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Jeff D. Opdyke: Call it gig, freelance, whatever — a guide to finding project work

Jeff D. Opdyke, on

Published in Home and Consumer News

As the unemployment rate approaches 14%, older workers are suffering disproportionately in the pandemic. For some, though, there might be a reprieve: freelancing.

Though not traditionally an arena where Gen X and boomer workers seek employment, the growth in work from home, online jobs and the elevated rates of joblessness are drawing 55+ workers into this brave new -- and sometimes terrifying -- world.

Upwork, one of the leading freelance websites, found in its research that nearly one-third of boomers and one-third of Gen Xers are actively freelancing, either full or part time. And that was before the coronavirus decimated the traditional workforce.

Freelance work spans as many as 8,000 skills across 70 job categories, according to Upwork research. Among the top 100 jobs, average income is nearly $44 per hour, equating to an annual salary in the $91,000 range. That's well above the median U.S. salary of just under $49,800. (For freelancing overall, the average hourly rate is about $28.)

What kind of jobs are we talking about in the top 100? As you might expect, many are in technology: database design, Amazon Web Services, search engine optimization, various programming languages and the like. But the field also includes more traditional work, such as architectural rendering, accounts payable management, project scheduling, systems administration, public accounting and such.

Outside of the top 100 is a vast range of skills from corporate law to statistical analysis to internal auditing.


A recent search on Upwork for the broad category of "project management" found nearly 1,400 gigs. Many are offering hourly pay in the range of $20 to $40. Others are higher. A company needing a Kronos project manager is offering an hourly rate of $75 to $100. Another for a project task manager lists wages of between $50 and $80 per hour. And a startup is seeking a product manager at up to $125 per hour.

A search of individual freelancers -- the sites list both employers and workers -- with expertise in various types of project management and a 100% success rating across at least 10 gigs (yes, you are rated) shows per-hour fees of $38 to $125.

Bridgestone, Airbnb, Hewlett-Packard, Motorola, Priceline and the universities of Colorado and Southern California are clients of Toptal, which markets its freelancers as the top 3% in industries ranging from software development to product management to financial modeling.

As of last year's third quarter, 38% of the freelance jobs in the top 100 categories at Upwork came from foreign companies. Among the leading countries are Canada, the U.K., Australia, India, Israel and Germany.


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