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Here are the top 15 freelance jobs to earn additional money during a recession or economic uncertainty


  • Thirty-nine percent of the US workforce freelanced in 2022, according to Upwork.
  • If you have the skills, the right freelance job could support you and your business. 
  • Managing social media accounts, copyediting, and virtual assisting are among the top 15 gigs.

It’s not just you — it seems as if everyone started side hustles in the last year. 

Some people adopted side hustles during lockdowns as a way to keep busy, while many sought second jobs for the additional income, said Luke Pardue, an economist at the small business payroll and benefits platform Gusto. 

In fact, entrepreneurs were especially interested in starting side gigs, as 33% of the small-business owners who use Gusto said they needed side hustles to keep their companies afloat, Pardue said. And that number increases when looking at entrepreneurs of color: Fifty-three percent of Black business owners and 49% of Asian American and Pacific Islander founders took on side hustles to support their main businesses, Pardue added.

“The surge in side hustles is partly caused by new entrepreneurs who need to rely on additional sources of income to cover the businesses that they just started,” he said.

But small-business owners aren’t the only ones on the hunt for freelance work. In fact, 39% of the US workforce did some freelancing this year, according to Upwork, which surveyed 3,000 professionals. With the onset of new financial stressors — like a possible upcoming recession and inflation impacting the price of goods — a side hustle may seem even more necessary for some. 

“There’s a huge crop of new businesses that just started and aren’t able to access those funds,” Pardue added. 

If you have the skills, choosing the right side hustle could ensure the financial health of your business. Below are the 15 highest-paying freelance side hustles and the average hourly Upwork rates, according to the platform.

15. Virtual assistant, $12 to $20 per hour

14. Web designer,  $15 to $30 

13. Web developer, $15 to $30

12. Programmer, $15 to $30 

11. Videographer, $15 to $30

10. Accountant, $12 to $34

9. Editor, $20 to $40

8. Social media manager, $14 to 45

7. Digital marketing consultant, $15 to $45

6. Copywriter, $19 to $45 

5. Data analyst, $20 to $50

4. Business consultant, $28 to $98

3. Photographer, $40 to $100

2. Public relations manager, $50 to $100

1. Media buyer, $50 to $200

The benefits of freelancing

Iyana Jones-Reese is a freelancer

Iyana Jones-Reese is a freelance photographer and social media manager

courtesy of Jones-Reese



Some freelancers say the extra work helped them find financial freedom and a fulfilling career. In fact, Iyana Jones-Reese, a full-time account coordinator at a PR firm, said freelancing as a social media manager and photographer is a way for her to try out different skills and hobbies while earning money.

“One thing that was really helpful was looking at how much I make an hour with my full-time job,” she said, adding that she based her mid-level rates on that figure.

Entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone

To be sure, side hustles aren’t the only answer to finding financial freedom.

And starting a business at all may not be the right path for everyone, as Insider previously reported. Entrepreneurship is glamorized through social media and pop culture, but the reality often involves working long hours, earning irregular pay, and experiencing intense pressure. However, freelancers experience similar problems, sources told Insider. 

“I’ve been an entrepreneur for three years, and I haven’t made a million dollars yet,” Robreauna Ruiz, who runs cosmetic companies Fash N’ Lash and Curl Candi, told Davis. 

Meanwhile, traditional 9-to-5 jobs can provide workers regular paychecks, healthcare, and paid sick leave. 

“There are certain companies out there that do care about their employees and have amazing benefits,” Heaven Williams, who balances working for a homeless shelter in the day and running a candle business, told Davis. “If you find something that you love to do and it’s a nine-to-five, there is nothing wrong with it.”





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