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Top Paying Freelance Tech Skills

Paul Mendes
Paul Mendes
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Do you want to earn extra money on the side? Maybe so you can travel the world and fund it with projects as you go?

Perhaps you want to move away from being an employee to become your own boss and make a small fortune with more free time?

Or maybe you just want to make yourself recession-proof and have a 2nd income to fall back on?

Well, you can achieve all this and more with freelancing, but where should you start and what skills will pay you the most?

In this guide, I break down the top 8 best paying tech freelancing skills that clients are looking for.

Not only will I share the most in-demand skills, but I’ll also share how much other freelancers are earning in each area, along with my top 4 recommended platforms that you can use to get clients.

So let’s dive in!

How I came up with this information

To save you time and effort, I went ahead and looked at the 4 major freelancing platforms that people use to hire programmers and other tech workers. (More on these platforms later).

I then looked at the most in-demand tech gigs across those platforms to find the highest-paying hourly rates, along with the average rates for less experienced programmers.

This way you can see what to expect to earn if you’ve just picked up this skill vs. if you have a year or two under your belt.

top paying tech skills average hourly rates

Already have some of these skills? Even better... you can start monetizing them right away. If not, then I’ll share my suggested resources on where to learn each of them.

So let’s break each of these down.

The 8 top paying freelance tech skills that customers want to hire you for

Don't want to read? I cover these skills in more detail in this video here.

#1. Mobile App Development

Mobile app development
  • Average Hourly Rate: $37
  • Top Freelancer Hourly Rate: $200
  • Average Salary: $102,000
  • Number of freelance job postings in this area: 6,883

With the increasing demand for mobile applications for both smartphones and tablets, mobile app development has become one of the most sought-after skills in the freelance market.

According to Mobile App Daily, the global mobile application market size was valued at $106.27 billion back in 2018 and is projected to reach $407.31 billion by 2026.

I think it's pretty clear that the need for mobile app developers won’t be tapering off anytime soon.

The average hourly rate for freelance mobile app developers is $37, with a top hourly rate of $200 for more experienced developers.

Want to skill up and learn how to build mobile apps?

Check out ZTM’s Complete React Native Developer course here.

learn React native

It’ll teach you how to build large-scale iOS and Android apps from scratch, and all you need is a basic understanding of JavaScript to get going.

Not only is this a great freelance skill to have, but it also pays well if you want to get a role and experience with this before offering it to clients.

mobile app dev salary

#2. Shopify Development

shopify development
  • Average Hourly Rate: $35
  • Top Freelancer Hourly Rate: $225
  • Average Salary: $103,000
  • Number of freelance job postings in this area: 4,218

Shopify is an absolutely huge e-commerce platform that enables users to create online stores, and some of the biggest retail giants out there are built on this platform.

shopify site examples

Shopify development involves customizing and creating Shopify themes, building apps, and integrating third-party services.

The average hourly rate for Shopify development is $35, with a top hourly rate of $225 for the most experienced.

Editor’s note: I have a friend who builds custom Shopify stores. He’s done so many now that he has templates to improve his workflow and then customizes, but he charges anywhere from $5,000-$15,000 per build and can get them done in under a week.

Shopify Development is a highly lucrative skillset to have, with the average salary for Shopify Developers being over $100,000 per year, if you want to get some experience with a company before freelancing.

shopify dev salary

It does require a small stack of skills though, such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, with possibly some PHP, JQuery, SQL, and Ruby.

#3. WordPress Development

wordpress development
  • Average Hourly Rate: $32
  • Top Freelancer Hourly Rate: $175
  • Average Salary: $75,000
  • Number of freelance job postings in this area: 9,985

Similar to Shopify but for any type of site build, WordPress is the most popular content management system out there. It powers literally hundreds of millions of websites with 42% of the internet built on it!

So yeah… there’s some demand here.

WordPress development involves customizing and creating WordPress themes, building plugins, and integrating third-party services. The average hourly rate for freelance WordPress Developers is around $32, with a top hourly rate of $175.

It may not seem like much, but you would be amazed at how fast you can make money from offering ‘templated’ sites as a service. You simply offer some generic designs and then customize them for each client, helping you to save time on each project.

get paid while learning to code

For example

The freelancer above has created 1,062 WordPress sites, at an average cost of $715 each, for a whopping $760,000 in sales - all on Fiverr!

