Upwork chief economist Adam Ozimek Photo: Upwork via AP
executive impact

Economist outlines skills sought in freelance workers

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By JOSH BOAK

What are the skills that employers most value in freelancers?

They want workers fluent in the computer programming language TypeScript and the software framework .NET Core. But they also favor softer skills, like good grammar and efficient bookkeeping.

That’s according to a list of the top 100 skills sought in freelance workers, compiled by Upwork, an online staffing company.

The Associated Press interviewed Adam Ozimek, Upwork’s chief economist, about such priorities and the way they show how work is changing — from where freelancers live to how they can earn a premium wage. The conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

Q: Is a specific industry demanding these skills?

A: The industries that are hiring remote workers really cut across the spectrum: Consulting, internet software and services, consumer spending, health care publishing, education. Companies are searching for talent outside the expensive cities where they’re headquartered, and this is going to be increasingly the case.

There is also a mix of specializations that employers are seeking. What’s fascinating is this list includes emerging skills such as Asana, which is a web-based management tool. You don’t just need someone who is a programmer; you need someone with very specific skills.

Q: Your analysis suggests that freelance workers with the top 100 skills earn an average of $43.71 an hour — or nearly $90,000 a year if they’re working 40-hour weeks. Do the earnings reflect the demand for these skills or the shortage of available workers with these skills?

A: Too often when people talk about freelance, they focus on narrow unskilled work such as Uber or food delivery that is part of the gig economy.

The jobs on this list involve skilled services. These jobs actually make up 45% of the freelance market, so freelancing is not synonymous with lower wages.

Our estimate is that roughly a third of workers participate in freelancing at some point during a year. This translates into an impact of 5% of GDP, meaning that the sector is roughly as large as the construction industry.

Q: Are these jobs being filled by people waiting for full-time employment with a company?

A: Many of the people seeking to freelance as a career need flexibility with their time. They may have disabilities or home responsibilities such as taking care of children or other family members. Working when they want to work is a big advantage.

Q: What did you find surprising in the list?

A: There is international demand for these skills. Forty-eight percent of the jobs for these skills are being filled by non-U.S. companies in Canada, the UK, Australia, India, China and the UAE. We tend to forget when discussing trade that the U.S. exports services, not just goods.

© Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

3 Comments
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A bill rate of $43.71/hr is really more like $32.78/hr after paying for business overhead. That's $65K/yr take-home before state, FICA, medicare, and federal taxes.

Consultants who bill hourly seldom get paid that little, since they work only when work is available most of the time. There's a lifestyle/work balance to be addressed.

If you work in IT as a programmer of 5 yrs experience, $75/hr is a common rate, but that can go higher - double if your skills are exactly what the client needs. Of course, for skills that everyone else in the world sells, like php or javascript or Java or C#, the rates are lower.

And this doesn't cover any travel or other expenses. Those are extra. It is common to bill on a fixed daily rate for on-site support, capped at 8 hrs (I've been burned were clients had 20 hrs of work to fit into 1 day).

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Unfortunately for this talking head, Chief Economist did not make the shortlist!

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Too often when people talk about freelance, they focus on narrow unskilled work such as Uber or food delivery that is part of the gig economy.

Thank you. I mention this consistently in Japan. Freelance here is too vague.

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