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20 Skills Freelancers Must Have in 2019

image for JKstock/Shutterstock
  • Upwork compiled its latest list from a database of the 5,000-plus skills represented on the site.
  • Tech skills were the most sought-after entries in Q2 2019, with the demand for the top 10 skills growing 400% year over year.
  • 3% unemployment in cities like Boston, Denver and San Francisco leaves employers turning to freelancers with specialized skills.

Being successful in the current U.S. freelance market means being able to maintain and sell your skills. After all, companies don't just hire you for your past work; they want to know what you can do for them today and in the future. To remain marketable, you need to be acquiring new skills that give you the edge you need to get good-paying gigs. Earlier today, Upwork released its quarterly list of the 20 fastest-growing skill sets for freelancers.

This latest list, according to Upwork, focuses on emergent skills that are in high demand in the labor market and tech industry. Stephane Kasriel, Upwork's CEO and co-chair of the World Economic Forum's Global Future Council on the New Social Contract, said some of these newer skills could be helpful as companies seek the best talent.

"In booming cities like Boston, Denver, San Francisco and San Jose, the unemployment rate has fallen below 3%, which makes finding qualified and highly specialized talent more challenging than ever before," he said. "As a result, for more and more skills, businesses are relying on nontraditional talent sources to effectively engage the best workers, no matter where they live."

Out of Upwork's more than 5,000 available skills, this new list of 20 skills experienced "more than 120% year-over-year growth, while demand for the top 10 skills grew more than 400% year over year," according to the report.

Given how important technology is to our daily lives, it's no surprise that skills involving tech, artificial intelligence and cloud-based applications were highly valued by hiring managers.

According to Upwork, freelancers who are proficient in ServiceNow had the most sought-after and fastest-growing skill last quarter. The digital workflow company's cloud computing software helps manage various aspects of a business's operations, including IT, customer management and custom-made solutions. Similarly, companies were interested in hiring freelancers with knowledge in Microsoft's Azure cloud platform.

As the press release said, these two skills reinforce "that digital transformation is a real and strategic imperative for businesses, as developers who can build integrations for the platform are in high demand." It also cited the skills as proof that "C-suite leaders are embracing cloud-based platforms as a critical component of their strategy."

As artificial intelligence, or AI, continues to gain ground as a powerful tool for businesses around the globe, skills related to the burgeoning technology are growing in popularity. As AI technology develops, officials said companies are becoming more dependent on freelancers to fill in the gaps in their workforce.

Workers with competence in the open-source deep learning program called PyTorch were high on the list of in-demand freelancers. Those with experience using Keras, an API that helps build and train deep learning models, were also on the shortlist of employers looking for AI-based skills.

With companies so focused on tech skills, someone has to be able to source talent in these fields. To deal with that issue, companies have turned to independent workers with technical recruiting skills to find candidates. When companies wanted to get their employees up to speed on systems like WordPress, freelancers with knowledge of LearnDash saw an uptick in interest as well.

The ability to take data and turn it into actionable information will always be a relevant skill for any business. According to Upwork's data, freelancers with those capabilities were able to leverage their skills into gigs last quarter.

With approximately 44% of CIOs calling data and analytics the "most scarce tech skill" in a recent survey, it's no surprise that freelancers and independent workers with expertise in rational databases were sought after. Individuals with knowledge on the graph database Neo4j and data visualization programs Highcharts, the D3.js framework and MATLAB also found their abilities on this new list.

Here are the top 20 fastest-growing skills for freelancers in Q2 2019:

  1. ServiceNow
  2. DaVinci Resolve
  3. Social video marketing
  4. Highcharts
  5. PyTorch
  6. Keras
  7. Caspio
  8. LearnDash
  9. Kendo UI
  10. Technical recruiting
  11. Neo4j
  12. Statistical modeling
  13. Salesforce Lightning
  14. Relational databases
  15. D3.js
  16. Motion graphics
  17. MATLAB
  18. Packaging design
  19. Moz
  20. Microsoft Azure
Andrew Martins

Andrew Martins is an award-winning journalist with a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Ramapo College of New Jersey. Before joining business.com and Business News Daily, he wrote for a regional publication and served as the managing editor for six weekly papers that spanned four counties. Currently, he is responsible for reviewing tax software and online fax services. He is a New Jersey native and a first-generation Portuguese American, and he has a penchant for the nerdy.