Freelancing platform Upwork has released a trio of lists containing the top 10 most in-demand skills for freelancers working in the tech, marketing and customer service industries.
We’re still in the midst of a massive spike in workers quitting their jobs, dubbed the Great Resignation, in which countless skilled workers have left their jobs due to stress, burnout and myriad other reasons. Now, faced with a worker shortage and a need to fill gaps quickly, businesses are scrambling to bring freelancers onboard.
Upwork’s list of top skills for freelancers in 2022 comes on the heels of a report it issued about the state of freelancing that found plenty of evidence that freelancing—particularly among individuals Upwork considered skilled—is increasing.
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Thirty-six percent of the U.S. workforce was considered freelance in 2021, which report author and Upwork Chief Economist Adam Ozimek said is consistent with previous years, but with a major difference. “We found a drop in temporary workers, but an increase in skilled freelancing. That freelancing overall has not grown is due to a decline among temp work and less freelancing among the least educated. Skilled freelancing, in contrast, continues to grow, and as a result those with the most education are freelancing more than ever,” Ozimek said.
Upwork defines skilled freelancers as those “that indicate that their current freelance work entails selling skilled services,” which it said includes programming, writing, design, IT and other professions that require a college degree or the experience to back up one’s qualifications. In 2021, 53% of freelancers qualified as skilled, Upwork said, which was a 3% increase over the previous year.
“Our data indicates that not only is there a huge demand for a broad range of professional skills, but also businesses big and small are shifting their approach to accessing talent and looking to freelancers to fill critical skills gaps,” said Margaret Lilani, VP of talent solutions at Upwork.
The most in-demand freelance skills in 2022
So, what skills should you develop if you plan to freelance in 2022? If you’re in the tech, marketing or customer service sectors, Upwork has you covered.
The 10 most in-demand freelance tech skills
- Web design
- Web programming
- Graphic design
The 10 most in-demand freelance marketing skills
- Social media marketing
- Lead generation
- B2B marketing
- Marketing strategy
- Social media management
- Email marketing
- Marketing research
The 10 most in-demand freelance customer service skills
- Customer service
- Customer support
- Email communication
- Phone support
- Email support
- Communication etiquette
- Online chat support
- Answering product questions
- Data entry
- Administrative support
The greatest year-over-year growth on Upwork has been in web programming (43% YoY growth), web design (31%) and social media marketing (25%). If you’re skilled in one of those areas, this may be the sign you’ve been looking for that it’s time to consider going freelance.
Is freelancing the future for skilled professionals?
Freelancing can be wonderful: It gives you freedom and control of your work and your schedule in a way that being employed full time can’t match, but for all its benefits, the idea of freelancing as the new normal does have its problems.
A post from Upwork on reasons to hire freelancers includes cost reduction, liability reduction and a lack of commitment to the freelancer as reasons companies hire freelancers, which makes sense, but also makes it seem that, from a company perspective, freelancers are a way to get results without having to take on any risk or investment.
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There’s been no shortage of articles written that cite reasons why employees are quitting en masse, and most of it comes down to being unhappy with their employer. With the solution to the Great Resignation being “hire freelancers,” it makes it seem as if companies are less concerned with addressing the reasons workers are quitting, and instead have decided to simply not hire permanent employees anymore.
Time will tell whether organizations with a large number of freelance workers will continue to opt for freelancers over permanent staff or whether additional organizations will start replacing permanent positions with freelance ones, but Lilani said it isn’t going to go away, citing a figure from Upwork’s 2021 freelancing study that found 71% of hiring managers have plans to sustain or increase the number of freelancers they work with in the coming months.
With ever more companies opting to retain at the least a hybrid work model after the pandemic, hiring freelancers becomes even more practical, Lilani said. “Every company is different and has unique needs when it comes to where work gets done. But we anticipate that an increasing number of companies will embrace hybrid work, as a reflection of the needs and preferences of its skilled professional workforce.”
This article was edited to add commentary from Upwork.