remote that did not hire freelancers. At the time, only 12.3% of all companies were remote. Fast forward to the pandemic. Now, 41.8% of companies are remote. However, among companies that hired freelancers, 52.1% of companies are remote – a full 11 point growth. Only 38% of companies that did not hire freelancers were remote.

remote companies are more likely to hire freelancers
Source: Future Workforce study by Upwork

Additional factors that increase how often remote companies hire freelancers

The study believes that the reason remote companies are more likely to hire freelancers is due to their comfort levels not seeing coworkers face to face. 

“As businesses become comfortable working remotely, they are also overcoming one of the potential concerns of working with remote freelancer platforms,” says the report.

Further analysis in the survey also found correlations between long term remote work plans and hiring freelancers. 

“A 10 percent increase in the share of workers who are planned to be fully remote in the long-run associated with a 1.6 percent to 2.7 percent increase in the likelihood of hiring freelancers,” says the report.

Finally, it seems that a manager’s enjoyment of remote work has a strong association with freelance hiring. According to the survey, if a manager enjoys remote work they are 10-16% more likely to hire freelancers. 

Remote work is growing, and that’s good for freelancers

Finding the correlation between remote work and freelance hiring is one thing. The real boon for freelancers is how many more companies are embracing long term remote work. There has already been a massive transition in the market, with companies announcing hybrid remote work arrangements

This survey found that the number of full and partially remote companies is set to almost double within the next five years. Pre-COVID, 12.3% of companies were fully remote and 8.9% of companies were partially – or hybrid remote. Five years from now, it’s estimated that 22.9% of companies will be fully remote and 14.6% of companies will be hybrid remote. That still leaves 62.5% of companies that won’t be remote, but it’s still a significant increase in remote work adoption. In the US alone, that means over 36 million people will be remote workers in the near future.

percentage of companies going remote in five years compared to today

This gives freelancers a double win: that remote companies are more likely to hire freelancers and more companies are going remote. Those two things in hand perhaps explains why freelancers are optimistic about the future, even as uncertainty from COVID continues.

Commissioned by Upwork, but not Upwork data

Upwork commissioned the survey, but it did not leverage Upwork data directly. Instead, the company used an independent research firm – ClearlyRated. To get data for the report, ClearlyRated surveyed over 1,000 US-based hiring managers through third parties between October and November 2020. It asked about their hiring plans, remote work plans, and if they engaged with freelancers.

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