The Top 5 Freelance Skills You Need in 2021
The working world experienced a number of changes in 2020, but perhaps none will be more enduring than the rise of freelance work.
As businesses changed direction in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, they sought out skilled freelancers to help them achieve new targets. And as the workforce faced job shortages or shutdowns, many undertook remote freelancing opportunities to get by. Freelancers now make up a vast and ever-expanding portion of the workforce.
If you’re already a freelancer or considering getting into freelancing, it’s important to make yourself aware of the most in-demand skills that will open up the best freelance work opportunities.
Freelancing just may be the future of creative work as we know it, so let’s use some insights from our 2021 Trends Report to explore the top skills that freelancers can acquire to level up their careers this year.
Freelancing in 2020: By the Numbers
If you thought that freelancers only represented a marginal segment of the population, you’d better think again. In a 2020 study conducted by Edelman Intelligence, it was found that 59 million Americans freelanced in the past year. To put that into perspective, this means that more than a third (36%) of the total US workforce freelanced in some capacity during 2020.
All in all, US freelancers contributed about $1.2 trillion to the economy last year—representing a growth of 22% since 2019.
Most of the workers who went freelance in 2020 didn’t do so purely based on the desire to be their own boss or set their own hours. In fact, 12% of the US workforce started freelancing as a direct result of COVID-19—whether as the result of losing their day job, forcing them to ramp up their side hustle, or whether they deliberately developed a new skill that they knew would be marketable in the digital landscape of 2020.
While industry prognosticators have seen the digital freelancing wave coming from a mile away, the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic sealed the deal faster than anybody could have expected.
There’s no denying that being forced to switch jobs on a whim can be incredibly daunting and far from ideal. However, many workers who have taken the plunge and started freelancing in 2020 are actually reporting that they favor their new setup and don’t anticipate that changing anytime soon.
According to the Freelance Forward 2020 study, “new freelancers report positive financial results and 96% are more likely to freelance in the future.” While some of these respondents may view their freelance operation as something that they will always maintain on the side, others view their new freelance work as a full-fledged career shift. 74% of freelancers surveyed say they want to continue working remotely instead of going back to a traditional worksite, and 48% of new freelancers say they view freelancing as a long-term career choice.
From among this latest torrent of new freelancers, a large amount of them are registering for freelance job sites, including Voices, in order to showcase their talents and get matched with individuals and organizations who are seeking their specific skills. A whopping 91% of skilled freelancers who use freelance platforms, both before and during the pandemic, say that they would recommend signing up for a freelance site to anyone.
The Top 5 Freelance Skills in Demand in 2021
Our annual Trends Report from this year provided us with a number of insights regarding the future of work. For one, almost half of the respondents we surveyed told us that they worked with more freelancers in 2020 than they did the year prior.
With the understanding that there will be more people working freelance in 2021 than ever before, it’s time to uncover what these workers are largely being hired to do.
Here are the top five types of freelancers that are going to get hired in 2021.
1. Creative Freelancers
In 2021, it is anticipated that there will be a high demand for creative freelancers—especially ones who are professionals in the realms of audio editing and video production.
61% of Voices survey respondents said that they hired creative freelancers in 2020.
Part of this is certainly due to the fact that creative professionals often find work on a freelance basis, and as Forbes notes, “creative fields employ the highest percentage of freelancers.”
With so many people stuck at home in 2020, consumers were ravenous for new audio and video content. Producing quality content came to play an even greater role in most companies’ overall brand strategy.
Remote collaboration became the norm for audio and video producers in 2020. Even when creators weren’t able to shoot a video on location or go into the studio for a recording session, they still found ways to persevere and give the world illuminating podcasts and powerful videos in 2020. Many of these projects would not have been possible without freelance audio and video producers, and we’re positive that we’ll be able to say the same for much of 2021’s most gripping content.
2. Freelance Voice Actors
While cinemas shuttered and live theater came to a crashing halt in 2020, there was one form of acting that was booming all year long: voice acting.
58% of Voices survey respondents said that they hired voice actors in 2020.
Professional voice actors lend their expertise to a broad range of industries. Voice actors can provide the perfect narration for audiobooks and eLearning courses, they can voice animated characters in video games, cartoons, and explainer videos, they’re the driving force behind a successful radio or podcast ad, and they occasionally even interact with us via our voice-activated devices.
In 2020, we found that a number of advertisers who were unable to produce new video ads in person actually opted to put out a casting call and audition voice actors online, source an original voice over performance, and use the voice over to tie old stock footage together to create an entirely new ad.
3. Marketing Freelancers
Many companies sought out skilled freelancers to take their marketing to the next level in 2020, and we only expect this trend to flourish in the new year. This category primarily includes freelance graphic designers who were able to craft eye-grabbing visual assets to help businesses stand out everywhere on the web—because the web was where most business was conducted in 2020.
43% of Voices survey respondents said that they hired marketing freelancers, such as graphic designers, in 2020.
Freelance graphic designers were especially in-demand for businesses who moved their brick and mortar shops online for the first time in 2020. Graphic designers may specialize in everything from website design, to social media graphics, interactive design, mobile app design, and more.
4. Writing and Editing Freelancers
An eloquent piece of writing is still often the best way to express an idea, so many companies found themselves hiring freelance writers and editors in 2020. One area that saw notable growth concurrent with the pandemic was the demand for writers of online articles.
37% of Voices survey respondents said that they hired writing and editing freelancers in 2020.
Online writing can serve a number of purposes. It can raise brand awareness, help boost SEO in order to propel a company’s page higher in the search results, or clearly communicate what a product is really about. WizCase reports that “62% of businesses hire external talent to create content on their blogs or virtual magazines.”
Improving your writing skills will always come in handy as a freelancer. On top of penning online articles, writers and editors are also routinely hired to conduct research, proofread, write or edit copy, come up with ideas and scripts for advertisements, create social media content, and more.
5. Programming and Tech Freelancers
As countless forms of communication and commerce move online, it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that freelancers with programming and tech skills are among the most highly sought-after category of freelancers.
20% of Voices survey respondents said that they hired programming and tech freelancers in 2020.
In 2021, freelancers with the hard skills that make them proficient in IT and coding will be able to help businesses expand their ecommerce ventures, aid teams as they adapt to working remotely and troubleshoot tech problems whenever complications arise, and develop easy-to-use apps that help us better navigate and enjoy the world we live in.
Additional Freelance Skills to Hone for Success in 2021
Beyond the five key freelance skills that we’ve outlined, it’s worth recognizing that there are many other ways to grow in your field and market your freelance business better—even when you’re working from home and not setting out into the physical world to meet prospective clients.
Over half (54%) of the respondents to the Freelance Forward 2020 study said that soft skills, including communication skills, are very important to their work. Just under half additionally stated that business skills are highly valued as a freelancer.
It’s always good to focus on honing the hard skills that will make you an expert in your line of work, but at the same time, it’s also important to put regular effort into improving your soft skills, such as leadership, collaboration, networking, and critical thinking.
Having business savvy can also make a huge difference as a freelancer who is looking to gain new and repeat clients and turn a profit. Any successful freelancer will tell you that skills such as negotiation and the ability to manage your finances are crucial for longevity in the world of freelance work.
Find Freelance Work on Online Platforms
There are a number of online platforms that are specifically designed to pair skilled freelancers with the clients who need their help to get the job done.
Whether you’re a budding voice actor or a company that needs a professional voice over performance to breathe life into a project, then you don’t need to look any further than Voices, the number one destination for freelance voice over talent.