Freelancing is on the rise. Fast Company reports that 55 million Americans worked as freelancers last year, and the Pew Research Center recently found that 24% of all Americans moonlight in some sort of capacity. Since more people are ditching traditional corporate jobs and striking out on their own, it’s worth asking: How much money do freelancers need to make to enjoy a reasonable standard of living? We created a new map to find out.
We decided to take graphic designers as representative of freelancing. After all, many different types of businesses engage these folks on an on-and-off basis whenever they need projects done. We made a couple reasonable assumptions about their lifestyle (single adult with no children) and living expenses (moderate food budget and a 1,000-square foot apartment — which is a good sized one-bedroom in most cities). The data are part of our cool True Cost of Living project — check it out here. We took these annual expenditures and compared them to the median income graphic designers make around the country. Large green dots indicate a nice surplus, but red dots mean the location is unaffordable.
You can immediately see how freelancers can make ends meet in almost every city. From Seattle to Miami, our map has far more green than red dots. People working gigs on a full-time basis have a good chance of enjoying a sizeable surplus month after month. Remember, our figures apply only for single adults with no children. If you bring kids into the mix, the budget looks a lot different.
There are a handful of notable exceptions, however. San Francisco and New York, two of the most expensive cities in the U.S., are simply out of reach for most freelancers. Boston is similarly on the pricey side. The only unaffordable cities located away from the coasts are Austin and Nashville, both of which are well known as trendy places for young people to live. So where are the best places for freelancers to live? (with the money left over at the end of the year).
Top 10 Best Places for Freelancers
- Spokane, WA – $32,641
- North Las Vegas, NV – $25,277
- Las Vegas, NV – $24,917
- Henderson, NV – $21,193
- Reno, NV – $20,837
- Buffalo, NY – $19,786
- Jacksonville, FL – $18,812
- Fort Worth, TX – $17,968
- Laredo, TX – $16,048
- Newark, NJ – $14,989
All in all, our analysis demonstrates that freelancers stand a very good chance of making enough money to survive. More than that, all things being equal, they should have at least some money left over at the end of the year. That is, if they live in an affordable city.
Do you need more info about our data? Visit our True Cost of Living (TCL) Tool.