Surge in self-employment

Austin flourishes as fastest-growing hub for freelancers in the U.S.

Austin flourishes as fastest-growing hub for freelancers in the U.S.

Common Desk FW
Austin was home to more than 67,000 skilled freelancers in 2018. Photo by Common Desk

No wonder coworking is taking off in Austin. A new study shows the community of skilled freelance workers in Austin ranks as one of the biggest in Texas — and the United States.

The study, commissioned by freelance marketplace Fiverr and conducted by market research firm Rockbridge Associates, indicates Austin was home to an estimated 67,044 skilled freelancers who generated nearly $2.7 billion in revenue in 2018, up 7.5 percent from the financial haul in 2017.

Austin ranked third statewide and 18th in the U.S. among major metro areas for the size of the skilled-freelancer workforce and for the amount of revenue produced, according to the study. Between 2017 and 2018, Austin’s pool of skilled freelancers grew 7.4 percent.

From 2011 to 2016, according to the study, Austin’s community of skilled freelancers shot up by 26 percent, with revenue climbing 31 percent. The study identified Austin and Nashville as the country’s two fastest-growing hubs for skilled freelancers.

The Fiverr study places skilled freelancers in three buckets: creative, technical, and professional. These freelancers include attorneys, graphic designers, musicians, software engineers, accountants, and consultants. Any self-employed person whose work requires “specific skills and abilities” was counted in the study; excluded were folks like Uber and Lyft drivers.

“Highly skilled freelancers are an understudied and often overlooked segment of the workforce,” Brent Messenger, Fiverr’s vice president of public policy and community, says in a release. “By analyzing the data around these … workers, we’re able to get a clear picture of the types of jobs they’re doing, the amount of revenue they’re generating, and the cities in which they’re having the most impact.”

While Austin dominates Texas in terms of having the fastest-growing freelance scene, DFW boasts the biggest population and revenue in the state.

DFW ranked first statewide and seventh nationally in the study. In 2018, DFW was home to an estimated 154,617 skilled freelancers who generated nearly $6.38 billion in revenue in 2018, up 5.4 percent from the previous year. 

As a testament to the rise of freelancing in DFW, a survey released earlier this year by commercial real estate services company Colliers International ranked the region first in the U.S. for the growth of coworking space.

“The freelance, startup, and small business economy in Dallas has been on the rise for the last five years, helping spur the initial inception and growth of coworking in our market,” Megan Kaye Marti, head of marketing at Dallas coworking provider Common Desk, told CultureMap in January. “Now, larger companies — even up to the Fortune 500 — are becoming increasingly attracted to coworking spaces, not just because of the cutting down of overhead costs, but mostly because of the collaborative, creative environment that coworking typically boasts.”

Landing at No. 11 in the U.S. for both population and revenue of skilled freelancers was the Houston metro area. Last year, the estimated 117,260 freelancers in the region collected more than $4.1 billion in revenue, just slightly less than the 2017 total, the study says.

A recent study by commercial real estate website CommercialCafé found that Austin, Dallas, and Houston ranked among the most affordable U.S. cities for freelancers. Meanwhile, personal finance website NerdWallet in 2016 ranked Austin as the best place in the U.S. for freelancers, with Dallas at No. 3, Fort Worth at No. 8, and Houston at No. 15.