What freelance skills are most in-demand right now?
Freelancing is one of the fastest side hustle ideas to start, and one of the fastest growing employment segments in the US.
But if you don’t have any immediately freelance-able skills, it can be frustrating to know where to begin. The good news is you have the ability to learn new skills!
And you’re going to learn a new skill, it might as well be something that pays well, right?
In this post, we’ll explore:
- the highest-paying freelance skills you can do from home
- how much they pay
- resources for learning those skills and connecting with clients
1. Video Creation and Editing
It’s no question that, as a form of content marketing, video is on the rise. People spend 2.6 times more time on sites with videos.
As more and more businesses become aware of the value of video to drive sales, demand will continue to rise.
You’re probably already a consumer of video content, and if you’re interested in helping businesses and brands make great videos, this is a great freelance skill to explore. Plus, it’s a chance to exercise creativity in a fast-growing arena.
Video Editing Demand Factors
Here’s the Google Trends chart for video editing, showing a spike in demand for this freelance skill in 2020:
There are over 30 million YouTube channels, an increase of over 25% from last year.
How Much Do Freelance Video Editors Make?
Video editing is a freelance skill typically sold on an hourly basis, per project, or on a monthly retainer. Professional video editors charge between $50 to $150/hr for hourly work, or quote project fees based on how long they think it will take.
Other services, like VidChops, charge a flat monthly fee to edit a set number of videos per month.
Where to Learn Video Editing Skills
As with all the skills on this list, hands-on practice is the best way to learn. And of course in this case, YouTube is a tremendous free resource!
Still, it may make sense to invest a small amount in a structured course, especially to learn a specific video editing software. Here’s a top rated option on Udemy:
2. Video Marketing
If video editing is on the rise, it only makes sense that video marketing is as well. After all, if brands are going to create videos, they’re going to want to promote them!
This one helps if you’re a great video editor and marketer, but these tasks are often separated, so it’s okay to be only great at one.
YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and other social channels are all heavily pushing video creation and engagement. Can you help businesses create and market their videos to reach a new audience?
Video Marketing Demand Factors
Here’s the Google Trends chart for video marketing:
According to Forrester, video marketing is expected to be a $103 billion industry by 2023, accounting for a third of all ad budgets.
How Much Do Video Marketing Freelancers Make?
A 60-120 second marketing video by AdVids will run $1000-5000. I imagine firms like Harmon Brothers, which made the “Unicorn Poop” Squatty Potty ad and other viral hits, charges much more.
Where to Learn Video Marketing Skills
If you want to become a great video marketer, you need to become an expert in organic and paid video promotion. Here’s a well-rated guide to YouTube promotion:
3. Salesforce Administration
Salesforce consultants command premium rates of $100-230 an hour, because there simply aren’t enough of them to go around.
The popular CRM software has grown its customer base far faster than it has produced qualified support professionals.
For freelance Salesforce consultants like Brad Rice, that’s translated to a very healthy income — over $200k in 2020, while working an average of just 18 hours a week.
This could be a good fit if you’re a process-oriented person and love building behind-the-scenes business systems.
Check out Brad’s free 5-day Salesforce Challenge to learn more and see if it’s a fit for you.
4. Freelance Writing
Every website needs content — and freelance writers are ready to fill that need!
The good news is you probably already know how to write, so you’re not starting from scratch here. Still, there’s a certain skill to writing content online that both readers and search engines love.
(I’ve been practicing for over a decade, and still haven’t got it all figured out!)
Because this is such a broad industry, it might make sense to “niche down” to either a specific type of client you serve, or a specific type of writing you excel in.
Freelance Writing Demand Factors
As you can see from Google Trends, there’s a steady demand for writers, with interest spiking in 2020.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics paints a similar picture — no huge growth over the next few years, but still a steady and well-paying need.
How Much Do Freelance Writers Make?
Most freelance writers charge by the word, anywhere from $0.05 to $1 per word. That translates to between $50 and $1000 per 1000 words. (For the sake of reference, this post has around 3700 words.)
The BLS states the average hourly rate for writers and authors is $30. Naturally, the more experience you have and the type of content you’re writing will impact your rates.
Where to Learn Freelance Writing Skills
The best place to hone your writing skills is on a blog of your own. Here’s my free guide to get started.
