The Most In-Demand Freelance Skills in 2018

By Nicola Brown, Contributor, on April 10, 2018

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It always pays to invest time, money and effort into developing new freelance skills that’ll make you even more desirable to prospective clients. Whether you’re looking to leverage a new set of competencies to expand your existing freelance business, or you’re already an expert in these fields and looking to start your self-employed career, it can never hurt to add to your skills repertoire.

A study conducted by Upwork revealed that 36 percent of the U.S. workforce freelanced in 2017, and predicted that freelancers will represent the majority of the American workforce within one decade. As the freelance industry continues to grow and evolve, veteran freelancers and newcomers alike will need to keep pace with the changing demand for different skills. After all, you’ll need to stand out from the pack to maintain and expand your client pool. Here are some of the fastest-growing skills to learn next.

Social Media Management

If creating and maintaining various social media accounts isn’t already a part of what you do as a freelancer, it’s time to change your ways. A solid understanding of social media marketing techniques isn’t just important for social media managers — it’s crucial for anyone who wants to sustain and promote their freelance services.

According to Kissmetrics, social media was recently ranked the third most effective digital marketing channel, following websites and email. But the stats also reveal that social media is one of the two most difficult channels to execute in a digital marketing plan. So why not become an expert and offer your services to companies that need a social boost?

According to eMarketer, “Instagram will bring in just over $3 billion in U.S. ad revenues this year, rising to $6.84 billion in 2019.” With such a lucrative industry, it’s no wonder Upwork listed Instagram marketing as one of the fastest-growing skills for freelancers in 2017. If you’re considering becoming a freelance social media manager, your rates will likely depend on the size of the project and the experience you bring to the table.

Software Development

You just can’t deny the value of software development skills in our tech-dominated world. According to Flurry, American consumers spend an average of five hours each day on their mobile devices — which could explain why mobile programming languages, like Swift and Objective-C, made Upwork’s list for the fastest-growing freelance skills. Expand your mobile development expertise and you can expect to earn up to $150 per hour.

A huge range of cutting-edge industries rely on software knowledge to drive innovation. We’re talking fields like robotics, augmented reality, artificial intelligence and cybersecurity. Software development isn’t an easy skill to simply dabble in, so make sure you approach your learning seriously and are prepared to work hard.

Video Editing

Have you noticed that a growing proportion of the content you consume these days are videos? Just consider these video marketing stats: 72 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute, and one-third of our online activity is spent watching videos. When it comes to the power of video as a marketing tool to create strong engagement, the numbers don’t lie: WordStream claims that “by 2019, internet video traffic will account for 80 percent of all consumer internet traffic.”

The good news is that it’s fairly easy to break into video. Start out with your phone, and soon you’ll be learning how to use Final Cut Pro X alongside the other big-shot video editors. Many successful freelance video editors don’t have formal training — they’ve just spent hours and hours playing with the technology that’s already at their fingertips.

Data Analytics

With the rising popularity of video, it’s not really a shock to learn that “more video content is uploaded in 30 days than the major U.S. television networks have created in 30 years.” There’s so much data online that an entirely new field of “big data” has emerged to deal with the unprecedented computing power and analysis needed to process that much information.

In fact, it’s become such a critical field that IBM predicts the need for data scientists will increase 28 percent by 2020. After all, these experts are the ones who measure a company’s return on investment (ROI) to evaluate spending in areas like industry research, business development, marketing, sales and customer retention.

Though data analytics may sound a little daunting, there’s plenty of free information you can explore on Facebook, Google Analytics, Google Trends and Hootsuite to gain a better understanding of this skill set. Once you’ve got it down, you can start tackling projects — which, according to Upwork, earn freelancers an average of $400 apiece.

Try It Yourself

Interested in taking your freelance skills to the next level? Try integrating professional development into your regular routine. Set aside a couple hours each week to take a new online course, or dedicate time to practicing the skills you’d like to master. Once you get into the habit of investing in a skill, you’ll be ready to offer up a new service to your clients in no time.

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