The Way We Work
June 20, 2014 by Amy Sept

What are the hottest jobs in the online marketplace? While some of the traditionally in-demand skills are still going strong, the highest-growth categories show that the digital workforce is hitting a more mature stride.

Elance-oDesk, the global leader in online work, recently released a Global Online Work Report, which draws on the largest and most comprehensive set of data available regarding independent work that’s happening online.

“Never before have we enjoyed such visibility into work — from the number and nature of jobs, to demand for skills, to where and how the work gets done,” said Fabio Rosati, CEO of Elance-oDesk.

“Our goal is to put a world of talent in the hands of businesses and billions of dollars in the pockets of independent professionals,” he added.

More than 1.2 million jobs have been posted to Elance-oDesk so far this year. It’s an efficient way to find work and do business; most jobs are filled within three days.

As Rosati told the Washington Post, the global marketplace helps bring balance between regions with thousands of vacancies, and regions where skilled people are looking for work.

Opportunities for freelancers = Better access for businesses

Businesses will spend more than $900 million hiring online in 2014. So what are the best opportunities for contractors? The report highlights five of the hottest skills right now:

  • Customer Support
  • Social Media Optimization
  • Mobile Advertising
  • 3D Modeling & Animation
  • Data Science

When it comes to broad categories of work, however, the most in-demand skills may not be what you think.

Global Freelancer Earnings y CategoryA look at global freelancer earnings so far this year shows that Technology jobs lead the way, with Admin Support and Writing & Translation rounding out the top three categories.

Demand for skills in these areas has traditionally been strong, both around the world and here in the U.S., so it’s not surprising that the volume is so high.

However, a look at the highest-growth areas flips the earnings chart around.

Engineering & Manufacturing and Legal skills don’t get much of the earnings pie yet — just 1 percent or less, respectively — but the year-over-year growth in these areas is impressive.

  • Demand for Legal services has increased 56 percent, with experience in patent law earning the highest average rates on the Elance-oDesk platform.
  • Global demand for Engineering & Manufacturing skills jumped 53 percent. Here in the U.S., demand jumped a whopping 88 percent.

What’s behind the growth in Engineering & Manufacturing and Legal skills?

Jaleh Bisharat, senior vice president of marketing for Elance-oDesk, says the growth in these areas reflects broader trends — including the need for more science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) professionals.

“We already know that growth in STEM jobs, in the U.S. and elsewhere, has outpaced growth in other areas of work, and that the supply and availability of professionals hasn’t kept pace,” she explained.

Bisharat added:

“The online growth of STEM-related work shows businesses are discovering that the global talent pool offers more options — whether that’s an ongoing relationship or one that’s project based.”

The growth of Legal services, on the other hand, shows that online work is maturing, Bisharat says. Both businesses and professionals have increased trust in this new way of working.

“There’s a perception that online work isn’t a great option for jobs that are generally seen as happening offline, but that’s not the case,” she noted. “These numbers show that more traditional professionals are turning to the online market, and an increasing number of clients are finding them there.”

Want to learn more? Read more about the Global Online Work Report or look at the U.S.-specific data.

Amy Sept

Managing Editor

As the Managing Editor of the oDesk blog, Amy Sept works with regular and guest writers to share information that helps freelancers and businesses navigate the future of work. A writer and social media pro, she owns Nimbyist Communications and often works remotely with non-profits, tech companies and small business owners.