To learn more, Carol Tice has a tremendous library of resources at MakeaLivingWriting.com.
When you’re ready to start getting clients, this course on Udemy is a popular option:
Copywriting is a sub-specialty of freelance writing that involves creating persuasive or sales “copy” content. This could be the text on a sales page, the language in an email, or the description of a product on Amazon.
As more commerce shifts online, the demand for strong copywriters will increase.
How Much Do Copywriters Charge?
Because this is a more specialized field, you can command higher rates. For example, Prerna and her team at Content Bistro charge thousands of dollars for each of their conversion copywriting packages.
Where to Learn Copywriting Skills
If developing your copywriting skills interests you, check out the Complete Copywriting Course on Udemy.
6. SEO Specialist
I’d probably written 1000 blog posts before I paid any attention to SEO (search engine optimization), let alone develop a strategic process around it. These days, I have a much better grasp about how to create content that ranks well in Google. (Though algorithms are constantly evolving.)
Naturally, every business in the world wants to be at the top of the search results for their target keywords, which means an evergreen demand for SEO help. And because those top results can mean serious money, this is a freelance skill that can pay very well.
SEO Demand Factors
Here’s what the Google Trends chart looks like for SEO:
SEO services are an estimated $80 billion a year industry, up 23% since 2016.
How Much Do SEO Specialists Make?
Many SEO agencies and consultants charge $50-$150/hour, while well-known SEO experts command rates of $1000 an hour or more.
The service can also be sold in packages for one-off site audits, technical reviews, link-building campaigns, content creation, or ongoing monthly retainers.
Where to Learn SEO Skills
To learn the skill of SEO, you have lots of options. Ahrefs, a leading SEO software tool, has made their $800 Blogging for Business course free for a limited time.
I also enjoy Matthew Woodward’s blog.
7. Editing and Proofreading
With more and more companies creating online content, there’s an increasing demand for someone to proofread it before it “goes live.” This is actually a freelance skill I exercised myself a few years ago, specializing in non-fiction books.
I reasoned I was a decent English student in school, enjoyed reading as a hobby, and had even written a few books myself. I could get paid to help other authors put their best work out into the world.
Editing Demand Factors
Around 7500 new Kindle books are uploaded to Amazon every day! Many of those are self-published authors without editing support from a traditional publisher.
How Much Do Editors Charge?
When I was doing this work, I charged between $5-10 for every 500 words. For a 25,000 word book project, that would be a $250-500 project depending on the complexity.
Others charge hourly, with rates ranging from $30-75.
Where to Learn Editing Skills
Again this is one that comes with practice, but a couple resources that are really helpful are:
8. Graphic Design
Graphic design is a skill-set that can be used in a broad range of projects. These include creating visuals for blog content, social media images, website design, and infographic creation, and more.
This type of work is best fit for artistic people who have great attention to detail.
In this line of work, clients won’t care as much about your work history as they will your portfolio. Do some work of your own and publish it on a portfolio website like Dribbble so you can show potential clients that you know your stuff.
Graphic Design Demand Factors
We’re visual creatures, and designers are responsible for many of the images and ads that populate our social media feeds every day. Companies continue to invest in eye-catching design, and the design industry is projected to grow 3% annually over the next several years.
How Much Do Graphic Designers Make?
This is a competitive field, where many newer designers find themselves competing against freelancers overseas or working for a lower fee to build a portfolio. Once you’re established, though, the BLS reports average earnings of $52,000 a year, or $25 an hour.
Where to Learn Graphic Design Skills
If this type of work interests you, Adobe’s suite of products will probably become your best friend. This well-rated course will show you the ropes:
Once you’re up to speed, here are some places to find remote graphic design jobs.
9. Accounting and Bookkeeping
Accounting and bookkeeping is another job that can easily be done from home. If small businesses need accounting work, most of them turn to freelancers or agencies before hiring in-house staff.
In the US, there are no formal bookkeeping certifications required, though expertise in the bookkeeping software of your choice is a must.
Bookkeeping Demand Factors
While the bookkeeping industry is actually in a slow decline thanks to software and automation, it makes this list because certain businesses (and their owners) aren’t interested in learning this new technology or adopting it to their complex systems.
