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Summary:

More people are working online and they are making more money doing so, according to a new survey of web-workers by Elance, the freelance outsourcing firm.

With the web becoming more ubiquitous and companies getting used to outsourcing to online freelancers, the market for online work is increasing, one recent study says. According to online outsourcing firm Elance, the pool of online workers that the company tracks made more than $70 million for online work of various kinds in 2009, up 45 percent from the beginning of the year.

The company said that the volume of hiring done through its online service also grew by more than 40 percent over 2008, and the total earnings of independent contractors working through Elance since the service began in 1998 passed the $245 million-mark. The survey shows that residents of all 50 states are now earning income online, with California, New York and Texas ranking as the top three states and San Francisco, New York and Dallas among the top cities for online income.

Elance said that some emerging trends for skills in 2010 include:

  • Mobile: Demand for mobile development was one of the fastest-growing skill subcategories, with a 180 percent increase in earnings in 2009. Android is also rising fast in the ranking of skills in demand – up 400 percent in the past 6 months with more than 170 projects posted in the last month alone.
  • The iPad: Within 24 hours of the Apple iPad announcement, 20 iPad application development jobs were immediately posted on Elance. As of mid-February, there were 70 open iPad jobs on the site.
  • Marketing: Demand for both online and traditional marketing talent continued to grow rapidly in 2009. Top marketing skills — including Search Engine Optimization (#1), Internet Marketing (#2), Lead Generation (#3) and Social Media Marketing (#7) — showed 46 percent growth in earnings.

Elance VP Ellen Pack said in a statement that online outsourcing is growing because “companies continue to look for greater flexibility and efficiency, more skilled professionals are choosing to work independently, and managing online work has become easier than ever due to sophisticated web applications, mobile devices and cloud computing platforms.”

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  1. So when is gigaom getting a mobile site?

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  2. Good post Mathew .. Interesting top 20 skills chart! Looks like client side scripting, mobile, social networks and blogs are the major skill categories that are in demand. Whatever happened to Java, J2EE and C++!! :D

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  3. Good to see Florida up near the top of that list. It can’t be all about construction any longer!

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  4. Fix your headline, please. The increase in the size of the online outsourcing market does not translate into “workers making more,” it may actually translate into workers making less if there are more workers.

    To determine whether the actual workers are making more you’d need to provide meaningful statistics on average size of projects, average revenue per worker, and so forth.

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    1. Thanks for the comment, Jeff. The headline was meant to refer not to individual workers making more, but to the pool of income for online freelancers as a whole increasing. Although I think you could argue that if the number of contracts increased by 40 percent but the total income increased by 45 percent, that suggests workers probably are making more on average.

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      1. Hi Mathew. I have to somewhat agree with Jeffery in regards to the headline. I’ve freelanced through Rentacoder for almost 5 years now and know first hand that a large number of contracts does not necessarily translate into increased incomes… Especially since many freelancers work at varying rates and since Elance in particular charges subscription fees, fees for showing simple test results, and very large arbitration fees. While an Elance freelancer may win 2 contracts, a single arbitration could cost the same freelancer almost $300 bucks at that site and ultimately put that person in the red.

        You also have to consider the location of the freelancers in relation to US income standards. Freelancers working out of a developing or 3rd world country for example, could secure 5 times as many contracts as a US freelancer, yet earn only 1/2 as much. Am I making sense?

        As Jeffrey suggested, a more thorough study is required — one that tallies incomes, not contracts.

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      2. I completely agree with Jeffrey. Having freelanced using several online advertising venues – including Elance – for the past decade, I can confirm that rates have dropped from nearly $150 per hour just prior to the economic downturn to less than $5 per hour since. You’ve clearly used a handful of meaningless statistics to slant your story toward Elance, but mislead readers in doing so. Please do your homework by reading at least a page of the project listings and budget limitations. Please also look at the jump in competing providers driving prices down. The number of providers on Elance has increased roughly 400 percent – if not more. This is journalism at its worst.

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  5. Its great to see blogs in the Top 10 list of skills in demand!

    php + html + css + mySql = WordPress – all are in Top 5, which again is quite good to see!

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