How to go freelance and the most in-demand jobs and skills

Professionals with expertise in data analytics, virtual assistant programming, and machine learning enjoy lucrative remote work opportunities, according to a new report highlighting the fastest growing freelance jobs.

Demand for data analytics professionals rose 58.9% last quarter, making it the most sought-after skill right now, according to online freelance marketplace Freelancer in its new Fast 50 job report.

The appetite for virtual assistant experts rose 55.6%, making it the second most requested feature, while Microsoft Office Skills for Freelancers was the third highest, with a 54.2% increase.

The top three competencies are part of a broader list of the growing demand for freelancers with technical expertise, from machine learning to systems engineering, computer security to design. According to Matt Barrie, CEO of Freelancer, they speak of a bigger surge in freelance positions as more companies move their workforce online.

“I think it’s going to play out like cloud computing,” Barrie told CNBC Make It in Sydney, Australia. “In the future – or really from now – every company will have a local, physical workforce and they will have a virtual workforce.”

“The physical workforce will do the core work of this business. You may need to keep this local because of the need for certain customer interactions or intellectual property that you want to keep in-house. But then for your depth and breadth, you’ll have a virtual workforce.” , he said.

Barrie said this is increasing opportunities for skilled workers to move into freelance roles.

US consulting firm McKinsey estimates that around 27% of US workers are self-employed – a number that is expected to rise to around 50% by 2030.

For a third of these freelancers, the work can be precarious or “reluctant,” the report said. However, Barrie noted that freelance work can also offer great opportunity, flexibility, and actual pay.

“The great thing is that you are exposed to so many things that you wouldn’t get in a traditional job market,” said Barrie.

“It’s a lot more flexible and gives you a lot more options. But you have to keep learning and being agile all the time.”

The highest paying jobs tend to be those that require “high education, good communication, cognitive thinking, strategic thinking, creative skills, customer relationships, expertise,” he said.

“They are the kind of jobs you want to get into,” he added.


1. Know yourself

When considering freelancing, the first thing to do is determine if this is the style of work for you, Barrie said.

“Some people like the ability to freelance to shape their architect careers,” said Barrie. “But not everyone is suitable for an environment where you might be doing something different in two weeks.”

“A lot of people like the predictability of knowing what they’re doing day in and day out,” he continued, “so be honest with yourself.”

2. Test the water

For many people, the prospect of quitting full-time employment, finding paid employment, and diving headlong into professional life can be daunting and ill-advised.

Instead, Barrie recommended testing the water first by trying a job or two while he was still working.

“You can try and see that this is something that excites you,” he said. “And if you don’t want to do it full-time, maybe you can do it part-time or one night a week.”

3. Build your brand

When you’re ready to get involved in jobs, make sure you fill out any profiles you use, showcase an up-to-date portfolio, and tailor your applications specifically for each job, Barrie said.

“You want to make sure you get in touch with the people posting the job. That’s how you stand out from the crowd,” he noted.

4. Qualify yourself further

As with any job, it is important that you continue to develop your skills so that you can stay competitive even as you establish yourself as a freelancer.

There are now many free resources available for that, including online courses from sites like edX, Udemy, and Coursera, Barrie said.

“The most important thing is that you keep learning and educating yourself. It’s not that I got my skills today because industries are changing,” he said.

5. Know your worth

The last thing is to set your price. That can be one of the greatest advantages of freelance work, Barrie said, “You can calculate what you want.” However, he cautioned you to know your market value and vary your cost according to your skills.

“You may have an area that you are really good at and you want to ask a lot for it,” he noted. “And then you may have areas where you are less skilled and actually want to be less billed because you want to try those areas and put your skills to the test.”

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April 12, 2021