Revealed: The tech skills to boost your freelance rates

By Gemma Church
Freelance Writer

Freelance writer who specialises in business, technology and science.

Thanks to mass digitisation, nearly every job requires some technical know-how nowadays. We’ve seen e-commerce outpace traditional shops, artificial intelligence moving into a range of industries and data transformed into the new corporate currency. But what does this all mean for freelancers?

Technology is predicted to take up a massive proportion of freelance jobs, with 45% of tech roles projected to be freelance by 2028.

What’s more, tech is a lucrative career option with six-figure salaries regularly seen for in-demand roles. When freelancer site Upwork revealed its 20 top-paying skillsets, six came from the technology sector and Bitcoin experts are apparently commanding an average hourly rate of $215.

Technology roles are also a natural fit for freelancers. Many jobs can be performed remotely and freelancers have the agility to meet the constantly changing skill sets favoured by the dynamic technology industry.

So, what technical skills should you hone to give yourself a digital edge? Here are a handful of areas where there is significant demand across the technology sector:

1. Artificial intelligence and machine learning

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a broad concept, where machines are designed to act intelligently and like humans. Machine learning is a subset of this where a device is trained to autonomously make sense of a data set.

Both fields are increasingly popular. According to LinkedIn, AI specialist is the top emerging job role for 2020, and one-third of businesses have AI-based plans for the next 12 months. Research also reveals 49% of companies are currently exploring or planning to use machine learning.

If you want to get into either field, you’ll need a strong mathematical background and computer science skills, including programming in languages like C++ and an understanding of algorithms.

2. Data analysis, science and visualisation

Big data is everywhere, and companies are eager to capitalise on their information to gain a competitive advantage. Data analysis is an entry-level skill, where you derive key insights from unstructured information.

Data science is one step up from this, where programmers create new algorithms and build predictive models from a set of information. Data engineering also exists within this field, where engineers build the infrastructure and tools data scientists need to conduct their work.

Finally, there’s data visualisation, which is a way to help people understand their data by giving it a visual (and often interactive) representation, like a graph or a map.

3. UI/UX design

User Interface (UI) and User eXperience (UX) designers bridge the technical and non-technical worlds, helping everyone understand and effectively use their websites and applications.

The two roles are different. UI specialists design interfaces, helping users navigate their way through a specific process. UX specialists conduct research and testing to understand how a user will interact with a technology. Both are great options for freelancers who want to combine their creative and analytical skills.

4. Cybersecurity

The number of data breaches increased by 50% in 2019. As more companies collect user data, network and information security is paramount.

There are plenty of opportunities to choose from in cybersecurity, across both managerial, administrative and more technical roles. Many cybersecurity experts are also self-taught. However, a computer science or related degree could help you advance your career options.

5. Cloud computing

As companies move away from traditional servers, cloud computing is on the rise and the public cloud services market is projected to total more than $266 billion in 2020.

The most in-demand cloud computing skills include platform-specific knowledge in popular offerings like Amazon Web Services (AWS) and software development skills across the fields of DevOps, Java and Linux.

6. Blockchain

The Blockchain platform enables many cryptocurrencies but this digital ledger technology has many other applications across multiple industries. As such, Upwork declared blockchain the fastest growing skill out of 5,000 others in 2018. What’s more, once you get to grips with the basics of this technology, blockchain development isn’t too different compared to regular web development.

Reskill required?

Whether you need to reskill completely or just upskill your existing abilities, there are plenty of options for freelancers to break into the technology market. To start, you may want to try learning a programming language like Python, Java or C++ using an online tutorial.

If you want to try out your skills, then you could start working on a personal project and share it on the GitHub software development platform or start interacting with fellow developers on the Stack Overflow community. Whether you’re a seasoned IT professional or a rookie developer, there are also plenty of industry and vendor certifications to help you gain the relevant skills.

For freelancers, technology is a dynamic and diverse sector to get involved in. It’s never too late to try something new, keep your skills sharp and futureproof your freelance career as technology continues to impact every aspect of our daily lives.