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We Analyzed 2 Million Freelancer Profiles. Here’s Who Earns The Most Money

best paying freelance job chart

We analyzed more than 2 million freelancer profiles on Upwork to better understand which skills are paying the best right now.

Specifically, we identified which skills and categories have the most freelancers earning at least $1000 per month (ie. $60/hour rate with at least 100 hours billed in the last 6 months).

Summary of our Key Findings:

  1. Many of the most lucrative skills on Upwork are related to programming, with 20.9% of freelancers who earn at least $1000/month describing themselves as developers and another 6.5% listing skills related to software.
  2. Marketing skills also appear to be quite lucrative. 7.7% of freelancers who charge more than $60/hour offer marketing-related services.
  3. WordPress is the single most lucrative programming skill. But freelancers who combine skills to become “full stack” developers seem to earn even more.
  4. Of all the freelancers who offer writing-related services, copywriters and editors appear to earn the most.
  5. For every 800 freelancers on Upwork, only 1 earns more than $1000 per month.
  6. Self-proclaimed experts do better than self-proclaimed professionals, gurus, ninjas, or wizards.
  7. Skills which appear to be the least lucrative on Upwork include transcription, life coach, and admin support.

Details and additional data from our study below.

Best Paying Freelance Jobs | Best Paying Programming Jobs | Best Paying Writing Jobs | Methodology | Limitations | Bonus

81 Best Paying Freelance Jobs On Upwork

RankSkill / CategoryNumber of freelancers earning at least $60/hour,
minimum 100 billed hours last 6 months
5full stack199
6web developer199
10graphic designer76
11software developer70
12app developer62
14web designer60
17data scientist44
18google ads40
21facebook ads31
23social media30
27data visualization18
31technical writer16
34video editor12
36data science11
37landing page10
43video editing8
47conversion rate optimization6
51business coach5
54landing pages4
57virtual assistant4
63web development3
64affiliate marketing2
65audio production2
66customer service2
67data entry2
73voice over2
74audio engineer1
77customer support1
78executive assistant1
79ghost writer1
82admin support0
84ghost writing0
85life coach0
88sound design0
92voice talent0

(Want to learn some of those skills? Do it for cheap with this list of the best FREE courses on Udemy.)

Best Paying Freelance Jobs On Upwork – Breakdown

best paying freelance jobs graph programming

Key Takeaways

  • If you can code and/or sell, you’ll find plenty of high-paying jobs on Upwork.
  • Web developers tend to earn more than web designers
  • Google ads freelancers tend to earn more than Facebook ads freelancers
  • Hard to know if it’s causation or correlation, but the words freelancers use in their profiles seem to make a big difference. For example, if you use the words data scientist instead of data science, you’re 4x more likely to be a top earner.
  • We didn’t find a single transcriptionist on Upwork earning $60/hour or more consistently. $40/hour seems to be the best-case scenario for freelance transcriptionists.

34 Best Paying Programming Jobs on Upwork

RankSkill / CategoryNumber of freelancers earning at least $60/hour,
minimum 100 billed hours last 6 months
1full stack199
2full stack developer144
16machine learning33
18front end developer30
22data visualization20
23react native18
25fullstack developer16
26data science11
27backend developer8
28frontend developer6
31back end developer5
32game developer4
33artificial intelligence2
34amazon web services1

(Want to become a programmer? Do it for cheap with this list of the best coding courses on Udemy.)

Best Paying Programming Jobs On Upwork – Breakdown

best paying freelance jobs graph programming 1

Key Takeaways

  • If you want to be a top earner on Upwork, become a full stack developer.
  • C++ programmers tend to earn more than Python programmers, who tend to earn more than JavaScript programmers, who tend to earn more than PHP programmers.
  • iOS developers tend to earn more than Android developers.

29 Best Paying Writing Jobs on Upwork

RankSkill / CategoryNumber of freelancers earning at least $60/hour,
minimum 100 billed hours last 6 months
3content writer31
4marketing writer18
5technical writer16
7seo writer14
8business writer11
10creative writer6
11grant writer6
14financial writer5
16medical writer5
17creative writing4
18legal writer4
19health writer3
20sales writer3
21tech writer3
22bid writer1
24finance writer1
25ghost writer1
27press releases1
29white paper1
30ghost writing0
33speech writer0
34travel blogger0
35travel blogging0
36travel writer0

(Want to become a pro writer? Do it for cheap with this list of the best writing courses on Udemy.)

Best Paying Writing Jobs On Upwork – Breakdown

best paying freelance jobs graph programming 2

Key Takeaways

  • Copywriters are 10x more likely to be top earners compared to bloggers.
  • Writers tend to earn more than bloggers
  • Writing about travel won’t earn you much money on Upwork.


We collected our data for this study over a two-day stretch: January 20-21, 2019.

Data was collected manually by searching Upwork freelancer profiles and performing calculations in this spreadsheet:

best paying freelance jobs spreadsheet
View the spreadsheet here (feel free to make your own copy)

Here’s a quick video showing how to use the spreadsheet:

(Note that you must be logged in to Upwork to search for freelancer profiles. It doesn’t matter if you’re logged in as a client or freelancer – the search results will be the same.)

