The freelancer market is seeing an uplift as employers seek out independent professionals to fill talent gaps, according to freelancer platform Upwork.
Upwork’s latest Freelance Forward Economist report found that the share of US workers who classify as permanent freelancers grew from 33.8% in 2020 to 35% in 2021.
More freelancers are taking on work in skilled professions like computer programming, IT, marketing and business consulting, rising from 50% in 2020 to 53% in 2021.
Skills with the highest year-over-year growth in demand on the Upwork platform were web programming (43%), web design (31%), and social media marketing (25%).
The shift in the type of work freelancers are doing comes as companies struggle to find full-time staff in a highly competitive hiring market, said Upwork.
Digital transformation is bringing new technical demands for businesses vying to stay competitive, meanwhile full-time employees are leaving their jobs in record numbers, making finding and retaining skilled staff even more difficult.
Companies hiring for tech and IT roles have been feeling the pinch acutely, which is driving up demand for freelancers with web and programming expertise.
The 10 most in-demand tech and digital skills on the Upwork platform:
- Web design
- Web Programming
- Graphic design
Upwork said freelancers who can provide these skills will play an “essential role….in filling talent gaps and solving businesses’ most pressing needs in 2022.”
Margaret Lilani, VP of talent solutions at Upwork, said: “Our data indicates that not only is there a huge demand for a broad range of professional skills, but also businesses big and small are shifting their approach to accessing talent and looking to freelancers to fill critical skills gaps.”
Skills data was sourced from the Upwork database and is based on gross services volume from 1 January 2021 to 31 October 2021.
Each skill had a minimum of 500 projects posted during the period. Year-over-year growth was estimated by comparing the gross services volume in 2021 to gross services volume in the same period in 2020.
Data from KPMG and REC earlier in January 2022 also pointed to a change in hiring habits amongst UK employers.
Specifically, it found that while computing and IT roles continue to lead growth in both permanent and temporary vacancies, demand is beginning to slow. KPMG and REC said the data suggested companies are reeling in their hiring sprees and turning more of their attention to upskilling and reskilling existing staff to fill talent gaps.
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