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While the perception of freelancers is one of having less responsibility than staff employees, freelancers are the more proactive, according to a new report from Flexjobs. The pandemic pushed 89% of freelancers into skills and professional development activities (compared with 81% of non-freelancers). Those freelancers took actionable steps toward boosting their careers.

Flexjobs reports:

  • 53% took online courses for professional development (versus 44% of non-freelance professionals)
  • 52% learned new professional skills (versus 37% of non-freelancers)
  • 50% learned new remote working tools (versus 37% of non-freelancers)
  • 41% attended virtual professional development events (versus 35% of non-freelancers)
  • 35% studied for or earned a new certification (versus 26% of non-freelancers)
  • 30% did volunteer work, internships, projects or side jobs to strengthen skills and experience (versus 21% of non-freelancers)
  • 9% studied for or earned a new degree (versus 7% of non-freelancers)

“Our recent survey shows that freelancers are certainly committed to wanting to build their skill set and grow professionally and did so at a much higher rate during the pandemic than even non-freelancers,” said Sara Sutton, founder and CEO of FlexJobs. “Because the overall job marketplace remains extremely competitive, knowing which soft skills to focus on can help put freelancers in the best position possible to secure their next job.”

Flexjobs top 10 freelance career categories have each grown 10% from Jan. 1 to April 1 and are listed from highest to least growth.

  1. Therapy
  2. Data entry
  3. Bookkeeping
  4. Medical and health
  5. Accounting and finance
  6. Education and training
  7. Marketing
  8. Customer service
  9. Project management
  10. Writing



Flexjobs designed the survey executed by PAIRIN, which conducted the research and analysis to identify the critical skills for each category. “A major overarching theme in this group of jobs is that they are relationship-based and service-oriented,” said Dan Hawthorne, director of I/O psychology and head researcher at PAIRIN in his blog on the PAIRIN website. “Essentially, in order to be a freelancer, you need to be able to focus on serving others and being interested in working with the idiosyncrasies of people’s needs while resolving their conflicts and problems. Another common theme is that people working in freelancing careers need to be intrinsically driven to be productive and engaged. They also have a tendency to want to employ originality and creativity in their work.”

Behavioral skills often get short shrift and are considered secondary to hard skills, but those soft skills inform each person’s drive.

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“At PAIRIN, our science-based skill development tools focus on measuring essential behavioral skills, also known as soft skills, because they are proven to have the most impact on someone’s ability to be successful in a career and in life,” said Hawthorne on the Flexjobs blog. “For this research, we collected jobs that are representative of the career paths identified by FlexJobs as high-growth and examined the common top behavioral skills that 65% of employers say are necessary for success in those career paths and that 73% of employers say applicants are lacking.”

Flexjobs’ survey, via Survey Monkey’s platform, ran from March 17 to April 5. It had 3,545 respondents, and 640 of those identified as full- or part-time freelancers.