The “gig economy” is a market consisting of short-term contracts and freelance work. Earlier this year, an estimated 11 percent of working adults in the U.S. worked in the gig economy as full-time independent contractors, with freelance Americans contributing nearly $1.4 trillion to the economy every year. Whether you’re considering a gig-based career or are already an established freelancer, check out our list of the 15 best cities for gig economy jobs in 2018.
Overall, gig economies are strongest in metropolitan markets where there’s more demand for ride-sharing services like Uber, short-term rentals such as Airbnb, and freelance labor services like TaskRabbit. Major metropolitan areas are also hotbeds for startups and tech companies that rely on more nontraditional employees as well as those that greenlight pilot programs in specific test markets.
In ranking these cities, we considered four major metrics:
- Current per capita gig revenue (33 percent) – Represents the per capita revenue for specialized freelance gigs in each city in 2017. To calculate, we took the total specialized gig economy revenue for the city and divided by 2017 census population numbers.
- Average cost of a one-bedroom apartment (33 percent) – The average monthly cost to rent a one-bedroom apartment is an indicator of the cost of housing in each city. We ultimately divided this by per capita gig revenue to determine the affordability, or overall cost of living, of each city.
- Growth of gig economy (33 percent) – Represents the growth of the “rides and rooms” gig economy between 2012 and 2014, which includes Airbnb, VRBO, Uber, and others.
- Resources for nontraditional employees (tie-breaker) – We also considered resources that affect a freelancer’s ability to work in each city, such as availability of shared workspace and high-speed internet. These factors were used only to break ties between cities. Check out our research methodology below to find out exactly how we ranked these cities.
The 15 best cities for gig economy jobs in 2018 are:
1. San Francisco
The Golden Gate City made the top of our list because of the high earning potential and accelerated growth of the gig economy in the city. In 2017, San Francisco had a per capita revenue of $9,272.21 for technical gig-based jobs—the fourth highest of the cities we reviewed. Plus, San Francisco experienced a 92.6 percent growth rate in their “rides and rooms” industries between 2012 and 2014, the highest on our list.
San Francisco’s notoriously high rental costs mean a one-bedroom apartment typically costs a whopping $3,460/month, causing it to rank 20th for that metric overall. However, we divided the city’s per capita gig revenue by the average monthly rental cost to obtain an overall quality of life ranking—seventh—among the cities we reviewed.
It’s also important to note that many gig workers work remotely from outside the city or drive in from surrounding areas like Sacramento to avoid paying a premium for city living. Further, San Francisco’s gig economy also excels because of resources available to the city’s nontraditional workforce, including shared workspaces like WeWork and high-speed internet through Webpass.
On average, specialized gig economy jobs brought in $4.7 billion of revenue in 2017, giving Atlanta a per capita revenue of $9,665—the third highest for the cities we considered. Atlanta also received second place ranking for overall cost of living because of the city’s relatively moderate rental costs, which average $1,328/month for a one-bedroom apartment. Finally, Atlanta had the ninth highest average growth rate in the “rides and rooms” industries of the cities on our list, with a 40.95 percent increase.
According to our calculations, Atlanta tied with Los Angeles for the number two spot on our list. However, Atlanta’s already thriving Google Fiber network combined with highly regarded co-work spaces like Alkaloid Networks broke the tie.
3. Los Angeles
Based on our quantitative metrics, L.A.’s high gig economy growth rate helped tie the city for the second best city for gig economy jobs with Atlanta. Between 2012 and 2014, the city experienced an increase of 79.3 percent in its “rides and rooms” economy—the third highest average growth rate, behind San Francisco and San Jose. Plus, L.A.’s ground transportation industry alone increased by 135.9 percent in that time period.
In spite of a costly rental market, where one-bedroom apartments average $1,949/month, L.A. gets high marks in gig revenue. The city’s per capita revenue for specialized gig jobs was $4,575 in 2017, making it eighth on our list for that metric.
