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7 Hottest Skills For IT Freelancers

Freelance job posting site Upwork, lists the top 20 most requested freelance skills, 7 of which are IT skills.

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If you're an IT professional looking to freelance, you'll need to know which skills are most in demand. If you're a CIO or other IT leader looking to bring in some contract workers, you'll want to know which are the hottest skills so you can be prepared to fight for talent.

Freelance job-posting site Upwork has compiled a list of the 20 skills most commonly sought by the hiring companies worldwide that use the site to recruit talent.

Seven of these are IT related. In addition to listing the hottest IT freelance skills now, Upwork also offers insights into which talents will be in demand in the years ahead.

[ Freelancing is hot right now, too. Read IT Freelancing: 11 Signs Its Hot Right Now. ]

Upwork created its list by compiling the skill requirements from every freelance job posting on its site from January 1 through June 30 of this year. (Upwork has more than 3 million job postings per year.)

While Upwork doesn't share the total number of times each skill was required in a job posting, the list should give you a good idea of the skills you need to stand out in the freelance market. Upwork's community lists more than 3,000 potential skills that hiring companies are looking for, so to qualify for inclusion in the top 20 the skill has to be in demand.

Check out the list of the top IT skills, and how they rank in Upwork's overall top 20.

Table 1: Upwork's Top Freelance Skills For IT Pros
Skill IT Ranking Overall Ranking
PHP Development 1 1
Javascript Development 2 6
HTML 5 Development 3 8
MySQL Administration 4 14
Android App Development 5 15
iQuery Development 6 16
iOS App Development 7 17

You'll notice that the skill-sets don't necessarily always match up to the same hot skills you'd expect to need for full-time work. For instance, you won't see a lot of big data or security skills on the list.

According to Mateo Bueno, category director for Upwork's Web, Mobile, and Software Development category, "Freelance work is usually for solving a more specific problem, whereas full-time workers need to have a broader, more general set of skills. Freelance work is easier when you don't have to understand the full stack or the full setup to do the work."

You'll also notice the list is full of developer skills. Mateo says, "It is definitely more common to see developers hired on our platform. For companies, it is easier to experiment with developers without taking their eyes off their core projects."

Looking for the skills of the future?

To create the list of trending skills, Upwork looked at skills listed in the job requirements of the posts on the site from November 1, 2014 through October 31, 2015 and compared those results to the same dates the previous 12 months to find the skills with the biggest increases (and decreases) in job listings.

According to UpWork, the top five growing skills are:

1. PSD to Wordpress

2. Wordpress plugin

3. Excel VBA

4. Usability testing

5. Shopify

Mateo also says, "We are seeing some growth in setting up Amazon cloud. For now we see more smaller things, but we expect we'll see more growth in the development stack. And Angular JavaScript is the fastest growing development language."

Worried about which of your skills are declining in demand? These are the five skills trending down, according to Upwork:

1. Joomla

2. XML

3. Drupal

4. API development

5. Magento

What do you think? Do these match up with your experience? What skills do you think will be hot for freelancers in the year ahead? Tell us in the comments section below.

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David has been writing on business and technology for over 10 years and was most recently Managing Editor at Enterpriseefficiency.com. Before that he was an Assistant Editor at MIT Sloan Management Review, where he covered a wide range of business topics including IT, ... View Full Bio

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User Rank: Author
11/30/2015 | 7:12:38 PM
Re: specialized skills
The jobs that are best for freelancers may be different than the jobs that are best for corporate positions to Dave's point. Certain assignments that utilize alot of cross functional integration are not a good fit for freelance talent. Freelancers can add a lot of bandwidth to the right project and expedite deliverables. The list of skills represent this well --more tactical than strategic skill sets.
David Wagner
David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
11/30/2015 | 2:34:49 PM
Re: specialized skills
@kstaron- Well, I guess you can look at it as both good and bad. It is true that some jobs don't require you to have intimate knowledge of an entire company's stack to do them. That doesn't mean what they need isn't crucial and high paying. It just means it is part of a larger thing. It allows someone to be an expert at one crucial thing. That can be very lucrative. 

On the other hand, you need to make sure your skills stay in demand which is why watching these lists is important.
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