We used the following filters while searching on Upwork (pre-selected for you here):

search upwork freelancers filters

Combined, those filters allow you to see all the freelancers on Upwork who currently charge $60 or more, and have billed 100+ hours in the past six months.

That roughly translates to a minimum of $6000 earned in the past six months, or an average of $1000/month.

In other words, those filters effectively give you an answer to this question:

Hey Upwork, how many freelancers have earned at least $1000 per month on your platform over the past six months?

When we ran the numbers, the answer was 2,728.

2,728 freelancers on Upwork have earned at least $1000 per month over the past six months.

To see how many freelancers fit the criteria within a specific skill or category, use the advanced title search, like this:

search upwork freelancers advanced

More details for each of those filters…

Hourly rate: $60 & above

search upwork freelancer filters hourly

This filter shows us freelancers on Upwork who currently charge at least $60 per hour. This is the highest option available in Upwork’s “hourly rate” search filter.

Talent type: Freelancers

search upwork freelancers talent type

This excludes agencies from the search. 

For our purposes, Upwork’s search results are unusable if we include agencies, as they can specify a broad range of hourly rates. That makes it impossible to know how much they’re actually billing clients.

Here’s an example of an agency showing up in an unfiltered search:

upwork agency rate range example
For this agency, 100 billed hours could be worth anywhere from $850 to $6,250 😕

Hours billed: 100+ billed within the last 6 months

search upwor freelancers hours biled

Two closely related filters.

Combined, they show us freelancers who have been active doing billable client work on Upwork in the past six months. 

This eliminates freelancers who might have earned a lot on Upwork 1-2 years ago, but haven’t been doing much work on the platform lately.

Advanced keyword search: Title search

search upwork freelancer filters title

Freelancers usually specify their primary skills in their profile title(s). This filter lets you search for keywords within those titles.

Limitations of the Study

Our aim with this study was to better understand which freelance skills are paying the best right now.

While the results do provide some useful insights, they should be interpreted with caution, for the following reasons…

Upwork-only data

Upwork is recognized as the largest freelance marketplace in the world (source). 

That makes it an ideal target for this kind of study, as it’s as good a representation of the entire freelance industry as is available.

That said, Upwork remains a single freelance marketplace, and may differ in significant ways from others.

For example, zero life coaches met our criteria on Upwork, but coach.me lists several life coaches who look to be regularly earning at least $60/hour.

Excludes private Upwork profiles

We used Upwork’s built-in search to collect our data, but private freelancer profiles are not included in Upwork’s search results:

It’s unknown what percentage of Upwork profiles are set to private, or how many freelancers with private profiles would fit our search criteria.

Keywords in profile titles

Our keyword search is limited to profile titles, and not every profile title accurately describes the skill(s) of the freelancer.

For example, it’s possible that a successful freelance copywriter could have a profile title like this…

upwork freelancer profile title keyworks example

…and would therefore never show up in a title search for “copywriter” or “copywriting”

No agencies

We had to filter out agencies for reasons explained above, but there are surely many agencies on Upwork who regularly bill $60/hour or more.

Current hourly rate

The search filters we used for the study show us freelancers who currently earn $60/hour or more. But we can’t know how long their rate has been that high.

It’s possible that a freelancer like this could show up in our results:

  • Billed 100 hours at $30/hour in the past six months
  • Raised their rate to $60/hour two weeks ago
  • Hasn’t been able to find any billable work since

Bonus Findings

Here are some other interesting findings from our study…

Percentage of freelancers earning $1000/month or more on Upwork

As noted above, our study shows that 2,728 freelancers on Upwork have earned at least $1000 per month over the past six months.

According to Wikipedia, there are twelve million registered freelancers on Upwork, which would mean about 0.02% of them earn a decent income.

That’s 1 in every 5000.

However, 12 million freelancers is likely too high a number.

Up until mid-2019, you could see in Upwork’s search results how many freelancers were on the platform:

There are surely more freelancers on Upwork now, but let’s roll with that number of 2,164,157 total freelancers.

That would mean only 0.126% of freelancers on Upwork have earned more than $1000/month in the past six months.

Or put another way:

For every 800 freelancers on Upwork, only 1 earns more than $1000 per month.

Experts vs Professionals vs Gurus vs Wizards vs Ninjas

Many freelancers on Upwork declare themselves to be an expert, professional, guru, wizard, or ninja.

According to our search criteria, here’s how many of each have earned at least $1000 per month for the past six months:

Key takeaway: if you must brag, call yourself an expert 😎

Do you have feedback on this study?

  • What’s your #1 takeaway from the data?
  • Do you see anything we might have overlooked?
  • What other data would you like to see from Upwork?

Let us know in the comments below.

Read more about Upwork

This article is part of an 8-part series:

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  1. I am new to online marketing and have no idea on how to setup a web page, add content etc., and earn money online. I came across Clickbank and assumed that this could be good starting point to my online experience. Could you reference any affiliate programme with similar potential as clickBank and the potential of making a online business my full time income source.
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    1. Hi David,

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