What are the highest paid freelance jobs? 8 to choose from

7

Min Read

Linsey Knerl

The flexibility of working for yourself, choosing who to send proposal templates to, or who to sign agreement templates with, are some of the reasons people leave their day jobs to become independent contractors. But there is another (often more important reason); freelancers can often make much more money being their own boss than if they were employed in a traditional workplace. When you take away time wasted commuting, being in dead-end meetings, and sitting in a break room, there's just much more of your day you can dedicate to producing. Pair that with a high per-project rate (vs. a stagnant per-hour wage) and it's easy to see why freelancing is the future for those with lofty income goals.

While there is a wide range of acceptable pay scales for each freelance industry, most of us aim for the top. When you can work less and earn more, it’s often a sign that you’ve achieved something when clients are coming to you, and you don’t scare them away by quoting the highest of fees. Each industry will have what is considered a top-tier pay. Read on to see what we have determined to be the most in-demand independent contractor jobs, along with the earnings opportunities associated with each.

1. Programming and software developers

Not all coders are raking in the big bucks. Since technologies vary, and some languages are more sought-after than others, it's important to position yourself to be able to create the products clients are willing to pay the most. Good developers are always in demand. If you make use of freelancing marketplaces, you'll find that people will tend to compete for your services, especially if you build your reputation with good reviews. App developers in particular, who have a good understanding not just of development but things such as user experience and conversion rate optimization will always be able to call the shots and command good rates.

Common apps using iOS, for example, may allow you to start out earning $150 or more with room to grow when you've mastered most applications. (Swift, the language used to make the popular Apple watches work, has been increasing in demand.) For someone with significant demand in highly-sought after languages, earning $400 or more per hour isn't uncommon. The annual salary for the best professionals can total $85,000 or more.

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Freelance software developers salary can vary depending on their skills, Bonsai Freelance Rates Explorer lets you find the highest paying skills.

2. Social media managers

Believe it or not, companies big and small usually outsource some of their marketing tasks to freelancers. Among them is posting to social media networks and managing more massive campaigns across all digital platforms. Everything from finding Instagram influencers to creating the perfect tweet has a price. Even though the most novice managers only make $45 an hour, someone with the right amount of marketing experience can command $75,000 or more for full-time client work.

3. Business consulting

If you've ever made a sale, ushered an idea from idea to market, or managed a team to achieve a lofty benchmark, you're a candidate for passing on your earned knowledge to others. Business consulting, while a somewhat generic term, is a much-needed and highly marketable expertise that companies are willing to pay big bucks to acquire. You can focus on a singular task for startups, such as getting funded. Or, you may choose to assist businesses with all aspects of their product launch. The best consultants are always in demand and can get $75,000 - $250,000 for sharing advice.

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4. Web designers and developers

We've shared how designers and developers can often be two sides of the same coin (with developers making a bit more). It's apparent, however, that both are sought-after in today's' evolving web market. Designers may have a harder time standing out, as the field is relatively crowded and the barriers to entry low. If you cannot pick up some extra skills to brand yourself as a developer, you can still make $55,000 a year or more by niching down into the most popular markets, such as WordPress and having a stellar design portfolio. Make sure to check out our guide as well on how to start your web design business. Developers with five or more years of experience can make better money at $80,000 a year or more.

Web Designer Salaries

5. Content marketing writing

Journalism is one of the oldest professions around. Unfortunately, it's not much of a money-maker. That's why many writers are getting into the content marketing side of writing, where the pay can be much higher, and the work more plentiful. Doing everything from ad copy to lead pages to articles in trade magazines, content marketing writers far out-earn some of their traditional writing counterparts. It's not uncommon to see the average rate for top-tier copy to be $1 a word or more in today's market. What can a full-time, experienced content marketer earn? Expect six figures to be something to aim for. $120,000 – 200,000 is achievable with excellent prospecting skills and an impressive portfolio.

6. Videographers and editors

The recent changes to Facebook's algorithm continue to reward video content. As such, everyone -- from major newspapers to household brands --is revising their content strategies to be more visible. Videographers and video editors have seen a bump in opportunities this year, with many of the best ones starting a waitlist for potential clients. Have the skills to pay the bills? You can ask for $75,000 - $150,000 for your time each year.

7. Machine learning

As AI (Artificial Intelligence) tasks become necessary for common business and marketing tasks, those who are well versed in machine learning will be in high demand. With companies finding it hard to recruit great talent, a machine learning engineer can find a salary with unlimited potential. According to the NYTimes, there are fewer than 10,000 people in the world adept at doing these jobs, and only 100 new graduates each year are prepared to jump into these types of careers. If you are one of them, expect a salary between $200,000 and up for your service.

8. UX (user experience) designers and developers

Game players and e-commerce shoppers decide whether a site or app is user-friendly. A UX professional then makes the decisions to help those upgrades come to life. Since a UX designer or developer needs to be competent at both the tech and the marketing side of things, they traditionally get paid more than regular designers and developers. Likewise, a UX developer typically gets paid more than a UX designer. Expect to earn upwards of $85,000 – or even more – if you have even a few years of experience in this field. In addition, UX researcher in the e-commerce space specializing in conversion rate optimization could be higher.

9. Honorable mentions

Some additional fields are becoming more popular – and therefore attracting new freelancers. These pay above $50,000 a year for full-time and include:

  • SEO Specialist – Optimizing web content so that it appears high in Google search, this job becomes hot every time the search engine changes its algorithm (again.)
  • Virtual Assistant – While your typical assistant won't make more than $12 an hour for doing essential administrative work, some VA's have been making $50 or more for specialized skills that mimic some of the functions of higher-paid professionals. Taking on the more mundane tasks of a social media manager, for example, VA's can make a decent wage scheduling Pinterest pins or writing simple web copy.
  • Affiliate manager – Most every company who sells online offers a commission to websites and marketers who help them make sales. An affiliate manager seeks out these partnerships with influencers, bloggers, and websites and provides them with the tools needed to make selling easy – as well as manage payments when they are due. Affiliate managers can make $50 or more an hour if experienced.

The salary info listed above is just a guideline, and there will almost always be outliers. Someone with little to no experience cannot expect to make the same as someone with years of specialized training and contacts in the industry. Those who have been perfecting their skills for over five years can easily ask for the ranges listed. If you're fortunate enough to have 10+ years behind you, there may be no limit to what your talents can command!

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Linsey Knerl
Linsey is a freelance blogger, author and public speaker with a passion for helping small businesses thrive in a connected world. You can follower her writing at LinseyKnerl.com

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