One of my favorite things about being a career coach is that I get an inside look at many industries through my work with diverse clients. Let me tell you… that was certainly an interesting vantage point to be looking out from this past year. More than any year in recent memory, 2020 brought profound changes across all industries.
One of the most significant changes I observed and discussed with clients was the boom in freelance work. The so-called “gig economy” has been growing steadily for years. The economic challenges in 2020 and the rise of remote work contributed to even more growth in the number of U.S. workers taking on freelance work.
In 2020, 2 million workers joined the freelance economy, raising the percentage of American workers engaged in freelancing full time by 8% to a total of 36%. The freelance sector has grown to generate $1.2 trillion in income annually.
Younger generations of workers are also more likely to participate in the freelance economy, with 50% of Gen-Z and 44% of Millennials working freelance. With more new college grads entering the job market, we will only see even more freelancers.
Another driving factor in the growth of the freelance economy is that many workers feel that freelancing offers better flexibility. This has become especially relevant with the increasing uncertainty of living life with Covid-19.
For many, freelance work seemed a better fit for these uncertain times, with 67% of freelancers reporting that their job flexibility made them more prepared to deal with the lifestyle changes that came with Covid-19. Freelancing affords the opportunity to set your own schedule, allowing workers to have better boundaries in their work lives. Of freelancers surveyed by FlexJobs, 89% stated
All this has created a much richer freelance landscape and many new roles for freelancers. For those looking to pivot to working freelance, or freelancers looking to expand their portfolio, here are 7 industries that are growing quickly into 2021.
1. Accounting, finance, and bookkeeping
With all the financial challenges that 2020 brought across many industries, everyone could use a good accountant. According to a FlexJobs report on the freelance economy, accounting and finance is one of the hottest freelance jobs for 2021.
Plus, the accounting sector is expected to see 6% growth over the next 10 years. The demand for remote freelance jobs doesn’t extend just to CPAs, but offers many options for professionals with skills in finance, bookkeeping, tax filing, banking and auditing.
Many major corporations are currently hiring freelance accountants. But one of the strengths of this field is that companies across all sectors, ranging from corporations to small businesses, need the various services provided by a qualified financial professional.
So whether you are a CPA who is looking to strike out on your own, or someone who has been doing tax filing for your side hustle, you can expect the market to be rich for freelance accountants and financial professionals.
2. Customer service
While it’s sometimes overlooked, customer service is a crucial part of many sectors — even now, with so many people working (and shopping) from home, consumers still find issues with their purchases, services and appliances.U.S. companies lose a staggering $1.7 trillion in revenue annually due to bad customer service. Customer service also has a huge impact on brand loyalty. After just one single bad customer service experience, 48% of consumers reported switching to another brand!
The Covid-19 pandemic hasn’t lessened the need for good customer service, and if anything, it’s made it even more important. Many companies have directed more attention to their customer service departments this year. A report found that on average, companies were dealing with over 100% more customer service calls that were rated as “difficult.”
While customer service jobs were traditionally full-time positions within a dedicated department, increasingly companies are looking to freelancers to fill customer service needs. FlexJobs has seen a sharp increase in the past several months in demand for freelance customer service jobs.
3. Digital marketing
Marketing is a broad umbrella, and the good news for freelancers is that there are many ways to specialize your skillset to cater to the needs of businesses in 2021.
Some highly sought-after skills in the online marketing space include Search Engine Optimization, data analytics, branding or brand development and web design. 2021 is a great time to learn a new skill or specialize if you’re hoping to compete in the digital marketing freelance sector.
It should be a surprise to no one that the demand for therapists is on the rise. After such a difficult year, more and more people are realizing the value of a quality therapist.
The pandemic has been especially hard on relationships, with 34% of couples reporting that Covid-19 led to some greater conflict in their relationship. The strain of working from home also contributed to relationship struggles, with 22.95% of couples reporting that working from home had a negative impact on their relationship, and of those couples, 6.67% said that the strain of working from home caused a breakup.
The increased mental health strain and relationship difficulties resulting from Covid-19 will likely contribute to growth in many opportunities for therapists and counselors who specialize in mental and behavioral health. The need for marriage and family therapists is projected to grow by 22.3% in 2021, and the demand for behavioral and mental health counselors is expected to grow by 24.7%.
While many therapists work through medical centers and clinics, many choose to operate freelance or with a private practice. The growth of online therapy models like BetterHelp has also created more opportunities for therapists looking for freelance and contract opportunities.
Most therapy or counselor roles would require substantial training and in some cases, a higher degree. This definitely isn’t for those who are looking to freelance as a side hustle, but it’s a great direction for those looking to make a career change into a fulfilling and meaningful field with great prospects for freelance work in the future.
5. HR and Recruiting
As remote work has increasingly become the norm in many of our work lives, the options for remote and freelance HR and recruiting work have greatly increased. As of 2019, there were already 43,000 HR consulting companies, which generated revenue to the tune of $25 billion.
Companies are increasingly turning to outside human-resource professionals and recruiters. Freelancers in this field provide the benefit of an outside perspective, as well as flexibility to work on a project or temporary basis.
Many companies turn to freelance recruiters who are specialized in their expertise and focus on helping clients find talent to match specific needs. Insiders at platforms for freelancers such as Fiverr and Expert360 are seeing steady growth in the number of HR experts doing freelance, as well as the demand for HR and recruitment-oriented contract work.
6. Computers and IT
After the 2008 financial crisis, the computer and IT sector saw a major boom, as many industries adjusted and upgraded to get back on pace. Many experts expect there could be another major shake-up to the IT sector as we begin to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent economic downturn.
While we have not yet seen the major surge in IT jobs that some expected in response to Covid-19, according to FlexJobs data it is still a sector that is seeing some of the highest numbers of freelance job listings.
Cybersecurity jobs will be in especially high demand, as cybercrime has risen by 600% since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. As malware and ransomware attacks and network security breaches become more frequent and sophisticated, the demand for cybersecurity jobs will increase as well.
7. Real Estate
Despite many of the financial challenges of Covid-19, certain sectors of the real estate market saw growth. Lockdowns, stay-at-home orders, and high Covid infection rates in major cities had many setting their sites on single-family homes in rural and suburban areas. As of September 2020, sales of existing homes hit a 14-year high, with median prices also rising.
Experts have optimistic predictions for the housing market in 2021. This is certain to drive the demand for realtors, real estate investors and other real estate professionals.
The increase in remote work is also set to be a driving force in the real estate market. As more workers are able to work remotely, they won’t have to contend with long commutes, which allows them to explore home ownership outside major cities. Over 2 million American renters who would not be able to afford to buy in their current market would be able to purchase a starter home in another part of the country.
Whether you’re a long-time freelancer, or you are hoping to finally ditch the nine-to-five in favor of something more flexible, you would be doing yourself a major favor if you focused your energy in one of these growing industries. Happy hunting!