In-demand freelance skills to learn this year (and earn more the next!)

Elena Prokopets
Written by Elena Prokopets
on October 21, 2022

Have you ever wondered which freelance skills will remain in demand?

If so, you might be going through a temporary work slump or maybe you're just curious about your future employability prospects. 

Whatever your rationale is, we’re here to give you some data-backed answers! 

What skills should a freelancer have?

Successful freelancers are so-called T-shaped professionals. You should have a broad spectrum of organizational and people skills paired with a “depth” of hard skills — aka your core professional competencies such as web design, app development, SEO, or photography. 

Sample freelance skill-set 

Soft skills 

(time management, negotiation, customer listening, adaptability, etc.)

 

Hard skills 

 

UX/UI design

Wireframing

User research 

 

Additionally, most freelancers have (or develop) general business acumen skills. 

Business acumen (also known as business savviness) is your knowledge of when, how, and why various business tasks need to get done. In other words, business acumen is the ability to understand how different organizations operate, combined with the experience of operating a solo business.

Examples of business acumen skills include:

  • Operational planning
  • Business analysis
  • Cash flow management 
  • Market strategy development 
  • Product or services management 
  • Business planning 
  • Competitor research
  • Customer listening 
  • And more!

 

The above may sound like a proper MBA, but don’t worry! You don’t need to have executive-level knowledge of all of these processes. Just a basic grasp of how your clients’ companies operate, paired with some basic business administration for running your own shop. Pst, this is an area where Xolo can help you a lot. 

Which freelance skills are best for the future?

In short: strong digital literacy, people skills, and creativity, paired with continuous learning,  are essential for future employability. Combined these can help you master emerging professions or upskill to command higher rates within your chosen field. 

Knowing how the world of work is changing will help you determine which freelance skills will be in high demand in the future. Here’s what we’re seeing: 

  • Increased reliance on technology and automation. With 60% of occupations, at least a third of standard tasks can be automated. Depending on the pace of tech adoption, between zero and 30 percent of global work hours could be automated by 2030.
  • Greater focus on “knowledge” and creative work. With low-value, mundane tasks automated, workers will have more “headspace” to do knowledge work. And no, AI isn’t coming for anyone’s job!  Algorithms and robotics will serve as human helpers, taking care of the repetitive work and leaving humans with more time for critical, creative, and innovative thinking.  In fact, 73% of business leaders agree that  technology can never replace the human mind.
  • Change of employment patterns. Remote work and freelancers already changed the workplace dynamics a lot. Employers grew comfortable with the idea of sourcing talent from anywhere and managing globally dispersed remote teams. So most are doubling down on hiring. Workers, in turn, are now feeling more empowered to pursue independent careers and market their skills on a global scale. 

 

Combined these trends set the backdrop for the future of freelancing, where people with in-demand freelance skills can find meaningful and well-paid work, plus empowered to do so with great business tools and relevant legislation.  

the freelancer's favorite pay-as-you-go invoicing tool

Most in-demand freelance skills for this decade

The world of work is changing fast thanks to sweeping digitization, increased levels of connectivity, and the booming freelance economy. But all of these are good things because they are creating new employment possibilities for independents and regular workers alike. 

Here are some of the best freelance skills to learn (or dust off) to stay employable now and in the future:

  1. Data science 
  2. Cybersecurity 
  3. Low code development 
  4. Voice user interface design 
  5. Digital currency development 
  6. Video production
  7. Voice-over acting
  8. Content writing
  9. Web design and development 

Data Science 

In 2020, humankind produced some 64.2 zettabytes of data. By 2030, one autonomous car will generate a zettabyte of data per day.

Amidst this data boom sit savvy data scientists, who can comb through all the scattered insights to uncover valuable business insights. Not only do they gather, organize, and pre-cleanse available data, but they also build advanced statistical and predictive models for operationalizing the available intel. Then present important findings such as insights on trends and areas where there is room for improvement to other team members. 

In 2021, the demand for data science roles increased by a whopping 295%. And it’s likely to remain in the double (or perhaps even triple!) range onward as there is too little available talent in the hiring markets. 

Six in ten hiring managers said data science and analytics roles will be the hardest to fill in Q42022 and Q12023. 

This makes data mining, data science, and big data visualization some of the most in-demand and highest-paying freelance skills

Potential earnings: 

  • Average freelance data scientist annual salary:  $100,000 per year
  • Average freelance data scientist hourly rate: $115/hour 

Cybersecurity and Ethical Hacking

No business, large or small, is safe from cyberattacks. Hackers get more creative all the time, and their schemes are at times even more sophisticated than the technology they exploit.

By 2025, global cybercrime could inflict $10,5 trillion in losses for businesses (which is slightly more than Japan’s current GDP!). 

So companies are actively investing in better cybersecurity technology and talent. Specialists are needed to protect sensitive information, expose system weaknesses, create protocols for the event of a breach, and train employees on cybersecurity awareness.

