IT Freelancing Trends & Insights 2021

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IT freelancers are flexible and can work from anywhere – a good prerequisite for staying afloat during the ongoing pandemic. But which jobs and skills will be in demand this year? We evaluated over 1 million search queries on freelancermap to help you figure out what to expect in 2021.

Introduction

In 2020, the world saw an almost unprecedented change in the way its workforce functions. Despite the coronavirus, or perhaps in spite of it, the freelancer market is set to make waves this year. 

According to the Corona Freelancer Barometer, 44 percent of all participants that were surveyed estimate that the freelance industry will experience greater demand after the crisis. As such, 2021 offers a chance for growth, especially for freelancers who deal with future-oriented industries.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the emerging freelancing trends in the freelance market – from a quick reflection on trends we saw in 2020 and how they relate to 2021 and what new trends we can expect in 2021.

What were the freelancing trends in 2020?

IT Talent Shortage throughout Europe

In 2020, companies around Europe were struggling to find IT professionals with relevant experience to join their teams. According to the Joint Employment Report 2020 by the European Commission, labor shortages remain substantial in the EU, with countries that report low unemployment especially suffering from this shortage.

A study by Bitkom (Federal Association for Information Technology, Telecommunications and New Media in Germany), showed that in November 2019, 124,000 vacancies were open for IT specialists in Germany (51% more than in 2018). And this trend seems to continue in 2021.

But Germany is not alone in this regard. The shortage of tech professionals is an increasing concern for all Nordic countries – Denmark, Finland, Sweden, and Norway – as well.

Every unfilled IT position costs sales, burdens companies’ growth and slows down the necessary digital transformation. Ultimately, this is a threat to the competitiveness of the entire country and the UE.

This is, of course, an opportunity for IT freelancers that can be recruited much faster and are also able to start on a project more efficiently thanks to their expertise and past experience. Companies will need to open up to hiring freelance IT experts to overcome the shortage and to keep growing.

In Germany, the demand will further increase heavily resulting in rising prices. In the Netherlands, there is a downward trend as well since more employees have decided to become self-employed.

Program manager

Remote work

Due to obvious reasons, a lot of the work done in the past year was done remotely, giving freelancers the flexibility they need and the ability to support themselves, despite the coronavirus. This is another trend that we can expect to see in 2021. 

Acceptance of remote work across most industries sky-rocketed in 2020 and this trend looks to continue in 2021.

In fact, as a result of covid, nearly half of hiring managers now are more likely to hire freelancers than they were before. Companies and organizations also recognize freelance talent and are adapting themselves to communicate and deal with part-time workers, freelancers, and remote workers.

Over 90 percent of people would like to work remotely
Buffer – State of Remote Report 2020

While digital industries have always been better suited to remote work, most companies across the globe have now been forced to embrace remote working. 

In fact, it is expected that the number of people working remotely is to double this year which is a relief for most developers and IT professionals, as they seek for flexibility in their work. 

This movement is also especially embraced by parents who need this flexibility of working from home to combine their career with childcare and home life. 

Customers should allow flexible time scheduling and remote work to help freelancers focus on their projects.

SAP Logistics Consultant

Freelance Hourly Rates

For the first time in five years, there was no upswing in hourly rates. Before the coronavirus crisis, only 1% of freelancers said they wanted to cut their hourly rate over the next 12 months. Since the World Health Organization called Covid-19 a pandemic (March 11, 2020), the proportion has risen to over 5%.

According to our study, the average hourly rate in Germany dropped to 93,82€ as compared to the average hourly rate of 94,57€ before the pandemic was declared.

Adopting new technology platforms

Among the interesting freelancing trends that emerged in 2020 was the rate at which companies adopted new technology platforms. According to Buffers’s State of Remote Report 2020, one of the biggest struggles that people face when working remotely is collaboration and communication.

Biggest struggles remote work – Buffer remote report
Buffer State of Remote Report 2020 – Biggest struggle working remotely

Companies need to adapt their processes to communicate and deal with part-time workers, freelancers, and remote workers.

