Worrying about not having enough work is a casual pastime for many freelancers, myself included. According to a 2020 study by freelancer insurance company Dinghy, nearly half of us say “finding work” is our biggest career concern.
This stress has only gotten more pronounced over the past couple of years. The pandemic, inflation, and AI tools disrupting the industry have made freelancer pipelines feel even more precarious.
But if there’s one way to be proactive and ensure career longevity, it’s upskilling. From finding new niches in writing and content marketing to improving productivity and being prepared for contingencies, upskilling has a lot to offer.
Let’s look at five specialized areas that can make your freelance career more marketable—and increase your chances of landing consistent gigs.
1. Content refreshing
A content refresh involves updating, expanding, or optimizing blog posts with fresh information to improve search rankings or generate more leads. It can be a great way to boost old content that’s lost momentum or traffic over time.
In fact, a 2022 Semrush study found that 65 percent of companies that are successful at content marketing perform content audits at least twice a year. Analytics platform Databox reportedly upped its site traffic by 75 percent by updating old blog posts, and HubSpot increased monthly organic search views by 106 percent taking the same tack.
Analytics platform Databox reportedly upped its site traffic by 75 percent by updating old blog posts.
With heavy-hitting marketing and SEO experts emphasizing content refreshes, this specialized service can be a lucrative add-on for freelancers. I’ve found that you can charge as much as $150 per hour for this type of work.
But before you dive into the world of content updating, you’ll want to brush up on a few core competencies. “A freelancer who does content refreshing needs to have a strong content SEO skill set,” said Amanda Sellers, a content strategist and HubSpot’s historical optimization manager. These skills, she explained, encompass experience with website auditing and content gap analysis, as well as familiarity with content marketing metrics and the variables that influence them.
Sellers advised freelancers looking to break into this field to target companies that have large websites but small content teams. You can also look for websites with declining traffic, which you can ferret out using tools like Ahrefs.
2. Link building and blogger outreach
Link building and blogger outreach are in-demand freelancer skills among content agencies, digital public relations (PR) firms, and marketing companies. They’re equally coveted by businesses looking to introduce themselves or their products to new audiences or build authority in a niche.
Some companies spend tens of thousands of dollars on link-building services each month—and many businesses need freelancers with outreach experience to help them secure backlinks on third-party sites.
Freelancers that have experience with PR, sales outreach, guest blogging, and influencer relationship-building will likely have significant opportunities in the coming months, as backlinks continue to be a strong ranking factor on search.
3. ‘Finish line’ writing
Often, writers struggle with compelling headlines, introductions, or conclusions. When this happens to me, I often take a nap or go for a walk before resuming work.
But if you’re burned out or on a tight deadline, a nap or walk may not be workable. My research for a better solution led me to Samantha Christian, a freelance writer and editor who focuses on tech, manufacturing, and life sciences.
Christian illustrated that a “finish line” writer is a specialist who can take pieces of a project that aren’t ready to see the light of day and polish them to become a cohesive piece of publishable work. These professionals might work collaboratively with other writers, as part of a content marketing team, or with book authors suffering from writer’s block.
“A freelance writer who specializes in this particular skill set needs to be patient, well-researched, and inquisitive,” Christian said. “You’re likely going to receive a piece that is 75 percent or more done—there must be a reason the original writer wasn’t able to bring it to 100 percent.”
“A freelance writer who specializes in this particular skill set needs to be patient, well-researched, and inquisitive.”
Christian also noted that finish-line writers must be skilled researchers and fact-checkers. “You need to make sure the article answers all of your own questions, because your reader will likely have those same questions when they read the final piece,” she said.
As with any type of freelance writing, the fees for this type of work fluctuate. Contently offers a public menu of rates they pay freelancers, which might be a good reference point for a per-word or per-project baseline.
4. Low- or no-code design
A 2020 talent gap survey by McKinsey found that business areas with the greatest skill shortages include information technology (IT), web design, and data analytics. Business intelligence platform Reveal found that many businesses aim to bridge these gaps using low-code and no-code products.
“No-code is a platform that allows non-technical users to build, create, and manage products in the shortest time possible without learning how to code,” said Nile Frater, the founder of NoCode.Tech, an educational site for non-programmers. “The no-code environment comes with powerful drag-and-drop tools, which easily support the complicated nature of app development.”
Freelance creatives looking to expand their web development skills can gain a significant advantage from learning how to use various low- and no-code design tools like Webflow, Airtable, Bubble, or Zapier. Frater noted that freelancers well-versed in these platforms can build websites, apps, and automation workflows for their clients.
This is another skill that’s tricky to figure out pricing for, but if you become proficient, you may be able to fetch top dollar—the industry as a whole is projected to reach nearly $191 billion by 2030.
5. Diversity, equity, and inclusion
Recently, there’s been a lot of social pressure for organizations to create more balanced board representation. There’s also scientific data behind the business advantages of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)—several studies correlate workplace diversity with company success. Meta even found that 59 percent of consumers prefer to spend their money on brands that embrace diversity and inclusivity in their online ads.
Fifty-nine percent of consumers prefer to spend their money on brands that embrace diversity and inclusivity in their online ads.
This has led to companies hiring for positions with titles like “DEI consultant” or “inclusive communities manager.” There’s also increased demand for freelancer content creators with a diversity and inclusion mindset. In 2022, there’s no excuse—it’s past time to become a DEI-savvy freelancer.
To refresh your knowledge of DEI terms and concepts, consider exploring these resources:
- The Kengen DEI dictionary
- This helpful compilation of video and outreach resources for journal editors and scholarly publishing professionals
- The Open Society Foundation’s guide to financial aid to support DEI initiatives
Full-time DEI consultant roles can pay competitively—according to Glassdoor, the high end of salary range is around $120,000 in the U.S. as of June 2022.
Many freelancers want to know which new and in-demand skills are worth the time and energy investment. My advice? Know your strengths and your worth, and choose the skills that fit best into that bigger picture—that’s where your true superpower lies.