The 5 Best Cities for Freelancers: Did Yours Make the List?

Best places to live
Alejandro Escamilla under Creative Commons

Where should you live if you want to be a successful freelancer?

We already know you can do freelance work from anywhere, whether you’re working while parenting, writing from a college campus or traveling overseas, but it turns out some cities are much better for freelancers than others.

NerdWallet recently developed a list of the best cities for freelancers based on an analysis of the 100 largest U.S. cities. (Sorry, small-town freelancers; this list won’t be for you.)

To rank the best freelancing cities, NerdWallet considered five big factors:

  1. Percentage of freelancers
  2. Average income earned by freelancers
  3. Percentage of people with direct-purchase health insurance
  4. Health insurance costs
  5. Median cost of rent

Did your city make the list? Let’s find out.

The Top 5 Cities for Freelancers

Scottsdale, Arizona earned the top ranking. To quote NerdWallet:

The self-employment rate is above the national average, but what really sets the city apart is at an income of $66,309, it is home to the highest average freelance income of all cities we analyzed. Scottsdale also has the highest percentage of people with direct-purchase health insurance of all 100 cities, and the cost of that insurance is lower than average.

Coming in second is Los Angeles, California. This should be no surprise to anyone who’s ever visited — or lived in — LA; the city is full of freelance writers, actors and screenwriters. However, be prepared to put a significant amount of your freelancing income towards LA’s median rent of $1,200 a month.

Portland, Oregon comes in third, followed by Austin, Texas. Both cities are known for their freelance-friendly communities, and are welcoming to people who lead unconventional lives. We’ve all seen the “Keep Portland Weird” and “Keep Austin Weird” T-shirts, right? (Yes, both cities use the same slogan.)

Bringing up the Top Five is Boise City, Idaho. With a low median rent of $789 and an average self-employment income of $35,300, freelancers in Boise City can spend roughly 27% of their pre-tax income on rent and still have enough left over to save.

Use Your Freelance City to Find Your Tribe

A lot of freelancers don’t choose a city. Instead, they start freelancing from their current address. However, if you have the option to choose a city from which to freelance, use NerdWallet’s list to find a new home in a place likely to help you succeed.

One of the most important elements of freelancing success, after all, is finding your tribe. These are the people who know where the work is, who help you out when work is low and who introduce you to people who can help grow your career.

A lot of us find this tribe online, with sites like Carol Tice’s Freelance Writers’ Den or groups of fellow freelancers we meet on Twitter and Facebook.

But living in a city full of successful freelancers can also help you find your own freelance network — and for some of us, it might be worth the move.

Want to learn more? Read the full story at NerdWallet.

Your Turn: Do you live in a great city for freelancers? Tell us about it in the comments!

Nicole Dieker is a freelance writer focusing on personal finance and personal stories. Her work has appeared in The Billfold, The Toast, Yearbook Office, The Write Life and Boing Boing.