Upwork releases the 20 fastest-growing skills for freelancers in Q3 2017

Note: The newest Upwork Skills Index is now available here.

Robotics, blockchain and bitcoin rank No. 1, 2 and 3 on newest skills index list

Eight of the top 10 skills are new to the list, underscoring rapid evolution of skills

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. - November 2, 2017 - Upwork, the largest freelancing website, today released its newest quarterly index of the hottest skills in the U.S. freelance job market. The Upwork Skills Index ranks the site’s 20 fastest-growing skills and is part of a quarterly series that sheds light on new and emerging skills freelancers are providing. This comes on the heels of the “Freelancing in America: 2017” study, the most comprehensive measure of the U.S. independent workforce, which found that 57.3 million Americans (36 percent of the U.S. workforce) freelanced in the past year and also predicts that the majority of the U.S. workforce will freelance within a decade.

“Freelancers realize how quickly the skills needed are evolving and are the most proactive members of the workforce, reskilling much more frequently than traditional employees,” said Stephane Kasriel, CEO of Upwork and co-chair of the World Economic Forum’s Council on the Future of Gender, Education and Work.

“Because of this, they will play a major role in guiding the future of work -- something we all have a responsibility to do.”The 20 fastest-growing freelance skills in Q3 2017 all experienced more than 100 percent year-over-year growth, while the top ten grew more than 200 percent compared to the same time period last year (Q3 2016).

The top 20 fastest-growing skills, Q3 2017:

  1. Robotics
  2. Blockchain
  3. Bitcoin
  4. Penetration testing
  5. React.js
  6. Amazon Web Services Lambda
  7. Augmented reality
  8. Deep learning
  9. Instagram marketing
  10. Final Cut Pro X
  11. Swift development
  12. AngularJS development
  13. Salesforce
  14. Vulnerability assessment
  15. Natural language processing
  16. HubSpot marketing
  17. Machine learning
  18. Objective-C development
  19. Learning Management System (LMS)
  20. jQuery development

Key Takeaways

  • Robotics made the list for the first time, securing its spot as the No. 1 fastest-growing skill of the quarter. The uptick in demand comes at a time when major companies such as Amazon ($AMZN) and Toyota Research Institute ($TM) are pursuing initiatives around robotics, and IDC predicts that worldwide spending on robotics and related services will more than double by 2020, growing from $91.5 billion in 2016 to more than $188 billion. Humanoid robots can already walk and open doors, for example; but in the future, they will be able to make a cup of coffee or even fly a plane.
  • Blockchain and Bitcoin both appeared on the Top 20 list for the first time. Bitcoin, a cryptocurrency and peer-to-peer digital payment system that aims to remove friction from transactions, is supported by Blockchain, a Distributed Ledger Technology (DTL) that verifies and records Bitcoin transactions. Bitcoin’s all-time high price coupled with the demand for specialists familiar with its technology indicates that the new currency may become more widely used. Gartner also included Blockchain in their 2017 Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies noting that while enterprises are still deciding how to navigate this technology, they believe it will lead to a reformation of whole industries long-term.
  • Security continues to be top of mind for both businesses and consumers in light of recent high-profile data breaches. According to the 2017 U.S. State of Cybercrime survey, 36 percent of businesses say they were impacted by a phishing attack last year, up from 26 percent the previous year. As a result, experts in penetration testing and vulnerability assessment are in high-demand as companies hire specialists to either test a specific issue or assess their business’s overall security.
  • Augmented reality has seen breakthroughs as companies introduce innovations such as Facebook’s ($FB) Camera Effects Platform, Apple’s ($AAPL) ARKit and Google’s ($GOOGL) ARCore. AR earned itself a spot on Gartner’s 2017 Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies due to its huge potential impact, and Gartner suggests that “Enterprises should create an AR strategy in the business with specific goals and tasks for trials and benchmarks.”
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) has also already had a huge impact on the world of work, from AI-powered algorithms that recommend optimal routes to maximize Lyft and Uber drivers’ earnings; to machine learning systems that help optimize lists of customer leads so salespeople can be more effective. Companies are starting to invest more in figuring out how to use it for their benefit, and a handful of tech giants recently formed an AI research-and-policy organization called “Partnership on AI” to study AI’s impact on jobs and society. As businesses look to incorporate these new technologies into their business strategies, AI-related skills such as deep learning, natural language processing and machine learning appear on this quarter’s list.
  • According to Flurry, the average U.S. consumer now spends five hours a day on mobile devices. In an effort to meet consumer expectations, as well as attract, retain and grow customers, businesses are implementing mobile-first strategies, and mobile programming languages including Swift and Objective-C saw high demand this quarter as a result
  • Marketing skills account for 20 percent of the fastest-growing skills in Q3:
  • Salesforce saw increased demand for its expanded 'Marketing Cloud' services; and HubSpot marketing, benefitting from companies surging investment in content marketing, also appeared in the Top 20.
  • Instagram marketing, which eMarketer estimates will bring in more than $3 billion in U.S. ad revenues this year, and Final Cut Pro X, a professional video editing app from Apple that recently hit two million users, both saw soaring demand as marketers continued to invest in social media and customer storytelling.

Freelancers earn more than $1 billion on Upwork annually. The Upwork Skills Index calculates year-over-year growth rates based on freelancer billings through Upwork in Q3 2017 versus Q3 2016.The next quarterly Upwork Skills Index will be released winter 2018.

About Upwork

Upwork is the largest freelancing website. As an increasingly connected and independent workforce goes online, knowledge work — like software, shopping and content before it — is shifting online as well. This shift is making it easier for clients to connect and work with talent in near real-time and is freeing professionals everywhere from having to work at a set time and place.Freelancers are earning more than $1 billion annually via Upwork. Upwork is headquartered in Mountain View, Calif., with offices in San Francisco, Chicago and Oslo, Norway. For more information, visit our website at www.upwork.com, join us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.


Christina Schultz