Since the dotcom boom, the gig economy has seen tremendous growth, penetrating industries left and right, while simultaneously creating new opportunities for employees. Today, being a freelancer appeals to a lot of people since it offers great flexibility, a lucrative pay, and the joy of doing work in areas you’re passionate about.
From writers and photographers to web developers and programmers, there is a host of work you can do right now that lets you enter the life of a freelancer. It even levels the playing field and provides equal rights for people with disabilities in some disciplines. Here are seven of the most lucrative freelancing careers you can find today to build a solid income in 2020.
1) Web Development & Programming
Web development and programming are arguably the most lucrative jobs today due to high demand from the tech industry and the constant stream of new businesses looking to establish an online presence. Professionals in this field typically earn around $70,000 to $100,000 per year.
However, this figure can go higher depending on how good the developer is at his job and at selling his skills to clients. Some can even earn $1,000 an hour, although landing projects like these are few and far in between.
One important thing to know when you’re just striking out as a web developer or programmer is to advertise yourself as such, nothing less. Most often than not, junior developers or programmers would disclose their position to clients, which would decrease their value as a freelancer. Always remember that even if you’re just at the junior level, professionally, your skills might reflect more than that.
Also, freelance web developers and programmers are always seeking clients and not the other way around. For your hunting grounds, start with AngelList and Codepen Job. Specific Facebook groups are also another resource you can tap into but it’s going to be crowded with talented individuals.
To increase your pay, invest your time in deeply learning commonly used languages like Python and Java. It’s also best to keep up with industry standards and familiarize yourself with emerging languages like Rust and TypeScript.
2) Graphic Design
Similar to programmers and web developers, freelance work of graphic design has seen a spike as technology progressed, with more and more businesses looking to make a mark online. Freelance graphic designers are typically paid between $49,000 to $75,000 on an annual basis, according to data by Glassdoor.
Before striking out in this profession, it’s important to determine how you’re going to get paid. Some charge by the hour, others by projects, and a few have together packages to entice more commissions.
You need to find the right balance for this as charging too low might attract cheap clients, while charging too steep might turn away potential business. Fledgeling graphic designers would often charge $10 an hour while veterans would ask for $90.
If you’re just starting, make sure to constantly develop your skills by studying the basics and what trends are emerging. Familiarizing yourself with rudimentary programming skills like HTML and CSS will help as it will give you an idea about the limitations of the current technology.
One of the core skills of an expert graphic designer is layout perfection. As a graphic designer, your primary concern is to create a seamless UI and UX. Achieving this will give you a leg-up against the competition and your clients will likely recommend you to their network.
And lastly, listen to what your client wants. Always double-check the project you’re working on and ask the client if you’re on the right path. There’s nothing more frustrating than finishing a project only for the client to tell you that it’s not what they have in mind. This happens often among graphic designers so remember this tip well.
With the arrival of social media, freelance photographers have seen an upsurge in demand. Weddings, pre-nuptial shoots, baby showers, gender reveals, and a host of other events begs the expertise of a skilled photographer. And with the arrival of Facebook and Instagram where people feel the need to share gorgeous photos of their milestones and life events, this demand has grown even stronger.
According to Salary.com, a freelance photographer would typically make between $32,000 to $46,000 annually. But that depends on several factors, including – but not limited to – skill level, nature of projects landed, and how much work the photographer is completing.
To go from fledgling to a master, you need to build on your portfolio and skills over time. You can’t expect to land big projects from the get-go. Photographers would usually build their skills by covering family events. From there, you can look to expand your work and try to secure some wedding projects.
After that, try to build partnerships with your clients in your freelance career. Always impress your clients every time as they would consider you their go-to photographers, not to mention the referrals they’ll do on your part. Remember, word of mouth is still one of the most powerful marketing tools out there.
Make sure to maintain client engagement by adding them to your social media account and showcase your latest projects to show them you’re still active. Active means you’re in demand and clients will jostle each other just to commission you for a job. Moreover, make sure to invest in gear that will last you for a long time as this will be your bread and butter moving forward.
Videography is another freelancing gig that is pretty lucrative once you establish yourself as an expert in the field. Novice videographers can earn around $20,000 annually, while those who have been shooting for years can reach up to a whopping $230,000.
Depending on your skills, you can quickly breakthrough above the $20,000 level and push your yearly income to almost $60,000. So how do you get there and go beyond that figure?
Similar to photographers – or any freelancing job for that matter – you should start small. Don’t quit your day job if you still don’t have a few recurring clients. Also, save up money once you quit your job as projects won’t rain down on your head right away.
Cover family events and ceremonies. Volunteer for your friend’s projects. Create a portfolio on things you’re passionate about. Following this, you can transition to covering small gigs like a kid’s birthday party or baby shower.
Get in touch with small businesses in your area and ask if they need a videographer. Remember, don’t say you’re starting and don’t charge too little. Both these factors will impact how your client views you and it’s important to make a strong first impression.
Put your portfolio on a website and establish a social media presence. If you don’t have the funds to pay a web developer for a website, try to find someone willing to trade. You’ll cover for their project and they’ll create the site for you.
Learn how to use software like Adobe Premiere Pro CC, Adobe Premiere Elements, Final Cut Pro, and more. Follow popular bloggers online and see what the current trends are and identify what is the next big thing to stay ahead of the competition.
