The Gig Worker Pay Gap Is Real With Women Making 48% Less In Freelance Roles

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The gig economy has been thriving as of late, largely as a result of the pandemic. But as more and more people are switching industries, working from home and taking on side hustles to make ends meet, are freelancers earning fair wages in comparison to full-time employees? And who’s taking home a bigger cut — men or women?

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ZenBusiness set out to find out, reporting on the “freelancer pay gap” in a new study that assessed contract work rates in various industries and the profiles of the people doing the work. And they found that, even with independent work, men still outpace women in earnings.

Their biggest finding? “Freelancers who are men charge 48% more than women for the equivalent role overall.”

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As they further discovered, for men, the hourly average came out to be $68.58, whereas for women it is $46.30.

To produce the report, ZenBusiness looked at more than 6,000 profiles to glean a good cross-section of genders, industries and locations. To make sure the data was quantifiable, they also ensured that only those who had billed at least 100 hours of work in the past six months were included in the study. 

By far, tech and administrative jobs showcased the biggest discrepancies; in particular, DevOps (those specializing in IT and computer science) have the widest gap, with men charging about $100.90 per hour compared to women that charge $30 per hour, or three times less for the same work. Though, in this category, other positions were a bit more closely aligned in pay, with data entry, virtual assistants and tech support roles all bringing in a similar amount of wages regardless of gender, though women across the board still make a few dollars less per hour.

Other interesting findings included the field of accounting and consulting, which had another one of the biggest freelancer pay gaps. Here, ZenBusiness found that men’s rates were nearly $20 per hour higher than women’s.

However, in creative industries, the pay rates were more comparable with women even earning a bit more in a few instances, such as image editing and motion graphics. This could also be due to the fact that there’s also more representation of women in this industry. According to a report by Zippia that ZenBusiness referenced, there are 118,000 graphic designers in America with 50.2% of the roles held by women.

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On the contrary, a position such as a computer programmer is held by 79% men and also has one of the top 15 highest pay gaps, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

When it comes to the smallest gender pay gap, ZenBusiness found freelance writing to be the most equitable. Technical, content and creative writers — whether men or women — all charged around the same, with less than a $1/hour difference in these cases.

The findings of ZenBusiness’ report echo a previous GOBankingRates analysis of the gender pay gap stating that, in 2022, women are still paid $0.83 for every dollar men make. In addition, according to a GOBanking Rates survey of 1,003 women workers in the U.S., 20% reported that fair pay is one of the biggest obstacles they have in their careers. 

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To combat pay discrepancies in the freelance world, ZenBusiness offered a few tips. First and foremost, it’s best to research standard rates for the role comparable to someone with the same level of experience; they also suggested relying on the Freelancers Union for support. It’s also important to take a few factors into consideration when setting your rates — that includes “needy” clients who take up more time with additional tasks and those that won’t reimburse for expenses or provide time off. But most importantly, getting comfortable talking about money and standing firm on rates and promoting the value you bring with your talent can help set a good standard.

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About the Author

Selena Fragassi joined GOBankingRates.com in 2022, adding to her 15 years in journalism with bylines in Spin, Paste, Nylon, Popmatters, The A.V. Club, Loudwire, Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Magazine and others. She currently resides in Chicago with her rescue pets and is working on a debut historical fiction novel about WWII. She holds a degree in fiction writing from Columbia College Chicago.

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