Beyond performing well based on our quantitative metrics, Los Angeles offers a well-rounded gig economy and the resources needed to support it. The city is extremely attractive to gig workers because of its access to incredible co-work spaces, like The Unique Space, and proximity to startups and entertainment gigs.
Boston, home to some of the nation’s top universities, is our fourth best city for gig economy jobs in 2018. Rental costs in Boston are relatively high at $2,260/month for a one-bedroom apartment. However, the city ranks well for both the growth of the gig economy and the overall cost of living.
Based on an estimated population of 685,094 in 2017, Boston’s per capita gig revenue was $7,882—the fifth highest of the cities we reviewed. Even with the city’s high rental costs, the high per capita revenue means Boston ranked sixth for overall cost of living. Plus, with a growth in the gig economy of 59.15 percent—sixth on our list—the market for freelancers and other nontraditional employees will likely continue to thrive.
5. Washington, D.C.
Our nation’s capital is fifth on our list of the best cities for gig jobs because it had a per capita revenue of $11,240 for specialized gig jobs in 2017, the second highest of the cities on our list. The high gig revenue softens the impact of the city’s high average rental cost of $1,966/month, making the overall cost of living the third most affordable on our list.
The growth of Washington’s gig economy was lower than many of the other cities we looked at, at just 35.9 percent, but the services available to local freelancers demonstrate that the city has already benefited from healthy growth in the market. In addition to some areas of the city supporting fiber internet, Washington, D.C., benefits from productive and beautiful co-work spaces like AdvantEdge, Cove, MakeOffices, and more.
Those looking for a nontraditional career can head to Dallas, Texas, for the second lowest rental costs on our list. At an average of $997/month for a one-bedroom apartment, Dallas is incredibly affordable. Plus, low rent costs combined with an annual per capita revenue of $4,698 for specialized gigs makes Dallas rank fifth on our list for overall cost of living. Finally, the city’s “rides and rooms” industry grew 40 percent between 2012 and 2014—10th among cities on our list.
In addition to offering affordable housing and a potential for high earnings, Dallas’s gig economy is growing and continues to offer freelancers the services they need to thrive. Though the city doesn’t have widespread access to high-speed fiber internet yet, they’re on Google’s list for potential cities. The city also offers a variety of nontraditional offices such as Spaces, WeWork, Common Desk, and Serendipity Labs.
7. San Jose
San Jose experienced a massive 90.75 percent growth in its “rides and rooms” economy between 2012 and 2014, giving it the number two ranking for growth. Unfortunately, the city’s close proximity to Silicon Valley makes it a highly desirable place to live, and a one-bedroom apartment will cost an average of $2,548/month—the third highest among cities we reviewed.
It’s important to note that the revenue data we used to develop our list is not available for San Jose. Because of that, we awarded it a default ranking of 13 for that category (along with some other cities that lacked revenue data). However, the city’s impressive growth rate, combined with its proximity to Silicon Valley and variety of excellent shared workspaces, like NextSpace, make it an awesome option for those looking for tech-related gigs.
8. San Diego
San Diego had among the lowest per capita revenue for gig jobs of the cities that made our list. What’s more, the city has some of the higher rent costs, at $1,547/month for a one-bedroom apartment, and the 11th lowest overall cost of living in the cities on our list. However, San Diego ranked fourth for growth, with a 66.25 percent increase in “rides and rooms” industries between 2012 and 2014, and offers a great deal of promise for freelancers willing to pay the higher costs.
Beyond a growth in the gig-based economy, San Diego offers residents great resources like Webpass high-speed internet and phenomenal co-work spaces. The city also supports the San Diego Small Business Development Center (SDSBDC), which provides resources for how to set up a gig business, pay taxes on freelance work, and more.
Coming in at number eight, Miami had a per capita gig revenue of $16,402—the highest of the cities we reviewed for this list. At $2,000/month, the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is relatively high for the cities we reviewed, but the high revenue potential makes up for it and the city fares well based on our overall cost of living metric. Plus, Miami’s specialized gig economy grew 23.7 percent between 2012 and 2014, making it rank 16th among cities we reviewed.