Somewhat counterintuitively, qualified hackers are in high demand. Ethical hacking is a burgeoning field in which the "good guys" imitate black hatters and attempt to breach systems. Armed with their on-the-job insights, they can then advise companies on how best to patch holes in existing security systems while building even better ones in the future.

Yet, since everyone’s on a hiring spree, not enough full-time talent is available on the market. By 2025, as many as 3,5 million cybersecurity jobs may be left unfilled. 

So if you already have a knack for fiddling with software and meticulous attention to detail, consider picking up some cybersecurity skills for freelance such as:

  • Penetration testing (pen testing)
  • Network administration 
  • Threat monitoring and analysis 
  • Threat hunting 

 

There’s plenty of boot camps and professional certification programs (e.g., Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)) that teach you this cool craft! 

Potential earnings: 

  • Average freelance cybersecurity specialist salary:  $91,656 per year
  • Average freelance cybersecurity specialist hourly rate: $42/hour 

 

Xolo_CTA_Filler_Grid_S_4

Cloud Engineering 

Cloud computing continues to occupy a bigger line in corporate budgets. Gartner estimates that 50% of IT spending will shift from traditional software to the public cloud by 2025. Also, two-thirds of all spending on apps will be directed toward cloud technologies by the same year. 

So cloud computing will remain one of the top freelance skills for the foreseeable future. If you already know your way around AWS, Azure, or GCP, there are a couple of lucrative freelance opportunities here:

  • Cloud cost optimization consultant. With more data getting sent to the cloud, organizations are increasingly concerned with skyrocketing TCO. If you know how to make cloud deployments more cost-effective, you’d easily find some high-paying clientele.  
  • DevOps engineer/consultant. Already an expert in setting up CI/CD and automating cloud application deployments? Awesome! Your skillset is in high demand! 
  • Cloud solution architect. Help new cloud adopters figure out the best architecture patterns for their cloud infrastructure and individual applications. This line of work can suit well to experienced cloud engineers, interested in taking on some side projects. 

 

If you are an entry-level coder, don’t despair either. Remote jobs for cloud engineers are now aplenty — with most offering on-the-job training. Moreover, you can learn new cloud engineering skills on Coursera or Udemy.  

Potential earnings: 

  • Average freelance cloud engineer salary:  $118,776 per year
  • Average freelance cloud engineer hourly rate: $57/hour 
  • Average freelance cloud engineer day rate: $647 

Low-code development 

Programming is one the ​​most lucrative freelance skills, but it’s also a hard one to learn. If coding doesn’t sound like your jam, how about low code?

Low code is a method of developing applications that uses visual, drag-and-drop tools, instead of textual commands. 

Think of low/no-code platforms as a LEGO pack. You get a bunch of pre-made application components to combine into a custom app. The simplest examples of low-code tools are apps like Zapier and IFTTT. Both let you build simple process automation workflows between popular business products. 

Next, there are more advanced low-code platforms like

  • Appian for automating all sorts of business workflows 
  • Appy Pie for building mobile and desktop apps 
  • Power apps for building custom Microsoft apps 

 

These require some baseline coding knowledge (e.g., familiarity with HTML and Javascript), but are still easy to learn. 

Think of it this way: Low-coding skills can help you automate mundane business admin tasks and leave you with more time on your hands. In fact, over 50% of EU workers believe that automation will help improve the quality of their work and provide them an opportunity to develop new skills. This fact alone makes low-code development one of the best freelance skills to learn today. 

But there’s more. Low-code development can be a nice add-on to your client-facing skill set, which you can market alongside your core competencies in design, marketing, sales, or project management. 

Potential earnings: 

  • Average low-code developer salary: $77,357 per year

Voice user interface design 

If you are looking for a creative future-proof freelance skill to learn, take a closer peek at voice user interface design (VOI). 

Voice user interfaces (VUIs) allow the user to interact with an application using spoken commands. Virtual assistants, such as Siri or Google Assistant are popular examples of VUI. But these can also include voice chatbots and intelligent auto-respondent apps, which many businesses now employ.

The global voice user interface market is set to hit $45,94 billion by 2027 as new voice-enabled apps hit the mainstream such as in-car voice assistants, retail voice-enabled apps, and more!

As it’s easy to imagine, someone will need to design those guided experiences — and it could be you. You can already find VOI training materials on platforms like Udemy, Careerfoundry, or LinkedIn Learning. Premium certification programs are also available with Conversation Design Institute.  

Potential earnings: 

  • Average voice user interface designer salary: $112,639 per year

 

Xolo_CTA_Filler_Grid_S_8

Digital currency development 

For those with an interest in cryptocurrencies and blockchains, a new interesting profession is coming to town — digital currency developer.

Nearly every central bank in the world is researching the possibility of launching a national central digital bank currency (CBDC) such as a digital Euro or sterling. Among them, 60% are already working on the “proof of concept” testing — aka analyze the legal and technical feasibility of minting digital currency. 

