Building wealth boils down to a pretty simple equation: Either spend less money, or earn more of it. We offer plenty of ways to tighten up your spending and keep more money in your pocket, but at some point, there are no cuts left to make.
Whether you’re a stay-at-home parent looking for work you can fit in during naps, or you’re hungry for a side job and the extra cash it can provide, it’s hard to beat the convenience — and, sometimes, the pay — of work-from-home freelance jobs. The good news is, there really are legitimate ways to make extra money online, if you have (or are willing to learn) the right skill set.
We looked at freelance marketplace Elance.com to find 11 business niches where demand for freelance services is on the rise.
Doodle Video Creation
Over the past few years, the concept of doodling — yes, that same aimless scribbling you did in high school history class — has grown in popularity, and more companies are beginning to employ it. The practice of doodling is being lauded as a way to better spark creativity, retain information, and to share complex concepts in an easily understood way.
“Infodoodling,” a term coined by Austin, Texas-based consultant and author Sunni Brown, helps companies tell their (probably boring) stories in a more interesting and engaging manner. And with researchers saying that doodle videos can be 800% more engaging, and can help people retain information 29% better than they could otherwise, you can expect this industry to see significant growth. Therefore, if you are creative with images and visual organization, you might consider offering this service.
To become a doodle video creator, you’d need to learn video animation skills. Successful freelance creators on sites like Elance and Odesk are fluent in skills such as Adobe Premiere, Adobe After Effects, Adobe Illustrator, Camtasia, Adobe Photoshop, jQuery, whiteboard animation, motion graphics, illustration and graphic design, Flash animation, and cartooning. In general, a doodle video that’s less than two minutes long can pay up to few hundred dollars, and it can take several hours or more to produce.
You might frown at anything involving writing, because you probably know plenty of writers out there who are looking for a paid gig. On Elance, however, the demand for scriptwriting services grew 43% over the last quarter, and there are now roughly 21,000 posted jobs in this category.
The demand for scriptwriters may continue to grow, and it has nothing to do with Hollywood. Here’s why: Companies are finding that video is more engaging than text, which means they are producing more video content for their websites, internal communications, social media, and advertisements. And for every video, they need a script – which is where scriptwriters come in.
To make yourself marketable, take a course or certificate program in scriptwriting or screenwriting. Familiarize yourself with the format by reading plays or popular scripts; reading how-to books and studying successful scriptwriters and their work will also help. Fundamentally, you will need to have a strong imagination, and be able to convey your ideas (or the business client’s strategy) in a clear, simple, and creative manner — sometimes, as in radio ads, using only dialogue and sound effects. Pay ranges from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars per script, depending on your experience and the complexity and length of the project.
As the Internet connects more people around the world every day, it’s a given that language translation skills will be in demand, since we don’t all share the same first language. So it’s not surprising to learn that translation services was one of the fastest-growing industries in 2013, with revenues now topping $3 billion.
Obviously, to offer translation services, you have to be fluent in a second language. But if you have a knack for languages, it could even be worth your time to learn one of the most sought-after languages, as the translation market will only keep growing as long as the Internet exists (or until Google Translate gets more sophisticated and nuanced).
Translators Café is a good place to find more information on industry trends and the language combinations that are most in demand. The site even analyzes supply and demand trends within the industry. Hourly rates average about $25.
Copywriting is another skill that’s growing in demand. On Elance, demand for freelancers with copywriting skills grew by 40% over the last quarter, rising up to 105,000 posted jobs.
What’s driving the growth in demand for copywriting services? As the economy grows, more businesses are expanding or starting up, especially online, and they constantly need new Web and ad copy to sell their products and services.
When it comes to copywriting, a solid portfolio is everything. If you have little or no experience writing Web or ad copy, take a class or two in the subject and develop some sample works you could use as a portfolio. Or, offer to take on some small jobs for free or at a steep discount — write all the descriptions for your cousin’s new Etsy shop, or compose copy for the flyers advertising your town’s annual fair. And remember, the key to good copywriting is to make it convincing and concise.
Many consider writing about sports a dream job, and as such it’s a fairly competitive industry. But it’s also another fast-growing area of freelance writing. Demand for freelancers with sports writing skills grew 19% over the last quarter, a that trend could continue due to the ongoing shift from print to online-based sports content. This shift is driving many sports publications to cut their staff writers in favor of less costly freelancers.
