Freelancers are Happier

Thanks to remote work and the gig economy freelancers are empowered as never before.

While the individuals that are self-employed in the US may be a small pool compared to the employed workforce (16.2 million vs 160.72 million), new research from has revealed that while self-employed workers earn, on average, less than employed workers across all states in the US – they also report far higher levels of job satisfaction, a better work/life balance, and less stress overall.

Key Findings

Here’s some key findings of the study carried out earlier this month. The survey was conducted by on 2,000 US adults, split evenly between self-employed and employed individuals to survey their overall job satisfaction.

1 In 3 self-employed workers are dissatisfied with their current income

1 in 3 self-employed workers reported being very dissatisfied with their current income – with 13% saying that they were currently very dissatisfied. 

Employed respondents, on the other hand, sat squarely in the middle – with most not overly satisfied or dissatisfied with their income as opposed to their counterparts, who seem to have a much stronger opinion on the matter. Just 5% of the respondents from this group were very dissatisfied with their income – a sharp difference.

We looked at the most recent five years of data from the US Census on the mean earnings of salaried workers vs self-employed workers across every state in the US (graphs can be found within the article linked above), and found that, on average, self-employed workers currently earn a huge 56% less than salaried workers. In the District of Columbia, where wages tend to be amongst the highest in the country, self-employed workers earn a mean salary of 70% less than salaried workers. The smallest gap is in West Virginia, but even then, self-employed workers earn 41.5% less.

4 in 10 self-employed individuals are happy with their current employment status – whilst 1 in 3 employed individuals would describe themselves as unhappy or very unhappy in their current status.

45% of self-employed respondents were satisfied with their work/life balance – a markedly higher figure than the employed pool of respondents.

Additionally,  Just 4% of employed respondents said their job is not stressful at all, compared to 1 in 10 of self-employed individuals who report zero stress-levels at work. Despite working set contracted hours, employed workers have a worse work/life balance than self-employed individuals, with more self-employed workers very satisfied with their work/life balance. 

17% of self-employed workers would not change their employment status for anything.

On the flipside, 95% of employed workers would change to self-employed for a number of reasons (income, increased job security, hours worked, or better work/life balance)

Being your own boss leads the charge for self-employed individuals

The top 3 reasons to be self-employed, according to the study, are:

1) being your own boss

2) flexibility

3) working independently


Jonathan Merry, CEO of, comments:

“The difference between mean annual earnings of self-employed people versus employed individuals may seem shocking at first glance – but the findings of our survey show that most self-employed individuals rely on many other factors for job satisfaction than just their income.

With less stress and a greater work/life balance, it’s perhaps unsurprising that the rise in popularity of self-employment and the gig economy continues in 2023.”

Subscribe to Recruiting Headlines

* indicates required


»Employer Branding w/The Muse

»Diversity and Inclusion Job Board

»Free Rejection Email Templates

»RecTech PR Newswire

»HR Podcast Directory

»Recruiting Newsletters

»HR Tech News

»HR Freelancers

»Jobs with Relocation Assistance

»Diversity Hiring News

»Recruiter Ebooks