What Are the Best Cities for Freelancers in 2023?

Freelancing has become an increasingly attractive employment option for today’s workers. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of freelancers significantly increased. As people quit their jobs in droves (or were laid off), they turned to flexible freelance work to pay the bills.

If you’re considering becoming your own boss, you’re probably wondering if you can make it in your current location, or need to move to a freelancer-friendly area. NorthOne recently conducted a study to determine which American cities are best for freelancers and independent contractors. Using data from the Tax Foundation, Bureau of Economic Analysis, Harvard JCHS National State of Housing, and more, they found out where you can enjoy great quality of life as a freelancer.

What makes a city freelancer-friendly?

Everyone’s needs and definition of quality of life differs, but most people consider housing, healthcare, transportation, tax, and childcare costs when they’re getting ready to move. Parents often consider educational opportunities like quality school districts and proximity to universities. People who prefer to work outside the home must consider the cost and availability of coworking spaces. All of these items must be affordable on your freelance salary.

While most people also consider entertainment, cultural offerings, and other recreational opportunities, those aren’t a key part of making a city freelance-friendly. Think of the list below as a starting point to help you find the perfect fit.

Data sources and methodology

The study considered cities where self-employed, non-farm workers made a salary at or above the national average. Cities where freelancers made less than the national average were excluded. The study based their cost assessment on the average age of a freelancer (37). For issues like healthcare plans, mid-level plans were selected.

Sources include:
  • AllTransit
  • American Trauma Society and Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) healthcare calculator
  • Bureau of Economic Analysis Economic Profiles for 2020 and 2019
  • Coworker.com
  • Economic Policy Institute family budgeting calculator
  • Harvard JCHS National State of Housing
  • PayingForSeniorcare.com
  • Tax Foundation
  • U.S. News Best High School national rankings and National Institute for Early Education Research Preschool Yearbook for 2021.

Consider these freelancer-friendly cities

Here’s a closer look at the cities NorthOne identified as being the best cities for freelancers in 2023. Some of these are likely to surprise you—and perhaps you’ll even add some of them to your list when you’re ready to relocate.

Midland, Texas

Over 7 percent of Midland’s working population are freelancers. The industry grew by 3 percent between 2019 and 2020, and the average freelancer earns $260,741. Even better, the cost of living is low, including $19.99 home internet and relatively inexpensive coworking spaces. This is considered the best city for freelancers in America.

Charleston, WV

Charleston’s population of 47,323 makes this a relatively small city, but its overall affordability makes it the second best city for freelancers, plus you enjoy the benefits of living in a capital city. You can expect to make $51,011 on average, which grew 8 percent in 2019 and 2020. Charleston is particularly good for educational opportunities. West Virginia has state-funded preschools, and one high school is ranked 812th in the nation. The only drawback is that the share of freelancers has gone down almost 2 percent between 2019 and 2020.

Parkersburg, WV

West Virginia also hosts the third best city for freelancers. It’s even smaller than Charleston, with a population of 29,732. About 4.6 percent of the population works in freelancing, which went down 1.5 percent between 2019 and 2020. However, freelancers earn $75,484 on average. Internet and coworking spaces are quite affordable. Parkersburg is ideally located if you want easy access to larger cities: Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Washington, DC are all within a half-day’s driving distance. However, if you are living with elderly relatives, adult care costs about $100 per day. Healthcare costs are also expensive, at $535 per month for mid-level plans.

Tyler, TX

Texas is back on the list at number four. Tyler’s freelancers make up over 7 percent of their working population—and that’s actually down 10.2 percent between 2019 and 2020. Perhaps that’s because the average freelance salary is $84,513. On the bright side, the tax burden is low. Educational and healthcare opportunities are good, but taking public transportation could cost an average of $929 per month.

Tulsa, OK

Tulsa’s working population is over 6 percent freelancers, and the number is growing slowly. The average salary is $74,750, and there are great educational opportunities for school-age children. Coworking costs just $166 per month on average, internet is affordable, and the population of 402,441 makes it one of the larger cities on this list, meaning you’ll get to enjoy some big-city amenities.
Casper, WY

If you love the outdoors—and affordable living—Casper might be the right city for you. The city has a population of 58,287. Of the working population, 5.5 percent are freelancers, and the number is growing. Your average $128,129 salary won’t go as far when it comes to healthcare and childcare, however: costs average $726 and $793 per month, respectively. Still, you’ll love the mountain scenery and plenty of fly fishing opportunities.

Indianapolis, IN

Indianapolis is the largest city on this list, with a population of 869,937. Nearly 5 percent of the working population are freelancers, which is showing growth. Coworking spaces average $136 per month, and you can expect to make an average of $76,279. However, if you have a family or plan to raise one here, be prepared to shell out $923 per month for childcare. There is no guarantee you’ll get into a state-funded preschool program, either. On the other hand, the large urban center offers plentiful entertainment, dining, and recreation opportunities.

Sioux City, IA

Sioux City is the eighth city on the list, with 5 percent of the working population freelancing. You can expect to earn $55,100 per year. However, beware: despite the coworking space and public transit system, an 11 percent tax burden might discourage some people from moving to this city. Healthcare averages $390 per month. With a population of 82,535, it’s a relatively mid-sized city.

Wheeling, WV

West Virginia makes a third appearance on this list with Wheeling. The population of 27,046 makes it the smallest city on the list, and only 3.4 percent of the working population freelances. That number has been shrinking over time. On the other hand, affordable housing is plentiful, and healthcare costs just $229 per month.

Altoona, PA

Altoona actually has a free coworking space, which is convenient for the nearly 5 percent of workers who freelance. The average freelance salary grew 2 percent between 2019 and 2020, and housing is relatively affordable. However, the educational and public transportation opportunities are limited.

Wichita, KS

Roughly 5 percent of Wichita’s working population are freelancers. With an overall population of 390,566, Wichita is one of the larger cities on this list. Transportation will cost you about $894 per month, and coworking spaces average $126 per month. Internet prices are high, however: expect to pay around $119 monthly.

Saginaw, MI

Saginaw is an affordable town—which is good, because the average freelancer makes just $38,307 here. Childcare costs about $615 per month for one child, and healthcare averages $180 monthly. Plus, there’s a good public transportation system, which makes it easy and inexpensive for you to commute to coworking spaces. If you’re not interested in owning a home, this city can be a great choice to settle down.

The bottom line

These 12 cities are freelancing-friendly, making them all good choices for your next move if they meet your needs. Whether you choose a city on this list of best cities for freelancers or find another place to call home, it’s good to know that there are plenty of affordable options on a freelancer’s salary.

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