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The highest-paying freelance jobs of 2020 where you can earn $90,000 or more

The highest-paying freelance jobs of 2020 where you can earn $90,000 or more

Key Points

  • Nearly 60 million Americans freelanced in 2019, either full-time or part-time, representing more than a third of the American workforce, according to a separate study by Upwork and Freelancers Union.
  • There are more than 15 million full-time freelancers, with 1 in 5 earning more than $100,000 per year, according to a study by MBO Partners.
  • The 25 highest-paying freelance jobs in 2020 where you can earn $90,000 or more range from contract law and data visualization analyst to digital marketing consultant, according to Upwork.
  • As some labor advocates worry that the lowest-paid gig workers are being exploited by companies, freelance workers on the other end of the income spectrum are seeing booming demand for their services and even a boost to their earning power.

    A list of the highest-paying freelance jobs, created for CNBC.com by the global freelancing platform Upwork, shows dozens of jobs in which freelancers can earn $90,000 per year — or more.

    "People should look at this list and think a little differently about the freelance economy," says Adam Ozimek, Upwork's chief economist. "There's too much focus on a narrow corner of the freelance economy and lower-skilled workers. This report shows how diverse this segment of the economy is and how much of it is high-skilled work."

    Nearly 60 million Americans freelanced in 2019, either full-time or part-time, representing more than a third of the American workforce, according to a separate study by Upwork and Freelancers Union. Skilled services were the most common type of freelance work.

    A study by MBO partners found that more than half of full-time independent workers say that they feel more financially secure in their current roles than in traditional jobs. That report found that there are more than 15 million full-time freelancers, with 1 in 5 earning more than $100,000 per year.

    In the absence of a severe recession, experts say that 2020 holds plenty of opportunity for those freelance workers with professional skills.

    "High-end professionals are going to have a great year next year, whether they're freelance or not" said Steve King, a partner at Emergent Research, a company in Lafayette, California, that studies the independent workforce. "The job market is just so tight, and those skills are really hard to find."

    Here's a look at the highest-paying freelance jobs that should be in great demand in 2020, according to Upwork. The annual income is based on a 40-hour workweek, 50 weeks a year.

    Job category: Corporate law

    Sample career: Intellectual property attorney; corporate legal counsel
    Hourly rate: $85
    Potential annual income: $170,000*

    Job category: Contract law

    Sample career: Contract drafter; litigator; general counsel
    Hourly rate: $75
    Annual rate: $150,000

    Job category: Financial planner

    Sample career: Financial modeling expert; CPA; financial estate-planning attorney
    Hourly rate: $62.50
    Annual rate: $125,000

    Job category: Management consulting

    Sample career: Business consultant
    Hourly rate: $60
    Annual rate: $120,000

    Job category: ERP/CRM software

    Sample career: Solution architect; consultant; developer
    Hourly rate: $60
    Annual rate: $120,000

    Job category: Network & system administration

    Sample career: Network architect; IT
    Hourly rate: $60
    Annual rate: $120,000

    Job category: Data visualization

    Sample career: Developer; programmer; data visualization analyst; survey and research design consultant
    Hourly rate: $50
    Annual rate:
    $100,000

    Job category: Machine learning

    Sample career: Deep learning analytics consultant; predictive analytics consultant
    Hourly rate: $50
    Annual rate:
    $100,000

    Job category: Quantitative analysis

    Sample career: Professor of economics; statistical analyst
    Hourly rate: $50
    Annual rate:
    $100,000

    Job category: Presentations

    Sample career: Presentation designer and writer
    Hourly rate: $50
    Annual rate:
    $100,000

    Job category: Database administration

    Sample career: Data engineer; systems engineer
    Hourly rate: $50
    Annual rate:
    $100,000

    Job category: Display advertising

    Sample career: Graphic designer; internet marketer
    Hourly rate: $50
    Annual rate:
    $100,000

    Job category: E-mail and marketing automation

    Sample career: Marketing expert; developer; senior marketing strategist; consultant
    Hourly rate: $50
    Annual rate:
    $100,00

    Job category: Marketing strategy

    Sample career: Digital marketing consultant; copywriter; B2B marketing specialist
    Hourly rate: $50
    Annual rate:
    $100,000

    Job category: SEM — Search engine marketing

    Sample career: Google Adword Expert
    Hourly rate: $50
    Annual rate:
    $100,000

    Job category: Desktop software development

    Sample career: Full-stack senior web developer; customer software developer
    Hourly rate: $50
    Annual rate:
    $100,000

    Job category: e-commerce development

    Sample career: Developer; online marketing and e-commerce solutions expert; e-commerce integration and automation consulting
    Hourly rate: $50
    Annual rate:
    $100,000

    Job category: Mobile development

    Sample career: iOS developer; Android Developer; mobile app developer
    Hourly rate: $50
    Annual rate:
    $100,000

    Job category: Scripts & Utilities

    Sample career: Google Sheets Experts; Apps Scripts expert; Excel automation specialist
    Hourly rate: $49
    Annual rate:
    $98,000

    Job category: Physical design

    Sample career: Industrial design engineer; product developer; global visual merchandising manager
    Hourly rate: $45
    Annual rate:
    $90,000

    Job category: Mechanical engineering

    Sample career: Mechanical engineer; structural engineer and designer
    Hourly rate: $45
    Annual rate:
    $90,000

    Job category: Product design

    Sample career: User-experience consultant; product designer
    Hourly rate: $45
    Annual rate:
    $90,000

    Job category: Web and mobile design

    Sample career: Web and mobile app development; user-experience designer
    Hourly rate: $45
    Annual rate:
    $90,000

    Job category: Web development

    Sample career: Full-stack web development; business systems expert; user-experience designer; front-end developer
    Hourly rate: $45
    Annual rate:
    $90,000

    Job category: Resumes & cover letters

    Sample career: Professional development writer; career coach; cover letter and LinkedIn support
    Hourly rate: $45
    Annual rate:
    $90,000

    *Upwork's methodology: In order to create a list of the top-paying freelance jobs, we used data sourced from the Upwork.com database. We first pulled data of freelance jobs on the site starting Jan. 1, 2018, to Dec. 1, 2019. We then limited the analysis to categories of work that had more than 1,000 completed jobs and total freelancer earnings of over $1 million. Within that we ranked the top 25 jobs based on the highest median hourly earnings.

    For more on tech, transformation and the future of work, join CNBC at the @Work Summit in New York on April 1–2, 2020.

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