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The pandemic has boosted freelance work — and hiring for these jobs is booming

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The coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on the global jobs market, leaving many unemployed, furloughed or working reduced hours as employers implemented sweeping cost-cutting measures.

Yet, one workforce that has weathered the storm better than most is the freelance market. That segment of the workforce has seen a surge in demand — even as full-time work has collapsed, according to a new report from online freelance market place Freelancer.

Freelance job openings increased over 25% during the April to June quarter of 2020 — compared to the first three months of the year, Freelancer's "Fast 50" report found. The quarterly study tracks movements from the top 50 fastest growing and declining jobs on the site's global marketplace which spans North America, Europe and Asia. 

There will be a permanent step-change in both working from home and the use of freelancers by businesses.
Matt Barrie
CEO, Freelancer

The uptick reflects a shift in the post-Covid-19 global jobs landscape, as employers reevaluate budgets and opt for a more flexible workforce. But it also indicates a growing interest among employees to move toward independent work, Freelancer's CEO Matt Barrie told CNBC Make It

"While Covid-19 has been the trigger of the already upward trending freelancer movement, this exponential growth can also be attributed to the strong demand for individuals to finally start their own freelance enterprise, work on their own terms and supplement their income," said Barrie.

Freelance job postings rose 41% to 605,000 in the second quarter of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019, according to the report.

Meanwhile, last week the United Nations' International Labour Organization estimated that the number of working hours lost in the second quarter this year could be the equivalent of 400 million full-time jobs. 

"I do foresee that this crisis will extend well into 2021, and there will be a permanent step-change in both working from home and the use of freelancers by businesses," Barrie added.

Fastest growing freelance jobs

The jobs that saw the greatest surge in demand from employers in the second quarter tended to be those directly connected to the pandemic, according to the report.

Jobs related to mathematical modeling — including mathematics, Matlab and algorithm projects — saw the greatest increase over the quarter, as they surged 99.6% to 16,501 jobs. Statistics and statistical analysis positions also saw a major uptick, rising 75% to 7,397 jobs. 

Much of that demand came from health-care institutions, governments, businesses and media organizations, which increasingly require number crunchers to "interpret, analyze and report" data on cases, hospitalizations, mortality rates, testing, as well as the impact of the pandemic, the report noted.

A spike in the use of competitive trading platforms and investment sites also prompted demand for algorithm projects under listings such as mathematics, or the trading program metatrader.

Median pay per project, according to Freelancer:

Maths — $203

Game development — $300

E-commerce — $260

Barrie said the uptick coincides with a wider surge in demand for mathematics and algorithm-related skills. By 2028, demand for mathematicians and statisticians is expected to grow 30% from 2018 levels, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. It said the average annual salary for such roles is $92,030 — or $44.25 per hour. 

Elsewhere, near-global lockdowns sparked demand for home entertainment and online shopping and, consequently, workers with applicable skills. Demand for game designers and game developers surged 68% and 64% respectively in the second quarter, while job postings for e-commerce professionals rose 54.4%.

At the other end of the spectrum, listings for face-to-face jobs — categorized as "local jobs" like furniture assemblers — unsurprisingly saw the biggest declines over the period, dropping 35.6%.

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Tips for getting started

Though the job market is likely to stay unpredictable for some time, Barrie said freelance work could provide a suitable option for some people. He shared his top tips for getting started:

  1. Know yourself — When considering going freelance, spend time figuring out if it's the right kind of working style for your personality. 
  2. Test the water — One way to test out a freelance career, is to try doing a few individual jobs while maintaining your other sources of income.
  3. Build your brand — Once you're ready to commit to more freelance work, spend time filling out your online profile, or portfolio, so people can easily view your past work. 
  4. Keep upskilling — Ensure your skills remain up-to-date by taking advantage of free online resources via sites such as edX, Udemy and Coursera.
  5. Know your worth — Finally, know your market value and adjust your costs according to your expanding abilities.

"In these times, it is very important to find your niche — an area where you bring 'something extra' to the job, whether it would be skills, domain expertise, industry connections, or even just great communication, a positive attitude and great customer service," said Barrie. 

Don't miss: LinkedIn says these are the world's 10 most in-demand jobs that don't need a degree

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