Which Cities Are Best for Solopreneurs and Freelancers?


Want to be your own boss? We found the top 10 cities for you to live in.

It’s a great time to be your own boss.

The internet and other technology make it easier to create and promote your business than ever before. More and more people are creating careers through freelance work.1 And thanks to companies like Lyft, Postmates, and Airbnb, just about anyone can start setting their own hours.

(To be clear, there are definitely potential problems with freelance work and the gig economy.2,3 But we’re not here to give you a lecture on economics; we’re here to point you toward the right city for you.)

So if you’ve decided to become a solopreneur or freelancer, where should you live and work? We found out.

What makes a city great for solopreneurs and freelancers?

Narrowing down the best cities was no easy task. In the end, we focused on three factors:

  • The city’s median self-employed income (and how it compared to that city’s general median income)
  • The percentage of city residents who are self-employed
  • The percentage of people who work fewer than 40 hours each week

As you can probably guess, a higher median freelance income—especially when compared to the city’s general median income—pushed a city higher in the rankings.

Likewise, cities that have a higher percentage of self-employed workers ranked higher in our lists. After all, who would know more about what makes a city great for freelancers and solopreneurs than the workers that already live and work there?

And of course, the higher the percentage of people working fewer than 40 hours a week, the better a city did in our rankings. Because isn’t the point of becoming your own boss that you get to work smarter, not harder?

With those factors in mind, we just had to do some simple math to get our list.

Choosing cities

As much as we would have liked to look at every town and city in the United States, we had to whittle down our starting list to make the math possible. We chose the 50 most populous metro areas in the US. After all, if they’re that popular, they must be doing something right.

The top 10 best cities for solopreneurs and freelancers

So which cities made it to our top 10? Here they are, starting with the best.

1. Salt Lake City, UT Metro Area

salt lake city skyline

Median self-employed income: $75,768 (175% of the city’s $43,394 median income)

Percent of self-employed residents: 3.3%

Percent of people who work fewer than 40 hours/week: 61%

Full disclosure: Business.org is headquartered in Salt Lake City, so we were delighted to see it top our list. But it got there thanks to its solid numbers: Salt Lake City has more people working 40 hours or less each week than any other city we looked at, and it has the second-highest freelance median income as compared to the city’s median income.

Plus, you’ll have plenty to do when you’re not working: in winter, there’s skiing and snowboarding, and in summer, you can hit up one of Utah’s five national parks.

2. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA Metro Area

los angeles skyline

Median self-employed income: $72,213 (159% of the city’s $45,488 median income)

Percent of self-employed residents: 4.1%

Percent of people who work fewer than 40 hours/week: 58%

While Los Angeles didn’t come out on top in any one category, its impressive numbers for each factor earned it a solid second place on our list. While the area might be better known for people trying to make their big break in show business, it could be the perfect place for you to make your big break with your own business.

3. Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL Metro Area

miami skyline

Median self-employed income: $50,392 (131% of the city’s $38,465 median income)

Percent of self-employed residents: 6.9%

Percent of people who work fewer than 40 hours/week: 58%

For some East Coast sun, consider the third city on our list. The city must be doing something right for solopreneurs, as it has the highest percentage of self-employed workers of the cities on our list. Maybe it’s the sun. Maybe it’s the beaches. Maybe it’s the delicious Cuban food. Maybe you should move there to find out.

4. Austin-Round Rock, TX Metro Area

austin texas skyline

Median self-employed income: $83,725 (170% of the city’s $49,311 median income)

Percent of self-employed residents: 3.7%

Percent of people who work fewer than 40 hours/week: 56%

This Texas capital is one of two Texas metro areas that made our list. While Austin has been a hidden gem for years, people are starting to catch wind of its vibrant arts scene and bustling nightlife. If you want a hip place to start your solopreneur business, Austin might be just the city for you.

5. Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ Metro Area

phoenix arizona skyline

Median self-employed income: $60,989 (142% of the city’s $42,827 median income)

Percent of self-employed residents: 3.9%

Percent of people who work fewer than 40 hours/week: 59%

The Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale area is a great location for any solopreneur who loves sunny days and doesn’t mind the heat. It offers all the perks of a bustling city along with easy access to some stunning natural scenery. So whether you’d rather spend your downtime visiting the Desert Botanical Garden or hitting up a game at Chase Field, Phoenix has it all.

6. Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX Metro Area

houston texas skyline

Median self-employed income: $73,531 (154% of the city’s $47,832 median income)

Percent of self-employed residents: 3.1%

Percent of people who work fewer than 40 hours/week: 58%

As the second Texas city on our list, this fast-growing area is experiencing an economic boom. That makes this a perfect place to go get your own piece of the pie as a solopreneur or freelancer. And thanks to Houston’s low cost of living, every dollar you earn can go a little further.4

7. Oklahoma City, OK Metro Area

oklahoma city skyline

Median self-employed income: $60,688 (145% of the city’s $41,918 median income)

Percent of self-employed residents: 4.6%

Percent of people who work fewer than 40 hours/week: 57%

We’ll admit it: Oklahoma City was the dark horse of this list that none of us were expecting. But it turns out that OKC is filled with great food, cool art, and tons of interesting museums. We have a sneaking suspicion that Oklahoma City will be the Next Big Thing, so get in and build your business before everybody else does.