This will increase the use of tools such as time-tracking tools, performance management tools, and video conference tools. Furthermore, companies must manage contractors, freelancers and gig employees strategically and integrate them as a long-term solution in their company.

41% of respondents on the Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends report confirmed they are aware of the importance of integrating freelancers strategically to their company but only 28% said they were ready to address this issue.

The good news is that the same report shows that 75% of the surveyed respondents indicated that HR already supports the sourcing of alternative workers, and 51% said that their organization has specific plans to address recruitment strategies for this alternative workforce.

IT Security, Cloud Services and AI: still interesting

Industries of Artificial Intelligence (AI), IT security and Cloud Services will continue to see a marked rise for this year. The topic of IT security in particular, will gain importance this year. 

Inquiries for cloud services also experienced an upswing. Demand rose by 95% and was searched twice as often in 2020 than it was in 2019.

The search for artificial intelligence, which increased rapidly in 2019, flattened somewhat in the previous year- the term “AI” only experienced an increase of 16%. 

The evaluation of the search queries thus confirms the results of the Freelancer Compass 2020. Those surveyed identified IT security (65%), AI (62%) and cloud services (57%) as the most important future topics. 

We can expect further developments in Cybersecurity, Big Data automation, and AI, all of which will have a great impact on IT job roles.

Programming language trends: Python and Kotlin

Studies show that the following 3 programming languages will continue to gain in popularity among freelancers this year:

  • Python
  • Kotlin
  • Java

The top skill among IT freelancers is currently Python, which climbed to over 150 points in 2020 and will continue to grow in popularity this year. 

After Kotlin rose over 200% from 2018 to 2019, the programming language grew less strongly in 2020, with only a 137% increase. We can still, however, expect to see a rise in Kotlin this year.

Java was also able to build on 2019’s growth trend and continues to stay strong and will most likely remain a top choice in software development. Javascript, on the other hand, remained at the same level in 2020 as it was in 2019. It is stil, however, considered a top skill among freelance IT learners.

After the release of C++20, C++ will also make an impact in the programming language world this year.

Start on a new development project now » Browse the latest IT Projects

Freelancing trends for 2021 – Job Market

In 2019, the search for data scientist jobs fell but after 2020, there seems to be an upward trend again. With 76% growth, the data expert job is fighting back to the top of the freelance job list.

Scrum Master’s job search shows that agile working is not just a trend but an ever increasing area of interest. This showed an increase of 72% in the year of 2020 and will continue to rise this year. 

Product owner and project manager ranked equally in 3rd place. Both jobs were searched 50% more often in 2020 than it was in 2019 and we can expect to see the trend go upwards this year as well.

Conclusion: A stable year for freelancers working in the IT industry

Business for IT freelancers will remain stable in 2021. Forward-looking topics such as IT security and cloud services are particularly high in demand and will continue to be so for the remainder of the year.

If you are just considering a career in IT or taking the leap into freelancing, go for it! Especially if you are an expert in cybersecurity, data science or generally a software developer.

“More people are grabbing the idea of freelance for various reasons. IT will see a major increase in freelancing. Even tutors for that matter.“

SQL and PL/SQL developer

Established freelancers shared their best tips for new freelancers who decide to take the leap into freelancing this year:

  • Have a financial cushion for hard times (enough to survive 3 – 6 months without income)
  • Inform yourself about taxes beforehand
  • Do, do, do. But work based on a strategy
  • Don’t start with too low prices. Make you valuable
  • Negotiate but don’t sell yourself cheap. Quality is expensive
  • Don’t limit your business with local clients. Search abroad, too
  • Level up your time management skills
  • Stay tuned and don’t get discouraged
Natalia Campana

Natalia is part of the international team at freelancermap. She loves the digital world, social media and meeting different cultures. Before she moved to Germany and joined the freelancermap team she worked in the US, UK and her home country Spain. Now she focuses on helping freelancers and IT professionals to find jobs and clients worldwide at www.freelancermap.com

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By Natalia Campana

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