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The World’s Best

Freelance Cities

How many of us can say our office is poolside one week and in a mountain lodge the next? That you can go from the highest skyscraper in a neon city to a dainty café in a rural village within the space of an email thread? For a growing cohort of freelance workers, this wanderlust-fuelled working life is very much a reality.

If you want a slice of the nomad pie, you’ll need to get the ingredients before you put it in the oven (i.e. do plenty of research).

That’s where we come in
1Employment Rate (%)
2Cost of Living Index
3Monthly Salary (£)
4Monthly Rent (£)
5Co-Working Spaces
6Healthcare Index
7Commute Dissatisfaction Index
8Leisure Activities Score (%)
9Internet Speed (Mbps)
10Quality of Life Index

We looked at some top cities for freelancing and found numbers on factors such as average salary and rent, internet speed and leisure activities (work hard, play hard and all that).

Filter the table below by 10 different metrics to discover your next freelancing location.
Rank Country City Total 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
1 USA Austin, Texas 65.18 59 3,688 75 457 137 67 1,443 71 100 191
2 Thailand Chiang Mai 64.31 67 425 57 26 136 42 302 85 80 126
3 Germany Berlin 62.46 59 2,188 243 462 91 63 831 70 100 166
4 Spain Barcelona 62.21 49 1,298 331 115 133 57 850 78 100 140
5 Australia Melbourne 61.45 61 2,322 258 1,810 43 63 890 75 100 178
6 France Toulouse 61.00 50 1,971 11 225 140 69 566 84 80 168
7 Canada Montréal 59.79 61 2,054 125 1,543 126 60 737 64 80 168
8 UAE Dubai 58.37 81 2,425 209 1,365 96 67 1,264 67 60 157
9 Colombia Medellín 57.28 64 228 122 1,099 32 25 252 77 80 120
10 Norway Oslo 56.95 61 2,409 50 249 123 84 1,026 75 80 163
11 New Zealand Auckland 56.51 67 1,989 36 981 111 67 925 73 60 167
12 Netherlands Amsterdam 55.62 61 2,463 133 102 113 78 1,415 69 80 169
13 Hong Kong Hong Kong 54.66 58 2,239 422 2,362 170 77 1,874 66 100 99
14 UK London 53.48 60 2,606 509 3,483 68 77 1,767 69 100 126
15 Isreal Tel Aviv-Yafo 52.41 61 2,041 54 913 84 84 1,180 74 90 149
16 Argentina Buenos Aires 50.90 54 446 169 4,840 41 33 210 69 80 112
17 Indonesia Canggu, Bali 50.68 64 166 74 30 21 40 227 68 80 95
18 Chile Santiago 50.15 58 503 122 158 93 41 311 66 40 111
19 Pakistan Lahore 48.70 52 172 144 472 10 22 111 65 60 107
20 South Africa Cape Town 48.59 40 827 80 2,809 31 36 498 71 80 143
21 India Delhi 48.08 50 422 714 12,192 40 27 185 66 60 82
22 Russia Saint Petersburg 47.59 59 462 18 4,819 63 32 385 59 80 108
23 Brazil São Paulo 46.69 56 369 208 7,430 53 35 336 57 100 81
24 Serbia Belgrade 45.93 47 407 74 681 51 38 312 54 80 109
25 Ukraine Kiev (Kyiv) 45.60 49 421 92 2,673 51 31 479 55 80 106
26 Greece Athens 44.12 43 684 42 1,104 27 56 358 56 100 120
27 Philippines Manila 36.56 58 329 411 11,398 31 38 483 63 40 53
28 Egypt Cairo 35.71 43 213 226 6,921 27 31 187 45 60 80
29 Kenya Nairobi 33.66 60 303 106 12,637 18 40 351 56 60 72
30 Bangladesh Dhaka 24.34 56 282 54 13,946 26 34 125 42 20 60

The best cities for work

Let’s start with the serious stuff. We’re here to work, after all.

We looked at how cities fare on employment rate, average monthly salary, number of co-working spaces, internet speed and commute satisfaction (apologies if being stuck in traffic is on your travelling bucket list).

Dubai in the United Arab Emirates tops this category, scoring well for employment rate and commute satisfaction. London, UK follows in second place and Austin, Texas in the USA comes third – also nabbing a top score for monthly salary. Elsewhere, Hong Kong scores top marks for internet speed, Delhi does well for co-working spaces while Chiang Mai and Canggu boast great commuter satisfaction.

