Top Freelance Careers for 2021
If you’re wondering, “What are the highest paying freelance jobs?” or trying to determine which freelancing skills are most in-demand right now, then this article is for you!
We’re going to look at the top 10 freelance careers for earnings potential and market demand.
I’ll also reveal which of these opportunities are the easiest freelance jobs to start if you have no experience, so make sure to read each job overview carefully.
The Best/Highest-Paying Freelance Jobs and Careers:
Becoming a freelance writer is one of the fastest and easiest avenues you can take to launch a freelance career, and learning copywriting is a particularly good option if you want to earn a high income.
There are a few different types of copywriters, but direct response copywriters have the highest potential income.
These copywriters focus on writing marketing materials (such as emails, online sales pages, sales video scripts, and more) that are designed to get the reader to take a specific action (like ordering a product, signing up for a webinar, etc.)
Because the words you write have a direct correlation to how much money a company earns, companies are willing to pay very high rates for top-tier work.
Direct response copywriters have the potential to be the best-paid freelancers, with the top performers earning hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.
Overall, I think copywriting is one of the best careers if you want the ability to earn a high income as a solo freelancer.
Copywriting is also one of the easiest freelance jobs to start. You don’t need any specialized degree or technical background.
As a final note here, if you do have some type of technical background, you can also look into technical writing. For example, if you have a nursing degree, you could become a medical writer. Freelance medical writers often earn $100,000 or more with the ability to work from home.
2. Software engineer/web developer
Software engineering is another one of the highest-paying freelance jobs, with the best developers charging $200 or more per hour and easily earning six figures per year.
As a software engineer, you can take on web development projects, you can build mobile apps, you can create games, and much more. Companies large and small need software engineers, and as more and more business takes place online, this will continue to see a rise in demand.
While obtaining a four-year computer science degree will give you the best foundation and long-term skill set to start a career as a freelance developer, you can also attend an online coding bootcamp.
While these accelerated bootcamps do not give you the same education as a four-year degree would, when you look at the massive reduction in cost and time required versus a university degree, it’s an excellent choice.
While this isn’t the easiest freelance career to start, it’s certainly one of the most worthwhile long-term if you want to build a “future-proof” skill set and earn a high salary or hourly rate! Like copywriters (mentioned above), this career allows you to earn six figures per year as a freelancer.
This is also an excellent skill set if you have any interest in entrepreneurship! Being able to take your business ideas and bring them to life is a powerful skill to have!
3. Digital marketing consultant
Digital marketing is a broad, fast-growing field that allows you to earn an excellent income($100,000 or above) as a freelancer.
It’s one of the best freelance jobs for beginners because it allows you to earn a great income right away (after learning the basics) and also exposes you to a wide range of work that you can later specialize in to earn more!
For example, here are some of the many areas that fall within digital marketing:
- Email marketing
- Website conversion rate optimization
- Sales pages and sales videos
- Social media
- LinkedIn lead generation
Online businesses and brick-and-mortar businesses both can benefit from these digital marketing services, and more of these businesses are turning to freelancers to get help in attracting customers online.
After you’ve helped clients with a variety of areas within digital marketing, you can see what you’re best at (or what clients pay the most for) and specialize in that specific area.
(They say “niches make riches” and it’s often true. You’re not limiting yourself by choosing a narrow niche. You can often earn more like this in the long-run.)
Or you can remain a general digital marketing consultant and still earn a very good income! You could also build a digital marketing agency where you have a couple of people working for you and provide a wide range of digital marketing services for clients.
4. Social media manager
Social media has become a big source of business for many brands! They hire dedicated teams to come up with witty posts, build their brand recognition, and engage with their audience. And the big brands on social media, like Wendy’s and Coca Cola, have whole teams dedicated to this, smaller companies often look for freelance help.
They hire a freelancer to manage their social media, which typically includes scheduling and sharing new posts, including text, images, and articles/links, as well as responding to and engaging with audience members.
As a freelance social media manager, you can manage the social accounts of multiple clients, and charge each client $1,000 to $1,500 per month, or more depending on their needs and workload.
And there are plenty of tools and software options to make your job easier, too. Hootsuite, Buffer, and many other companies provide a dashboard where you can manage multiple social accounts from one web page!
5. SEO specialist
SEO, short for Search Engine Optimization, involves optimizing content to appear at the top of search results (usually on Google, but you can also do SEO for YouTube and any other platform with a search function).
As an SEO specialist, you can help large companies or smaller, local businesses who want to appear in local search results (an example of a local search is, “Dentists in Houston”.
Online businesses are willing to pay a lot of money for SEO help, because ranking higher in search results helps them generate more leads, not just this month, but on an ongoing basis! So it has a massive potential return on investment.
The more you’re helping businesses make money as a freelancer, the more they’ll be willing to pay you! If your goal is to earn a six-figure income, SEO is one of the best freelance jobs you can start.
