Freelancing quickly has become essential in the contemporary market, with two out of three executives asserting that they need contingent workers for operations. But if you're considering hiring a freelancer, what exactly can they bring to the table, and what skills are your competitors wanting them to have?

The answer might be in the Upwork 100, a quarterly report that identifies the fastest-growing skills among Upwork users. Upwork, an online platform that connects companies and independent workers, uses data about freelancer billings over the past four quarters to create the list.

The Top 10 Skills in Highest Demand

While the full list of 100 skills is available via Upwork's press release about the report, I'll highlight just the top 10 here--their demand grew more than 260 percent year-over-year.

  • .NET Core
  • TypeScript
  • Landing Pages
  • eBooks
  • Android
  • Electronic design
  • Presentation
  • Sketch
  • Research
  • Technical Recruiter

Looking at the above skills, it's clear that areas of technical expertise stand out. But as Upwork's Chief Economist Adam Ozimek notes, the full top 100 in-demand skills list represents many categories of work. For example, skills like financial accounting, eLearning, interior design, and project scheduling all made the list.

And you'll see companies hiring for emerging skills (e.g., application deployment automation software Kubernetes, software container platform Docker) as much as you'll see them hiring for skills that long have been substantial (C development, Python), too.

"Just because [skills] drop out of the Top 100 next quarter doesn't mean they have gone away," adds Ozimek, "just that they aren't necessarily among the Top 100 anymore."

The bigger picture thus is that freelancing is now able to support an incredibly diverse range of industries, meaning that the odds that you can find contingency workers with the capabilities and experience you're after are very good. It also means that it's an incredibly good time to consider branching out to multiple ventures, because it's becoming easier to tap a higher degree of workforce flexibility regardless of your interests.

The Industries Most Welcoming to the Freelance Life

Certain industries are leaning on freelancers more heavily than others. These include:

  • Consulting
  • Internet Software & Services (e.g., supporting ecommerce and other types of business transactions)
  • Internet (providing a wide range of products and services via websites)
  • Consumer Discretionary
  • Health Care
  • Consumer Staples
  • Publishing
  • Education
  • Advertising
  • Specialized Consumer Services

If your business is in one of these industries, embracing more freelancers means you'll have to find more ways to very quickly establish a sense of synergy, unity, and smooth flow as teams work on specific one-off projects. You'll also have to work harder to attract and retain talent, because the in-demand workers can choose to leave at any time should they find a better offer. However, having skilled independent workers available also allows you to be extremely flexible about the size of your workforce--your easily can scale up or down based on what your goals and needs might be.

Where Freelancers Get Hired

The report also reveals where freelancers are getting hired most, demonstrating that today's talent pool is global thanks to a range of technologies and platforms that help candidates and employers connect. The top countries hiring U.S. freelancers are:

  • United States
  • Canada
  • United Kingdom
  • Australia
  • India
  • Israel
  • Germany
  • Singapore
  • United Arab Emirates
  • China

A High Price Tag, But Significant Value

Notably, Upwork also found that the average hourly rate for independent professionals who can offer skills from the list is $43.72, which is significantly higher than median hourly rate for freelancers doing skilled services overall ($28). So you can expect to shell out more to have these workers on your team. But don't let this deter you, as the value they bring likely will more than offset the higher rate. Freelancers are often specialists in their fields, which can help you innovate more deeply and competitively than if you relied only on your generalists, and they ensure that you always get infusions of fresh ideas and perspectives. 

As you consider this list, keep in mind that truly disruptive ventures might develop new skills entirely. So although you can consider the current trends and where the market stands in this moment, don't be afraid to be the one who shifts the list. It's malleable like clay, and you can be the potter who decides what to create.

Correction: An earlier version of this column misstated the frequency of the Upwork 100 report. It is published quarterly.

Published on: Dec 16, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.