Small Business Playbook
Small Business Playbook

High-paying freelance jobs where you can earn $80,000 or more during the pandemic

Key Points
  • The ranks of freelancers has reached 59 million Americans, accounting for 39% of the U.S. workforce, UpWork reports.
  • Today, 50% of freelancers provide skilled services such as computer programming, marketing, IT, and business consulting but opportunities abound in many sectors.
  • Many jobs let freelancers earn $80,000 in annual income or more.
JAG Images | Getty Images

There has been a seismic shift in the job market as more Americans turn to freelancing during the pandemic. Over the last 12 months, their ranks have swelled to 59 million across a wide swath of industries. They now account for 39% of the U.S. workforce, according to UpWork, a global freelancing platform.

The trend is due to a confluence of factors. These include the transition to remote work throughout the U.S. economy, more younger workers look for flexible alternatives to traditional employment, a burst of demand from companies looking for freelance help and a recognition a person can freelance and often earn the same or more than when they had a full-time job.

Of those who quit their full-time job over the past 12 months in order to freelance, 75% say they earn the same or more in pay than when they had a traditional employer, UpWork's seventh annual study entitled Freelance Forward revealed. The study surveyed more than 6,000 adults over the age of 18. It was conducted June 15 to July 7.

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, experts say that 2020 holds plenty of opportunity for those freelance workers with professional skills. Today, 50% of freelancers provide skilled services such as computer programming, marketing, IT, and business consulting, up from 45% in 2019. But there are opportunities in many sectors.

"It's no surprise that freelancing is on the rise, especially now that we have fully disentangled 'where' we work from 'what' we work on," said Hayden Brown, president and CEO of Upwork. "Companies are finding that these professionals can quickly inject new skills and capabilities into an organization and strategically flex capacity up and down along with changes in demand and workloads. We expect this trend to continue as companies increasingly rely on freelancers as essential contributors to their own operations."

Freelancing is also a great way for people to hone their job skills in this era of uncertainty, Brown says. UpWork's survey found that 59% of freelancers have participated in skills training in the last six months vs. 36% of non-freelancers.

A list of the high-paying freelance jobs, created for CNBC.com by UpWork, shows dozens of job categories in which freelancers can earn $80,000 per year — or more.

1. Financial planning

Sample careers: Financial modeling expert; CPA; financial analyst, estate planning attorney 
Median Hourly rate: $75

2. Network and system administration

Sample career: Network and collaboration architect; Microsoft services architect & IT
Median hourly rate: $65

3. Marketing strategy

Sample careers: Digital marketing consultant, copywriter, B2b marketing specialist
Median hourly rate: $60

4. Ecommerce development

Sample careers: ecommerce developer: online marketing and ecommerce solutions expert;
ecommerce integration and automation consulting
Median hourly rate: $54

5. Email and marketing automation

Sample careers: Marketing expert; front-end developer; senior marketing strategist and consultant
Median hourly rate: $50

6. Quantitative analysis

Sample careers: Professor of economics, statistics analyst
Median hourly rate: $50

alvarez | E+ | Getty Images

7. Web development

Sample careers: Full stack web developer and business systems expert;
front-end web development; web designer, UI/UX designer, front-end developer
Median hourly rate: $50

8. Display advertising

Sample careers: Graphic designer; internet marketer; PPC advertiser
Median hourly salary: $50

9. Web and mobile design

Sample careers: Web and mobile app development; iOS apps for start-ups and entrepreneurs;
user experience and UI designer
Median hourly rate: $50

10. Search engine optimization

Sample careers: Digital marketing and SEO consultant; SEO expert
Median hourly salary: $42