Some freelance skills are more valuable than others. As the world evolves, so do businesses and the skills required to run them. For freelancers, keeping up with the times is essential in maintaining a lucrative business.
Just like having a full-time job, success in freelancing requires that you have a marketable skill. And while you’ll be able to generate income with just about any skill, those looking to earn more than just peanuts need to offer what employers are looking for.
If you’ve been freelancing for quite a while, it’s time to ask yourself: does your skill still bring value to today’s businesses? On the other hand, if you’re letting go of your full-time job in exchange for freelance gigs, is your current skillset attractive to the freelance world?
These are essential questions to ask, because contrary to what people think, the freelance industry is a dog eat dog world. While there’s greater freedom to be had, the tradeoffs are many. Stale skills have no place in a highly competitive environment, and there’s pressure to innovate continually.
If your skills need a makeover, worry not. In this article, I’ll discuss the most common freelance jobs online, as well as the most in-demand skills employers are looking for.
So, what skills do you need to become a successful freelancer?
Here are the top skills to learn for freelancing.
Table of Contents
1. Niche writing
All websites require content, and freelance writers can fulfill this need. Writing is one of the best freelance skills to learn if you’re aiming for big bucks and constant work. However, those just starting out need to know one thing: competition runs high.
Even the best writers in this field struggle to find work, and even if they do, the pay is often disappointing. This is mainly because entry into the freelance writing world isn’t that difficult. Knowing how to write doesn’t require specialized knowledge, which has led to a plentiful supply of freelance writers.
There is, however, one solution to this problem: learn how to write for a niche audience. Marketing yourself as a writer for a specific subject and format will set you apart from the pack. Being a niche writer requires specialized knowledge on a particular subject – and this specialty is what companies who pay big bucks need.
PRO TIP: Instead of branding yourself as a ‘freelance writer’, consider promoting yourself as a pet writer, aviation writer, copywriter, or academic writer.
These types of specialized writers often get paid higher rates. While this may lead to less work, you’ll find that you’ll get paid more when you do manage to find a job.
See Related: 9 Best Freelance Writing Jobs | Earn from Writing
2. Graphic Design
With today’s more visual generation, the best graphic designers are getting rich. Today is a time when images convince better than words, and graphic designers have never been in more demand than they are today.
The numbers do not lie: according to careerplanner.com, the employment of graphic designers is projected to grow 5% from 2016 to 2026. Dribbble.com says that graphic design is the second most desired design skill that teams are hiring for.
As a skill, graphic design can be used in various projects. This includes developing and conceptualizing visuals for logos, merchandise, marketing materials, social media, blogs, websites, and offline advertisements. If you have great attention to detail and aesthetics, graphic design can be one of the best freelance skills for you.
More value is placed on your portfolio in this industry than your work history, so it’s highly essential that you have records of your previous projects.
PRO TIP: If you’re a complete beginner, brush up on your graphic design freelancing skills with free and paid courses from the internet. Udemy’s Introduction to Graphic Design is a great place to start.
This is a free course that goes over basic elements, the design process, and good design principles. If you’re looking for more in-depth lessons, consider the resources in EnvatoTuts.
See Related: 20 Best Freelance Graphic Design Websites
3. Video editing
If graphic design is booming, the demand for videos is at an all-time high too. Video content has proved to be one of the most effective media today, and highly-skilled video editors may expect to earn above-average income if they stay consistent.
Job vacancies for film and video editors have increased 26.14% nationwide, with an average growth of 4.36% per year, according to recruiter.com.
Video editors have a wide range of tasks, including editing and joining together audio and video footage, graphics, VFX, sound effects, and music, and managing various elements of post-production.
They must know how to use specialized computer software to create polished content. Freelance video editors work on various projects, including commercials, TV shows, films, documentaries, music videos, social media videos, news, VR experiences, and more.
PRO TIP: Video editors need more than just a mastery of specialized software; they need to be creative too. Knowing how to reduce a lengthy segment to only 30 seconds without sacrificing integral elements requires a good understanding of storytelling and aesthetics.
Among the freelance skills I listed here, programming is arguably the most profitable but the toughest to develop. In a world that runs on code, programmers who can leverage technology and computers to create solutions are becoming more and more in demand.