5) Writing or Content Marketing
It’s difficult to gauge how much freelance writers make since their salary depends on the amount of work they’re willing to cover, how fast they finish a project, and the rate they’re charging. There’s also the fact that there are different fields in freelance writing.
For instance, according to the rates guidebook titled How Much Should I Charge, white paper writers, charge an average of $107/hour. General speech writers, on the other hand, charges $81/hour. Looking at the hourly rate of the top writers at Upwork, the highest is asking for $125/hour.
To complicate matters, some writers are charging based on the project, especially for those who write great pieces at breakneck speed. Heck, some are claiming that they can make $250 an hour, which is certainly achievable if you’ve reached total mastery in writing.
To reach this level, you’ll need to write a lot and read a lot. Doing both will help you churn out drafts that are easier to edit, saving you more time resulting in more projects being covered.
Learning SEO in writing will also elevate you above the novices as SEO-optimized content is one of the main strategies of online businesses in driving traffic to their site. Also, if the client isn’t asking for the piece to be technical, try to write in an engaging and informative manner.
Most clients and readers love a piece written in a casual and friendly tone that’s peppered with vital information about certain subjects. This type of writing eliminates boredom and grips a reader’s attention to the last word of the piece. In short, try to be creative with the information you’re trying to get across. Be fun and witty and knowledgeable at the same time.
6) Marketing Consultancy
A marketing consultant can constantly find work since online businesses are usually in need of someone to handle their marketing campaigns. On average, professionals in this field earn nearly $50,000 a year.
However, several factors can push that figure higher such as market experience, the scope of a project, and the rate of a marketing consultant, which can vary depending on their level of expertise in your freelance career. Some charge by the hour, others by project, or via a packaged agreement. For consultants that are starting, they may ask for $50 to $150 an hour. Meanwhile, veterans in the field may charge between $125 to $250.
It’s also worth noting that a marketing consultant’s expertise can vary depending on the niche they cover. Content marketing, social media, email, conversion optimization, and search marketing are just some of the areas covered by this profession.
While it might be tempting to try and be an expert in all disciplines, it’s best to specialize in two or three niches for your freelance career. For instance, the roles of content marketing, SEO, and social media will almost always overlap each other so it’s best to learn all three disciplines to increase your authority in the market.
Here’s another freelance career that can turn your creativity into a hefty profit. Illustrators are needed by many businesses today since, as mentioned earlier, visual content is highly used in marketing campaigns.
According to Thumbtack, the average cost of hiring a freelance illustrator is $200 per project. But this can also depend on revisions, the project’s difficulty, and the illustrator’s skill and reputation. On the low end of the spectrum, unestablished illustrators can make around $90 per project, while the top percentile can charge up to $400. Finding online gigs can be challenging, especially if you’re just starting.
You can look for clients in sites like Behance Jobs, Smashing Jobs, Dibble Jobs, 99Design, and Indeed. Try to build your network as you develop your career and always impress clients so they become recurring projects. As an illustrator, you’ll typically handle projects like logo designs for brands, hand lettering, T-shirt, and poster design, or doing commission work depending on what the client needs.
If you’re multilingual, working as a freelance translator can be the way to go. The pay can range from $10 to $54 by the hour, with the average income falling to $28. As a freelance translator, you’ll be handling video, audio, and written transcriptions, although this can vary depending on what the client needs. Starting in this field can be challenging as you’ll need to lower your charge rate to get quality, hands-on experience.
From there, you can build your reputation and handle more intermediate projects before transitioning to the professional level. Keep in mind, however, that just because you speak a language extremely well, it doesn’t automatically make you qualified to be a translator. As mentioned earlier, you’ll be dealing with written content so a robust technical understanding of the language you know is a must. To find clients, check out TranslatorsCafe and Proz.
Thanks to the internet and improvements in technology, teachers can now enjoy the life of a freelancer. Glassdoor pegs the pay of a freelance English teacher in the United States at $35,000 to $67,000 annually, with the average number falling to $48,000.
Tasks of a freelance teacher career would often include:
- Creating a lesson plan
- Categorize students and provide appropriate needs
- Student evaluation
- Writing reports based on progress and performance and present them to the child’s guardian, and being up-to-date with the current trend in your field
Deep expertise in your field is as important as the patience you have for your students. You’re also expected to work alone, so be sure you can handle this kind of responsibility.
10) Legal Services
Lawyers are now looking for freelance careers as some can’t handle the hectic hours that their firms usually require. According to ZipRecruiter, a freelance lawyer – also called contract lawyers – can make between $17,000 to $193,000 a year, with an average salary of $77,000.
As a contract lawyer, you’ll be dealing with a variety of jobs from working with firms and businesses to covering white-collar crime and bankruptcy cases in your freelance career. Anything that you might want to take on. You’ll also be doing the same legal tasks that a typical lawyer does: researching, running depositions, appearing in court, etc.
It’s best to focus on a single practice area so that your expertise can grow over time and you’ll be able to build a network that you can tap into once the dry season rolls around. Also, since you’re going to be working independently, try to develop your communication skills to convince clients to pay what you’re charging in your freelance career.