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Earn more than $250 an hour with these high paying independent jobs


Gone are the days when freelance work was a precarious career choice limited to a handful of niche industries. Shifting workplace norms and a tight labor market in the U.S. are giving employees the freedom to strike out on their own while raking in impressive sums.

That's according to new research from Upwork, a global freelancing platform which has identified a list of 20 of the most lucrative jobs for independent workers right now.

Those jobs, which are presented in terms of the key skills they require, span industries from law to marketing and tech, and can command average hourly earnings of $165 to $255, the report found.

Upwork's CEO Stephane Kasriel said the findings highlight the growing freedoms of professionals with the right skills.

"This is a clear indication that there's an incredible opportunity for this increasingly important segment of the workforce and that businesses are willing to pay top dollar for access to high-quality talent," he said.

Of course, not all independent jobs command such high pay, and freelance work, by its very nature, can be unpredictable. However, even at the lower end, freelancers who earn $50 an hour rank among the country's top wage earners, according to Upwork's chief economist, Adam Ozimek.

"While wages for the most lucrative skills are high, they aren't outliers," Ozimek told CNBC Make It. "One-third of U.S. freelancers on Upwork earn at least $50/hour, which would put them in the top 10% of U.S. wage earners overall."

The study, which drew on Upwork's database of 5,000 skills across 70 categories, ranked top skills according to the hourly rates charged by U.S. freelancers from January to June 2019.

Here is the full list of the most lucrative skills for independent workers.

1. Legal entity structuring

Average hourly rate: $255

When starting a business, deciding the legal form it will take is vital.

Such structures can range from sole proprietorship, where the business leader is the sole owner, to a partnership, corporation or a limited liability company. Each has wide-reaching implications for taxation and other factors. Therefore, most savvy business owners are willing to pay for experts who can help make the call.

2. Blackline

Average hourly rate: $220

Blackline is a U.S. software company that helps automate accounting and finance processes. Professionals who can implement and operate the software for businesses can earn up to $220 per hour, according to Upwork.

3. Bitcoin

Average hourly rate: $215

Bitcoin, arguably the most widely recognized blockchain-based cryptocurrency, has fluctuated in popularity — and price — since its launch in 2009. Yet, as cryptocurrencies gain traction, for instance with the launch of Facebook's Libra, those with bitcoin expertise are raking in good money.

4. International accounting standards

Average hourly rate: $215

Any individual or company that conducts business internationally needs to ensure they operate according to the appropriate tax systems. Failure to do so can mean big fines, so prudent business leaders are willing to fork out money for guidance from such professionals.

How a 26-year-old making $38K in Charlotte, NC spends her money
How a 26-year-old making $38K in Charlotte, NC spends her money

5. Software licensing

Average hourly rate: $200

A software licence is a document that provides legal guidelines for the use and distribution of software. Such licenses are vital for both the increasing number of software businesses and the individuals who use their services.

6. Applied behavioral analysis

Average hourly rate: $195

Applied behavioral analysis (ABA) is a form of therapy that seeks to alter and improve behavior in humans and animals. Typically, ABA is used to treat individuals with social disorders, such as autism, but it can also be applied as a therapy for other psychological conditions.

7. Behavioral design

Average hourly rate: $195

Behavioral design focuses on how design can influence human behavior. Such design processes have wide-reaching social applications, ranging from health and well-being to sustainability and crime prevention, making it a lucrative career route for designers.

8. Trade law

Average hourly rate: $185

Trade law relates to the rules and customs surrounding the exchange of goods and services between businesses and countries.

As trade continues to weigh on international relations, professionals with expertise in this domain are in high demand.

9. Image object recognition

Average hourly rate: $180

Image object recognition refers to technology that can find and identify objects in an image or sequence.

The technology has proven transformative for a host of industries, from commerce to transportation and security. That means programmers with the expertise to develop and implement it are cashing in.


10. Trademark consulting

Average hourly rate: $180

Trademark consultants advise individuals with the legal process of obtaining a trademark — typically a sign, phrase or symbol — for their businesses.

Trademarks have been around for centuries. But at a time of growing consumer awareness, developing a recognizable brand is arguably more important than ever.

11. Due diligence

Average hourly rate: $180

Due diligence refers to the research an individual or company should undertake before entering into an agreement with another party.

Such processes can be complex, so individuals who can offer advice in this area often command top dollar for their expertise.

12. Virtual machine

Average hourly rate: $175

In computing, a virtual machine is a copy of a computer system. Virtual machines provide a way for users to run an operating system in an app window or on their desktop that acts like a separate computer.

Sound complicated? That's why IT whizzes with the know-how can command a hefty pay packet.

13. Property and equipment leases

Average hourly rate: $175

A lease refers to a contractual agreement between two parties — namely the user and the owner — over the use of an asset, such as a property.

Such agreements can be complex and sometimes contentious, calling for third parties who can weigh in with their experience and guidance.

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14. SQR

Average hourly rate: $170

SQR, which stands for Structured Query Reporter, is a programming language used for generating reports from database management systems.

A techie with SQR expertise can expect to earn top dollar by helping businesses better understand and make use of their data.

15. S corporation

Average hourly rate: $170

An S corporation is a specific type of business entity reserved for small businesses which dictates their tax treatment in the U.S. An S corporation must have fewer than 100 shareholders and can be taxed as a partnership, thereby avoiding double taxation.

An expert in S corporation structuring can provide valuable guidance for some 30.2 million small businesses in the U.S.

16. Patents

Average hourly rate: $170

A patent is a form of protection that provides a person or legal body with the exclusive right to make, use and sell a concept or invention for a given period of time.

Such protections can be vital to a business' success — and at a time of strong market competition, professionals who can help procure them are considered invaluable.

17. IT strategy

Average hourly rate: $165

An IT strategy, or a technology strategy, is a plan set out to create maximum value for a company using technology. That may consist of developing objectives, principles and tactics.

Since technology has become an intrinsic part of most businesses today, appointing individuals who can navigate that can be a good move for smart executives.

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18. C corporation

Average hourly rate: $165

A C corporation, in contrast to an S corporation, is a type of business entity reserved for large corporations. Under U.S. law, such businesses are taxed separately from their owners.

An expert in C corporation structuring can provide valuable guidance for America's many large companies.

19. Lucene search

Average hourly rate: $165

Apache Lucene is a free, open-course search engine software library, written in the popular programming language, Java. It is used, for instance, in adding search functionality to an app or website.

Individuals with knowledge of such software are finding they're able to earn lucrative sums as businesses look for help in boosting their tech offerings.

20. Orcad

Average hourly rate: $165

Orcad refers to a software tool suite first created by software firm Orcad Systems Corporation. It is primarily used by electronic design engineers in the production of circuit boards and microchips.

The software was assumed by Cadence Design Systems as part of a takeover in 1999, but continues to see strong demand in the area of electronic design automation.

Don't miss: The 10 countries with the fastest-growing earnings for freelancers

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'This Is Us' star Chris Sullivan used coupons for free burritos when he started acting
'This Is Us' star Chris Sullivan used coupons for free burritos when he started acting