Happy young woman freelancer working at a coffee shop with a laptop focusing on improving her skills

Companies have always looked for ways to control costs and increase output, and 2023 is no different. Freelancers are a more important asset than ever in achieving this goal while weathering an uncertain economic climate. In 2023, freelance clients are looking for highly technical skill sets that are challenging to hire for, in areas where companies might not have the need or resources to support a full-time employee. Clients are also looking for top freelance skills that contribute to revenue growth, like marketing and web development. 

The great news for freelancers (or aspiring freelancers) is that many of these are skills you can learn on your own, with or without a formal education. Whether you’re looking to earn a living as a freelancer or simply make some extra spending money, here are the most promising skills you should focus on. 

Top freelance skills for 2023

1. Web design

In an age where the internet plays a major, if not essential role in the function of most businesses, well-designed websites are crucial.

Web designers create the visual look and flow of a website for all devices–desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones. They may also play a role in the site’s development. 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates explosive demand for digital design over the next decade, with projected growth of 23%. That’s several times faster than the national average for all fields. Build up this skills by enrolling in Udemy’s Web Design for Beginners course.

2. Full stack development

Once a designer has created the visual design of a website, it’s a developer’s job to turn that design into a functioning interface. Full-stack developers build both the front- and back-ends of websites using a wide array of coding languages like HTML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP, and more.

Full-stack developers must also be familiar with a range of technical concepts like REST, which helps websites communicate with application interfaces, and web architecture, which dictates how websites are stored and served to users. Enhance this skillset by completing Coursera’s The Full Stack course.

3. Machine learning

Machine learning is a branch of artificial intelligence that teaches computers to get smarter over time, just like humans. If you’ve ever experienced your smartphone predicting where you’re about to drive and telling you how long it’ll take to get there, you’ve witnessed machine learning firsthand. 

Machine learning engineers build the programs that allow computers to learn. Companies are seeking innovative machine learning specialists to help them leverage this complex but incredibly promising technology in their operations. Improve this skill by obtaining your certificate from Udemy’s Complete Machine Learning Bootcamp.

4. SEO

You probably know that SEO stands for search engine optimization, and that it helps websites get discovered by the people who are looking for them. From a business standpoint, SEO is essential in connecting with customers who are doing research or ready to buy. 

SEO is a great candidate for online learning, with an endless and robust set of free and paid resources available to help you master the skills. Another great thing about SEO is that it’s constantly changing, meaning that freelancers who invest in keeping their skills current will have their pick of lucrative contracts to choose from. Enroll in Coursera’s Search Engine Optimization Specialization course to learn effective strategies for ranking on search engines.

5. Copywriting

Copywriters develop the written materials companies use to communicate with their target audience. They write headlines, blog posts, ad copy, marketing emails, you name it–if it’s something the customer reads, a copywriter probably had a hand in it. 

Copywriters are used by large companies to supplement their in-house marketing teams and by small businesses who need help on one-off projects. While a solid command of language is key, copywriting requires no formal training. Instead, it’s more about selling your skills with a strong portfolio. Improve this skill by checking out Udemy’s The Complete Copywriting Course to learn how to write effective sales copy!

6. Graphic design

Graphic designers are responsible for the visual aspects of a company’s brand. They design the look and feel of packaging, logos, flyers, signage, advertisements and more. Graphic designers also guide organizations in their overall branding, developing standards that help ensure all of the company’s visual materials look consistent. 

To be a successful freelance graphic designer, you’ll need skills in the most popular design platforms like Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, along with samples of your high-quality work. Complete Coursera’s Fundamentals of Graphic Design class to gain a better understanding of Adobe Creative Suite programs.

7. Video production

Video is one of the most compelling mediums for capturing people’s attention. Fortunately for freelancers, most companies don’t have the time or the resources to make great videos themselves. So, they outsource it. 

If you have an eye for photography and a knack for storytelling, you can earn money helping brands communicate their message in video form. Video production freelancers must be proficient with editing software like Adobe Premiere or Final Cut Pro. Motion graphics and animation experience are also useful. Learn how to create professional videos by finishing Udemy’s Video Production Bootcamp.

8. Social media

Gone are the days when businesses could post to social media at random without putting much thought into it. Today, customers turn to platforms like Facebook, Instagram and TikTok to not only discover products, but verify business hours, check restaurant menus, learn how to use new items, and more. 

Having a strategic social media plan is almost as critical to a company’s success as having a website. Freelance social media managers help companies address this need in a cost-effective way, paying only for the platforms and posting frequency they need while building their brand among their target customer. Learn how to create that strategic plan by completing Coursera’s Introduction to Social Media Marketing.

9. Accounting

The accounting field was a pioneer of the freelance movement, with businesses outsourcing their bookkeeping long before outsourcing functions like marketing became commonplace. Freelance accountants help companies tackle any and every aspect of their financial health, from basic bookkeeping to complex tax challenges and even c-suite functions. 

This is one of the few skills on this list where you’ll need at least some level of formal education In order for clients to view you as a credible freelancer. You can become a bookkeeper with an associate’s degree in bookkeeping or accounting, while more advanced areas of the field call for a bachelor’s or master’s degree. Expand this skillset by obtaining a certification from Udemy’s Accounting & Bookkeeping Masterclass.

10. Business consulting

If you’ve got a background in business but want to branch out from corporate America, why not help other companies succeed as a business consultant? Business consultants provide professional expertise in niche areas of business like marketing, finance, growth, or operations. 

Clients are looking for consultants with specialized knowledge that can help them overcome specific challenges or achieve strategic goals. So, to be a successful freelance business consultant, you’ll need a business degree, real-world business experience, or both. Boost this skillset by completing Coursera’s Consulting Presentations and Storytelling class.

11. Data analysis

Businesses accumulate massive volumes of data in their day-to-day operations. Data analysts help them put that data to use to reduce costs, acquire new customers, become more profitable and streamline operations. The role will be in high demand over the next ten years, with projected industry growth of an impressive 23%.

Freelance data analysts need strong critical thinking and problem solving skills along with a mastery of technical skills like structured query language (SQL) and data visualization. Build this skills by enrolling in Udemy’s Data Analysis Masterclass.

12. Virtual assistance

If you haven’t quite mastered any of the above skills just yet but you still want to carve out an income as a freelancer, you can do so with a solid base of soft skills as a virtual assistant. Virtual assistants help people, typically upper-level professionals, with tasks ranging from scheduling and email maintenance to paying bills and booking travel accommodations. 

To be a successful VA, you’ll need a laptop and a reliable internet connection as well as strong communication, critical thinking and problem solving skills. 

The diversity of the skills on this list should make it clear that almost anything you can do as a full-time employee can be parlayed into a successful career as a freelancer. With determination, organization, and possibly a little independent learning, you can earn a stable income and enjoy the satisfaction that comes from working for yourself. Further this skill by finishing Udemy’s Virtual Assistant Training.

Interested in becoming a freelancer? Learn how to start freelancing with no experience here!

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Pete Newsome is the founder of zengig, which he created after more than two decades in staffing and recruiting. He’s also President of 4 Corner Resources, the Forbes America's Best Staffing and Recruiting Firm he founded in 2005, and is a member of the American Staffing Association and TechServe Alliance. In addition to his passion for staffing, Pete is now committed to zengig becoming the most comprehensive source of expert advice, tools, and resources for career growth and happiness. When he’s not in the office or spending time with his family of six, you can find Pete sharing his career knowledge and expertise through public speaking, writing, and as the host of the Finding Career Zen & Hire Calling podcasts. Connect with Pete on LinkedIn