8. San Diego-Carlsbad, CA Metro Area

san diego skyline

Median self-employed income: $66,905 (133% of the city’s $50,165 median income)

Percent of self-employed residents: 4.1%

Percent of people who work fewer than 40 hours/week: 59%

Look, we could talk about San Diego’s impressive numbers, but let’s get real: mostly everyone will be jealous that you get to live in a city known for its gorgeous year-round weather. And when they hear that you work for yourself in that city? Don’t be surprised when they turn green with envy.

9. New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA Metro Area

new york city skyline

Median self-employed income: $72,071 (130% of the city’s $55,314 median income)

Percent of self-employed residents: 4.1%

Percent of people who work fewer than 40 hours/week: 59%

What is there to say about the NYC area that you don’t already know? It’s a bustling metropolis with pretty much anything and everything you could want. But as a solopreneur or freelancer, you can get all the highlights with fewer of the drawbacks—like a rough commute. Sounds like a good deal to us.

10. Memphis, TN-MS-AR Metro Area

memphis tennessee skyline

Median self-employed income: $76,908 (186% of the city’s $41,395 median income)

Percent of self-employed residents: 2.6%

Percent of people who work fewer than 40 hours/week: 54%

Rounding out our top 10 is Memphis, which had the highest median self-employed salary as a percentage of the city’s general median salary. That means if you set up shop in Memphis, you might just find yourself with plenty of earnings you can use to expand your business—or get barbecue. Your call.

The sweeter side of self-employment

Self-employment might not be all sipping margaritas in your sweatpants, but our study did indicate some big perks.

For example, in each of the 50 metro areas we looked at, the median earnings for self-employed workers are higher than the median earnings of business-employed workers. Self-employed workers do the best for themselves in Memphis, TN, where the median solopreneur/freelancer salary is 186% of the area’s median salary.

But money isn’t everything. In all of our top cities, more than half of people worked 40 hours or less a week. Given that studies have shown most of us can’t be productive if we work more than 40 hours a week, these people are doing something right.5 (For the record, Salt Lake City—our top city—had the best working hours, with 61% of the population working 40 hours or less.)

And of course, there’s a lot to be said for simply being your own boss. No wonder so many people are choosing self-employment over traditional jobs. The Miami metro area had the highest percentage of self-employed workers, with 6.9% of workers throwing off the shackles of corporate America. Unsurprisingly, the Silicon Valley area was the worst, with just 2.4% of workers escaping the clutches of the Man.

The full list

Haven’t seen a city you like yet? Don’t worry, you have plenty of other choices. Here’s the top 50 in full—from best to worst.

50 best cities for solopreneurs and freelancers
RankCity
1Salt Lake City, UT Metro Area
2Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA Metro Area
3Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL Metro Area
4Austin-Round Rock, TX Metro Area
5Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ Metro Area
6Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX Metro Area
7Oklahoma City, OK Metro Area
8San Diego-Carlsbad, CA Metro Area
9New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA Metro Area
10Memphis, TN-MS-AR Metro Area
11Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV Metro Area
12Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA Metro Area
13New Orleans-Metairie, LA Metro Area
14Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA Metro Area
15Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX Metro Area
16Nashville-Davidson–Murfreesboro–Franklin, TN Metro Area
17Louisville/Jefferson County, KY-IN Metro Area
18Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO Metro Area
19Sacramento–Roseville–Arden-Arcade, CA Metro Area
20Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL Metro Area
21Jacksonville, FL Metro Area
22St. Louis, MO-IL Metro Area
23Birmingham-Hoover, AL Metro Area
24Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA Metro Area
25Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL Metro Area
26Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, IN Metro Area
27Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI Metro Area
28Kansas City, MO-KS Metro Area
29San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA Metro Area
30Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, MI Metro Area
31Cleveland-Elyria, OH Metro Area
32Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT Metro Area
33Columbus, OH Metro Area
34Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI Metro Area
35San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA Metro Area
36Providence-Warwick, RI-MA Metro Area
37San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX Metro Area
38Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA Metro Area
39Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI Metro Area
40Buffalo-Cheektowaga-Niagara Falls, NY Metro Area
41Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV Metro Area
42Raleigh, NC Metro Area
43Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC Metro Area
44Pittsburgh, PA Metro Area
45Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN Metro Area
46Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC Metro Area
47Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH Metro Area
48Richmond, VA Metro Area
49Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, MD Metro Area
50Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD Metro Area

Taking care of (your own) business

Here at Business.org, we’re all about being your own boss. So whether you’re just now starting out on your solopreneur journey or you’re relocating (because you have that flexibility!), our ranking of the best cities for freelancers can help you find the best place for your home office or flex workspace.

Now get out there and create the job of your dreams!

Did we overlook your city? Tell us why your area is perfect for solopreneurs and freelancers in the comments below!

Our methodology

We looked at the 50 largest metros by population. To get our rankings, we looked at the percentage of self-employed individuals, their median earnings compared to privately employed individuals in the same metro, and hours worked in a week for each metro area.