There is a major paradigm shift happening in the U.S. driven by the pandemic: the rise of freelancing and remote work. More than 2 million U.S. adults joined the freelance workforce since 2019, according to a recent study from Upwork, a freelance job platform. Last year, the income of freelancers increased 22% from 2019 to a stunning $1.2 trillion fueled in part by an influx of younger, highly-skilled professionals seeking flexible alternatives to traditional employment.
This year 1 in 4 Americans will be working remotely and by 2025, that will rise to 1 in 3 or 36.2 million people, according to Upwork's "Future of Workforce Pulse Report." That's an 87% increase in remote work from pre-pandemic levels.
"This will be a huge year for remote work," says Upwork chief economist, Adam Ozimek. "People will learn that this is a long-term trend, not a temporary blip in the way Americans work."
"Our research shows the long-lasting impact that remote work and Covid-19 are likely to have on how hiring managers think about their organizations. Companies are adopting new work models and they are now developing long-term remote policies for their employees. We will see these plans roll out in 2021."
That is the case for companies of all sizes from large multinationals such as Facebook planning a long-term remote work strategy to SMBs looking to tap talent and cut operational costs. Most HR experts believe a hybrid model will emerge that will be a combination of remote work and onsite work.
That means opportunities are increasing for those who like to freelance and work at home. Despite the slowdown in the economy and job losses, there is growing demand for talent in STEM and other fields. Remote job growth has also grown across industries like finance, banking, insurance, health care and real estate.
Keep in mind, however, that the term "remote work" can mean anything from working remotely just a few days a week (and the rest in the office) to being 100% remote. Either way, a remote job has many benefits: it allows employees to save time and money on the commute, as well as more control over their work schedule and environment. Companies are also realizing that, beyond saving on real estate, employing remote workers expands their talent pool and increases retention.
If you're looking to land a high-paying remote job, an effective strategy is to search using different keywords (e.g., "work from home," "virtual," "telecommute," "flexible," "part-time" and "partial remote"). Pair these keywords with related job titles or skill sets (e.g. "work from home project manager" or "telecommute Wordpress").
Many workers like the flexibility of remote work and feel they can be more productive. Upwork's "Future of Work Report" found this to be true. Remote workers like having more control over their daily schedules and workflow, said Ozimek. "There are fewer interruptions and unnecessary meetings and distractions and it gets rid of the stressful commute."
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Another attraction is that remote jobs allow individuals to work from anywhere. That is driving many Americans to relocate from high-cost urban centers to cheaper areas offering a high quality of life.
Interestingly, 65% of freelancers say they enjoy their work, which is a higher rate than the general working population (55%), according to the 2020 annual FlexJobs survey.
With that in mind, here are some in-demand, high-paying freelance jobs that can earn you a salary of $100,000 or more. The list was compiled by Upwork for CNBC:
1. Network and system administration
Sample careers: System administrator; virtualization engineer; cloud infrastructure architect; network/ security engineer
Average hourly salary: $69
2. Search engine marketing
Sample careers: digital marketing expert; PPC/SEM/analytics expert; digital marketing strategist
Average hourly salary: $66
3. Product design
Sample careers: Product design engineer; UI designer, UX designer
Average hourly salary: $61
4. Mobile development
Sample careers: Professional react native developer: IOS, Android mobile apps full-stack developer; iOS app developer
Average hourly salary: $58
5. Email and marketing automation
Sample careers: Demand generation specialist; email strategist; email designer and developer
Average hourly salary: $61
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Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.