That means the bookkeepers left standing should be able to charge more, especially if they can level up their skills to become a trusted advisor — not just a number cruncher.
How Much Do Bookkeepers Make?
One remote bookkeeper I interviewed explained she charges clients a flat monthly retainer fee, but that she pegs her target hourly rate at $70. If you’re getting bookkeeping clients through an agency, expect to earn $20-30 an hour.
The average annual salary is $34,000.
Where to Learn Bookkeeping Skills
There are a lot of free resources to learn bookkeeping and accounting basics online, including AccountingCoach.com.
The popular Bookeeper Launch course has a relatively steep price tag but is more of a “business-in-a-box,” covering the technical skills, business systems, and marketing your service. Here’s a free preview if you want to check it out.
10. Web Development
Web development is extremely in demand right now and will continue to be as long as people have websites. In fact, there is strong evidence that there aren’t enough web developers to fulfill demand.
If you enjoy technical work and problem solving, this freelance skill could be a fit for you.
How Much Do Web Developers Make?
Many web developers charge well over $50/hour.
Where to Learn Web Development Skills
To get started, check out this popular web development bootcamp:
11. Social Media Marketing
With the average Internet user spending over 2 hours a day on social media, it’s no wonder businesses are investing their resources to reach us online.
If you’re hooked on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram, Tiktok, or whatever the next big app is, you’re already half way there. Now the ticket is to help businesses and brands grow their audience and sales through these channels.
How Much Do Social Media Marketers Make?
Social media freelancer rates start in the $15-$50 per hour range, and can go as high as $100 an hour or more for experienced social media managers.
Where to Learn Social Media Marketing Skills
This course was among the most-popular and well-rated that I found:
If Pinterest is your jam, a friend of mine teaches a class dedicated to becoming a Pinterest virtual assistant — yes, this is a real job!
12. Sales and Business Development
Lots of brands are now building remote sales teams. This is especially true for smaller brands that don’t have the budget to employ full-time sales reps, but require the personal touch of a sales rep to sell their product.
Business Development Demand Factors
Lease a Sales Rep, a company that specializes in outsourcing sales, has made the Inc. 5000 list of the fastest growing private companies 6 of the last 10 years.
How Much Do Business Development Freelancers Make?
These gigs are often performance-based, which is good if you can close deals!
Where to Learn Business Development Skills
This course can help you learn the fine art of persistence, persuasion, pitching, and deal closing. A great free resource is The Sales Podcast with Wes Schaeffer.
13. Digital Security and “Ethical Hacking”
Cybersecurity specialists are responsible for designing, testing, implementing, and monitoring network or website security measures.
Data breaches and security leaks can cost companies millions of dollars in lost revenue, legal fees, and bad publicity.
Cybersecurity Demand Factors
There’s been a steadily increasing interest in cybersecurity over the last 5 years:
As a whole, the cybersecurity industry is worth over $120 billion and growing at 12-15% per year.
How Much Do Security Experts Make?
Since this is such a specialized and evolving field, top freelancers can earn $200 per hour or more. You could also create one-time security set-up packages for a flat fee, and then tack on a monthly maintenance and monitoring service.
Where to Learn Digital Security Skills
This mega-popular Udemy course is an inexpensive way to see if this is a field that interests you:
14. Mobile App Development
If you want to help shape the future of mobile technology and the devices we rely on, mobile app development is worth a look. Apps are here to stay, and this is a large and growing market to tap into if you can learn the skills.
Mobile Development Growth Trends
Smartphone users spend more than 3 and a half hours a day using apps on their phone!
Last year consumers downloaded more than 200 billion apps and spent a collective $120 billion on paid apps, subscriptions, and other in-app purchases.
How Much Do Mobile App Developers Make?
Freelance app developers charge $50-80 per hour, but many app builds are priced on a fixed-bid project basis.
Where To Learn Mobile App Development Skills
If this freelance skill appeals to you, check out the free Swift development course on Code Academy. (Swift is the language that powers iOS apps.)
For Android apps, check out the robust selection of app development courses on Udemy.
15. Voice Over Artist
Can you get paid to talk? There’s a little more to it than that, Carrie Olsen, a professional voice actor assured me, but this is a freelance skill that’s in demand.
