Top 16 Freelance Jobs in 2017 were all in Technology, UpWork Says

These Are the Highest Paid Freelance Jobs Right Now, According to UpWork

“The more specialized you are, the more premium you’re going to command.” This is what Rich Pearson, Upwork’s Senior Vice President of Marketing, said recently regarding the highest paid freelance skills.

Upwork just released its report on the top 20 skills for freelancers based on billings on the company’s site throughout 2017. The list was dominated by jobs in the technology sector — a total of 16, and only four coming from outside the technology sector.

When it comes to employing freelancers, small businesses now make up 40 percent of the organizations doing the hiring, and this trend is on the upswing. Businesses, 39 percent of them, find it easier to get the skills matching their specific needs, while 71 percent said they get more done with freelancers.

Upwork has a global freelancing platform that brings businesses and independent contractors together. It was formerly known as Elance-oDesk.

Highest Paid Freelance Jobs

The top earning freelance job on UpWork is in Network Analysis, where successful contractors averaged $200 an hour for the year. This is a growing field as more networks are deployed to connect the homes, businesses, and cities we live in.

The second highest paying freelance was in something called Computer Vision with . That’s where AI is used to analyze, extract and understand useful information from images. And freelancers in that field averaged $145 an hour last year. Freelancers with knowledge in the programming language called, and in neural networks, a part of machine learning, both averaged $140 per hour.

The high earners outside the field of technology were intellectual property law experts at $120 an hour, trade law and privacy law experts at $115 an hour each, and lyrics writers who — if you can believe it — averaged $100 an hour last year.

Here is the full list of the top 20 most lucrative skills for freelancers according to Upwork.

  1. Network analysis ($200)
  2. Computer vision ($145)
  3. ($140)
  4. Neural networks ($140)
  5. Firmware engineering ($130)
  6. Hardware prototyping ($130)
  7. Cloud computing ($125)
  8. Intellectual property law ($120)
  9. Trade law ($115)
  10. Privacy law ($115)
  11. Spatial analysis ($110)
  12. Apple Watch ($110)
  13. NetSuite development ($110)
  14. Acquisition strategy ($110)
  15. Algorithm development ($100)
  16. Software debugging ($100)
  17. Digital signal processing ($100)
  18. Ad lyrics writing ($100)
  19. Natural language processing ($100)
  20. Data processing ($100)

Things are Looking Up for Freelancers

As reported by Money, the average freelancer was making much more than traditional 9 to 5 workers in 2017.  While the full-time median weekly earnings for workers in the US was just under $45,000 per year in Q4 2017, it came out to $64,000 for freelancers. Data for this last report was compiled from a survey conducted by financial services company Payoneer and comes from workers in traditional jobs in writing, design and marketing work but did not include jobs in the gig economy such as Uber driver.

Photo via Shutterstock


Michael Guta Michael Guta is the Assistant Editor at Small Business Trends and currently manages its East African editorial team. Michael brings with him many years of content experience in the digital ecosystem covering a wide range of industries. He holds a B.S. in Information Communication Technology, with an emphasis in Technology Management.

4 Reactions
  1. Doesn’t surprise me at all to see these types of jobs commanding such high freelance rates. They’re all highly specific and most companies would have difficulty justifying full-time resources for these.

  2. Hi Robert,
    That is exactly why they command such a premium.

  3. And it will become even more specialized. So it is better to become specialized. This is now needed for freelancers.