Upwork releases latest Skills Index, ranking the 20 fastest-growing skills for freelancers

Skills related to taxation, automation and L&D saw soaring demand

75% of the top 20 fastest-growing skills were new to the index in Q1 2019

The Upwork Skills Index ranks the site’s 20 fastest-growing skills in a quarterly series (Graphic: Business Wire)

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.--()--Upwork ($UPWK), 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 in a quarterly series. It sheds light on new and emerging skills and provides real-time validation of current trends in the labor market and tech industry. According to a new report, access to skills and talent scarcity are the biggest hiring challenges.

"Labor markets overall are tightening, and for many skills, employers are increasingly struggling to find available workers in their local areas,” said Stephane Kasriel, CEO of Upwork and co-chair of the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on the New Social Contract. “As a result, the array of skills employers are finding through digital platforms is growing, including technical skills like Hadoop and Kubernetes as well as non-technical skills such as taxation and urban planning.”

The 20 fastest-growing freelance skills in Q1 2019 experienced more than 170 percent year-over-year growth, while demand for the top 10 skills grew more than 370 percent year-over-year.

The top 20 fastest-growing skills, Q1 2019:

  1. U.S. Taxation
  2. Hadoop
  3. Robotic process automation
  4. Explainer videos
  5. Computer aided manufacturing
  6. Financial planning
  7. Urban design
  8. Software documentation
  9. Salesforce Commerce Cloud
  10. Geospatial
  11. Julia development
  12. Kubernetes
  13. Magento
  14. Employee training
  15. Shopify templates
  16. Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
  17. Vue.js framework
  18. Leadership development
  19. Architectural rendering
  20. Podcasting

Key Insights

Tax reform, potential Recession spur growth in financial skills

On the heels of the tax reform bill passed in 2018, U.S. Taxation (#1) was this quarter’s fastest-growing skill out of more than 5,000 freelancers offer on Upwork.com. Those unfamiliar with the new law tapped into the freelance talent pool to help navigate the transition and better understand the advantages and challenges of filing under the new system. Tax season also spurred demand for Certified Public Accountants (#16) and financial planning (#6) specialists.

Automation helps capture business value

Organizations are becoming more automation-savvy, earning robotic process automation (RPA) (#3) a spot on the index for the first time. Unicorns like Automation Anywhere and UiPath are providing solutions to large companies to help automate tasks and processes that have traditionally been done manually by humans. As RPA adoption increases among Enterprises, Forrester estimates that the market will grow to $2.9 billion in 2021 (from $250 million in 2016).

Changing city infrastructure causes spike in demand for urban planning

According to a report, 73 percent of all teams will have remote workers by 2028. As remote work adoption increases and more people are able to live and work where they choose versus where their work is, city infrastructure is also changing. Urban design (#7) specialists are helping keep up with this evolution by arranging and designing public spaces, transportation systems and amenities for residents, tenants and visitors. Geospatial (#10) technologies, which map and analyze the Earth's surface, and architectural renderings (#19) also saw significant growth as the public and private sector alike look for ways to optimize current and future space.

Companies increase investment in eCommerce tools

Global eCommerce sales are expected to reach $4.8 trillion by 2021, and more than 2.1 billion shoppers are expected to buy goods and services online. Experts familiar with Salesforce Commerce Cloud (#9) were highly sought-after last quarter to help companies deliver personalized customer experiences across mobile, digital and social platforms, and Magento (#13), an eCommerce solution recently acquired by Adobe ($ADBE), also experienced high growth as companies look to build new online storefronts to increase online revenue. Shopify templates (#15), which brands are leveraging to ensure storefronts deliver a unified experience, also appeared on this quarter’s list for the first time.

Businesses double down on learning and development

With tightening labor markets, businesses are investing more dollars in developing their workers, and employee training (#14) saw an uptick in demand for the second consecutive quarter as a result. Development extends beyond technical skills and into soft skills such as leadership development (#18), which also appeared on this quarter’s list. Platforms like BetterUp are leading the disruption of the L&D industry; and in addition to investing in formal, corporate programs, companies are turning to freelance specialists to create an overall strategy to ensure their workforce is prepared for tomorrow.

Marketers seek new ways to connect and communicate with customers

Video marketing has proven effective in an era where global consumer Internet video traffic is projected to account for 80 percent of all consumer Internet traffic. Marketers are taking it back to the basics and investing in freelance specialists who can create explainer videos (#4) that help customers better understand complex products or services. Podcasting (#20) has also become a popular way to meet customers where they are; they’re easy to consume and help businesses connect directly to listeners, regardless of location.

Relevant Course List

According to a recent report, younger generation managers are prioritizing reskilling the workforce with 96 percent of Millennial and Gen Z managers saying it is important to reskill or train their workforce. One-third believe that individuals should be responsible for their own reskilling as opposed to the employer or educational institutions.

Here is a list of relevant online courses from online learning platforms, including Coursera, Lynda.com, PluralSight, Skillshare, and Udemy for the top 20 fastest-growing skills on Upwork in Q1 2019:

  1. US Taxation: U.S. Federal Taxation Specialization (Coursera)
  2. Hadoop: Hadoop Platform and Application Framework (Coursera)
  3. Robotic process automation: UiPath - Level 1 Robotic Process Automation (Udemy)
  4. Explainer videos: Create Your Own Explainer Video: How To Craft The Perfect Pitch! (Skillshare)
  5. Computer aided manufacturing: CAD and Digital Manufacturing Specialization (Coursera)
  6. Financial planning: Financial Planning & Management: Finance Strategies & Tools (Udemy)
  7. Urban design: Designing Cities (Coursera)
  8. Software documentation: Technical Writing: How to Write Software Documentation (Udemy)
  9. Salesforce Commerce Cloud: Salesforce Commerce Cloud ( Demandware ) Head Start (Udemy)
  10. Geospatial: Getting Started with GIS (Skillshare)
  11. Julia development: Julia Scientific Programming (Coursera)
  12. Kubernetes: Learn DevOps: The Complete Kubernetes Course (Udemy)
  13. Magento: Getting Started with Magento (Udemy)
  14. Employee training: e-Learning Ecologies: Innovative Approaches to Teaching and Learning for the Digital Age (Coursera)
  15. Shopify templates: Build a Shopify Theme From Scratch (Udemy)
  16. Certified Public Accountant (CPA): Accounting 101 - Basic Accounting Concepts Explained (Skillshare)
  17. Vue.js framework: Vue.js Fundamentals (Pluralsight)
  18. Leadership development: Personal Leadership Development Planning and Leading High Performing Teams (Coursera)
  19. Architectural rendering: Rendering Impressive Architectural Interiors in 3ds Max and V-Ray (Pluralsight)
  20. Podcasting: How to Make a Podcast: Plan, Record, and Launch with Success (Skillshare)

The Upwork Skills Index calculates year-over-year growth rates based on freelancer billings through Upwork in Q1 2019 versus Q1 2018. The next quarterly Upwork Skills Index will be released fall 2019.

About Upwork

Upwork is the largest freelancing website. It enables businesses to find and work with highly skilled freelancers. 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. Our company’s mission is to create economic opportunities so people have better lives.

Upwork is headquartered in Mountain View, Calif., with offices in San Francisco and Chicago. For more information, visit our website at www.upwork.com, join us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.


Christina Schultz


Christina Schultz