A masterfully made software can automate processes and streamline an organization’s system. With this said, companies are willing to pay big bucks for talented programmers who can make their dream software come true.
According to Indeed, the most in-demand technical jobs as of 2019 are SAS programmers, WordPress Developers, and Systems Integration Engineers.
Companies are on the lookout for freelance programmers for several reasons. Firstly, there’s not much work to be done to warrant a full-time position, and secondly, learning how to program on your own may be difficult and take a lot of time. A high barrier to entry means job offers come with desirable rates.
Know, however, that a programmer’s job differs depending on their background. They may specialize in web design, front and back-end web development, mobile application programming, enterprise software, data science work, and games.
PRO TIP: Things move very fast in the programming world, so if you’re looking forward to becoming a freelance programmer, know that learning is a long and ongoing process.
If you stick it through, you’ll find that programming is one of the best freelance skills to learn if you’re looking to make a lot of money.
Marketing is one of the best freelance skills to learn for beginners – it’s easy to understand, and there’s a massive library of knowledge available online.
Freelance marketers may be tasked with several things depending on their specialty. Some run Facebook campaigns, while others overhaul an entire website’s content.
Whether you’re a marketing consultant, professional, or strategist, today’s freelance marketers need a digital edge to remain competitive in the modern world.
In 2020, LinkedIn listed digital marketing specialists as one of the top 10 most in-demand jobs.
Among the most in-demand skills for digital marketers include social media, SEO, content strategy, Google Analytics, Google Ads, and marketing channels. Search marketers with lots of experience in both paid and organic marketing
A modern marketer’s job is widely varied, but they’re generally tasked with conceptualizing and optimizing digital strategies that cover all the aspects of the consumer journey.
This means having a fundamental knowledge of user experience, SEO, data analytics, CRM marketing, conversions, and others.
PRO TIP: When businesses look for a freelance marketer, they’re actually looking for a specific type of specialist. Those looking for more traffic will seek out an SEO expert, for conversions, a copywriter, and for improving open rates, an email specialist.
In the marketing world, becoming a master of all trades but master of none may hurt you and your income. Find a niche and do your best to learn as much as you can about it!
According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the job market for interpreters and translators is expected to grow 20 percent from 2019 to 2029 at a rate much faster than the average for other occupations. The strong demand for interpreters is due to widescale globalization and the increase in non-English-speaking people in the United States.
If you’ve mastered a second language, working as a translator can be one of the best freelance skills if you’re looking to score ongoing projects.
Spanish is in high demand for translators, as well as Mandarin, Arabic, French, Japanese, Dutch, and German. Advertising firms, global corporations, and publishers know that localized content is one of the most effective marketing revenues.
For some businesses, hiring a translator is the only way they’ll be able to connect with customers. Only with the help of an expert translator will they be able to get their message across.
PRO TIP: One of the easiest ways to find translation jobs is through freelance marketplaces like Upwork, PeoplePerHour, or Freelancer.com.
The only downside here is that the client sets the rate for each project. Most clients will require that you have a bachelor’s degree or experience in the language. If you don’t have both, you may take online language courses offered by colleges or certified institutions.
In today’s internet-reliant world, one of the most popular skills as a freelancer is e-commerce. An e-commerce expert is well-versed in online selling, but you’ll hardly find freelancers with the title of ‘e-commerce expert’ as the job may be specialized.
An e-commerce expert may be an inventory manager who can help you employ inventory best practices to manage your sales. He may also be an order fulfillment specialist who ensures that your order fulfillment is done quickly and professionally.
Ecommerce experts may also take on the form of copywriters who can write compelling website copy or photographers who can shoot great images and optimize your product pages. Others are customer service representatives who can make sure that your customers are happy.
Freelance eCommerce experts know the ins and outs of online selling. For businesses that consider the internet as their primary avenue for selling their products or services, e-commerce experts are invaluable.
PRO TIP: No matter what specialty you choose as an e-commerce expert, learning the basics of SEO and how eCommerce platforms work is integral to success. It’s essential always to be up to speed with developments in these areas, especially if you’re looking to stay competitive.