Freelancer Hotspots: The best countries for a freelance life
The world of work is changing rapidly, spurred on by digital innovation and new approaches to working. Never before have so many people worked remotely, whether from their own homes or further afield, with traditional office-based approaches to work looking to quickly become outdated. Indeed, even the typical working week of forty hours over five days is becoming less relevant in a world where being present in an office eight hours a day holds diminishing merit.
In fact, the digital revolution of the workplace means it’s now possible to work anywhere in the world with a laptop and decent internet connection. That, and you don’t mind having meetings at odd hours to compensate for working across time zones. With the world at your fingertips and no strict working pattern to follow, there has never been a better time to go freelance and make the most of the benefits that the digital age has brought.
Starting a new business as a freelancer or sole trader, gives the freedom to work at times that suit you, and for as long as you need to get the job done. No more watching the clock until 5pm or traipsing into the office to do a job you could have easily done from the comfort of your own home. In fact, once you’re set up with the must-haves, such as a business account, your working life could well resemble an extended holiday as you travel the world, sending emails and completing projects from a different beach each month.
With so much opportunity for a life without the restrictions of the analogue past, why wouldn’t you spend a few years travelling the world as a digital nomad? Inspired by this thought, we have identified the very best places in the world to work as a freelancer.
Top 10 freelancer hotspots
According to the data, these are the best countries to live and work in as a freelance professional. They offer the best quality of life combined with great accessibility to the internet and working spaces, as well as robust legal protections.
- Singapore – Freelancer Score: 7.35
Singapore takes the top spot as the best place to work as a freelancer in 2021, with a score of 7.35. Singapore benefits from excellent broadband that’s both affordable and super fast, as well as having a very high number of co-working spaces available per head. The country performs strongly across the board, although it’s not the cheapest place to live and there’s still room for improvement in terms of its Happiness Index score.
- New Zealand – Freelancer Score: 7.20
New Zealand takes second place with a Freelancer Score of 7.20, just missing out on the top spot. New Zealand’s slightly higher cost of broadband is offset by its excellent performance on the Happiness and Global Gender Gap indices, as well as having very strong legal protections for workers.
- Spain – Freelancer Score: 6.53
In third place, some way behind New Zealand with a Freelancer Score of 6.53, is Spain. While Spain does relatively well across the board, its main strengths are its strong performance on the Global Gender Gap Index and the much more affordable cost of living than other top-scoring countries.
The worst countries for working as a freelancer
Having looked at the best places to live and work as a freelancer, it’s only natural that we give equal attention to the worst. These countries scored poorly in some or all of the metrics we analysed, painting them in a poor light as potential destinations for the wandering freelancer.
- Japan – Freelancer Score: 3.99
Japan is the worst country for freelancers, with a Freelancer Score of just 3.99/10. This is due mostly to very poor performance in terms of searches for freelance work, low strength of legal rights for workers, and a poor performance on the Global Gender Gap Index.
- China – Freelancer Score: 4.52
China is the second worst country for freelancers, having received a Freelancer Score of just 4.52. While China revealed itself as an affordable place to live, there is little demand for freelance work and the country scored poorly on the Happiness Index, making it a less appealing location for prospective freelancers.
- Italy – Freelancer Score: 4.54
Italy comes third, just beating China with a Freelancer Score of 4.54. Not scoring particularly well in any category, Italy’s biggest downfalls are the slow internet speed and weak strength of legal rights in the country.
Here is the full table of all the countries we looked at for our freelancer hotspots index, ranked from the best to the worst.
The countries with the best broadband speed
If you’re working remotely, there’s nothing worse than slow broadband, as it can make meetings and communications very difficult and can disrupt the flow of work. Here you can see the countries where this is least likely to be an issue, as they typically have the fastest internet speeds.
- Singapore – Broadband Speed: 256.03 Mbps
Singapore is the country with the best internet speed at 256.03 Mbps. With internet this quick you’ll have no problem running your freelance gigs remotely.
- Thailand – Broadband Speed: 216.16 Mbps
The second-best country for fast internet is Thailand, where you can expect broadband speeds of 216.16 Mbps.
- Switzerland – Broadband Speed: 214.82 Mbps
In third place is Switzerland, which boasts impressive broadband speeds of 214.82 Mbps, which is more than enough to get any job done.
The best countries for affordable broadband
In addition to speed, your broadband’s affordability is just as important to make your remote working dreams a feasible possibility. We’ve highlighted the countries that offer broadband at the cheapest rates.
- Russia – Broadband Cost: $7.50 per month
Russia is the country with the cheapest broadband, costing only $7.50 per month. With internet this cheap you could be dialing in from St Petersburg in no time!
- China – Broadband Cost: $12.26 per month
China takes second place with broadband costing only $12.26 per month. Coupled with a very low cost of living, China is one of the most affordable places to work as a freelancer.
- Lithuania – Broadband Cost: $13.35 per month
Lithuania comes third with internet costing $13.35 USD per month, making the Baltic country an attractive option for the traveling freelancer on a budget.
The countries with the highest demand for freelancers
These are the countries with the highest number of freelancer-related google searches. This shows how much of a demand for freelance work there is in the area.
