10 Best Cities to Be a Freelancer

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  • We like cities in states with low or no income tax or sales tax.
  • Cities near major metro areas -- but not in them -- can offer a good blend of affordability while still providing plenty to see and do.

Freelancing means picking your own home base.

Each year, more and more U.S. workers are saying "no" to the 9 to 5 in favor of freelancing. In fact, one study by Upwork suggests 35% of U.S. workers were non-temporary freelancers in 2021.

And it makes sense when you think about it. Who wants to be micromanaged when you can be your own boss instead? But that's not the only perk. Many skilled freelancing jobs are location independent, meaning you can live where you want to -- instead of where your company says you should. 

The U.S. offers a lot of variety, but finding the right city can be intimidating. We've put together a list of some of our favorite cities for freelancers to help you scope your options.

1. Vancouver, WA

This quirky town is just across the Columbia River from Portland, Oregon, making it a great place to enjoy big-city amenities -- without the same big-city markup. Cost of living in Vancouver is noticeably lower, though it means you'll travel a little farther to get to the heart of the city. Additionally, you'll enjoy the 0% income tax rate of Washington, while having the opportunity to pop over into Oregon to shop without paying sales taxes.

2. Nashua, NH

Nestled in the middle of scenic New England, Nashua is the second-largest city in New Hampshire with a population just under 100,000. Residents here enjoy New Hampshire's low -- read 0% -- state income and sales tax rates, as well as a moderate cost of living, all while being a short drive from Boston. But while the autumns are beautiful, winters can be tough, and property taxes can get high, so keep those things in mind.

3. Reno, NV

Folks who like their winters warm and their summers warmer can head over to Reno. A fairly good-sized city home to more than 250,000 people, Reno has plenty to keep folks busy, including bustling tourism and casino industries. It also has its fair share of cultural options, and the warm weather makes outdoor adventuring possible year-round. Nevada has no state income tax, though sales tax rates can get high.

4. Richmond, VA

The capital city of Virginia, Richmond is only its fourth-largest, with a population around 225,000, though the greater metropolitan area is home to nearly 1 million people. The city is ripe with history, having been settled in the 1700s, and is popular for its historic districts and preserved architecture. However, you won't miss out on modern conveniences, and Richmond is frequently touted for its vibrant nightlife and reliable transportation network.

5. Seattle, WA

If you like the big city but aren't a fan of paying income taxes, welcome to Seattle. It has all the perks of a major metropolis -- including extensive public transit, restaurants galore, and even its own NHL team -- all with a 0% state income tax rate. As with most major cities, the cost of living is going to be fairly high, especially when it comes to housing, but it's still less than you'd pay in places like NYC or San Francisco.

6. Albany, OR

A mid-sized town of approximately 56,000 people, Albany is right next door to Corvallis, the home of Oregon State University. The close proximity means Albany residents enjoy all the benefits of a popular college town, but with a lower cost of living -- and less traffic on game days. The internet speeds are good, the housing is affordable, and a big-city adventure is just an hour's drive north in Portland. And the cherry on top? Oregon has no state or local sales taxes.

7. Fairbanks, AK

Fans of winter weather can find a lot to love in Fairbanks. The second-largest city in Alaska, Fairbanks has everything you could want in a city, including an international airport, while also offering the charm of a smaller town. The cost of living can get high in Alaska thanks to this remote location, but you won't pay any state income taxes or local sales taxes. You also get paid to live there -- literally. Alaskan residents get a check each year from the state's dividend program; the amount varies, but it's been as high as $3,200 a person.

8. Albany, NY

Want the option to spend the weekend in NYC but don't want the hustle, bustle, or closet-sized apartments? Albany may be a good option. New York's capital city is just a train ride away from the Big Apple -- and a tiny fraction of the price. A cosmopolitan blend of historic charm and modern updates, Albany's convenient location also means it's frequently featured on national tours of all types.

9. Worcester, MA

Nestled in the heart of Massachustts, Worcester is the ideal location for anyone looking for the four-season life. Worcester is the second-largest city in the state, home to around 200,000 people, and it offers all the city amenities you could need. However, you also have the option to pop into Boston -- just an hour away -- for a concert or major sporting event. 

10. Colorado Springs, CO

Frequently featured on Best Cities lists of all kinds, Colorado Springs is a mountain-lover's paradise. It boasts a lower cost of living than nearby Denver -- just an hour away -- but many of the same perks, including a happening foodie scene featuring more than 30 microbreweries. But it's the outdoor sports that really shine here, with over 500 acres of scenic trails and winter sports galore. 

Take your gigs on the road

One of the best parts of being a freelancer is that you often have the option to live just about anywhere. Whether you're ready to settle down in one of our top picks, or somewhere else altogether, a freelance career can offer the freedom to do it on your terms, wherever you feel most at home.

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