The Freelancer Pay Gap by State

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• 12 minute read

In the past half-decade, freelancing has gone from being a common way to earn in the digital age to becoming a fundamental part of “the new normal.”

In the U.S., the number of full-time freelancers grew by 91% and occasional freelancers by 132% between 2020 and 2023. Today, 72.1 million Americans — around 45% of the workforce — do freelance work some or all of the time, according to MBO Partners. Some have redefined their careers based on a change of circumstances or expectations during the pandemic. And others have graduated into a world where freelancing is simply a natural progression.

“Younger professionals […], as digital natives raised with the internet and social media, are creating a new blueprint for career opportunities outside of the traditional corporate world,” Margaret Lilani, VP of talent solutions at Upwork, told Fortune. For these digital natives, “uncertainty around college, internships, and the job market are coinciding with a mindset shift in how people are thinking about work.”

But unfortunately, one other way that freelancing has become “normal” is the wage disparity. In full-time permanent work, a woman in the U.S. will only earn 84 cents for every dollar a man earns. For our new study, we have discovered that, on average, a female freelancer charges just 79 cents for every dollar a male freelancer charges. Our team analyzed advertised rates across every U.S. state and major freelancing industry to identify the full scale of the freelancer pay gap in the U.S.

Behind This Study

Data analysts at OnDeck analyzed the hourly rate charged by 9,078 U.S.-based freelancers on Upwork who have billed 100+ work hours and calculated the difference between hourly rates for male and female freelancers by state, overall and for each of 11 work categories (Legal, Accounting & Consulting, Data Science & Analytics, Engineering & Architecture, Sales & Marketing, Writing, IT and Development, Translation, Design & Creative, Customer Service, Admin Support).

Using, we identified the 9,087 male and female freelancers whose name-to-gender classification had an accuracy score of more than 50%.

Key Findings

  • Male freelancers charge 26.4% more than female freelancers on average.
  • The largest difference between male and female freelancer rates in any state is in Wyoming, where men charge $55.89/hour more than women.
  • Delaware is the only state where the average female freelancer charges more than the average man — by $13.83/hour.
  • The role with the biggest rate difference is Legal Writing (under the Writing category), for which men charge $107.38/hour or 145.4% more than women.

Freelance Gender Pay Gap Just 6% Lower Than for Full-Time Workers

In the U.S., the average male freelancer charges $75.44 per hour, which is $15.74 or 26.4% more than the female rate of $59.70. However, the freelancer pay gap varies significantly between categories. The category with the biggest advantage for men is Legal ($144.78 vs. $68.19), while men in Translation charge just $1.49 more than women ($39.45 vs. $37.97) — the least of any category.

The disparity in the legal sector both reflects and contradicts broader patterns. Before the pandemic, just one in five partners in legal firms were women, and women made up only 35% of lawyers overall. This may impact freelancer hiring practices or discourage female legal workers from raising their rates.

“While plenty of glass ceilings have been shattered, most good jobs — from senator to scientist, comic to chief executive — are still seen as requiring what have traditionally been perceived as masculine qualities. Lawyers are aggressive,” says Joan C. Williams, a law professor and director of the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California Hastings College of Law. In the legal sector, that quality is aggressiveness, suggests Williams.

Infographic showing how much men versus women charge as freelancers

We did find that women charge more than men in three of the 11 categories we profiled — although the difference in rates is less for seven of the eight trades where men charge more. The categories where women charge more are also the three lowest paid in our study, apart from translation.

Admin Support is the category where women have the greatest advantage, charging $57.95/hour — $8.28 more than the $49.67 set by men. Women have held between 93% and 97% of all permanent secretaries and administrative assistant roles for much of the 21st century, perhaps reinforcing the idea that admin is a role at which a female freelancer would be more adept. However, most permanent admin staff earn less than the average worker in the U.S., and admin support is one of the lower-paid categories we profiled.

What’s the Freelancer Pay Gap in the States?

