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Report: How the pandemic changed the gig economy & self-employment

How was the self-employed workforce affected by the COVID-19 pandemic? Whose incomes took a hit? Which industries thrived? We delve into all these questions and more in our 2022 Nearside Report.

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Self-employment in the US is at an all-time high. 28% of workers have some kind of self-employment, with 14% citing self-employment as their primary source of income1. This group encompasses a broad range of people including small business owners, freelancers, and gig workers– to name a few. 

To better understand the changes these workers faced in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we conducted a survey of over 1000 self-employed workers ranging from gig workers to small business owners to online contractors. 

This report helps us understand fluctuations in both career and well-being for the self-employed workforce since March 2020. Some of the questions we dive deep into are:

  • Did the pandemic improve or hurt self-employed workers’ earnings?
  • Did the pandemic create more jobs in self-employment?
  • How were contractors and gig workers’ rates impacted by the pandemic?
  • Which industries suffered the most? Which ones thrived?
  • And more!

You can access the full report and breakdown of our surveyed users here. Here’s a quick sneak peak of our major findings:

Who's this report for?

This report is for anyone who wants to understand how the self-employed workforce and economy were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. We go over different self-employment industries, incomes and measures of well-being since March 2020. This study is also for anyone who is looking for quantitative statistics on how the self-employment industry suffered or thrived during the pandemic.

This report is for anyone who works for themselves, including but not limited to:

  • Small business owners
  • Gig workers
  • Anyone with a side hustle
  • Contractors
  • Freelancers
  • Entrepreneurs
  • Health and beauty contractors
  • Remote professional services workers

How did COVID-19 impact jobs for self-employed workers?

Unemployment was perhaps the heaviest impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, as many businesses across the US suspended operations or closed permanently. Consequently it also became difficult to find new work. The number of self-employed and non-self-employed workers declined by 14.2% and 15.5% respectively from 2019 to 20202

63% of self-employed workers noted they work for themselves as a direct result of the pandemic.

37% of workers lost their previous job due to the pandemic.

Reports of self-employment, however, have bounced back to pre-pandemic levels. Facing temporary layoffs, many people turned to self-employment in the first year of the pandemic. Others voluntarily left their jobs to become self-employed. The reasons for this change are varied and include rising concerns about workplace safety, reduced access to childcare, and a desire for more work flexibility.

Income and volume of work are down for the self-employed

While the number of self-employed workers is back to normal, their incomes have taken a hit. According to our study, volume of work has dropped by about half since the pandemic, and gig work income has consequently decreased by about the same amount. 

With the advent of lockdowns, many self-employed workers were unable to keep their stores open or provide their regular services. And with unemployment on the rise during the pandemic, consumers were left with less money to spend on goods and services from these business owners. 

This loss in customers was further impacted by the necessity to raise prices to stay afloat. 

45% of self-employed workers cited an increase in their rates during the pandemic since 2020.

Well-being has improved thanks to remote work

The encouraging news, however, is that well-being has apparently increased since the pandemic. The shift to remote work, with its numerous benefits, is no doubt a factor in this change. Increased productivity, flexible hours, and more leisure time can all contribute to a greater feeling of work-life balance.

78% of self-employed respondents say their well-being has not been significantly negatively affected by COVID-19.

Half of all respondents in our survey say that working from home had a positive impact on their work life, while only 19% said the impact was negative– the rest were neutral. Additionally, 41% report that their leisure time has increased because of the pandemic.

What else you can find in the report that we didn’t cover here:

  • Self-employment industries that thrived the most during the pandemic
  • Self-employment industries that suffered the most during the pandemic
  • Who did and didn’t receive government assistance during the pandemic
  • Demographic breakdown of the self-employed workforce in the US during COVID-19

You can download our report for free, just fill in the form below and you’ll receive your copy within minutes.

Free report and guide
How COVID-19 Impacted Incomes of the Self-Employed Workforce
How did the pandemic impact the income of  gig workers and entrepreneurs? Download to learn more.


  1. Quickbooks. “Self Employed & Gig Economy Trends Report 2019.” 2019.
  2. Pew Research Center. “Self-employed are working at pre-COVID-19 levels but have fewer employees | Pew Research Center.” 3 November 2021.
Free report and guide
How COVID-19 Impacted Incomes of the Self-Employed Workforce
How did the pandemic impact the income of  gig workers and entrepreneurs? Download to learn more.
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