The 4 freelance skills employers are scrambling to hire right now pay at least $50 an hour. Here's where you can learn them online for free.

  • Thanks to the pandemic, remote freelancing work has seen a spike in popularity.
  • According to data from freelancing platform Upwork, four easily accessible, high-paying industries have enjoyed acute growth: network security, marketing strategy, ecommerce, and email & marketing automation.
  • Freelancers can learn skills and pick up certifications to qualify them to work in these fields using free training from sites like Coursera, Skillshare, Udemy, and Hubspot.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

According to data from the freelancing platform Upwork, demand for freelance workers has risen dramatically in the last several months, especially in industries whose emphasis is on facilitating the shift to digital, remote work.

Upwork, which specializes in placing remote freelancers, conducted a survey in June of more than 1,500 US hiring managers. Nearly half said they're more likely to hire freelancers, and 72% are continuing or increasing their use of independent professionals, according to prior reporting from Business Insider.

Hayden Brown, the president and CEO of Upwork, told Business Insider that one of the best ways to find success as a freelancer is to discover what skill sets employers are looking for and then become proficient in those areas. 

In recent months, employer interest in several fields has risen, including network security, marketing strategy, ecommerce, and email & marketing automation, said Brown.

"Companies are adopting dynamic ways of flexing with their teams, figuring out how to bring full-time employees and skilled, independent workers together for projects," Brown told Business Insider. "People are starting to break down those old barriers of how they use to hire, or who they use to hire."

Below is a list of the most-popular, high-earning industries on Upwork, as well as where prospective freelancers can go to learn the skills they need to break into those lines of work.


Network security

Median rate: $65/hour

What it is: Network security encompasses a range of activities, all of which deal with securing the usability and integrity of a computer network. The category includes more specific branches, such as cybersecurity and network architecture, but broadly includes any organizational component of a complex computer system.

Where freelancers can learn these skills: Coursera, edX

Marketing strategy

Median rate: $60/hour

What it is: Marketing strategy involves the research that informs a company's marketing campaign, such as determining what audiences to target, what mediums to use, and what an optimal financial outlay might look like. More methodical than creative, marketing strategy helps brands spend their marketing budgets wisely, which is critical for businesses in saturated fields.

Where freelancers can learn these skills: Udemy, edX

Ecommerce development

Median rate: $54/hour

What it is: Running a successful online retail business requires a litany of functions to work in concert: digital marketing, software integration, occasional web development. Freelancers interested in ecommerce development will focus more on the industry's technical architecture than the products being sold.

Where freelancers can learn these skills: Skillshare,

Email and marketing automation

Median rate: $50/hour

What it is: Similar to marketing strategy, email and marketing automation is concerned with researching and executing intelligent email marketing campaigns. In addition, creating the infrastructure to automate an email marketing campaign requires an understanding of marketing expertise and software familiarity. This is a good fit for someone who blends coding know-how with an understanding of email marketing.

Where freelancers can learn these skills: Hubspot, Marketo

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