Male freelancers in all but one state charge more than their female neighbors across all categories surveyed, and in 41 states, men charge more than $10/hour more than women, on average. The biggest disparity of all is in Wyoming, where the average male freelancer charges $86.09, an astonishing $55.89 or 185% more than the average female rate of $30.20/hour.

Wyoming consistently ranks among the states with the worst pay gap. In 2022, a report from the Wyoming Women’s Foundation found that the “average working woman in Wyoming loses enough money during a year from the gender wage gap to buy a total of 108 more weeks of food, 12 more months of mortgage and utilities payments, 21 more months of rent or 8,402 additional gallons of gas.”

U.S. map showing the states with the biggest freelancer pay gap

Delaware is the only state where female freelancers earn more ($66.33) than their male counterparts ($52.50). The state generally benefits from a slightly less-than-average pay gap, with women making 86 cents for every dollar earned by men; we found that this gap is nearly reversed when considering freelancer rates, with men in Delaware charging 79 cents for every dollar charged by women.

Career Coaches Lead the Freelancer Pay Gap in Accounting & Consulting

The most significant gender pay gap among accounting and consulting freelancers is Career Coaching, where men charge $136.67, nearly twice the average rate that women charge ($71.27/hour).

One study found that 5—11% of the gender gap among top jobs can be explained by male overconfidence. “The overconfidence gap is the disparity in self-perceived abilities versus their actual performance,” says Brooke Taylor. “As a career coach, I help conscious corporate women to actually feel successful. So often I hear from a woman who has years of experience, a lot of success ‘on paper,’ and still doesn’t think she is enough or capable of advancing further.”

Infographic showing the difference between pay rates for men and women freelancers in accounting and consulting

We found just two roles in this category where women charge more, and only by a few dollars in both cases: Training & Development and Recruiting & Talent Sourcing. However, it is also worth noting that male Financial Management/CFO freelancers charge only $5.70/hour more than women, despite this being the second highest-paid role in our Accounting & Consulting category. In most cases across our study, highly-paid roles have a larger pay gap than lower-paid roles.

Women in Brand Strategy Reverse the Sales & Marketing Freelancer Pay Gap

Female Marketing Automation and Brand Strategy freelancers charge more than their male counterparts, although, in marketing automation, that gap is only 70 cents. Brand strategy is significantly more inclined towards female freelancers; they charge $150.42 on average, some $36.00 more than men ($114.42). This could be connected to the statistic that “women drive 70%-80% of all consumer purchases,” highlighting the perceived value of female insight at branding level.

Infographic showing the difference between pay rates for men and women freelancers in sales and marketing

Furthermore, collective bargaining by female marketing freelancers may play a role. “We strive for gender pay equity,” says Holly Wasson, Chief Community & Marketing Officer at marketing freelancer collective We Are Rosie. “We have a 99% pay equity between M/F track record by ensuring that we pay based on the role, not by who is filling it. So if we see that a woman is charging too little of an hourly rate for an opportunity, we have her raise her rate to be equal to a male marketer. And vice versa.”

Stills Photographers and Videographers at Opposite Ends of the Design & Creative Freelancer Pay Gap

Design & Creative is the category in which the top pay disparity favoring men is the lowest of all: Local Photographers who are men charge $25.09/hour more than women. However, ten of the 24 roles in this category have a pay gap that favors women — and the biggest gap of all is in Videography, where women charge $47.42 more than men.

Infographic showing the difference between men and women freelancers in design and creative

Why this disparity? For one thing, stills photography is an older art, and the misconception that it’s a man’s job is more deeply ingrained than in Videography: “I wasn’t introduced to any historical female photographers such as Anna Atkins at university,” says one female photography graduate. “For historical research we primarily focused on male photographers such as Ansel Adams, Walker Evans, Robert Capa, Robert Frank etc.”

The Freelancer Pay Gap in IT & Development: Male Network Administrators Charge 3x More

Male freelancers earn more in ten of the 17 roles we analyzed in IT & Development. Network Administration is particularly stark, with men charging 2.9 times as much as women ($108.50 vs. $37.50). Just 12.9% of network administrators are women, and male-dominate spaces make it not only less lucrative but less equitable in terms of expectations.

