Upwork Empowers Tech Professionals in a Thriving Freelance Market

Upwork Empowers Tech Pros Booming Freelance Market

TL; DR: If you’ve ever hired or freelanced for a project, chances are you know Upwork well. It’s the top work marketplace platform linking clients and professionals across industries worldwide, from tech to art and beyond. Margaret Lilani, VP of Talent Solutions at Upwork, shared insights on the platform’s findings, including that the growing demand for professionals with AI skills doesn’t appear to be slowing down. Upwork aims to be the go-to destination connecting businesses and independent talent for various projects, whether short-term or long-term.

Despite the increasing number of people joining the freelance workforce each year, freelancing can be just as challenging as any 9-to-5 job. In fact, finding freelance work can sometimes be more discouraging than a typical job hunt. It can feel like you’re playing a numbers game where you have to send out numerous queries to receive a single response.

I know this firsthand because I was a freelancer for a few years before transitioning to full-time work. But one of the platforms where I used to find consistent work was Upwork.

Upwork is a global work marketplace that connects businesses with skilled freelancers from all over the world.

Upwork logo
Upwork is a marketplace where businesses can find qualified professionals and freelancers can showcase their skills and find work opportunities.

The platform lets companies browse through thousands of freelancers based on their relevant skills and ratings. On the other hand, freelancers can find short-term or long-term job opportunities by showcasing their experience and skill sets.

Upwork is growing fast. Its revenue grew from $301 million pre-COVID to nearly $161 billion in 2023, thanks to the rise in remote work and the gig economy.

“Upwork offers a variety of products and services to match businesses of all sizes with the talent they need,” said Margaret Lilani, VP of Talent Solutions at Upwork. “As companies continue to shift their ways of working, businesses are increasingly turning to skilled independent professionals to flex their expertise and bridge the gaps.”

In the era of AI, the demand for tech-related freelance services has surged on Upwork — ultimately transforming the landscape for freelancers and clients alike.

Embracing and Joining the Freelance Wave

According to Upwork’s Freelance Forward 2023 report, the number of freelance professionals in the US increased by 4 million from the previous year, reaching 64 million.

“It’s undeniable that we’ve seen a shift in more workers turning to freelancing within the past few years,” Margaret explained.

Upwork’s 2024 In-Demand Skills study revealed that more businesses are turning to freelancers within the tech field. Margaret said she anticipates the continued rise of independent workers and technological innovation development.

In other words, freelancing isn’t just a side hustle anymore — it’s reshaping how our workforce functions.

Upwork bar graph describing number of freelance professionals between 2014-2023
Making up more than one-third of the American workforce for nearly a decade, freelancers continue to make waves.

“Pursuing a flexible schedule is one of the biggest appeals for independent professionals today,” Margaret said. “Around 60% of freelancers work remotely, compared to 32% of non-freelance professionals.”

Upwork’s study also found that 77% of freelancers work full time on a schedule that suits their lifestyle. Additionally, 82% of Upwork freelancers reported that finding work on the platform improved their quality of life because it empowered them to work when they wanted.

Generally speaking, approximately one-third of the American workforce is freelancing. By 2028, it’s estimated that the number of freelancers will reach more than half of the American workforce.

Not only is a flexible work schedule appealing, but the money is, too: US freelancers earn a median rate of $28 per hour — which is higher than the hourly rate earned by 70% of workers in the overall economy.

It May Be Time to Adapt to the AI Revolution

According to Upwork’s study, three of the most in-demand categories are Coding & Web Development, Data Science & Analytics, and Design & Creative.

Other highly sought-after skills from 2023-2024 highlight a broader impact of technology, including medical and executive virtual assistance, as well as development & IT project management.

But there’s an especially notable demand for these professional skills:

  • Generative AI Modeling
  • Medical Virtual Assistance
  • Executive Virtual Assistance
  • Logo Design
  • Development and IT Project Management
  • Digital Marketing Campaign Management

“The Data Science & Analytics category saw the most growth on our platform,” Margaret stated. “In particular, the AI & machine learning subcategory on Upwork had 70% year-over-year growth, with generative AI modeling and machine learning being the two fastest-growing skills in that category.”

The idea of AI can seem like the Big Bad Wolf to many people. There’s widespread apprehension about AI’s rapid advancement and ability to self-improve, particularly in the context of large-language models (LLMs) and machine learning (ML), which some fear may eventually surpass humans in reasoning tasks.

Upwork infographic displaying top 3 fastest-growing skills by category
More than ever before, businesses are actively seeking tech-related skills such as scripting, automation, AI modeling and ML, and data analytics.

But Upwork recognizes a positive aspect: Businesses still ultimately value human experts with the skills to operate LLMs and ML systems.

“This isn’t dystopian,” Margaret said. “We’ve found that the impact of generative AI on skilled professionals is a net positive, increasing both client demand and freelancer earnings.”

And the numbers don’t lie: AI professionals contributed $1.27 trillion to the US economy in annual earnings in 2023.

How Tech Workers Can Find Freelance Work

Margaret says Upwork maintains its flexibility by constantly monitoring workforce trends, market demands, and emerging technologies. This allows Upwork to gain valuable insights into the evolving job market, allowing it to adjust its services accordingly to meet the changing needs of workers.

“For instance, when AI rapidly accelerated in 2023, Upwork identified the demand on our platform and quickly launched its AI Services Hub to support the evolving needs of our marketplace,” said Margaret.

As the age of AI accelerates, Upwork is both offering opportunities for professionals and businesses to connect on cutting-edge work, but also innovating their product, leveraging AI, so clients and talent on the platform can work smarter. Here are a few examples:

  • AI Services Hub: The AI Services Hub provides advanced AI-powered tools for independent professionals to boost productivity and work quality.
  • Upwork Academy: Upwork Academy offers flexible learning options, interactive courses, and tools for career success. The Education Marketplace features courses from top companies like Adobe and Coursera.
  • Upwork Updates: Upwork recently released a collection of products, features and partnerships to transform how businesses and professionals hire and work. The launch included new AI innovations like Uma, Upwork’s Mindful AI, helping clients and talent complete more high-quality work and access to new tools and resources that leverage AI technology to help deliver better work outcomes.
  • Upwork Apps and Offers: Upwork has partnerships with companies like GoDaddy, Dropbox, Notion and iStock by Getty Images to equip freelancers with the latest cutting-edge tools and services they need to deliver their highest-quality work.

“We are tightly connected with industry partners and experts to stay ahead of emerging skills and technologies,” said Margaret. “These partnerships ensure our professionals have access to high-quality and up-to-date learning resources, empowering them to stay competitive in their field.”

Screenshot of Upwork's AI Services Hub landing page
Explore Upwork’s AI Services Hub, where you can find AI jobs, enjoy discounts, and learn from industry experts.

Margaret also mentioned that products like Talent Marketplace and Project Catalog offer tools to help clients find the right talent for their goals, regardless of the project size.

“These tools help managers meet their hiring needs with access to an expertly vetted bank of talent across hundreds of skills, projects, time zones, and more to help cater to their business’s success,” Margaret noted.

If you’re skilled in AI, web development, or tech, sign up for Upwork today to join the fastest-growing market on the platform — and you can start 100% free.