Freelancing is less of a career path itself and more of a career format. Sure, you want flexible hours, unlimited income potential, and client selection, but you need to choose a type of freelance work first.
Take an inventory of your skills based on past work experiences, education, or even personal hobbies. Now, which of those should be the focus for your freelancing? Personal preference plays a role, of course, but to see which freelance skills would be most profitable, let’s take a look at today’s most in-demand specialties for freelancers and how you can gather the skills you might need.
Virtual assistants are essentially administrative assistants who work remotely. Often business owners or other freelancers will hire them so the virtual assistant can manage their daily business operation tasks while they focus on making revenue.
For example, a virtual assistant would manage any communications with their employer’s clients, maintain their employer’s schedule, manage any contracts and agreements, and more. If you have other helpful skills like writing, graphic design, or web development, you could charge higher rates.
The best part about virtual assistance is that you’ll typically learn on the job. Of course, there are plenty of online courses for virtual assistants to get you acquainted.
Digital Marketing Strategy
In today’s tech-driven world, digital marketing is essential for any business, but not all businesses can or should hire full-scale marketing specialists. Instead, they might start with a digital marketing strategist.
In freelance jobs, these strategists coordinate a client’s overarching marketing strategy in addition to designing and managing specific campaigns. They often manage complex projects involving email marketing, social media, digital ads, and more.
Paid advertising courses about digital ads go into detailed information and are a great way to get more nuanced training:
Search Engine Optimization
Search engine optimization or SEO is the practice of making a website more appealing for search engines. It involves a variety of techniques like researching keywords and incorporating them into web content, making SEO-enhancing technical changes, build strong backlinks, and many more. Companies often hire SEO specialists for freelance work to optimize their website as best they can or provide insight into future SEO needs.
There are many online resources that will help you learn the strategies, tactics, and tools, a few of which we’ve linked below.
- Moz Beginner’s Guide to SEO & SEO Training Guide by Moz
- Udemy: Search Engine Optimization
- Google: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Starter Guide
- UCSD Extension Certification
Many universities offer extension certification programs. These are longer and often more expensive courses but can have some additional credibility and more knowledge learned.
Whether you’re freelancing full-time or as a side hustle, graphic design is a promising path. Companies might hire you to design their original logos and other branding materials as well as social media graphics, marketing collateral, web graphics…there’s no limit.
Keep in mind that as a freelance graphic designer, you typically need to have your own design software, usually Adobe Creative Cloud, which can be pricey. Still, the investment can easily pay for itself if you have the skills to match. To get those skills, start with courses like these:
Machine Learning and AI
Artificial intelligence or AI and machine learning have been soaring over the past several years. These specialties involve using technology to continuously take in and use data to make certain improvements over time. For example, machine learning in marketing is popular today as it allows companies to learn customers’ buying habits and recommend products for their interests. Hiring freelance AI specialists allows any business to explore those options for their company.
To start learning all there is to know about AI and machine learning, check out these courses:
Web Design and Web Development
While web design and web development are two separate skills, some freelancers offer both. Web designers handle the initial design for a site, including its aesthetics, features, and structure. Web developers take that design and make it happen.
Because businesses need both of these if they want a successful new website, they’re both in high demand. Here are some courses to teach you the basics:
- Udemy: The Web Developer Bootcamp
- Udacity Programming and Web Development Courses
- Treehouse Course Library
Accounting and Bookkeeping
When companies get busy, they look for tasks to pass off to other professionals. Accounting is often among the first on the list.
A freelance accountant or bookkeeper does everything a full-time accountant would do. They manage their clients’ general ledger, tax reporting, accounts payable, accounts receivable, all that jazz. The difference is that they often have several clients because those clients’ businesses aren’t large enough to take up 40 hours every week.
Keep in mind that you don’t need to be a CPA to be a freelance accountant – most in-house accountants companies hire aren’t CPAs either. You do need specific training in business accounting and bookkeeping, though. To start, try these courses:
Social Media Marketing
It’s probably not news to you that social media marketing is among the most popular and successful marketing strategies today, and for a good reason. Nearly 50% of the world’s population uses social media, and that includes over 90% of Millennials.
For that reason, even small business owners who do minimal marketing may hire freelance social media marketers. The more social media platforms you have experience with, the better: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and so on. Social media marketers should be skilled in all aspects of those platforms too, including influencer marketing, organic content, paid ads, videos, stories, and more.
There’s an entire ecosystem within social media marketing, and learning about it can make you a more valuable marketer. Start with these courses:
Mobile App Development
Just about every business wants a mobile app these days, and the freelance world is stepping up to the plate. Freelance app developers have fantastic prospects for building profitable portfolios of clients. Some developers specialize in apps for a specific platform like iOS or Android, while others have experience in every platform.
Regardless of which platforms you choose, try these courses to start learning the essentials:
- Code Academy Catalog of Mobile Development Courses
- Udemy courses for mobile app development
- Coursera courses for mobile app development
Content marketing is the process of strategizing and executing on content that is valuable to the consumer, not necessarily content that includes a “hard sell” like ads. This can be for blogs, landing pages, website copy, or anywhere else where content might live. Many different factors go into content marketing from SEO to audience research, ensuring that the content is right for your audience.
Content marketing is one of the easiest skills to begin to apply in your own life such as by beginning a blog, being a guest writer, or helping non-profits with the type of content they should create. Learn how with any of these courses:
- NYT Certification in Content Marketing
- HubSpot Academy Course: Learn What Content Marketing is and How to Do It
- Coursera: The Strategy of Content Marketing
Analytics is the process of understanding your website, campaigns, and conversions. Through it, you can understand what’s working well and what’s not working at all. Knowing how to set up analytics, interpreting analytics, and knowing what tests you can run to improve performance is helpful in any industry. Learn the basics with these courses:
- GA Analytics Certification
- Udemy: Google Analytics courses
- Moz: Absolute Beginners Guide to Google Analytics
Tableau and PowerBI are two tools that help you leverage data to make insights. These are increasingly used in marketing to pair together data sets to strategize and evaluate the success of different marketing campaigns.
To learn how to offer these services, take these courses:
- Seer Interactive: A Guide to PowerBI: Big Data for Digital Marketers
- Microsoft: Learn Power BI
- Udemy: Power BI Courses
- Udemy: Tableau Courses
Carving Your Path in the Freelance World
The freelance jobs above might be the most in-demand, but this is far from an exhaustive list. There are also countless freelancers making a living with photography, cybersecurity, event planning…if a job exists, chances are that you could make a living doing it on a freelance basis.