Upwork Discloses Freelance Pay Rates
Written by Sue Gee   
Friday, 23 August 2019

Freelance developers at the forefront of today's technology are in demand. The global freelancing platform, Upwork, just has published hourly rates for the most lucrative jobs for independent contractors and it's official - freelancers can rake in impressive sums.


The freelance economy is thriving when it comes to tech jobs. According to The Future of Work, a report published last year by Porch, a network for connecting D-I-Yers with professionals for home improvement, 16.5 million U.S. residents are currently in "contingent" or "alternative" employment arrangements, a category which included freelancers and "on-demand" workers. Porch's figures reveal that over 30% of tech roles are currently freelance this is predicted to rise to 45% in 10 years. An even greater proportion of those in information servicing and data processing are freelancers - currently 40%, predicted to surpass 50% in 10 years.  At Google contract workers already outnumber full time employees.

Another finding from the Porch report is that 51% of full-time freelancers use third-party sites and apps to find work. Upwork, which was was formerly Elance-oDesk, is the largest freelancer marketplace in the world twelve million registered freelancers and five million registered clients. Its platform allows clients to interview, hire and work with freelancers and agencies.

Upwork's survey of pay rates for the highest paying skills is based on average hourly rates charged by US freelancers from Jan 1, 2019 - June 30, 2019. Each skill had a minimum of 2 contracts and 40 hours billed (equivalent of 1 week of work and more than 1 project). The data shows some independent professionals are earning more than $250 an hour for work in categories spanning nearly every industry, including legal, tech, finance, and marketing. 

Commenting on this finding, Adam Ozimek, Upwork’s Chief Economist stated:

The freelance economy is a highly diverse segment of the workforce; and while it is too often associated with lower-skilled gigs, there is a significant population of knowledge workers being leveraged for critical projects that demand their specific skill sets. The truth is that many members of this workforce are highly-skilled, as evidenced by the high rates professionals are able to earn.

While wages for the most lucrative skills are high, they aren’t outliers. One-third of U.S. freelancers on Upwork earn at least $50/hour, which would put them in the top 10% of U.S. wage earners overall.  

The top 20 tech skills and their hourly rates are as follows:    

  1. Bitcoin


  1. Image object recognition


  1. Virtual machine


  1. SQR


  1. Lucene search


  1. OrcCAD


  1. P-CAD


  1. Clustering


  1. DHTML


  1. SAP CPI


  1. Google Adsense API


  1. Oracle Integration Cloud


  1. Dell Boomi


  1. Google Experiments


  1. VWO


  1. Virtualization


  1. Backup administration


  1. Open CV


  1. Expression engine


  1. Systems development


Bitcoin emerged as the top paying tech skill, and at $215 per hour was the third highest paying skill overall. This comes as no surprise given that global demand for blockchain engineers has risen 517%, a fact gleaned from Hired.com.  

The skills in the list range from the general Systems development, Backup administration and Virtualaization to the  very specific, OrcCAD, SQR, SAP CPI, VWO, OpenCV. Artificial Intelligence and data science figure in the list, with image object recognition and clustering being included.

Pay ratesare of course closely related to supply and demand and Upwork regularly monitors the growth in emerging skills. Again the list of the top 20 fastest-growing skills for Q2 2019, also published this month, is a mix of highly specific skills related to new and niche products, such as ServiceNow and Caspio, to well established and more generally applicable skills - statistical modelling, relational databases. 

  1. ServiceNow
  2. DaVinci Resolve
  3. Social video marketing
  4. Highcharts
  5. PyTorch
  6. Keras
  7. Caspio
  8. LearnDash
  9. Kendo UI
  10. Technical recruiter
  11. Neo4j
  12. Statistical modeling
  13. Salesforce Lightning
  14. Relational databases
  15. d3.js
  16. Motion graphics
  17. MATLAB
  18. Packaging design
  19. SEOMoz
  20. Microsoft Azure

Again, data science and machine learning figure prominently with Highcharts, PyTorch, Keras. d3.js, MATLAB being included. It is also worth noting that while the product-based skills will tend to follow fashion, underlying skills  such as interface design, cloud computing, are likely to be represented one way or another from quarter to quarter.

What the two lists taken together do indicate is that keeping at the forefront of emerging technology can land you lucrative projects as a freelancer.


More Information

The 20 Highest-paying Skills for Independent Professionals Right Now 

The Future of Work (Porch)

Upwork releases latest Skills Index

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Last Updated ( Friday, 23 August 2019 )