Voice actors narrate explainer videos, audiobooks, commercials, podcast intros, video games, movie trailers, corporate training videos, and more. Once you start to pay attention, you’ll notice voice over work everywhere.
(Despite recording hundreds of podcast episodes, I’ve done exactly one paid voice over gig — it’s harder than it looks!)
Voice Over Growth Factors
According to Voices.com, demand for voice over work is growing 10-15% per year. This is driven by strong growth in the educational and online content markets.
How Much Do Voice Over Artists Make?
Voice over work is typically priced per project, and varies widely based on experience and clientele. For example, actors may earn:
- $30-300 for a short radio ad or podcast intro
- $500-$5000 for an audiobook
- $1000-10,000 for a series of educational videos
Where to Learn Voice Over Skills
Like everything on this list, voice acting is a skill you can learn with practice. This course is a good inexpensive place to start:
16. Amazon Web Services Expert
Amazon Web Services are technical back-end of many popular platforms today, including Pinterest, Slack, and Netflix. Rather than build out the server and data center infrastructure themselves, these companies essentially pay Amazon to do it for them.
This is a fast-growing and specialized freelance skill to learn, but can pay very well.
Amazon Web Services Demand Factors
AWS is growing 30-40% per year and powers 40% of the entire cloud market.
How Much Do AWS Experts Make?
The average salary of an AWS-certified IT professional is $129,868—but many companies don’t have the budget or need to hire someone full-time. You could provide a service to startups or small businesses setting up or managing their hosting for a monthly fee.
Where to Learn AWS Skills
This comprehensive course will help you work toward your AWS certifications with real-life “lab” work:
17. Virtual Assistant
Virtual assistants are remote administrative professionals that help businesses with a wide variety of tasks.
I work with VAs today to complete research projects, run weekly reports, format website content, and more. In the past, I hired virtual assistants to help run advertising campaigns and manage live chat customer support.
Virtual Assistant Demand Factors
Virtual assistants are primed for growth in the coming decade as more companies embrace remote work. There are already millions of administrative professionals in the US, and this type of support is something just about every business in the country can use.
How Much Do Virtual Assistants Make?
Virtual assistants usually charge by the hour, or create monthly retainer packages for a set price. At the low-end, hourly rates start between $15-20. More experienced or specialized virtual assistants often charge $30-40 an hour.
Where to Learn Virtual Assistant Skills
You may already have many of the skills needed to excel at this job: attention to detail, knowledge of different software tools, the ability to learn quickly. Where it gets more challenging is in figuring out what specific services to offer and how to connect with clients.
Here are a couple resources worth checking out to learn more:
- 150+ services you could offer, plus a workbook to narrow down your options
- Become a Booked Out Virtual Assistant – free online training
18. Artificial Intelligence Specialist
According to LinkedIn, the AI industry is seeing 74% annual growth. If you’re interested in the future of technology, there’s a lot buzz around machine learning and natural language processing.
In fact, Mark Cuban recently said if he had to start a new side hustle today, it would be in AI. “If I were 16 years old, I would learn Google Home, Amazon Alexa, Microsoft stuff and learn how to create scripts,” he said. “Then go to my neighbors’ homes … and charge $30 an hour to set it up in their house.”
How Much Do AI Specialists Make?
AI programmers earn $100-150k a year, while AI engineers command even higher rates. This is certainly a lucrative field with tremendous growth … until the machines take over :)
Where to Learn Artificial Intelligence Skills
You can practice, like Cuban recommended, by building voice skills for Alexa or other smart devices. To learn more about how this stuff works, check out this bestselling course:
19. Data Analyst / Data Scientist
Big Data has been a buzzword for several years, but what do we do with the data we’re collecting? That’s where the data scientists and analysts come in.
Per LinkedIn, this field is growing at a 37% annual clip, dominated by big tech companies.
How Much Do Data Analysts Make?
According to Glassdoor, data analysts earn $60,000-110,000 per year depending on location and experience. On a freelance basis, that translates to $30-55 an hour. You could sell your skills on a project basis to smaller companies to generate consultative reports and recommendations based on their data.
