The gig economy has been criticized for normalizing low-paying work, but really there’s never been a better time to be a highly skilled freelancer.
Freelancers in the U.S. make an average of $31 an hour, which comes out to 17 percent more than the typical full-time employed worker. And the number of freelancers earning $100,000 or more has grown by about 70 percent, from 1.95 million in 2011 to 3.3 million in 2018, according to new research reported in a recent Forbes article.
So what is driving the growth of high-earning independent workers?
At Moonlighting, we are not only seeing people hire contractors for personal projects, but businesses are also shifting to using more freelancers in general. According to an SAP Fieldglass Study, 44 percent of talent spending at big corporations is now on “external, non-employee talent.” Small businesses are hiring more freelancers as well, with their expenditures on contractors rising 73 percent from 2011 to 2016, according to IRS data.
Another equally important factor is that these freelancers don’t want traditional jobs. Instead, they are choosing the freelance life because of the high-compensation, work-life balance, and control they get from independent careers. And, as you might imagine, the vast majority of these high earners — 97 percent — are either highly satisfied (88 percent) or satisfied (9 percent) working independently.
If this all sounds wonderfully appealing, you should know that the highest-paid skills, which earn up to six times what the average freelancer makes, are also the rarest. The more specialized you are, the more premium you’re going to command … so let’s take a look at the top 10 highest-paying gig economy jobs of 2018.
1. Artificial intelligence (deep learning) — These freelancers work with the technology that drives the ability of artificial intelligence technology to learn and adapt. They develop algorithms using tools and programming languages, such as Tensorflow, Python, R, Java, Matlab, Perl, C++, etc., and earn $115.06/hour.
2. Blockchain architecture — Amongst other disruptive applications, blockchain is the underlying technology that powers cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum. Blockchain freelancers are well-versed in various programming languages including C++, Python, and Solidity, and earn $87.05/hour.
3. Robotics — Typically, freelancers in this niche design mechanical elements, pieces, and mechanisms for robots. They also create 3D models and animations using computer-aided design (CAD). Often this work requires a background in mechanical engineering and proficiency in software such as SolidWorks Professional, Photoview 360, Simplify 3D, and eDrawings, and earn $77.46/hour.
4. Ethical hacking — These hackers try to hack a company’s system in search of potential gaps in their security that malicious hackers might exploit. They are also skilled in fixing vulnerabilities, are often certified information systems security professionals or certified ethical hacker, and earn $66.33/hour.
5. Cryptocurrency — There’s high demand for freelancers with bitcoin-related skills because demand for the altcoin continues to skyrocket in terms of monetary value with no signs of slowing down. Among the work they do is building automated tools for trading exchanges and developing market charts and earn $65.37/hour.
6. Amazon web services Lambda coding — This is a technology, offered by Amazon, that lets users run code without servers. Typically these developers are proficient in Node.js, Python, Java, and C#. They write and load code onto Lambda and design triggers that lead to code being executed on the system and earn $51.00/hour.
7. Virtual reality — These freelancers develop software apps that merge digital content such as visual and audio into a user’s environment in real life. Pokemon Go is one of the most popular AR app examples in this space. This field requires expertise in developing augmented reality algorithms and fluency in C#, C, and C++. Backgrounds in 3D modeling and 3D scanning are also common and these developers earn $50.18/hour.
9. Final cut pro editors (Apple video editing) — Freelance video editors who can work in Apple’s professional-grade video editing software, Final Cut Pro X to make movies, advertisements and music videos earn $37.12/hour.
10. Instagram marketing — Rounding out the top 10 is a job that does not require any development or programming skills. Instagram is growing and is attracting an increasing number of advertisers, so demand is high for people with the skills to promote a business on the social media platform. The work includes creating content, adding hashtags, engaging users to grow a following, and analyzing campaign results. Successful Instagram marketers earn $31.23/hour.
While this list is programming and development heavy and won’t appeal to every freelancer’s unique skill set, keep in mind that for every new area of technology there will be freelancers needed in related fields.
Blockchain architecture not your jam? That doesn’t mean you can’t take on the marketing and PR for new blockchain projects or offer your writing, legal, or accounting services to the same company. There will always be work for freelancers who stay on top off shifting trends and are willing to adapt and seize the right opportunities.
Are you ready to start your own freelance business or try out a few side gigs to get the feel of freelancing? No matter what path you choose, kick-start your freelance business by joining the amazing community of freelancers, entrepreneurs, and gig workers on Moonlighting. Sign up or download the app today — Free!
Originally published at usatoday.com on October 1, 2018.