Today’s working world is more flexible than ever, leaving the door open for freelancers to seize career opportunities in almost every tech sector. The in-demand freelance positions in tech can run the gamut, and candidates who bring in-demand skills to the table can make an excellent living, all while calling the shots on their own career.
Topcoder, the world’s largest technology network and on-demand digital talent platform, has been part of this movement for over 20 years. Their community of 1.6 million freelance developers, designers, data scientists, and testers trade information and sharpen their skills as they work for some of the biggest brands.
Through crowdsourcing, individuals in Topcoder’s community compete to deliver the best outcome for clients. Technology has made staff augmentation easier, but Topcoder’s solution is about more than that. It’s about a larger shift in talent sourcing from thinking about a person in a seat to thinking about ‘What skills do I need? What am I trying to get done?’
The Skills That Matter
According to a recent Upwork survey, 36% of the US workforce freelanced in 2021, showcasing a rising trend that stands to gain steam as we enter a post-pandemic environment. Companies are finding that hiring freelance workers streamlines their digital work processes, and thus their productivity. “When Topcoder was formed in 2001, this idea was novel,” said Doug Hanson, the company’s CEO. “Today, on-demand open talent models have become a mainstreamed part of the workforce, and businesses are utilizing on-demand talent frequently and regularly.”
The tech skills that are most needed by employers tend to change from year to year. For instance, whereas mobile app developers may have been in high demand in 2015, companies may be on the lookout for more UI/UX designers in 2022. Tech changes rapidly, and freelancers that continue to stay ahead of the curve stand to win in the long run.
However, some basic skills have remained evergreen regarding their marketability to companies. Here are some of the top skills freelancers should focus on when continuing to build their tech career.
Web Design/Web Development
“Talented web designers and developers will always be in high demand as long as a company’s website remains its introduction to the world,” Hanson said. “Those freelancers skilled in creating e-commerce sites, or sites that integrate virtual and AI elements, will be particularly marketable.” Experts project an 8% growth for web development positions between 2019 and 2029; a rate double the national average over other occupations.
Freelance data scientists can predict, optimize, and solve data problems for companies. Data scientists with expertise in AI, Data Visualization, Deep Learning, and Machine Learning — among other cutting-edge technology talents — will be the most in-demand by companies looking for outstanding outcomes from top-tier talent.
Freelancers who are user experience (UX) experts bring accelerated design ability to the companies they work for. A recent Adobe study stated that 87% of managers said hiring UX designers was a top priority. Many of those managers and department heads will be looking towards freelancers who are at the top of their UI/UX game.
QA (Quality Assurance)
Companies want testers to hunt for bugs and identify issues before they become bigger problems. Software is continuously evolving and, as it does, the technology behind it needs constant testing before it hits the market. Bugs can be costly to fix, so the more sets of expert QA eyes companies have on their newest software product launch or program, the better.
What Companies Need, When They Need It
Companies turn to established networks of freelancers like Topcoder for a number of reasons. For one, networks of freelancers typically have people who have worked in various industries, ranging from banking, to retail, to healthcare. Reaching one company and gaining access to talent that specializes in a particular tech niche saves time, and time is, as the saying goes, money.
“In addition,” Hanson explained, “if a company has a large project planned that requires all-hands-on-deck, having access to a collection of multifaceted talent could help get their project up and running more quickly and economically. Using outside talent for innovation and R&D helps companies bring new experiences and offerings to their customers. And if an organization needs specialized skills or people who know stuff they don’t, freelancers can help them work in burgeoning technologies where internal expertise might be lacking.”
Setting Out as a Freelancer
There are more options than ever for skilled freelancers in the tech space. While freelancers can certainly set out on their own, they may find that working with a tech network has its advantages. “Companies such as Topcoder allow freelancers to work under the banner of an organized community, making it easier to find work with great companies and get paid quickly and easily,” said Hanson. “Topcoder offers learning and development programs that can be harder to find as a solo freelancer, such as coding competitions, skills certifications, and upskilling opportunities.”
No matter what route you choose into the tech freelance world, it helps to keep one’s finger on the pulse of the industry. Note what skills companies value, and consider adding those skills to your toolbelt. It will make you far more marketable in the long run, which will lead to a profitable run as a freelancer.