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Revealed: Work skills with the highest demand

Leah de Gruchy for iwoca International

A recent study analysed some of the UK’s most popular job sites to identify the top freelance hiring trends across the UK. The research also offers business owners the information needed in order to help them find and hire the very best freelance talent.

Nearly two-thirds of small business owners are likely to use freelancers
The research shows just how reliant small business owners could be on freelancers with nearly half of respondents, 47%, saying they had used a freelancer before, and 65% claiming they are likely to use one to help grow their business.

The top three roles that business owners are most likely to outsource are:

  1. Web Designer- 22%
  2. Accountant- 20%
  3. Social Media Manager- 15%

Digital roles revealed as the highest paid freelance positions
iwoca’s research on freelance site Upwork identified that the freelance skill costing the most, on an hourly basis, was Search Engine Marketing Specialist (SEM). SEMs specialise in using paid advertising methods to improve search rankings, as opposed to SEO specialists who use organic means. SEM Freelancers advertise an average hourly rate of £58.76, the most expensive skill of those studied on Upwork in the UK. If hired as a full-time employee, the hourly rate for an SEM Specialist would be just £15.17 (based on average annual salaries from Glassdoor), only around 25% of what the equivalent freelancer would make.

Rank  Freelance Skill  Average hourly rate to hire on Upwork  Annual earning potential as a freelancer  Average annual salary in full-time employment 
1 SEM Specialists £58.76 £112,826.88 £31,540
2 SEO Specialists £57.59 £110,566.09 £35,365
3 Copywriter £53.87 £103,424.64 £28,966
4 Developer £51.82 £99,488.45 £41,851
5 Programming £49.65 £95,323.84 £33,223

The three lowest paid freelance roles, all costing less than £20 per hour, were Sales Representatives, Customer Service Representative and Data Entry Execs at £17.03, £18.28 and £19.01 respectively.

Developers have highest volume of live jobs
Despite the high hourly rate of Search Engine Marketers, it’s not the role with the most freelance job ads. Only 13 SEM roles were advertised on the freelance site Upwork (up to 31 May) compared to the most advertised job, Developer, which had 243 openings, followed closely by Copywriter, with 234 job openings.

Rank Job Title Job openings for freelancers
1 Developers 243
2 Copywriter 234
3 Sales Representative 220
4 Branding 200
5 Graphic Designer 197

Alex Mastin, CEO and founder of Home Grounds, a community of passionate coffee hobbyists says: “Freelancers can allow companies to focus on more important aspects of the business. It’s an excellent way to minimise disruptions when your team or company is experiencing change or an elevated workload. It means my team can focus on important tasks while delegating those that require less oversight to an outside source.”

*Reseach from iwoca

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