By Nancy Collamer, Next Avenue
The freelance market is heating up. During the first quarter of 2021, the Freelancer.com platform posted over a half million jobs. And during the same period, FlexJobs.com reported a 10%+ jump in postings for freelancers in a variety of career categories.
It’s a trend that’s unlikely to cool anytime soon and suggests a number of work opportunities for people over 50.
“Companies worry that the economy won’t remain strong enough to add permanent positions,” says Kathy Kristof, founder of SideHusl.com. “But the freelance market gives companies the ability to enlist niche experts to solve relatively infrequent problems on demand.”
So, if you’re thinking about freelancing to generate income until the job market stabilizes or to pick up some extra money in retirement, now’s a good time to test the market.
You’ll be in good company. According to a Center for Retirement Research at Boston College study cited by National Council on Aging President and CEO Ramsey Alwin at an April 29 Senate Special Committee on Aging hearing on older workers, 75% of self-employed workers 50 and older work independently in jobs like freelancer and gig worker.
Here are five freelance options to consider, culled from recent surveys by Freelancer.com and FlexJobs.com, along with input from SideHusl.com. All three sites are a good place to start looking for freelance gigs, but you can also find opportunities by reaching out to your professional and personal networks.
1. Content Producer
There are now about 400 million active websites worldwide, almost double the number in 2019, according to the Hosting Tribunal. In turn, that’s driving demand for people who can write compelling content.
Freelancer.com reports that during the first quarter of 2021, postings for blog writers, medical writers and assistance with book writing were all up. Unfortunately, as anyone who has tried to make a go of it as a freelance writer knows (myself included), finding good paying content-producing gigs can be a tall order.
“The key with writing jobs is to have a specialty that you become uniquely qualified for,” advises Kristof. “When you have true expertise in an area, you can write more quickly and authoritatively, reach key sources and can target publications that will value your work.”
The pay range for these writing jobs varies widely. Kristof says most gig-writing sites are content mills that want people to write for literally pennies (or fractions of pennies) per word. But there are also plenty of sites that pay between 25 cents and $2 per word, depending on the topic and complexity.
SideHusl.com has an informative post on the myriad of rated writing options.
2. Bilingual Services
In a business world that’s increasingly global, the need for people with bilingual skills who can translate, transcribe and produce content is stronger than ever.
Freelancer.com reports that postings for German, French and Spanish translators rose during the first quarter of the year (by 44%, 24% and 18% respectively). And the number of remote bilingual jobs on FlexJobs has grown 30% since the beginning of February.
“The most important skill for the translation jobs we see on FlexJobs is the ability to truly speak, read and write the sought-after language fluently,” says Brie Reynolds, career development manager at Flexjobs.com.
As I wrote in June 2020, if you’re fluent in more than one language, you can expect to earn $20 to $40 an hour or more working as a translator.
3. Office and Customer Support Services
With so many businesses operating virtually these days, there’s an ongoing need for freelance office support providers (such as bookkeepers, social media managers and administrative assistants) as well as customer service pros who can respond to purchasers’ needs and complaints.
Flexjobs tends to see salary ranges for administrative and remote support roles of $15 to $30 per hour, depending on the type of work being supported. Experienced executive assistants often command higher hourly rates, up to $35 to $40 per hour in some cases.
4. Mental Health Support Services
Many people have struggled with their mental health and wellness during the pandemic. So, it’s no surprise that FlexJobs reports a 28% increase in flexible jobs in the mental health sector since 2019.
While most of these types of jobs — including social worker, therapist and psychologist — require an advanced degree, not all do.
For example, Flexjobs currently has a listing for a resource-line advocate, which is a virtual position providing support to victims of sexual assault. It requires six years related experience, though. A posting there for a virtual wellness coach asks for a tech-savvy candidate with strong coaching and customer service skills and a passion for healthy living.
According to Salary.com, the average hourly rate for a freelance wellness coach is $29, but rates vary widely depending upon specialization, experience and location.
5. Home Design and Renovation Services.
The red-hot housing market is driving demand for freelancers who can help sellers get their homes market ready and help buyers adapt the homes they purchase to better suit their needs. On Freelancer.com, postings for interior design, architecture and home design were up by at least 15% during Q1 of 2021.
Fortunately, you don’t need to be a skilled designer or architect to profit from the housing boom. Do you have strong organizational skills? There’s a market for freelancers who can assist people in decluttering and downsizing. Handy with a hammer? You can register as a provider of handyman or handywoman services on sites like JiffyonDemand.com, with expected pay of $40 to $85 per hour.
Keeping Your Skills Current
One last tip: with technology evolving at such a rapid pace, the professional skills necessary for freelancing success change all the time. Right now, people with expertise in Bitcoin and artificial intelligence can name their price. But even if you’re not a tech guru, it’s important to demonstrate a working knowledge of the latest tech used in your field of expertise.
To refresh your skills, Freelancer.com CEO Matt Barrie suggests taking advantage of online course platforms like Udemy, Coursera and Lynda.com. And since demand for Microsoft Office skills is waning in favor of cloud-based applications like Google documents, he recommends updating your resumé to reflect your cloud-based computing skills.