Want to learn Web Development and build your own WordPress sites for customers?

Andrei teaches you absolutely everything that you need to know for this in his Complete Web Developer course.

complete web dev course

It’s designed to take you from total beginner to getting paid. So if you’re reading this article because you work in tech (or any industry for that matter) but have never coded, Andrei's course is the perfect starting point for getting some high-paying tech skills.

And again, if you want to build up some experience with a company first before offering it to clients, the average salary for a Web Developer is $75,000+.

web dev salary

It doesn’t pay as much as a Shopify Developer role but you also don’t need to learn as many additional skills.

However, a lot of the core skills that you need to become a Shopify Developer do cross over, so you could start here with WordPress builds and then skill up and transition to a Shopify Developer role after.

#4. Machine Learning

machine learning
  • Average Hourly Rate: $38
  • Top Freelancer Hourly Rate: $200
  • Average Salary: $117,000
  • Number of freelance job postings in this area: 3,096

Machine learning is the process of teaching machines to learn from data and then make predictions or decisions on that data, without being explicitly programmed.

ChatGPT? Self-driving cars? It’s all powered by Machine Learning, and it’s an incredibly valuable industry to get into.

The average hourly rate for freelancers working with machine learning skills is $38, with a top hourly rate of $200, while the average salary is ~$117,000 in the US.

ml developer salary

The demand for developers and engineers with Machine Learning skills is huge, with the industry valuation estimated to be as high as $209.91 Billion by 2029.

Machine Learning is has one of the highest earning potentials on this list. It's also one of the fastest growing so now is a great time to learn these skills.

You can learn how to become a Machine Learning Engineer from scratch, with no prior coding or statistics experience here.

learn machine learning

#5. Cyber Security and Data Protection

cyber security
  • Average Hourly Rate: $40
  • Top Freelancer Hourly Rate: $150
  • Average Salary: $123,000
  • Number of freelance job postings in this area: 302

With the increasing threat of cyber-attacks and data breaches happening every hour of every day, Cyber Security and Data Protection have become critical requirements for companies.

Tasks can vary but generally involve protecting computer systems and networks from unauthorized access, and ensuring the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data.

The average freelancer's hourly rate for Cyber Security and Data Protection is around $40, with a top hourly rate of $150. While the average salary for Cyber Security in the US is around $123,000.

cybersecurity salary

In fairness, the average hourly rate for this role is a little misleading, as you have a few random freelancers charging only $17 an hour which is crazy for a skill of this importance.

(Would you allow someone backend access to look at your critical systems and assess for threats for just $17? Probably not.)

You can use some of the freelance platforms I recommend below, or you could also earn more by performing some more niche cybersecurity tasks as a freelance contractor.

These could be anything from red teaming, ethical hacking, penetration testing + earning bug bounties, and more.

As you can imagine, as you niche down into these, they can all pay incredibly well.

If this is a path you want to head down, you can also check out more niche platforms like Hackerone in addition to the ones I mention in the top platforms section below.

hackerOne bug bounty program

They also have a list of specific companies that have their own dedicated bug bounty programs you can apply to.

#6-8. Full-Stack, Front-End, and Back-End Development

full-stack development

I’ve included these 3 here as one section, simply because of the overlap between them.

If you’re reading this post and are not sure what each of these means, here’s a simple breakdown:

  • A Front-End Developer builds the user interface of an app or website. i.e the ‘front’ of the site or app. They most commonly use HTML, CSS, and JavaScript
  • A Back-End Developer creates everything that’s behind the scenes and makes everything work. They make sure that when you click a button on the front end, it then does what it’s supposed to on the back end. These developers will often use Node, PHP, Python, Ruby, and others
  • A Full-Stack Developer is someone who can build both the front and back end, as well as everything that integrates them together. They are either skilled in the entire stack above, or they use full-stack tools that allow you to build on both the front and back ends, such as Python or JavaScript

As you can probably tell, these gigs are similar to what I talked about before, such as Mobile App Development and general Web Development for specific platforms like Shopify and Wordpress.

The difference here is that companies looking to hire these roles likely have their own custom built websites or apps (vs. building on top of Shopify or Wordpress) or are looking for someone to build them something more custom.