If you want to check out Miami’s thriving gig economy, check out The LAB Miami. The shared workspace has members ranging from freelancers and startups to nonprofits and corporations and offers workspace, conference rooms, tech support, and networking opportunities in the Magic City.
Phoenix, Arizona, is a great option for freelancers who are just starting out or are looking to get the most bang for their buck. The city has the most affordable housing options of the locations on our list, with an average monthly rent of $770 for a one-bedroom apartment. Plus, it experienced a 46.2 percent increase in its “rides and rooms” industry—eighth on our list. Because there was no revenue data for the city, it was ranked low on our per capita revenue index, but the affordable rental costs kept the city at number eight for the overall cost of living.
Finally, with respect to our more qualitative metrics, the City of Phoenix is on the list of potential Google Fiber cities, offers innovative co-work spaces like CO+HOOTS, and is a market for gig platforms like Rover.com, Instacart, DoorDash, and Lyft. Phoenix was even a testing ground for LinkedIn’s pilot program that allowed Phoenix residents to apply for up to four gig-based jobs with the same online application.
Minneapolis, Minnesota, ranks extremely high for the overall cost of living. In addition to having the sixth highest per capita income of the cities we considered, the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Minneapolis is only $1,243. The high potential revenue, combined with an affordable rental market, makes Minneapolis an excellent option if you want to start a career as a freelancer.
Despite the affordability of being a freelancer in the city, Minneapolis experienced the seventh lowest gig economy growth rate of the cities on our list—just 25 percent. However, the city is developing the resources people need to succeed in the gig economy. Not only is the city an active market for gig job sites like Odd Job Nation, it’s home to GO Intellectual Capital, an on-demand finance, accounting, and human resources firm that pairs specialized gig workers with employers.
Though most famous for country music, Nashville is still one of the best cities for gig economy jobs because of its low cost of living and large growth in the “rides and rooms” market. We didn’t have revenue data for the city, but the average rental cost is $1,200/month—seventh on our list—making the city relatively affordable. Plus, Nashville’s ground transportation, or “rides,” industry grew by 106.5 percent and its travel accommodation, or “rooms,” industry grew by 21.5 percent—fifth on our list for growth.
Beyond our quantitative metrics, Nashville sweetens the pot for gig workers by offering high-speed internet through Google Fiber. The vibrant city is also cultivating its gig economy through a variety of shared workspaces like WELD, Industrious, and Center 615, which offer inspiring and well-equipped work and meeting space for bloggers, designers, entrepreneurs, and other nontraditional workers.
Even with a booming housing market, the Mile High City has the eighth lowest rental costs on our list of cities. On average, a one-bedroom apartment in Denver will cost $1,220/month. Like the city’s housing market, Denver’s gig economy has also experienced growth in the “rides and rooms” industries, and places seventh on our list with just over a 52.1 percent increase between 2012 and 2014. However, because gig revenue wasn’t available for the city, Denver tied at only 13th for overall cost of living.
Luckily, Denver is still a great option for freelancers looking for gig jobs and the resources to support them. The city features Webpass, a Google Fiber company, and fosters a variety of unique, freelancer-minded shared workspaces like Green Spaces, Modworks, and Denver Coworks. Gig workers can also check out Deskpass, which allows you to try 15 different co-working spaces in Denver.
Like some of our other top cities, the Windy City is a great option for freelancers who can afford to spend a little more in pursuit of a gig-based career. Chicago has the 11th lowest overall cost of living of the cities on our list because of the city’s relatively low per capita revenue for specialized gigs ($2,466) and high rental costs. Not only will a one-bedroom apartment cost an average of $1,341/month, the growth of gig economy indicators for Chicago was 31.45 percent—13th on our list.
In spite of the higher cost of living, Chicago is a world-class metropolitan area that supports its freelance community with Webpass high-speed internet, tons of active gig platforms like TaskRabbit, and Deskpass, which allows you to try different co-work spaces within the city for one price.
The rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the city averages $1,368/month, making Portland the 12th most affordable city for renting on our list. No data was available for the city’s per capita income for specialized gig economy jobs, causing it to rank 13th for overall cost of living along with other cities that lack that data point. Finally, the city ranked 12th for “rides and rooms” industries, with an average growth rate of 31.7 percent between 2012 and 2014.
Despite the city’s lower ranking for some of our qualitative metrics, Portland has a unique metropolitan area with a thriving gig economy and top-of-the-line shared workspace options like CENTRL Office, Collective Agency, Hatch, and WeWork. Portland may not be at the top of our list, but it’s still an awesome choice for someone looking for gig economy jobs in 2018.
To rank the 15 best cities for gig economy jobs, we ranked cities based on three major factors: per capita revenue, average cost of rent, and growth of the gig economy, calculating the overall cost of living by dividing per capita revenue by monthly rent. To rank each city, we averaged each city’s rankings for growth and overall cost of living. Finally, we considered qualitative factors like the availability of shared workspace and fiber internet to break any ties.
The specific rankings for each city include:
Rankings of Best Cities for Gig Economy Metrics
Per Capita Revenue (33%)
Our per capita revenue metric represents the per capita revenue for specialized gigs in each city. This value illustrates the demand for gig economy jobs in each market and is an important factor when considering where to move for a gig economy job.
The relevant revenue for each city was obtained from a report by TechRepublic. Each city’s per capita revenue was then calculated by dividing the overall gig revenue by the population of the city. Population data were obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau and is based on estimates for 2017.
Average Rent Costs (33%)
This variable represents the average cost to rent a one-bedroom apartment in each city. The monthly cost to rent an apartment serves as an indicator of each city’s overall cost of living and demonstrates how much it will cost for gig workers to live in the best cities for gig economy jobs.
Data for this metric was obtained from SmartAsset and reflects the cost of a one-bedroom apartment as of June 2018. Though rental costs were considered on their own, this metric was factored into each city’s overall cost of living ranking by dividing the city’s per capita gig revenue by the average cost to rent a one-bedroom apartment for one month. By doing so, we came up with a number more representative of the cost of living in each city.
Growth of the Gig Economy (33%)
For purposes of this list, the growth of a city’s gig economy is represented by the increase in ground transportation and traveler accommodation gigs. This is an important consideration when determining the best cities for gig economy jobs because it demonstrates a continued—or increasing—demand for nontraditional employees.
We obtained growth data from The Brookings Institute’s 2016 study of the growth of the gig economy. This data included the percentage growth of each city’s ground transportation and traveler accommodation industries between 2012 and 2014. Averaged together, these two growth percentages yielded the average growth of each city’s “rides and rooms” industries and serve as a point of comparison between each city.
Resources for Nontraditional Employees (Tie-Breaker)
To reach a final ranking, we averaged each city’s overall growth ranking with its overall cost of living ranking. Ties between cities were broken based on each city’s availability of services that enable nontraditional employees to succeed, like high-speed internet and shared workspace.
Available employee resources used to break ties include:
- High-speed internet – High-speed internet providers like Google Fiber, Webpass, and AT&T Fiber contribute to how well a city is suited to web-based gigs. We used fiber internet availability as an indicator of how easily gig workers can access web-based gigs and of how many resources each city is putting into services for local professionals.
- Shared workspace – A shared workspace is an office environment that allows freelancers and other nontraditional employees to use office space in a more collaborative and less restrictive environment. A city’s selection of high-quality shared workspaces contributes to the overall strength of the gig economy by providing gig workers with valuable resources like high-speed internet and office equipment.
Bottom Line—Best Cities for Gig Economy Jobs
It’s projected that nearly 43 percent of the U.S. workforce will be represented by gig economy jobs by the year 2020. Profits from gigs can be variable, but certain U.S. cities make it easier to be a successful freelancer by offering affordable rent, low overall cost of living, and helpful resources for nontraditional workers. Use our list of the 15 best cities for gig economy jobs in 2018 to choose the market that’s right for you.
Interested in finding nontraditional employment in a gig economy job? Check out our list of the top 10 highest paying gig economy jobs for 2018.