- Netherlands – Searches for Freelance Work per 100,000: 1,305
The Netherlands has the highest interest in freelancers with 1,305 searches being made per 100,000 people. This shows that the Northern European nation is a great place to pick up freelance work.
- United Arab Emirates – Searches for Freelance Work per 100,000: 1,196
The UAE takes second place in terms of interest in freelance work with 1,196 searches per 100,000 people. If you’re looking for sun and sand on your travels this might be a great option.
- Singapore – Searches for Freelance Work per 100,000: 1,058
Singapore takes third place with 1,058 searches for freelance work, showing that there’s plenty of opportunity in the single-city nation for digital nomads to set up shop.
The countries with the best legal protections for freelance workers
Here we look at the strength of the legal protections for workers that each country has. The higher the rating, the better protected any freelancer would be.
- New Zealand – Strength of Legal Rights: 12
New Zealand has the highest rated Statutory Rights of any country in our study, making it the most secure place for freelance workers to do business.
- Australia and USA – Strength of Legal Rights: 11
In second place are both Australia and the USA, both of which received a rating of 11 for the strength of their Statutory Rights.
The best countries for gender equality
Another important factor when choosing a country to live, travel and work in is the values that they hold. Here we highlight the countries that performed the best on the Global Gender Gap Index, making them great places to work, especially for women.
- Norway – Global Gender Gap Index Score: 0.842
The country that scored the highest in the Global Gender Gap Index was Norway, having received a score of 0.842. This singles out Norway as a champion of equality, and a great place for women to live and work.
- Sweden – Global Gender Gap Index Score: 0.820
Another Scandinavian country, Sweden takes second place with a Global Gender Gap Index Score of 0.820. This shows that Norway isn’t the only Nordic country to offer a fantastic environment for people of all genders to live and work without discrimination.
- New Zealand – Global Gender Gap Index Score: 0.799
New Zealand takes third place having scored 0.799 on the Global Gender Gap Index, adding yet another string to its bow in the race to be the best destination for freelancers.
The cheapest countries to live in
While there are many factors that can make a country a good or bad place for freelancers to thrive, the cost of living is one of the most important. Here we can see the countries that recorded the lowest monthly cost of living for a single person.
- India – Monthly Cost of Living: $326.30
India is the cheapest country to live in on our list, with monthly costs reaching only $326.30. With costs this low, you’ll be able to survive any quiet period between clients much more easily.
- Brazil – Monthly Cost of Living: $459.46
Brazil is the second least expensive country to live in, with average monthly costs coming to $459.46.
- Mexico – Monthly Cost of Living: $483.09
The third most affordable country to live in is Mexico, where you’ll be able to live for a whole month on as little as $483.09.
The countries where co-working spaces are most common
Here you can see which countries offer the most co-working spaces per head. These spaces are great for freelancers as they allow them to use an office space that would otherwise have been too expensive to set up for a single worker.
- Switzerland – Co-Working Spaces per 100,000: 2.50
Switzerland has the most co-working spaces available per head of any country in our study, with 2.50 spaces per 100,000 people. This makes Switzerland a great place for freelancers who want the feel of a professional setting to work in.
- Singapore – Co-Working Spaces per 100,000: 2.32
Singapore came second for co-working spaces, with 3.32 spaces available per 100,000 people.
- Portugal – Co-Working Spaces per 100,000: 2.31
Portugal takes third place with 2.31 co-working spaces being available per 100,000.
The 10 happiest countries
We also looked at the happiness levels in each country to gauge whether they would be good places for a freelancer to live and work. By using the standardised scores of the Happiness Index, we are able to compare these countries in a fair and equal manner.
- Denmark – Happiness Index Score: 7.65
Denmark is the happiest country on our list, with a Happiness Index Score of 7.65. Living in such a happy environment would be great for any prospective travelling freelancer.
- Switzerland – Happiness Index Score: 7.56
Switzerland is the second happiest place in our study, having scored 7.56 on the Happiness Index. Perhaps it’s the breathtaking views or the clean mountain air, but whatever the reason this makes it an attractive place to live and work.
- Norway – Happiness Index Score: 7.49
The third happiest country is Norway, which scored an impressive 7.49 on the Happiness Index. If you love mountains and cold, crisp weather, Norway is bound to put a smile on your face.
We wanted to find out which countries are the best to work in for freelancers. To find this out we first created a list of 30 countries to compare across multiple factors. We chose eight different measurements that each contribute to how well a country might suit a freelancer.
First, we looked at the broadband in each country, using data from the Speedtest Global Index to record internet speeds in each country, as well as data from cable.co.uk to compare prices. We used data from the World Bank to assess the strength of workers’ legal rights in each country and used the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020 to assess each country’s stance on equality and gender issues.
We also collected data from Coworker to assess the availability of coworking spaces in each country and used Google Keyword Planner to see how many searches there were in each country relating to freelance work. We then used population data from World Population Review to calculate the number of searches and the number of coworking spaces per 100,000 people in each country.
Once we had collected data for all of these different factors, we combined them into a single score which gave each factor equal weighting. This allowed us to rank the countries in order of their suitability for freelancers.