Infographic showing the difference between pay rates for men and women freelances in IT and development

One study found that “managing the impact of gender identity in the sysadmin workplace means demonstrating excellence and going above and beyond in system administration tasks, and also requires performing additional care work not expected from cis men. Furthermore, our participants handle additional layers of work due to gender considerations and to actively find community in the workplace.”

Writing & Translation: Legal Writers Have Biggest Freelancer Pay Gap of Any Role

Male Legal Writing freelancers charge an average of $107.38 more than their female counterparts — the biggest disparity of any role in our study. Law remains an area of intense pay disparity, and legal writing has long been an area that employs more women than men, both in teaching legal writing and in writing itself. Legal writing professors are often paid far less than their colleagues in other legal teaching roles, partly due to the misconception that writing is “easy” or can’t be taught and that legal writing is somehow less intellectual than parallel roles.

Infographic showing the difference in pay rates for men and women freelancers in writing and translation

The legal writing pay gap is more than three times as big as the second-largest writing pay gap. And we found that the pay gap is less than $10 for more than half the writing roles. We also found that women in five of the 22 writing categories charge more than men. This is most pointedly the case in Email, Phone & Chat Support and Resume & Cover Letter Writing, for which men charge $65.26 while women charge $11.92 more ($77.19).

The Dos and Don’ts of Pricing Yourself as a Freelancer

Setting rates as a freelancer is a delicate process — but it can feel like a shot in the dark when you’re starting out. Follow these guidelines to help you earn what you deserve without pricing yourself out of the market.

✓ DO research the norms

Check sites such as Upwork, Glassdoor and PayScale to see what others offer, and compare your experience to theirs when setting your rate.

⛌ DON’T underprice yourself

While it’s important to know what the competition offers, you must ensure you break even. Calculate what it costs you to provide the service you offer, what you need to earn on top of that to make a living and what the finished job is worth in its own right.

✓ DO consider your experience, education and skills

Rather than price yourself according to your confidence levels, use objective metrics to calculate how you stack up against others offering a similar service.

⛌ DON’T forget to update your rates with added experience

Direct experience in a freelancing role makes you a stronger professional and a better bet for employers. Review and adjust your rates annually or after a major client/success story.

✓ DO be transparent and flexible about compensation

Be honest about your charges and, if necessary, err towards a higher figure so that you don’t end up underpaid for your work or dropping an unexpected bill on your client. Consider taking lower rates if it will help convert a client who has something else to offer — such as long-term work or a bulk project.

⛌ DON’T be afraid to discuss the fine detail

If certain types of work — such as different levels of text editing — require more work than others, use a variable rate and explain it carefully to your client or on your website/freelancer profile. Reserve your right to realign pricing after a trial period if appropriate.

The one variable you shouldn’t need to adjust for when setting your pay is your gender. And yet women effectively worked for free from January 1 to March 14 — i.e., Equal Pay Day — last year, and women earn less than men in 19 of the 20 permanent roles most commonly worked by women. As we’ve shown, the pay gap can be even more emphatic in some freelance roles. So, it is important to check that you aren’t undervaluing yourself due to the overconfidence gap or by conforming to expectations. That way, the “new normal” of freelancing might become a fair normal, where freelancers earn their true value.


To reveal the pay gap between male and female freelancers in the United States, we analyzed the hourly rate charged by 9,078 US-based freelancers on Upwork who have billed 100+ work hours.

We calculated the average hourly rates (USD) of freelancers overall and for 11 sectors ( Legal, Accounting & Consulting, Data Science & Analytics, Engineering & Architecture, Sales & Marketing, Writing, IT and Development, Translation, Design & Creative, Customer Service, Admin Support )before calculating the difference in hourly rates between male and female freelancers.

Male and female freelancers were identified using We only considered freelancers whose name-to-gender classification returned an accuracy value greater than 50%.

The data for this research was gathered in February 2024.

DISCLAIMER: This content is for informational purposes only. OnDeck and its affiliates do not provide financial, legal, tax or accounting advice.