So if work’s your main squeeze, you’ve got three top continents to choose from!

Living the freelancer life

When you’re more than a passing tourist, you’ll need to love (fingers crossed!) life in your chosen city.

We looked at general cost of living (have you seen the price of milk these days?), monthly rent for a one bedroom in the city centre, and quality of healthcare.

Medellín, Colombia wins at life, scoring healthily across all three metrics. Chiang Mai, Thailand follows in second place with a top score for healthcare while third place goes to Lahore, Pakistan with the lowest cost of living and the lowest monthly rent across all 30 cities.

Other top scorers include Delhi for cost of living, and Dhaka, Delhi, Cairo, Buenos Aires and Canggu for monthly rent. For healthcare, Toulouse holds a strong second place while Barcelona gets third.

Options abound for a happy, healthy freelancing life.

There’s play
involved in this work

Freelancing means you have the freedom to manage your time your way. Whether you’re looking to get a surf in before a presentation, peruse a museum between calls, or schedule your work for the PM so you can hit the clubs the night before, freelancing gives you that flexibility.

So, which city has the fun factor? Austin, Texas boasts an impressive performance scoring top marks for both leisure activities and quality of life. Melbourne, Australia gets a close second overall while Berlin, Germany lands in a comfortable third position.

In general, several cities scored enviously well for their leisure activities: Barcelona, London, Athens, Hong Kong and São Paulo all got 5/5 from nomads currently living in the cities. As for quality of life, high scorers include Melbourne, Amsterdam, Toulouse and Montréal.

Whatever your out of office vibe, these cities have plenty to offer.

We assessed 30 cities on 10 different factors that may be important to freelancers. All data was collected in April 2020. To standardise our results and help rank the cities – we need to crown a winner, after all – a formula was applied to rank each factor evenly between 1-10. The formula used was:

Score(i) = 10 * ( ( (x(i) - x(min) ) / ( (x(max) - x(min) ) )

A final score was calculated by adding up the points awarded across all ten factors.

Employment rate (% of total population over 15 years of age in employment; date of data: September 2019) – sourced from https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SL.EMP.TOTL.SP.ZS

Salary (average monthly net salary after tax in £; data is updated regularly) – sourced from https://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/

Co-Working Spaces (sum of number of desks, private offices and meeting rooms; data is updated regularly) – sourced from https://www.coworker.com/map

Commute dissatisfaction (estimation of dissatisfaction due to long commute times; data is updated regularly) – sourced from https://www.numbeo.com/traffic/rankings_current.jsp

Internet speed (Fixed broadband (Mbps; data is updated regularly) – sourced from https://www.speedtest.net/global-index

Cost of living (combines Rent Index, Cost of Living Plus Rent Index, Groceries & Restaurant Indices, Local Purchasing Power Index; data is updated regularly) – sourced from https://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/rankings_current.jsp

Average monthly rent (rent per month in a one bedroom in the city centre in £; data is updated regularly) – sourced from https://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/prices_by_city.jsp?displayCurrency=GBP&itemId=27&itemId=26

Healthcare (Healthcare Index, based on residents’ survey; data is updated regularly) – sourced from https://www.numbeo.com/health-care/rankings_current.jsp

Leisure activities score (Leisure Quality % using metric ‘Fun’; data is updated regularly) – sourced from https://nomadlist.com/?sort=leisure_quality&order=desc

Quality of life (combines the following Indices: Purchasing Power, Safety, Health Care, Cost of Living, Property Price to Income Ratio, Traffic Commute Time, Pollution, Climate; data is updated regularly) – sourced from https://www.numbeo.com/quality-of-life/rankings_current.jsp

Cities sourced via https://nomadlist.com, Payoneer Global Freelancing Index 2019, Payoneer 2020 Freelancer Income Report, Freelancer.com, QotoQot and Envato.

With flexibility and freedom becoming two of the most coveted work goals, it’s no wonder so many people are moving to freelance working. The opportunity to plan your day as you see fit – and taking in the sights, sounds and smells of a new city in the process – can be idyllic, but all this requires research and organisation. Hopefully the table above has taken some of that work off your hands. One last tip we’ll leave you with is to compare SIM only deals before you leave. A SIM only deal will offer unrivalled flexibility as you work to make your freelancing dream a reality.