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Florida’s $23 billion freelance economy is booming, study says

Tampa Bay is up there with Miami among the nation’s fastest-growing markets for independent workers.
Florida's weather and outdoor amenities, like St. Petersburg's Vinoy Park, are part of what has attracted remote workers during the pandemic, according to a new survey by freelance marketplace Fiverr. Tampa Bay, Miami and Orlando all rank among the nation's fastest-growing markets for independent workers since 2016.
Florida's weather and outdoor amenities, like St. Petersburg's Vinoy Park, are part of what has attracted remote workers during the pandemic, according to a new survey by freelance marketplace Fiverr. Tampa Bay, Miami and Orlando all rank among the nation's fastest-growing markets for independent workers since 2016. [ SCOTT KEELER | Times ]
Published May 25

A number of companies in Tampa Bay are still having trouble finding workers. But at least one group of Tampa Bay workers is mostly doing just fine: Freelancers.

Tampa Bay’s independent workers brought in an estimated $2.8 billion in revenue in 2021, up from $2.4 billion last year, according to a new study from digital freelance marketplace Fiverr. The average contractor earned an estimated $40,067 per year, up from $37,691 the year before.

It’s all part of what Fiverr says is a booming marketplace across Florida, where independent workers earned about $23 billion last year, and Miami, Tampa and Orlando all ranked among the nation’s fastest-growing markets for freelancers.

Over the past five years, the study said, Tampa has been the nation’s fastest-growing market for those in the creative services industry, including artists, performers, writers and sound and video professionals.

“This continued movement of people to the Sun belt, to warmer climates, is obviously really taking hold here, and it continues to happen,” said Brent Messenger, Fiverr’s vice president of public policy and community. “Everybody’s getting more comfortable with this idea of remote work, so people are able to move and do whatever they like.”

Related: Tampa among fastest-growing cities for freelance workers, survey says

Produced in conjunction with the 500,000-member Freelancers Union, a coalition of independent workers, the Fiverr study pulled data from the U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Department of Labor and other federal sources, and a survey of 800 workers across the United States.

Overall, the nation’s estimated 6.3 million independent workers generated $247 billion in revenue in 2021, up from $234 billion in 2016. Half of them saw more work in 2021 than 2016, particularly in technical services fields. The reason, nearly a third of respondents said, was increased demand due to a nationwide labor shortage — and that demand didn’t really subside even when those workers raised their rates due to inflation.

With an estimated 69,353 freelancers working last year, Tampa Bay came in at 19th among major markets, ahead of Orlando at No. 22, but well behind Miami at No. 3. Same with revenues generated by freelancers — Tampa Bay was 20th with $2.8 billion, far short of Miami at No. 3 with $10.6 billion.

Miami, Tampa and Orlando ranked No. 1, 2 and 3 nationwide in terms of independent worker growth from 2016 to 2021, with Tampa Bay’s freelance workforce growing 38 percent. Miami and Tampa Bay ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, for technical services and professional services workforce growth. And in creative services, Tampa Bay topped them all — not just Miami and Orlando, but Austin, Phoenix, Charlotte, Dallas and Atlanta.

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Part of Tampa’s growth across the board, Messenger said, can be attributed to the fact that an increased number of retirement-age workers nationwide are re-entering the workforce on an independent basis.

“They’re doing it in a place like Tampa,” he said. “People are working longer, feeling more satisfied about it for longer, and those are good things.”

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