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New Research from FreshBooks Discovers a 28% Wage Gap Among Self-Employed Women and Men

Self-employed professionals have the autonomy to set their own rates, so why does this earnings gap exist?

FreshBooks, the #1 accounting and invoicing software in the cloud designed exclusively for self-employed professionals and their teams, today announced results from its first Women in the Independent Workforce Report. The data suggest a massive gender wage gap exists among freelancers, with men out earning women by 28%.

FreshBooks, in conjunction with Research Now, surveyed more than 2,700 people in the U.S. who work full time – either as traditional employees, independent professionals, or small business owners.

Women who work for themselves earn 28% less than their male peers in America

Over the next five years, up to 13 million women could quit their traditional jobs to work for themselves.

  • 70% of them say workplace discrimination and the corporate glass ceiling factors into this decision.
  • Yet there is a persistent earnings gap among self-employed professionals, with women earning 28% less than their male peers. 

Majority of Women Say They Can’t Reach Their Full Potential as Company Employees

  • 63% of women believe that working for themselves will help them reach their career goals faster than being traditionally employed.
  • 52% of women say they can’t reach their full career potential as employees

Why Millions of Women Say They’ll Leave Their Office Job by 2020:  

  • 84% believe self-employment makes it easier to be a working mother
  • 63% believe self-employment will lead to faster career advancement 
  • 52% say they can’t reach their full potential as employees
  • 40% want more control over their career 
  • 44% want a career change
  • 35% want to spend more time with family
  • 33% want to earn more money

Nearly 100% of Women Want to Stay Self-Employed

  • Over 70% of women say self-employment gives them more control over their career than being an employee.
  • 78% of women are happier working for themselves compared to when they were employees
  • 91% of women are becoming self-employed by choice
  • More than 1 in 3 women plan to grow both their workforce and revenue
  • 96% say they do not want to return to traditional employment

Compared to when they were traditionally employed, self-employed women say they:

  • Make as much or more money — 70%
  • Have more work-life balance — 70%
  • Are healthier — 60% 
  • Are less stressed about work — 52% 

Self-Employed Women Struggle Twice as Much as Men When It Comes to Setting Rates

  • 20% of self-employed women say they have to charge less than their male equivalents to get and keep clients
  • Over 1/3 of women have experienced gender discrimination while self-employed
  • 30% of women believe they’re not taken as seriously as their male peers
  • 30% of women believe they have to work harder than men who do the same work
  • 1 in 4 self-employed women say they’re choosing to work less to pursue work-life balance


Today, FreshBooks announces the release of the 2018 Women in the Workforce Report, which finds a 28% earnings gap exists among men and women who work for themselves.

Survey Methodology: FreshBooks conducted this study in collaboration with Research Now. More than, 1,600 women who work full time — either as traditional employees, independent professionals, or small business owners — were surveyed online in November of 2017. Samples have been weighted (as required) to reflect various characteristics of their target populations (e.g., age, gender and industry) leveraging data from the U.S. Census, U.S. Small Business Administration, the NAICS Association and other sources. The study’s margin of error is +/- 2.3% at 95% confidence.

The FreshBooks data science team analyzed a sample of 40,000 user accounts to determine median annual earnings, controlling for industry, business size, and gender. The team made assumptions about users’ gender by analyzing users first names and predicting gendered cultural associations. The team also made assumptions about users gender and biological sex identification. While FreshBooks doesn’t collect demographic data, the team recognizes that an intersectional approach to this research would provide a deeper and more complex understanding of the earnings gap across a range of dimensions of diversity.

About: FreshBooks is the #1 accounting software in the cloud for self-employed professionals and their teams. Our new series Paid in Full uses big data to help small business owners earn their worth and run a successful business. We’re sharing proprietary data to demystify the uncertainties that surround working for yourself — from the range of rates your industry peers are charging, to whether or not small business owners out earn their traditionally employed peers.

Contact: Lindsay Lapchuk/p>

Email: pr@freshbooks.com

Phone: 416.780.2700 ext. 361

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