America's Best Cities for Freelancers 2019

When most people think of the life of a freelancer, images of rolling out of bed and working in pajamas might come to mind. While freelancing provides a certain amount of autonomy and freedom, it also comes with added responsibilities such as self-management, invoicing, budgeting, and adjusting to nontraditional work hours.

In order to make things easier for current or aspiring freelancers, we created a ranking of the best cities in the country to live and work as a freelancer. 

To determine our ranking, we analyzed data from more than 150 cities and compared those cities across five metrics: median rent, average internet speed, number of coffee shops per capita, income taxes (based on the median freelancer income of $52,074), and ease of getting around that is based on the average of a combined walkability, transit, and biking score.

Internet Speed

Fast and reliable internet is a necessity for most freelancers. If the internet speed in your city is slow it could take you longer to complete a project and potentially lose out on future work from clients. So, if fast internet is your top priority, you may want to look at Texas for your home base. Six Texas cities appear on our top 30 ranking, and three of those cities (Austin, San Antonio, and Garland) have download speeds of 60 Mbps or faster, according to BroadbandNow data. 

Getting Around

Not only is internet speed important for freelancers, but so is the ease of getting around town. From meeting up with clients to finding the perfect coffee shop, freelancers are no strangers to being out and about throughout the day.

Freelancers who need to get around town quickly should look to the following cities: St. Paul, Minnesota; Tempe, Arizona; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Pittsburgh; Salt Lake City; Tacoma, Washington; Hialeah, Florida; and Fort Lauderdale. All eight cities have an average walkability, transit and bike score of 50 or more.

Coffee Shops 

With all of that traveling around town, you’re probably going to need some coffee to keep you going. Not only do freelancers use coffee shops as a place to get an energy boost, but coffee shops also serve as offices, meeting spaces, and remote work sanctuaries.

We analyzed data from more than 20,000 Starbucks locations to determine which cities have the most Starbucks locations per 100,000 people. Considering that the coffee chain originated in Washington, it’s probably not a surprise to see Spokane, Vancouver and Tacoma with such a large amount of Starbucks locations. However, would you have guessed that Las Vegas is No. 1 when it comes to Starbucks per capita? Sin City is home to a whopping 25.3 per capita.  

Cost of Living

Perhaps one of the most important factors for freelancers is the cost of living. For this metric we considered both the median rent of a one-bedroom apartment as well as income taxes based on the median freelancer income of $52,074. The average rent of the top 30 cities on our list is $1,139. Cities like Tempe, Spokane, Las Vegas, and San Antonio all had a median rent of less than $1,000.

If you’re a freelancer looking to plant roots in a city and finally ready to break the rent cycle, check out these helpful apps to get started on your homebuying search. 

Methodology

To determine our ranking, we looked at more than 150 census-defined places via U.S. Census Bureau data. We compared these cities across five key metrics: median rent, average internet download speed, number of Starbucks coffee shops per 100,000 people, income taxes (state and federal taxes based on the median freelancer income of $52,074), and ease of getting around that is based on the average of a combined walkability, transit, and biking score.

We graded each metric on a 100-point scale. To determine an overall score, each city’s weighted average was calculated across all metrics. 

Median rent (one-bedroom apartment): 20 points

Average internet download speed (Mbps): 20 points 

Number of Starbucks coffee shops (per 100,000 people): 20 points

Income taxes: 20 points

Getting around town (walkability, transit, and bike score): 20 points  

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, Zumper, Walkscore.com, SmartAsset, Kaggle, BroadbandNow   

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Feel free to use this data and research with proper attribution linking to this study. 

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