The oDesk Online Jobs Report was released last week, and after having a chance to review the numbers, there is a very interesting trend that popped up. The skill "web design" is down 26 places from last year, however the category "Web Design" has remained unchanged in its #2 spot. Below we'll see if we can shed some light on why the skill and category results are so different.
A Narrowed Scope
Several sub-skills outrank the parent level "web design" skill: HTML (#2), CSS (#3), Photoshop (#4), WordPress (#8), Flash (#12), Joomla (#16). It appears that buyers are getting more specific with their hunt for skills.
This isn't to say that you should stop billing yourself as a web designer. However, highlighting your specific skills under the umbrella of web design is a must. As buyers become increasingly aware of the specific skills their project requires, honing these skills, and highlighting them on your oDesk profile is essential.
Showcasing Your Niche
You may be a highly diverse, "Jack/Jill of all trades," which can make it difficult to find your niche. Although you may be skilled enough to advertise yourself as such, try giving your strongest, most in-demand skill top billing on your profile title, and let your profile and portfolio speak for your diversity.
Be a Team Player
The move towards hiring specialists to complete individual pieces of a web design puzzle is nothing new, its the same approach you would find internally at a large design firm. There you might find artists, designers, and various specialty coders, working along a pipeline. Being part of the oDesk marketplace means that you may be asked to be part of a such a team.
Skills like building themes and templates are increasingly popular as buyers become increasingly educated about the use of Content Management Systems, and come to expect them and depend on them.
While being able to see a web design/development project through from start to finish is a valuable and admirable skill, it may be unrealistic to expect that it is the expected norm. While there is no single "right" way to get a project done, the data suggests a trend towards specialization within web design/development. Let us know in the comments if you've experienced this trend yourself!