As a freelancer in the digital age, you evolve your skills to meet the needs of your market. You remain agile and educated on new tools, tactics, and strategies. Whether it’s the hot new thing in content marketing or the latest design trend, you need to be ready to adapt to the trends that will have the highest return for your clients. You can do this by either building up your own skills in that area or hiring freelancers to collaborate with. That’s just what it takes to me a successful freelancer today.

On a broader level, you need to know what businesses are hiring for – what skills are in demand. Over the years, we’ve seen waves of companies hiring for social media, then content marketing, then growth hacking. Every few years, there’s a new product or marketing technique that gains popularity and causes a spike in hiring, in products, in experts. This past year, however, was different.

We analyzed hundreds of jobs on the CloudPeeps platform to determine the most in-demand freelance skills of 2016. We didn’t find any spikes in a new, trendy field. Rather, companies hired in areas that have been growing steadily over the past decade. Of course, there are new platforms and technologies used within each of these fields. But generally, the skills identified have been popular among freelancers for quite some time. Here are the most in-demand freelance skills of 2016.

1) Social media

One-third of the jobs shared on the CloudPeeps platform in 2016 were for social media. This goes to show that no matter the platform of choice, companies know social media is an effective channel for reaching customers. Although most of the roles were for organic social media efforts, we saw more paid social media roles towards the end of the year. As social media platforms tweak their algorithms with a preference for paid posts, we’ll continue to see an uptick in paid social jobs.

Of the social media jobs listed, most were for management and many were combined with content marketing. Social media growth was the second most in-demand social media job. In terms of goals, most were looking to build brand awareness, others were looking to drive traffic and conversions. Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn were the most referenced social media platforms in job descriptions, with Instagram and Pinterest following.

There is no shortage of social media professionals, either. In the CloudPeeps community alone, there were approx. 1,100 new freelancers who’ve identified social media as a core skill added in 2016.

2) Content marketing, writing and blogging

Content production and marketing were also in high demand and supply with over 1,000 Peeps identifying content as a specialty. Some companies posted jobs seeking content strategy or content marketing. Others were looking for bloggers or writers. But they were all seeking the same skills: writing and distribution. The majority of these jobs were in the technology and B2B SaaS industries. Also notable were companies in art and interior design seeking content creation for their blogs.

In 2017, we’ll likely see less writing jobs and more content production jobs focused on new ways to market to customers. We’ll see more clients asking for video, short-form content, and interactive content – as attention spans decline and these areas grow in popularity.

3) Public Relations and promotion

When analyzing our 2016 jobs data, there was a clear trend of companies and individuals looking to build brand awareness. The third most in-demand freelance skill encompassed public relations, promotions and securing media coverage. Many of these jobs were to promote crowdfunding campaigns, events, and product launches and included press release drafting and outreach for media coverage. Although there was much opportunity in PR last year, only 400 or so Peeps identified it as a skill on their profiles – less than half of those specializing in social media and content.

4) Design

Having opened the CloudPeeps community to offer more freelance services this year, including design and development, we saw an increase in demand for design jobs. These jobs spanned both marketing and product. There were several jobs geared towards graphic design, looking for landing page, ebook, presentation and email design, as well as brand design and logo help.

We also saw a significant increase in early-stage companies looking for website and product designers. With that in mind, there’s no surprise that nearly 500 designers joined the CloudPeeps community in 2016, compared to a handful in 2015.

5) Growth marketing

When growth hacking first emerged around 2010, early-stage companies felt like they needed growth hacking even if they weren’t 100% sure what it entailed. To clarify, Wikipedia defines growth hacking as “a process of rapid experimentation across marketing channels and product development to identify the most effective, efficient ways to grow a business. Growth hackers are marketers, engineers and product managers that specifically focus on building and engaging the user base of a business.”

We found it refreshing that most of the companies looking for growth marketing in 2016 had a very specific audience they wanted to reach. This indicates that businesses today have a tighter focus on specific goals and a better understanding of who their potential customers are. They just need more help in reaching and converting them into paying customers.

6) Copywriting and editing

Many companies were in need of writing and editing for website copy, emails, bios, app descriptions, ads and more. These jobs were looking for writers and editors skilled in creating engaging, short-form content that would convert customers. They needed freelancers with great grammar, attention to detail, understanding of their brand voice and experience in marketing.

7) Email marketing

Email marketing has made a resurgence, especially in tech, over the past few years. Clients on the CloudPeeps platform were looking for help with newsletters, drip email campaigns, and conversion rate optimization for emails. Email marketing takes longer than a lot of people realize. Because of this, companies want their emails optimized for retention or acquisition. They want to see them be more than a way to deliver information. Rather, they see them as a sales tool. In 2017, we’ll continue to see clients hire experienced marketers to focus on email CRO.

8) Search engine optimization (SEO)

Indicating a further interest in driving conversions, many clients were in need of search engine optimization. They needed experts in keyword research and writing and editing for optimization. Interestingly, they weren’t looking only for long-form content and website optimization, but also SEO for podcasts and videos. Many clients posted jobs for SEO audits to better understand search behavior among their target audience and how they were performing compared to competitors and industry benchmarks. There is also much opportunity to build a reputation as an SEO expert as there seems to be less of a supply of experts in the community.

9) E-commerce expertise

This past year was a big one for e-commerce on the CloudPeeps platform. We saw a significant number of clients seeking copywriting, marketing, content creation and optimization specifically for e-commerce stores and platforms. Considering how technology has made it easier than ever to sell things from nearly anywhere, this comes as no surprise. Because there are systems available to handle all ordering, fulfillment, and delivery for you, we’ll continue to see more entrepreneurs seek help marketing and optimizing e-commerce stores in the coming year.

10) Marketing strategy

Many clients still seek help planning and understanding how to craft and deliver their message to their target audience. We saw several clients looking for one-time audit and strategies to act as a roadmap for their communications efforts. Most of these jobs were with early-stage tech companies and focused on assisting with the launch of a product.

Other in-demand freelance skills to watch

Although they were less popular, we saw a few jobs that really stood out to us as opportunities we’ll see more of in 2017. Included among those were a Meet Edgar expert, Google Analytics setup, a content audit, website audit (for user experience optimization) and social media training.

Ready for 2017?

As you assess the past year and what you want to work on in the year ahead, it’s good to have an idea of what opportunities are out there. Use the above list as a starting point when building your CloudPeeps profile. Focus on the areas you excel at and enjoy. We’re seeing less clients post specific jobs and more conduct searches for Peeps based on their needs. Make sure your profile is up-to-date and optimized for the types of jobs you want. Get started today!

*Photo by Oli Dale.* 

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CloudPeeps Team
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  • When hiring freelancers, I definitely look for any and all of these skills—they are a major plus! Experience in one or multiple (or all!) of these topics are immeasurable. They are all so important and more than worth time for new freelancers to immerse themselves in!