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New Study Unpacks the Giant Gender Pay Gaps in Freelance Work Across the USA

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Freelancing offers the allure of flexibility, autonomy, and independence. For many people, it’s the ideal way to work.

But it comes with extra challenges, especially for female freelancers.

Because despite the progressive strides in workplace equality, the freelance market still reflects significant gender-based income gaps. In other words, this is another area where men tend to outearn women who are doing the same job.

This recent study published by OnDeck outlines the dynamics of pay differences across various freelance fields, from tech and design to legal writing, showing how much more men are earning per hour.

Let’s take a closer look at these results.

The gender pay gap in freelancing

The gender pay gap is real, and the disparity in pay between male and female earnings potential extends well into the freelancing world.

On average, male freelancers are selling their time, expertise, and experience for $75.44 per hour. That’s significantly more than the $59.70 billed by female freelancers. Come on, ladies! Know your worth and stop underselling yourself.

Splitting the data by industry, we see an even bigger pay gap in legal freelancing. This is a freelance sector where men are outearning women by over $76 per hour. Over longer-term freelancing contracts, that adds up to thousands of dollars women are leaving on the table.

But there are a few (small) wins for the women contractors and day raters. They outearn male freelancers in administrative support by $8 an hour. Female freelancers can also command higher rates in customer service and design/creative, although the extra pay only adds to a few more bucks per hour.

The gender freelance pay gap across the USA

The United States has come a long way in promoting female empowerment and opportunities. Today, more women than ever are forging their own career paths, achieving financial independence, and competing for top jobs.

But there’s still work to be done.

The freelance gender pay gap is tilted towards men in almost every single one of the USA’s 50 states. In Wyoming, it’s as big as $55 per hour. There’s also a notable difference in freelance pay between the sexes in North Dakota ($42), Kansas ($34), and New Mexico ($34).

Delaware is the only state where women freelancers can expect to earn more than men on average. The OnDeck research shows they’re billing around $14/h more for freelance services.

Freelance rate for men and women in accounting and consultancy

Consulting is where we see one of the most significant gender gaps in freelancing pay. It’s in career coaching, where the $136 per hour male freelancers charge is almost double what a female freelance career coach would bill.

$136 per hour for career advice? That better be some really good advice.

Women make more in freelance training roles and recruitment/talent sourcing. However, once more, the gains are marginal, coming in at around the $5 per hour range.

Freelance pay in sales and marketing

Here’s where we (finally) see the first notable win for all the hard-working female freelancers.

When it comes to helping out companies with brand strategy, women freelancers are valuing their skills and time at a very respectable $150/h. That’s $36/h more than what male brand strategists are billing on an average basis. Well done, ladies.

Another win for female freelancers in design and creative

That trend continues when we take a look at the pay for freelance roles in the design and creative industries.

Women videographers working on a freelance basis are billing their clients around $121/h. On the other hand, male videographers are taking home nearly $50/h less than that, charging an average of $74.

Female freelancers also come out on top in product photography ($21 more) and creative direction ($12.27 more).

Male/female freelance rates in IT & Development

IT and tech development have a (well-earned) reputation as industries for the boys. And although the culture is shifting and more women feel confident enough to pursue tech careers, this is still an area where men get more of the jobs and earn more of the money.

And that’s certainly the the case for male freelance network administrators. On average, they make $108/h, which is $71 more than the average hourly rate for a female freelancer doing the same jobs.

Male freelancers are also taking home more money in freelance systems and database administration, mobile app development, UX design, and back-end development.

The gender pay gap is minimal in several freelance IT roles, including DevOps engineers and front-end developers. In both cases, the difference in pay between men and women freelancers is less than $1.

And women freelancers are invoicing more for work done on database development, systems engineering, and solution architecture. The data show that, on average, these female freelancers are earning significantly more than their male counterparts. In database development, it’s as high as $72/h.

Freelance writing rates for freelancers

There’s a big gap in the money that male and female freelance legal writers make. In fact, it’s huge. In this freelance writing sector, the men are earning $107 more for every hour they work.

Women freelance writers are the top earners in grant writing, proposal writing, and ghostwriting. But the extra money that they earn comes nowhere near the pay disparity in legal writing.

About the author


Ashley Murphy

Ashley Murphy graduated with a BA (Hons) in English Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Manchester. He began working as a freelance content writer in 2015. He writes for NeoMam Studios, specializing in technology, higher education, current affairs, the arts, and entrepreneurship.