The long-term career options are excellent, too. If you build a strong set of SEO skills, you can go on to build your own websites, build an SEO agency, and more.
6. Media buyer
Ad management (also known as “media buying”) is a specific area within the field of digital marketing and is one of the highest paying freelance skills you can learn.
Many consultants in this career earn six figures and above by simply managing online advertisements for brands. In fact, you can specialize in just one platform. There are experts who focus only on YouTube ads, or only on Facebook ads, for example.
Media buying is one of the best freelance careers because your skills are in high demand by businesses that want to grow. Paid advertising is the key to scaling a business in a fast, reliable way, and businesses know this, so they’re willing to invest a lot in getting help.
However, this is a difficult and advanced field, so it may not be the best freelance job for beginners. If you’re a complete beginner, I’d recommend studying copywriting, social media marketing, and various areas within digital marketing, and then deciding if you want to specialize in ad management!
All of those skills and experiences will help you no matter which area of digital marketing you end up drilling down into, so it’s not a waste of time to try a few things in your first year and build a solid foundation.
Let’s move away from digital marketing and advertising now since not everyone wants to work in that type of field. There are plenty of other high-salary freelance jobs and skills out there, and photography and videography are two of them!
Unlike most of the jobs above, you won’t be able to do this entirely from home. A freelance photographer will need to meet with clients, travel to the scene of the photoshoot, etc.
Depending on your specialization, this could involve short travel, just an hour or two from your house, or much more.
And once you gain experience as a photographer, you could specialize in shooting video. You can charge more and more as your skill level rises, and the top photographers and videographers make six figures per year or more.
One other high-paying freelance option to consider in this niche is video editing!
All sorts of businesses are looking for help with video editing, from large companies to small content creators on YouTube and other platforms.
Online video is becoming more competitive overall, and it’s difficult to stand out if you edit your own content as an amateur, so more small businesses, new entrepreneurs, and content creators are hiring professionals to do this.
Finally, you could consider taking stock photos or videos and selling them online via various stock photography websites. This takes longer to ramp up but provides passive income over time.
8. Web designer
Web design was named among the top 15 in-demand tech skills for freelancers on Upwork by Tech Republic. Working as a designer is a solid freelance career choice if you’d like to work in tech but don’t want to learn to be a developer!
With enough experience as a web designer, you can charge an hourly rate of $50 to $100 or more and earn above $100,000 per year.
You can also consider working as a graphic designer. That’s another good freelance career choice that can also be done entirely from home in many niches.
9. Data analyst
Online businesses are collecting more and more data each year, and need to make sense of it in order to make better business decisions and earn more money. So they turn to data analysts.
These professionals turn data into meaningful insights that business managers can act on. You may work on data visualization projects where you turn data into charts and graphs. You may work in data extraction and many other types of projects, too.
I can tell you from personal experience that this type of role is very highly valued by employers. In my last recruiting job, we had one business intelligence/data visualization specialist and he was one of the best-paid and most sought-after employees in the company. Everyone knew him, and everyone benefited from his work!
You can learn this skill by attending a data science bootcamp. We list a few of them among our list of top programming bootcamps here.
10. Sales/lead generation specialist
Sales is one of the highest paying skills year after year, and faster internet speeds are allowing this job to be done from home or remotely more often now! Thanks to high-speed internet, you can do video calls and web presentations from anywhere.
And because new customers and new leads always put money directly into a business, employers are willing to pay a lot for someone who can bring this skill set!
Sales is one of the BEST careers I recommend for anyone, hands down. In fact, I put it as the #1 choice on my list of the best careers that don’t require college.
The only reason it’s not higher on this list of top freelance careers is that many companies still view this as a role that should be done by full-time, permanent employees.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t contract-based jobs out there. And those are without a doubt some of the top freelance jobs for earning a high income! You just may run into a bit of resistance where some employers ask if you’d be willing to work full-time for them.
What are the Highest Paying Freelance Jobs?
The following freelance jobs are all good choices in terms of salary or expected hourly rate that you can charge. These positions can all earn hundreds of dollars per hour or $200,000 or more per year if you become an expert.
- Direct response copywriting
- Software development
- Digital marketing consulting
- SEO consulting
- Ad management
- Sales and lead generation
These are the best freelance careers if you want to earn a lot of money as a solo freelancer, and these are where I recommend you focus if you want to earn a high salary and build high-income skills in your career.
Determining Average Freelance Job Salaries
While writing this article, I did research into the average pay and average salaries for these jobs. I checked freelance job boards like Upwork, sites like Indeed and Payscale, and more.
What I found is that the numbers are very skewed toward the low end. For example, Indeed says that on average, a freelance copywriter earns $24.25 per hour.
The best direct response copywriters earn hundreds per hour, though. This number is skewed on the low end for a few reasons. One reason is that many regular content writers and other types of writers call themselves “copywriters” for whatever reason.
Another reason is that there are just a lot of people out there taking low-paying jobs who don’t know how to position themselves to earn a lot as a freelancer.
