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What are the Highest Paying Freelance Jobs?

highest paying freelance jobs

Are you keen to know which are the most lucrative roles as a freelancer?

I have to be honest though – this article comes with one of those old-fashioned ‘good news and bad news’ kind of warnings.

The bad news is, unless you’re reading this logged into student Wi-Fi at MIT or Harvard, you might not have the qualifications necessary to bag these big paydays. That said, from a good news point of view, these roles can teach us something very valuable about freelancing and making big money, whatever your chosen discipline or role…

Let’s start by checking out what these highly paid roles are.

What are the best-paid positions?

What follows are the 5 most highly paid roles across a number of US and UK freelance platforms:

  1. IT network analyst: Design, installation, configuration, optimization and troubleshooting with enterprise level business IT networks. Hourly rate? $200

  2. Computer vision engineer: Working with computer learning – based on how computers can gain a high-level understanding from digital images or videos. Hourly rate? $150

  3. Chef.io developer: Specialist networking automation programming role using specific ‘Chef.io’ software. Hourly rate? $140

  4. Intellectual property law attorney: Legal specialist working within intellectual property law sector. Hourly rate? $130

  5. Firmware engineer: Development role covering the creation and implementation of industry-specific applications and systems. Hourly rate? $130

What does this list tell us?

Photo by Mimi Thian

I have to be totally honest; for the most part, I don’t even know what these roles involve – so, it’s somewhat obvious to say that I (and 99.9% of other people) don’t possess the ability to do them.

I sat researching these roles for a few hours – drinking coffee and wishing I had 50 additional IQ points – then something struck me:

These roles are niche. I mean, seriously niche.

This isn’t your average ‘programmer’ position. To become a ‘computer vision engineer’ requires a base level knowledge of math, physics and programming – which you’ll then develop in a very specific direction for a number of years. When you do, you’ll be working for one of a very small number of companies who specialize in this kind of AI development.

The same is true with each of the roles on this list (and virtually every role in the top 50 highest paid freelance roles too).

So, with that in mind, what does this list tell us? When I look at this list, I think – If you want to make serious money; you need to think about working in a specific niche.

Working in a niche

A couple of years ago, I was approached by a client who had a huge amount of money to spend on creating a lengthy guide to help people who are opening a yoga studio. I didn’t get the job – but, when I followed up with him, he explained that he’d found someone who specialized in writing that kind of content.

The cost? Depending on how quickly she worked, this writer looked set to make somewhere between $150 – $200 per hour. I looked at her credentials – she wrote about nothing but yoga and the business of yoga.

It occurred to me that a ‘writer’ doesn’t earn a set amount of money – instead, you decide whether you want an enormous amount of work at $5 an hour – or a much smaller amount of work at $150 an hour.

This isn’t just true for writers though. There’s a chance you’re reading this as a photographer, videographer, editor… or any other non-specific creative role. My message to you? You can, 100%, earn the same money as a network analyst, computer vision engineer or intellectual property lawyer – but, just like each of these roles, you’re going to need to develop and market yourself as working within a very specific area of your discipline…

Creating and developing your niche

Photo by ShareGrid

I want to make something really clear. No one’s got a straight-off-the-bat right to earn $200+ per hour. If you want to make that money as a freelancer, you’re going to have to earn it.

That work starts with deciding on a niche that’s right for you.

The beautiful thing about freelancing is that you’ve got this opportunity to become whatever you want to be. Sure, you might need to pick up some general work while you’re developing your skill set, but, you can set yourself a goal of picking up nothing but niche work within x number of months or years.

Of course, the question is – what is your niche? You’re the only person who can answer that. You can either follow your passion – or you can follow the money.

I’ll be honest – I didn’t become a writer because I loved manipulating homepage text to appeal to Google – but, when I realized that creating good SEO copy would pay enough to free my time up to pursue the kind of writing I love, then you better believe I got good at it!

Finding a big money niche

Niches come and go – but if you can find one that’s a hot topic now, you stand to be making some very good money for as long as it lasts.

Take another look at the jobs on the list at the top of this article. They’re all either tech related – or, in the case of the intellectual property lawyer – likely to be largely tech-focused. For the most part, the people in these roles are doing jobs that just didn’t exist 25 years ago.

Ask yourself; what’s hot now? What kind of industries are making people outlandishly rich today?

You’ve got a passion for photography – so could you connect with the people who are on the crest of a wave making tens of thousands of dollars every week selling products on Amazon and shoot product shots? Or could you create product videos for the same sellers?

You edit video, so why not specialize in doing it for people who are making a fortune because they’re populating their big money e-commerce sites with excellent video content every day?

Those are just a couple of thoughts out of a world of possibilities. The choice, of course, is entirely yours. But, we’re not far away from a US workforce with close to one hundred million freelancers. Take a second to think about that figure – one hundred million people who are vying for the same kind of jobs. Whether you’re a software engineer, a developer, a videographer or a photographer, starting to think about carving out a big money niche in an increasingly crowded marketplace could be the best career move you ever make…

Title image by Sharon McCutcheon. You can find more of Sharon’s photos and license them on EyeEm.

Read next: 101 Freelance Business Ideas for Creative People


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