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The In-Demand Freelance Skills Where Earnings Are Growing The Fastest

The In-Demand Freelance Skills Where Earnings Are Growing The Fastest

At Frankly, a consulting platform for female entrepreneurs, founder Johanna Buchweitz has noticed a trend: Many of the fast-growing businesses using her app have no one on staff as full-time employees. Instead, she says, more startups are relying entirely on contractors to fill specific roles. Freelancers “just do [the work] with a level of excellence.”

At a time when tech firms are laying off workers by the thousands, companies are rolling out hiring freezes and inflation means salaries aren’t stretching as far, more people—and more companies like Buchweitz’s customers—are relying on contract work to fill in the gaps, cushion income streams or create full-time careers out of make-shift jobs. But it’s not just to fill in for tech skills shortages: A new report from freelance platform Upwork finds that some of the most in-demand freelance skills are accounting, lead generation, data entry, customer service and graphic design.

Skills with the highest year-over-year growth in earnings on Upwork’s platform, which posts freelance gigs or specific projects connecting businesses with independent workers or agencies, were sales and business development (54%), data entry (47%), accounting (45%) and 3D animation (44%). The data also showed customer service skills such as chat support are highly needed by companies.

“Those are all things where companies are thinking, ‘well, actually we don’t have to have this in-house anymore,’” says Jonathan Shroyer, chief customer experience innovation officer at Arise Virtual Solutions, an outsourcing consulting firm. In the past, he says, “companies thought everything was a sacred cow.”

Upwork compared freelancer earnings from January 1, 2022 to October 31, 2022 to identify the top skills businesses seek from freelance workers. Each of these most-wanted skills had a minimum of 500 projects in the Upwork database during that time period.

In the tech sector, where talent gaps are among the widest—yet where jobs are being cut among the fastest—the most in-demand skills for freelancers were full stack development, followed by front-end and back-end software development. Mobile app development and web design rounded out the top five. E-commerce website development, UX and UI design and content management system development are also highly sought after skills for freelancers.

Early-stage technology companies are especially reliant on freelancers, Buchweitz says. “It is far less risky than hiring full-time employees,” she says. “It’s more cost effective.”

Other workers have been rethinking their priorities and quitting their jobs amid the Great Resignation. Some are picking up a side hustle, while others are making freelance work their full-time gig.

“You can find yourself on a trajectory—going from the king or queen of your side hustle to having a little business operation,” says Richard Wahlquist, president and CEO of recruiting and staffing firm American Staffing Association. “The world of work is changing.”

According to a prior report by Upwork from December, 39% of the U.S. workforce—some 60 million Americans—participated in either part-time or full-time freelance work in the past year, up three percentage points from 2021.

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““It’s not just something people do to make ends meet,” says Margaret Lilani, Upwork’s vice president of talent solutions. “This is really a career.”

Experts believe side hustles will grow further—even “reign supreme” in 2023, as LinkedIn’s editors put it in their list of big ideas for the year, especially among young, Gen Z workers. In October, McKinsey & Company reported that 51% of Gen Z workers do independent work and identify as contract, freelance, temporary or gig workers, compared to just 36% of all other ages.

And at a time when a potential recession looms, some 58% of the 2,000 U.S. workers surveyed by Wahlquist’s American Staffing Association and the Harris Poll say they are considering getting a second job, or “side hustle,” in the next year to augment their primary income. That’s much more than the 39% who plan to look for a new job, or 30% who plan to change careers.

Decreased stigma around freelancing—combined with the pandemic-induced pivot to remote work and education—has created more opportunities, Lilani says. Freelancers were previously viewed as temporary workers, but now “it’s not an in-between thing that they’re doing. These are careers, and they add value that those organizations cannot find in-house.”

Forbes

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