And I found this general pattern to true when researching hourly rates and salaries for all of the jobs above.
So, you can do your research and see the averages, but if you’re motivated and willing to put in the work to master one of these skills, I also recommend looking at what the top freelancers earn in each niche.
That’s what my list above is based on. These are the jobs that allow you to charge $100 or more per hour once you learn the skills well enough. That’s what matters most when building a career in my experience since you’re not going to be at the entry-level or mid-levels forever.
What is the Best Freelance Job for Beginners?
As a beginning freelancer, you don’t want to pick a skill that’s too difficult to learn, but you also don’t want to pick something that will limit you later in terms of rate and opportunities! Digital marketing is one of the best freelance jobs for beginners because you can learn the basics quickly, charge a rate of $50 per hour or more, and also gain exposure to many high-value skills that you can later specialize in.
You’re essentially being paid to learn and see what you’re best at!
For example, you’d likely have some clients ask you for help with email marketing.
Others would ask for social media help.
You might be asked to help with ads, SEO, copywriting, website design and conversion rate optimization, and more!
Then, you can work a bit in all of these areas and eventually specialize in one or two. (You can often charge a higher rate by specializing, and each project is easier to complete quickly since it’s all you do, over and over!)
But you don’t need to pick a specialization immediately without knowing what it involves (or whether you’re good at it!)
For this reason, I recommend digital marketing if you’re unsure where to begin as a freelance consultant. You’ll get paid and find your strengths.
What is the Easiest Freelance Job?
Direct response copywriting is the easiest freelancer career if you want no stress and no hassles. I worked for a year as a freelance copywriter while traveling the world, and I found a few key advantages to this career choice that other freelancers weren’t able to enjoy.
When other types of freelancers submit their work, I observed they have a lot of back-and-forth discussion with clients, revisions, etc. This is a pain for you as a freelancer.
Other types of freelancers also tend to have quite a bit of communication during the project. I’ve seen this to be true for designers, software developers, and more.
As a copywriter, I found the process to be a lot easier: I close the deal on a sales call, gather information about the project from the client, take payment (yes – I always required payment upfront!), and get to work. If I have any questions throughout the project, I reach out. Otherwise, I just quietly do my work in a Google Doc.
When ready, I deliver the work to the client. If I made any sales claims that they’re not comfortable with, or if they need any revisions, they can ask, but I found this to be rare!
And that’s the end of it! They go take the writing that I gave them and run with it! Project completed.
My point is that I found this freelance work to be so much easier and less stressful from a communication standpoint than other freelance jobs I observed! Clients tend to see you as the expert, they know very little about this field, and they trust what you give them. This makes the process very simple.
So while copywriting is certainly an advanced skill that takes time and effort to learn (like ANY high-value skill!) I think it’s the easiest type of freelance work to do from a lifestyle and stress perspective, once you’ve picked up the knowledge.
The easiest freelance jobs to learn will be some of the lowest-paying
If, however, you’re simply looking for something you can do without putting much effort into learning or practicing a skill, then you’re not going to earn as high of an hourly rate. If a skill is easy, it’s not going to command a high salary.
For example, it’s possible to do freelance customer service for a company, both full-time or part-time. But your hourly rate will be just a fraction of the best-paying freelance jobs above.
So I’d recommend investing time and effort into learning a higher-value skill. Why work for $14 per hour in customer service when you can make $50 to $100 per hour or more as a programmer or marketer.
Plus, if you decide you want to start a small business and pivot your freelancing career later, you’ll have built up more valuable skills. I’d much rather know sales, marketing, or SEO as an entrepreneur than a skill like customer service.
What Are the Best Freelance Jobs that Can Be Done from Home?
All of the freelance jobs in the section above allow you to work from home. This includes direct response copywriting, digital marketing, web development, other types of software development, SEO consulting, and more.
It’s becoming easier to perform a variety of freelance jobs from home, so to get started, I’d recommend thinking about what type of work you’d enjoy and find the best fit for your interests. As long as you don’t pick something like photography that requires in-person interaction in order to do the basic job, you’ll likely be able to work and get paid entirely from home!
Conclusion: What are the Top Freelance Careers?
There are many ways to earn a great salary as a freelancer, whether you become a developer, designer, marketer, salesperson, or choose an entirely different path.
The key is to choose a skill set that plays a vital role in a company’s growth so that your skills will always be in demand!
Developers build a company’s tools and platforms, and sometimes their actual products (for example, in tech companies like Spotify or Airbnb).
Salespeople bring in new customers.
Marketers use writing and other forms of content to bring new leads into the company, which also helps turn readers into customers/clients!
In my experience, the more directly your skills help a business grow, the more you’ll be able to charge per hour!
There are exceptions. You can earn a lot by working in design, even though this isn’t quite as closely-related to a company’s growth.
But overall, think about what category of job will be in-demand by employers and design your career around that. If you do this, you’ll never struggle to find work as a freelancer.