Depending on which role you're hired for, you might only be working on one section of that project (ex: just the front-end or just the back-end). However, your best chances of landing roles is if you can market yourself as being "full-stack".

It's much easier for a company (or client) to only have to hire one person that can do all the work they need vs. trying to find one person for front-end and one for back-end. Better yet... by being a full-stack developer, you could apply to all 3 types of jobs... increasing your chances of landing gigs by 300%!

Once you're getting too many jobs and have built a strong reputation, then you can decide if you want to specialize in frontend or backend. Or you can also start specializing into specific languages or frameworks.

Tl;dr - Start more broad (full stack) as you're starting out to build your reputation and make money as quickly as possible. Then as you're improving your skills and getting more clients, consider specializing to increase your hourly rate and only take on the jobs you enjoy the most.

All 3 of these skill sets are in high demand from clients, and each pays relatively well.

As you can imagine, there is a big range. It varies based on the specific languages and frameworks that you can use and the general supply and demand.

Likewise, the salary for each of these is considerable.

If you want to become a Backend Developer, check out ZTM’s Complete Node.js course.

And if you want to learn to become a Frontend Developer or Full-Stack Developer (along with the skills for front and backend), check out the Complete Web Developer Coding Bootcamp course.

Simple!

So there you have it. These are the freelance tech skills with the highest demand and best pay for this year that you can jump on and start earning with today.

Even if you don't have the skills right now, there is no reason you can't pick up any of these skills and start getting clients within the next 6 months with the courses I recommended above.

The chances are also very high that the amounts you'll be able to earn with any of these skills will actually be even higher in 6-12 months.

So now that you know which skills you can make money from, let’s talk about where to get clients.

Best freelancing websites for programmers to find work

There are 4 platforms that I personally recommend, especially if you're just starting out.

Three of these are perfect for people of any skill level, from absolute beginners with zero client experience to people with a year or two under their belt.

Each of them has a huge audience and gives you the ability to easily earn the same salary from freelancing as you could as a full-time employee.

I highly recommend you create an account on all 3 of them.

The 4th option is another great platform, but it’s only for people with a few years of experience.

Let’s take a look at each of them.

#1. Fiverr

fiverr

Fiverr enables freelancers to offer their services in a “gig” format, where clients can hire them for specific tasks or projects.

Rather than being completely coding-focused, you can literally offer any service here and make money from it, as long as there's a demand.

Fiverr’s focus is on small, discrete projects that can be completed quickly and efficiently, but don’t be mistaken into thinking that it's just $5 jobs on here.

They have plenty of success stories of people making upward of 5 figures using this service to get freelance work & build a business around their programmer skillset.

Remember the example earlier with the WordPress Developer who had made over $760,000 on there?

There are many more like this, so don’t be put off offering your services here, or any of these other "entry-level" platforms.

A really cool feature with Fiverr is the ability to create 3-tier packages for your audience to choose from.

fiverr tier pricing options

This allows you to offer a low-cost offer to get customers in the door, and then you can upsell them to other options.

For example

You could offer a redesign of a user's home page for a low cost.

site redesign

You could stop here and just offer these designs and do thousands of them and make pretty good money.

Or, you can take that a step further and use these smaller offers as a loss leader to get customers for other offers.

tiered offers

They come to you for a $60 gig and then end up working with you for a full site design, hosting, and more.

And because Fiverr gets a whopping 93.6 million visitors per month, you can leverage that huge audience as basically a free advertising platform.

fiverr monthly traffic

Pretty smart eh!

#2. Upwork

upwork

Similar to Fiverr, Upwork's platform allows freelancers to build a comprehensive profile that highlights their skills and experience, enabling employers to search for freelancers based on specific criteria.

For example

If you offer web design, you can add that to your Upwork portfolio, list it as a set skill, and then have people find you for it.

Simple!

And because Upwork gets upwards of 56.8 million visits to its website per month, you’re pretty much guaranteed to get some new clients in no time at all.

upwork traffic

Upwork also has a pretty cool feature that allows you to set hourly or project-based rates.

