Coronavirus Study – Facts & Feelings among IT Freelancers

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Covid-19 is hitting freelancers and the self-employed especially hard. The current uncertainty affects everybody one way or another but the pandemic has disproportionately affected freelance work and as a result, their financial situation is now more volatile than ever. How do freelancers feel about COVID-19 and how has their work been affected?


Every country has taken different measures in terms of restrictions, lockdowns, and financial help available for freelancers. One thing the whole world has in common is social distancing and an economic decline in practically every industry. 

freelancermap has been conducting several surveys in the DACH region from March, 18 to May, 6, and here are some insights as to how freelancers are feeling about the Coronavirus.

  1. Negative effects
  2. Workload: Projects canceled?
  3. Remote work
  4. Top channels for client acquisition
  5. Thoughts on duration
  6. Financial situation & Government support
  7. Fears: Loss of livelihood
  8. What’s happening abroad?

Effects due to the Coronavirus crisis 

Back in the middle of March, when we ran the first poll between March 18 and March 20, 72% of all freelancers surveyed said to be experiencing negative effects of the Coronavirus mainly because projects had been canceled or postponed until further notice. 

Impacts of coronavirus IT freelancers in Germany, Austria and Switzerland

Only 14% said that the crisis had not affected them at that moment and the other 14% didn’t really know – It was too soon to answer the question.

The majority (62%) reported having lost work already due to clients canceling their projects. This lead to 56.4% of freelancers fearing a loss of livelihood because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Workload: Projects canceled?

At the beginning of April (March, 30 – April 5), we ran a second survey. Here, 63% of all surveyed freelancers reported experiencing a very bad or bad situation in terms of projects and workload.

Work situation rating among IT freelancers in March 2020 from very bad to very well
37% of freelancers define their work situation as “Very bad” in April 2020

37% defined the situation as being ‘really bad’ while 26% defined it as ‘bad’

Many freelancers have experienced their projects being canceled or put on hold while several others lost a percentage of their overall client base.

Coronavirus impact on freelancer projects – Results in March 2020

Companies tightening their budgets is making it harder for freelancers to find new projects as well. 

However, not everything is bad: 7% of freelancers declared being very happy with their current workload. This shows that there are also IT freelancers thriving regardless of the coronavirus crisis and that projects are getting completed.

The freelancers who claimed to be very happy with the current situation are working in the fields of “Consulting and Management” and “Engineering” and are currently hired on in the role of a “Consultant” and/or “Project Manager”.

Is remote work a thing now?

Previous results of our freelancer study 2019 showed that – in Germany especially – many projects were still completed on-site (55.14% in 2019).

While remote work has become a new norm for many – not only for freelancers but full-time employees –  “only” 20% of freelancers indicated that they were able to keep working remotely despite the current situation at the beginning of May.

Coronavirus impact on freelancer projects - Results in May 2020
20% of projects continue remotely as of April 2020

Best sources for client acquisition during Coronavirus

Top channels for finding clients during coronavirus crisis
Freelancing platforms & networking voted top channels for client acquisition (May 2020)

Freelancing platforms and the freelancers’ personal and professional network were voted as the best channels for client acquisition by 51% and 38% respectively. 

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How long will the crisis last?

At the start of our survey in March, 43.8% of freelancers expected the crisis to stay for longer than 4 months. But there were a few optimistic freelancers as well – 22.2% said that the crisis will be gone in 1 to 2 months.

Duration coronavirus crisis - Thoughts freelancers in March 2020
43.8% of freelancers expected the crisis to last longer than 4 months in mid-March

Fast-forward to May, there is still no unanimous vote on how long it will take to return to a “normal” state.

Right now, only 7% of freelancers see a possibility in this happening by June 2020 while 27% think it will take longer than a year and we’ll need to wait past March 2021.

Duration coronavirus crisis - Thoughts freelancers in May 2020
27% of freelancers expect the crisis to last longer than March 2021

Financial situation and Government support

Given the current situation, almost half of the freelancers who took our May survey declared that they will be facing financial problems in the following one to three months.

The majority of freelancers reported significant losses in revenue in May. 34% of freelancers have lost over 50% of their revenue. Only 15% of freelancers in the DACH region confirmed not having lost any revenue due to coronavirus.

20% of freelancers said having lost all their income (100%) so they are already using their earnings to survive or have applied for government support.

The survey showed that 32% of freelancers working in the IT niche confirmed they have applied for national help.

Read more: Measures available for freelancers in Germany (in German).

32% of freelancers confirmed their need to apply for government financial support

We asked our freelancers outside of Germany, too. 15% confirmed to have applied for help available in their country of residence while 85% haven’t applied for financial support (at least yet).

Have you applied for any government support to get through COVID-19?

No 85.25%
Yes 14.75%

Do freelancers fear a loss of livelihood?

The data from the latest survey conducted from April 30 to May 6 sheds an optimistic light than the initial results from March. 

After approximately one and a half months of watching the crisis become a larger part of reality in Europe, it looks like freelancers are quickly adapting to the new situation. Their fears of not being able to continue to run their business have sunk. This change could also be a result of the financial support offered by the Government.

There are still around 20% of the surveyed freelancers who aren’t yet sure how to answer this question. 

Fear of a loss of livelihood among IT freelancers coronavirus study

Also, the number of freelancers defining the current project workload situation as very bad is 6% lower than in April (37% compared to 31%) but still, 35% of all surveyed freelancers said that the situation is bad

Portfolio Dragos Muntean

What’s happening outside the DACH region?

How has your work been impacted by COVID-19?
Projects have been canceled / put on hold by clients 56.2%
On-site projects migrated to remote work 20.2%
My work has not been impacted so far 18.0%
I had to reduce my workload because I’ve been sick / had to care for family members 5.6%
Have you been financially impacted by COVID-19?
Yes 70.9%
No 22.1%
What % of work/client base have you lost if any?
0% 13.0%
Up to 25% 27.5%
26 – 50% 14.5%
51 – 75% 18.8%
More than 75% 26.1%
Have you applied for any government support to get through COVID-19?
No 14.8%
Yes 85.2%
Have your rates been affected by COVID-19?
Yes, I have lowered them 48.6%
No, my rates haven’t changed 40.0 %
Yes, I have increased them 11.4%

As COVID-19 continues to create economic and financial uncertainties, a majority of the workforce will continue to deal with its immediate impacts.

As a freelancer, you are already better suited to the upcoming months of remote work due to the very real possibility that businesses will be more likely to adopt remote working for the foreseeable future. For example, Twitter announced yesterday their employees can work remotely forever.

Happy freelancing and stay safe!


Coronavirus study in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland (DACH) – Graphs and results in May 2020

Natalia Campana

Natalia is part of the international team at freelancermap. She loves the digital world, social media and meeting different cultures. Before she moved to Germany and joined the freelancermap team she worked in the US, UK and her home country Spain. Now she focuses on helping freelancers and IT professionals to find jobs and clients worldwide at www.freelancermap.com

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