Upwork CEO shares how you can become a successful freelancer


  • Freelancers and contract workers are in high demand right now.
  • According to a recent survey of over 1,500 US hiring managers by Upwork, a platform for hiring remote workers, 72% of employers are either continuing to or increasing their use of independent professionals.
  • Business Insider spoke with Hayden Brown, president and CEO of Upwork, on the specific skillsets that employers are looking for right now, and her advice on freelancing. 
  • Brown recommended highlighting a specific skillset for employers because you’re more likely to stand out if you focus on what differentiates you. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Employers are hiring more freelancers and contractors during the coronavirus pandemic.

According to a recent survey of more than 1,500 US hiring managers by Upwork, a global platform for hiring and placing remote workers, nearly half said they’re more likely to hire freelancers — and 72% are continuing or increasing their use of independent professionals.

Upwork’s clients spent more than $2 billion with contractors in 2019, and the platform works with over 133,000 employers including Microsoft, NASDAQ, and General Electric. 

Hayden Brown, president and CEO of Upwork, predicted that the demand for freelancers will continually increase even after the pandemic, and companies will find new ways to blend contract work into their company makeup. She believes that the coronavirus pandemic will actually open more career opportunities for freelance work. 

“Employers are turning to flexible talent models like freelancers to get the work done — even during the economic uncertainty,” Brown said. “Companies are adopting dynamic ways of flexing with their teams, figuring out how to bring full-time employees and skilled, independent workers together for projects. People are starting to break down those old barriers of how they use to hire, or who they use to hire.”

If you’re thinking about going full-time freelance there are a few things to consider. Here’s how you can build a successful freelancing career, according to Brown. 

Know the skills that are in the highest demand 

Brown said Upwork saw a huge increase of new users and job postings since March. She shared that customer support, IT development, sales and marketing, and instructional design are among the skills that are in high demand.

“A lot of companies are doing visual transformation work to their online platforms right now, and we’re seeing that employers are looking for people who are experts in mobile development, web development, or even niche areas like game designs,” she added. 

Companies are looking for contractors with high-level skills. The more differentiated and specialized you are, the more you’ll be sought after because your skills will set you apart, Brown added. 

Starting a freelancing career

Freelancers on Upwork have an average of five clients that they work with regularly, and Brown recommended that you work on building relationships with companies to ensure a steady income. Don’t rely on one employer to pay the bills.

“When you’re on different contracts, work on having a diversification of income,” she said. “A lot of our freelancers feel that even if one of their clients was out of business or decides not to work with them, they’d have other partnerships to rely on,” the CEO added. 

Brown also said job seekers shouldn’t be vague about what they can offer to employers, and that they make their online profiles concise. Morgan Overholt, a graphic designer who has made $300,000 on Upwork, previously shared that the highest earners on the site have “robust and optimized” profiles. In fact, some elements include a professional headshot, a list of certifications, testimonials and reviews from previous employers, and a brief bio with a description of services. 

Alyssa Goulet, a copywriter who also made six figures on Upwork, recommended that you optimize your online profile with recruiter-friendly keywords, Business Insider previously reported

“Use keywords potential clients are searching for,” she said previously. “This will make it easier for them to discover and reach out to you.”

For example, the freelancer listed her title as “Copywriter, Technology Writer, SEO Writer, and Content Marketing,” or terms that clients in her niche would use when searching for potential workers.  

Freelancers who can differentiate themselves from others and figure out what they’re really good at tend to be the successful ones, Brown said. 

“When you’re first starting out, focus on one key area where you’re an expert in for clients. But overtime when you’ve developed a portfolio of work, you can then learn or translate those skills for new projects,” Brown added. 



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Upwork CEO shares how you can become a successful freelancer

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