Where to Learn Data Analyst Skills
If this is an entirely new field for you, I think it makes sense to brief yourself on the basics to see if it’s something that interests you. This bestselling course will give you a taste of what your future data science career might look like:
This one is a bit surprising to me, given the relentless march of AI translation services, but it’s one of the fastest growing job segments. The BLS projects 19% annualized growth in demand for interpreters and translators.
This is driven by our increasingly global world and diverse populations living in the US and elsewhere. Naturally, this is perfect side hustle if you already speak two languages fluently.
How Much Do Translators Make?
Freelance translators typically earn $20-30 an hour.
Where to Learn Freelance Translator Skills
If you already have the necessary language skills, this course will guide you through starting your freelance business and getting translation clients:
21. Delivery Driver
This is a bit more of a “plug-and-play” side hustle, thanks to apps like DoorDash and Instacart. With these apps, you can earn money on your own schedule delivering groceries and take-out orders in your town.
You probably already have the necessary skills (driving), and can take advantage of a huge increase in demand.
Even before COVID-19 accelerated the trend, delivery and courier jobs were up 22% in the last two years.
How Much Do Delivery Drivers Make?
App-based delivery drivers typically earn $14-25 an hour, before expenses.
How to Get Started as a Delivery Driver
Here are a few delivery apps to consider:
- DoorDash – Make up to $25 an hour* as a food delivery driver for DoorDash. For more, check out our full DoorDash review.
- Instacart – Full-service Instacart shoppers pick up and deliver groceries around town. Check out our full Instacart shopper review for more.
- Shipt – Make up to $22 an hour shopping for and dropping off groceries and household essentials.
*For illustrative purposes only, actual earnings may differ and depend on expenses. Hourly pay is calculated using average Dasher payouts while on a delivery (from the time you accept an order until the time you drop it off) and includes compensation from peak pay, tips, and other incentives.
Before You Dive into Freelancing
If freelancing interests you, it’s important to get an idea of what it’s really like to be a freelancer.
After making a living as a freelancer for 18 months, I feel that I can give some insight into this.
Sure, you can set your own work schedule and work in your pajamas, but it’s not always easy. Here are a few things you should know.
You Must Be Self-Motivated
Aside from client deadlines, there aren’t any external forces pushing you to get your work done. It can be tempting to grab a cup of coffee and hop on your Xbox in the morning, but you need to be the type of person who can resist this.
You Need to Pay Quarterly Estimated Taxes
Normally, your employer does this for you, but as a freelancer, you need to do this yourself or you’ll face a penalty. I failed to do this my first year and found myself with a larger-than-expected tax bill at the end of the year.
I recommend getting Quickbooks Self-Employed to keep track of your finances. It will also tell you how much you owe in taxes each quarter. I also maintain a tax savings account where I throw 20% of my income into.
Related: How Side Hustlers and Entrepreneurs Can Pay Less Taxes
You Need to Make Friends
It’s important to maintain social contact with people, even if only digitally. Many clients will have entire teams of freelancers that are managed remotely, and even blend their freelance workers with their in-house workforce, having them all use the same time-tracking software like ZoomShift.
This gives you lots of opportunities to make friends with these people. Another option is to create or join a mastermind group of fellow freelancers.
Making the leap to working from home is a big change for some people. If you’re used to office life, check out this resource at top10.com/from-home to help you adjust to this new lifestyle!
In-Demand Freelance Skills: Your Next Steps
Regardless of which freelance skill you choose, the bigger challenge is how to get clients. Thankfully, The Side Hustle Show is rich with examples on how to market your service-based business.
In fact, I put together a dedicated “mixtape” playlist with some of the best strategies and tactics. (Follow that link or search for “freelancing mixtape” in your podcast player app.)
Check it out and let me know what you think!
Big thanks to Nick Rubright for the inspiration for this post and for providing the initial research. Nick is a freelance digital marketing specialist that helps clients improve their presence in search engines. In his free time, he likes to write and play guitar in his band, Days Gone By. If you need help with anything marketing related, you can hire him here.
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3 thoughts on “21 In-Demand Freelance Skills for 2021: High Paying Jobs To Learn and Work Online”
Great and inspiring article. Kindly asking “Where does digital marketing fall
This article is great but surely I want to ask as I am studying ethical hacking can I be earn money ???
Great article, wonder how if any of these demands have changed in the past two years and/or the relevance of each in 2023