If you’re just starting out as a freelancer, you’ll want to get started the right way in the career path that generates the highest income, right?
Many new freelancers think that way. And it makes sense, doesn’t it?
Although, it’s a lot more complicated than that. Just because a skill has a higher demand or pays well than the others doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best path to follow.
There’s a reason why some writers get paid $5 on Fiverr to write a 1000 word article while others make $100 for the same job somewhere else.
Getting paid well depends on your skill level, experience, and quality of work.
Having said that, it’s also important to know your market and see which type of jobs and skills get paid the most so that you can maybe start learning a new skill or plan for a future freelancing career.
For those of you who are interested in making a steady income or retiring early, here are the jobs that earn the most in the freelancing industry.
1. Programming And Software Development
(Photographer: Chris Goodney/Bloomberg)
Meet James Knight, a programmer who left a lucrative job at Google to pursue a career in freelancing. Now, he makes over $1,000 an hour working as a freelance developer.
Programming jobs, especially software and mobile app development, pays the highest for freelancers. Only because it’s a skill that’s quite difficult to master and there aren’t many good coders out there. So, the demand for good coders is pretty high.
If you want to make an income like James, start learning to code. And I don’t mean learning through free courses on CodeAcademy or Udemy. They’ll only take you through the basics. You’ll need to invest some money and time into learning and practicing to develop proper coding skills.
Of course, you won’t be able to start charging $1,000 an hour right away. You’ll have to gradually build up your reputation. If you have solid skills in programming languages like iOS and WebGL, you could start charging somewhere around $150 per hour, or more.
According to a recent UpWork survey, Bitcoin developers also have high demand. Most Bitcoin developers earn over $200 per hour.
2. Social Video Marketing
In a surprise turn of events, a new skill is born—”social video marketing”. The skill ranked at the third place of the UpWork’s Q2 2019 fastest-growing skills list. And for good reason as well.
A quick search on the platform showed that this skill pays over $150 per hour for marketers.
It’s no surprise that this skill is in high demand. Especially given the rise of video content marketing. The booming social media channels such as TikTok, Instagram video, and YouTube, will keep this skill relevant for years to come.
If you’re skilled at creating video content, optimizing them for SEO, capturing audiences with new ideas and marketing strategies, this skill will help bring many gigs your way.
3. Web Design And Development
According to an UpWork statistics report, PHP Development is the most in-demand skill of 2015. Web Design ranks at the 7th spot.
There’s great demand for web designers. But, it’s worth noting that the freelance web design industry is pretty crowded right now because it’s easy to learn web design and start coding websites. Heck, even I did some web design work for a while and started my own web design agency. Spoiler alert! It didn’t go so well.
The best strategy would be to find a niche in the field. For example, Jonathan Wold made over $5,000 a month by building websites with WordPress and doing small theme customizations. You’ll probably be able to earn more if you offer the right kind of services to the right clients.
4. Content Marketing/Writing
Thanks to the boom in online marketing trends and the development of new methodologies, like Inbound Marketing, content writing is now considered as one of hottest fields for freelancers.
You don’t need to go anywhere to find proof of how well freelance writers are doing. Take me for example. Right now, I make around $5,000 a month (at least in most months) doing blogging work for businesses, writing, and content marketing work. And I know there are other freelance writers who do much better than me.
Although, not everyone can be a skilled writer. You need to write a lot, read a lot, and, more importantly, you’ll need a creative mind to write amazing articles that pay well. Your master’s degree in literature and the A+ essay skills from college won’t do you any good when working online either.
5. Graphic Design
Graphic design ranks at number 2 on the UpWork’s most in-demand skills list. And if you look at its top freelancers under the graphic design category, you’ll see some freelancers who make up to $85 per hour doing design work.
Infographic design has higher demand these days. Logo design, icon design, and illustrations pay pretty well too. But, like with content writing, to become a quality graphic designer, you’ll need to develop an eye for design.
Copywriters are different from content marketers and writers. These freelancers specialize in writing content for website pages, descriptions for products, services, etc.
The charge rates for copywriters depend on each freelancer’s level of experience and skill. Linda Formichelli, an experienced freelance copywriter, makes $250 per hour.
If you look at UpWork’s list of top copywriters, you’ll notice that they charge between $15 per hour to $100 per hour for copywriting jobs.
7. Video Editors
Freelance video editors in the US earns around $72,000 per year, while more experienced video editors make around $122,000 per year.
The demand for video editors in the freelance industry saw a rise in the last few years, thanks to the opportunities presented by platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram.
If you’re good with putting together video clips and creating awesome video content, this could be a great future-proof career to get into.
Bonus: Social Media Managers
Social media marketing is an important part of brand and business marketing strategies. Almost every business, including small local coffee shops to big corporate brands, now use social networks to promote their products and brand.
This opened up a massive opportunity for freelancers when most of these brands and businesses started looking for people who would manage their social media channels for them. Now, it’s an entire industry of its own.
Earnings for social media managers in the US range from $46,000 per year and up to $72,000 per year, according to PayScale. A quick search on LinkedIn brought up over 9,000 job results for Social Media Managers in the US alone. And over 2,000 jobs in India.
A Small Piece Of Advice
People are always looking for ways to get rich quick. Maybe all the stories about billion-dollar startup acquisitions and how people make quick millions with smartphone apps are starting to get to their heads.
As a result of the media hype, they don’t see the valuable message hidden inside all those success stories: It requires Hard Work to make money.
Did you think WhatsApp became a $20 Billion app overnight? It took them over 4 years to get there. It took almost 5 years for Mark Zuckerberg to make Facebook a success. He didn’t even make any money through the platform in the first few years.
The moral of the story is: Don’t try to follow a career path just because it pays well. If you want to build a steady income and survive as a freelancer, choose to do work that you’re passionate about, work that gets you excited every day, and work that challenges you to learn something new every day.
That passion and burning desire inside you will drive you to be better at what you do and improve your skills and eventually leading you to earn more than ever before.
Learn to be patient as well. Because it will take some time before you start earning a steady income. And remember, you’ll only have to work hard for a short while. Then it’ll be like a walk in the park.