The European Central Bank, for example, is evaluating different options for introducing a digital euro in the near future. The US Federal Reserve teamed up with MIT to design a blockchain-based dollar

At present, the above may sound futuristic. But hey, did you think that Bitcoin is going to be a thing back in 2010? Probably not. If you have a working knowledge of blockchain protocols and economic background, you may be able to capitalize on this upcoming trend by offering advisory services to financial institutions and blockchain-curious businesses. 

Potential earnings: 

  • Average blockchain consultant salary: $65,333 per year

Video production 

Did you know that video uploads grew by 263.4% over the past 5 years? Between social media content and on-demand streaming, that’s hardly surprising because our video viewership time grew at an equally staggering pace.

Americans alone clock in 6.8 billion hours of mobile video watching each month.  

What’s in it for freelancers? Heightened demand for all sorts of videography services:

  • Tiktok and Instagram Reels production 
  • Video retouching and color correction 
  • Professional video editing 
  • Short- and long-form video production 
  • Customer video testimonials creation

 

Businesses have recognized that video has become the new medium for engaging with target audiences. 56% plan to launch a video marketing program for 2022 and onward. So if you aren’t contemplating a good freelance niche, this might be the one for you! 

Potential earnings: 

  • Average freelance videographer salary: $49,000 per year 
  • Average freelance video editor hourly rate: $41  

Voice-over acting

Don’t knock it 'til you’ve tried it! Voice-over acting is a fun, fast way to make extra cash. Moreover, this can turn into a long-term lucrative freelance career if you lend your voice to

  • Video-on-demand platforms that are localizing content to new markets 
  • Companies, designing voice user interfaces 
  • Online language learning products 

 

Also, voice-overs are used in video games, audiobooks, podcasts, webinars, cartoons, documentaries, and much more. 

The good news is that you needn’t have a voice like James Earl Jones to be successful, but your voice should be a versatile instrument that can convey an array of messages and emotions. Also, voice-over actors, much like singers, continually train and practice to expand their vocal range.

Potential earnings: 

  • Average voice-over artist salary: $55,420 per year
  • Average voice-over artist project rates: $750-$1,749 for a 15 – 30 minutes narration. 

Content writing 

Audio and video are emerging mediums, but written content isn’t losing any popularity points. 

E-books might be the first example that comes to mind, but someone also has to write all the content for digital news publications, e-magazines, corporate newsletters, business and personal websites, business profiles, blogs, advertising copy, video scripts, and technical manuals. The list goes on and on.

Many successful freelance writers specialize and become authorities in one niche such as law, parenting, gardening, classic car restoration, or ancient Roman history. For internet content writing, it pays to learn freelance skills like search engine optimization (SEO), conversion rate optimization (CRO), and content marketing. 

Writing also has several sub-specialties like editing, copywriting, and proofreading. If you’re a stickler for grammar and like working independently, writing is the way to go.

Potential earnings: 

  • Average freelance writer salary: $66,622
  • Average freelance writer rate for a 1,500 words blog post: $250 to $399 
  • Average freelancer rate for SEO or sales-conversion copy: $500-$1,250/page 

Website Design and Development

Web design and development continue to be mainstay high-demand freelance skills for the forseeable future. 

Freelance developers can focus on front-end, back-end, or full-stack specialties. Front-end is basically anything on a website that users can see and interact with. Back-end developers concentrate on all the inner workings that are invisible to the average visitor. They’re also the troubleshooters that fix bugs and glitches. And full-stack developers are able to do it all.

When a website is successful, word spreads, and more clients flood your inbox.   

Web designers, in turn, focus primarily on designing graphical user interfaces, better known as web pages and app screens.  You should be experienced in front-end coding languages, but this job also involves creative thinking and an eye for design.

If you want to settle in this niche, here are in-demand freelance skills to learn:

  • React.js and Angular.js are the top two in-demand front-end development platforms based on the analysis of ~250k front-end jobs.
  • Javascript and Python are the two most in-demand web development languages based on the analysis of 7 million development jobs
  • Javascript, Java, SQL, and C# are the hottest technical skills in the software products industry. 

 

Potential earnings: 

  • Average freelance front-end developer salary: $116,579 per year 
  • Average freelance back-end developer salary: $118,590 per year 
  • Average freelance back-end developer hourly rates: $60 to $100
  • Average freelance web design hourly rates: $30 to $80

 

To Sum Up: Is there the best freelance skill to learn? 

Yes, and it’s called metacognition.

An OECD report about the necessary skills for the future defines metacognition as the skill of “thinking about thinking.” Ahem, and what does that mean? 

Your ability to understand your own learning patterns and thought processes, which you can then translate into specific learning techniques for different situations. 

In other words: If you know how to best teach yourself new freelance skills, you’re going to always stay in high demand!  

the freelancer's favorite pay-as-you-go invoicing tool

About Elena

Elena Prokopets writes content for tech-led companies & software development businesses, marketing to them. Her empathy for the customer, expertise in SEO, and knack for storytelling help create content that ranks well and drives industry conversations.

Elena uses Xolo Leap so she can focus on her solo B2B content writing business without stressing over the compliance and admin overhead.