If you want to be a sports writer, it’s helpful if you love — and have an in-depth knowledge of — a particular sport. Sports writers may get to cover the sport they’re most passionate about, but often they’re also required to cover high school games and other athletic events.
This is another industry where it’s essential to have some clips, or published works, to show prospective clients. To get started, offer to write for a local sports blog for free until you have a respectable amount of quality posts to show for it; the practice will make you a better, faster writer, too. You could also take a course in sports journalism to help you understand how the profession works and to develop contacts in the industry.
Essentially, voice acting is the art of audio performance, such as recording voice-over narration or performing voices for animated characters in a wide array of works like feature films, corporate training videos, foreign language films, commercials, and so on.
Online video and audio content are bound to continue growing because they foster better audience engagement. This means the demand for voice talent should grow along with it. So if you’re good or creative with your voice, you might want to consider auditioning as a voice actor. If you’re interested, but you’re not sure about your voice, don’t worry: This sort of skill can be learned and honed.
Voices.com, a leading marketplace of vocal talent, says that voice actors have earned over $39 million from its platform alone, averaging about $250 per job. The company also said in its 2013 industry report that “the average fee per job has increased by 10% in the last two years.”
Simply put, transcription is the conversion of speech to a written text document. The transcription market has seen impressive growth in recent years, and demand for freelancers with transcription skills rose 7% over the last quarter on Elance.
The opportunity in this industry has always been impressive, but the Internet only magnifies it. And if you’re fluent in other high-demand languages, there’s even more demand for your services. The rise of digital boardrooms, webinars, and video conferencing means the demand for transcriptionists should keep growing.
To be successful in this industry, set up a professional website, adding positive references as you get them, so interested organizations know you are a professional in the field. Hourly rates range between $12 and $17, but there are higher paying markets as well.
The almighty Google is the biggest reason for the growth in demand for product description writing services. You may already know that Google frequently changes its algorithm to reward websites that have good content. As reported by Wall Street Journal in 2011, online businesses that didn’t have what Google considers useful content lost significant traffic, which led to a decline in sales.
This, in turn, led more retail companies to stop using the standard product descriptions provided by manufacturers and to hire freelancers to create new, unique product descriptions. And the growing array of online products — and even the companies that sell them, like Wayfair, Woot, and Overstock.com — means that the demand for this service will likely keep growing.
Being a product description writer requires you to be a good researcher, with the ability to convert sometimes dry and technical specifications into something an average person will want to read.
Press Release Writing
This is another job being helped by the growing economy. When a company does something it wants people to know about — such as opening a new store location, launching a new product, or putting on an event — it sends out a press release in hopes that reporters will write a story about it.
The press release itself is often written like a news story — but with an insufferably positive spin — peppered with quotes from the CEO or other company spokespeople. A background in either journalism or marketing would give you a leg up on the competition, since writing a press release may require conducting interviews and more or less boils down to a narrative marketing pitch.
The demand for freelancers with press release writing skills grew 17% over the past quarter on Elance.
Social Game Development
According to a 2013 report from IBISWorld, social gaming was the hottest niche in 2013. The report said the social gaming niche saw explosive growth of over 180% between 2008 and 2013. And it will keep growing as long as social networks exist, which creates opportunities for game developers.
You’ll need to have or learn skills such as computer programming and game design to have a chance in this niche. But while these skills are in high demand, there are more options than ever when it comes to learning them as developer boot camps and online programming courses are available everywhere.
Information Technology Security Consulting
Recent high-profile data breaches at major companies like Home Depot and Target have helped spur demand for IT security services. IBISWorld ranked it as the fifth hottest business in 2013, estimating that the industry will see a 5-year compound annual growth rate of 10% as companies invest in more technology — and hire more IT professionals to keep those systems secure.
To become a freelance IT security consultant, you’ll need to possess a thorough knowledge of networks, databases, and computer viruses, and know how to evaluate computer systems for weaknesses. Certifications such as Microsoft (MCSE) and Cisco (CCIE) will also increase your chances of securing a gig. And as with any freelance or consulting role, a professional website will help establish your credibility and market your brand.