Beyond full-time: Can freelance designers & content creators earn more?

The freelance economy has grown significantly in recent years, with more working professionals turning to self-employment — and creatives are no exception. Our most recent study sheds light on the geographical distribution of freelance designers and short-form content creators (producing brief, engaging digital media designed for quick consumption), their typical rates, top in-demand skills, and prevailing trends in the industry. Our results provide an overview of the market, highlighting what yields the highest earnings, who earns them, and the global regions where these creators enjoy the highest pay.

Key takeaways



Freelancer fees

Graphic design and content creation offer lucrative jobs, but how do they stack up across the globe and over time?

Freelance graphic designers have charged an average of $49.65 per hour, while their counterparts in short-form content creation commanded slightly higher rates of $50.62.

This translates to an average annual salary of about $92,547 for graphic designers. Graphic designers earn an average of $64,550 per year, according to BLS income data. This means graphic designers only working as freelancers may earn up to 43% more than full-time employees who don’t freelance.

This discrepancy is likely due to the flexibility and control freelancers have over their workload and rates, enabling them to adjust pricing based on demand, skill level, and project complexity. Freelancers often take on multiple clients or projects simultaneously, maximizing their income potential beyond the fixed salaries of full-time positions.

As for geographical differences, one in four U.S.-based freelancers reported earning $100,000 or more, compared to 20% of those in Australia.

Breaking it down by job role, freelance graphic designers earned the most in Australia, and freelance short-form content creators had the highest earnings in the U.S. Freelancers in the U.K. have charged the least for their services in either role. The U.S. was the only country where short-form content creators charged more than graphic designers.

Top skills among digital creators

Next, we’ll explore the most prevalent and in-demand skills among freelancers in graphic design and short-form content creation, along with the rates these skills can earn.

Logo design emerged as the most commonly listed skill among graphic designers on Upwork, while TikTok content creation took the lead as the most popular skill among short-form content creators. Web design was the skill that earned designers the highest freelance hourly rate at $59.40, while short-form content creators charged the most for social media content ($60.84 per hour).

Among graphic designers, those listing print design skills (creating visual content for physical media, like brochures, posters, and business cards) on their Upwork profile had gotten the most jobs since joining the platform. Similarly, short-form content creators got the most job opportunities when they were proficient in Adobe After Effects, highlighting the demand for video editing skills in the current market.

Digital design pay gaps

Could the gender pay gap extend to freelancing rates and job opportunities within the graphic design and short-form content creation sectors?

Female freelancers commanded higher average hourly rates than their male counterparts in both graphic design and short-form content creation. Overall, women charged an average of $52.48 per hour and completed 44 jobs via Upwork, while men charged $46.95 and completed 61 jobs. Men in the U.K. charged the least per hour across genders and locations studied.

Men in the U.S. experienced the highest job volume of any gender or region, averaging 43 more jobs than U.S. women via Upwork. However, U.S. freelancers overall enjoyed the highest work volume of any group we studied overall — 137 jobs, compared to 92 for Australian freelancers and 68 for U.K. ones.

Gender pay discrepancies may balance out over time, as we found nearly equal percentages of men (24%) and women (26%) on Upwork at the time of this study have earned over $100,000 by freelancing.

The cost of creativity

Freelance graphic design and short-form content creation wages and job opportunities vary based on skill, location, and gender. The U.S. stands out as a hub for creative freelance work, with its freelance visual content creators enjoying the most job opportunities. As the freelance economy and digital design careers continue to evolve, these industry trends can help those seeking to maximize their earnings and businesses seeking to leverage freelance talent effectively.


We analyzed 1,000 Upwork profiles to gain insights into various aspects of the freelance design market. Among them, 50% were graphic designers, and 50% were short-form content creators. Additionally, 19% were from Australia, 27% were from the U.K., and 54% were from the U.S. For gender analysis, 58% were women, and 42% were men. Additionally, we used BLS Income Data for full-time employment comparisons

Fair use statement

You’re welcome to share our analysis of freelance graphic design and content creation for any non-commercial purpose. We kindly ask that you provide a link back to this study to ensure that readers have access to the full context and methodology.

Try Adobe Express today