Sidenote:

If you forced me to pick only one platform then it would likely be Upwork. It's the platform I started out on and have had the most success on to the point where I'm not really active on there anymore-even though I'm one of Upworks Top Rated Freelancers!

my upwork profile

Why am I not as active?

Simply because I've managed to build up a portfolio of ongoing clients, and you could totally do the same thing if you focused on this platform also!

I also like Upwork because I feel like its less transactional than other platforms. Rather than a single service, you're often building relationships and long term clients. Heck, I even got to visit some Upwork clients in San Francisco last year and tour the Redwood forests and Napa Valley!

And as an added bonus? Not only do I have these clients, but thanks to my Upwork success, I've had more clients reach out to me personally of the platform. As I mentioned before, these platforms really are a great way to get your name out there and bring in repeat customers.

Sure, I struggled to figure things out when I first got started, but I learned a ton of what works and more importantly what doesn't work and what is a waste of your time.

To help other people become freelancers, I created an entire course that takes you step-by-step from just reading this post to getting your first client. You can check it out here.

#3. Freelancer

freelancer

Freelancer is another popular platform that connects employers with freelancers, providing an easy-to-use interface for freelancers to showcase their skills and experience.

This platform also features a bidding system that allows you to submit proposals for projects posted by clients, helping you to charge what you’re worth.

Freelancer gets a robust amount of traffic to their platform as well - with a healthy 8.5 million visits per month.

freelancer site traffic

They also offer a suite of tools to help freelancers and employers manage their work and communicate effectively, which is key.

#4. Toptal (Experienced coders only)

toptal

Toptal is different from the other platforms on this list, in that it specifically targets experienced freelancers.

Thanks to their rigorous screening process, they ensure that only the top 3% of freelancers are accepted onto the platform, which means customers will always get the most experienced people working on their projects.

Why join Toptal as a freelancer?

Money! Thanks to Toptal’s exclusive barrier to entry, it means customers come here looking to pay serious money for the best people for their projects, instead of the bargain hunters on other sites.

Toptal’s pricing varies according to a freelancer’s specialty, location, and whether you need them for hourly, part-time, or full-time projects.

  • Hourly job rates range from $60 to $250 per hour
  • Part-time jobs range from $1,000 to $4,000 per week
  • And full-time jobs range from $2,000 to $8,000 per week

As for traffic, Toptal brings in well over 5 million visitors per month, even with the higher costs for freelance projects.

toptal traffic

It’s not as high as the others, but it’s very focused.

And sure, Toptal isn’t for everyone and there’s a much more strict process to being accepted, but it can pay off. Especially if you’re looking to freelance full-time and perhaps build an agency around specific offers.

So which freelancing platform is best for you?

It all depends on your freelancing goals and the kind of work you want to do, as well as your current level of experience.

  • If you want to do productized or repatable and scale services, offer loss leader offers, or if you’re just starting out, then I recommend trying Fiverr
  • If you want to build long term relationships and create ongoing clients, try Freelancer and Upwork
  • Then, once you’ve got a good portfolio and a few years of coding experience, try Toptal
  • Bonus: Don't forget to also get your own personal website set up so that as you build your reputation, you can get clients directly (and be able to save on the fees from these platforms)

Simple!

What are you waiting for? Start putting those freelance tech skills to work!

As you can see, there are a whole heap of opportunities here to apply your current tech skills and earn some extra income as a freelancer, the only thing stopping you is setting up an account and getting to work!

And remember: You don't need to be doing the most technical of tech skills to start earning money from freelancing. Some simple website designs can easily replace most incomes.

But if you do want to earn more per hour, then definitely look into learning some new skills. You'll be surprised just how quickly you can get to the point where you offer services like this.

As I've pointed out already. You could easily learn these skills, apply them in a full-time role for a company, and then freelance the same skills on the side to double dip.

The process really is that simple. Apply what you know now, earn today, skill up, and then earn more. And who knows? Maybe you’ll replace your income and be sitting on a beach next year doing 2-hour site builds!

Adding a side hustle can be an incredibly eye-opening experience, and you’ll be amazed at the potential it has.

If you want a step-by-step guide to getting started as a freelancer, setting up profiles, coming up with offers, dealing with clients, invoicing, and more, then check out my Complete Guide to Freelancing course.

It’ll walk you through everything you need to know and do so that you can start making extra cash asap.

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