The best freelance creative skills for 2020 – revealed

Freelancing is on the up. It has been for the last decade. And while this is great news for business, it can mean that as a creative industries freelancer you’re facing stiffer competition this challenging year than ever before.

So, what can you do to make sure that those bookings, assignments and commissions keep rolling in? Stay ahead of the game, of course. Not just by being the best in your field. Which, obviously, you already are! But by making sure that you have the very latest skills and can offer the services that today’s businesses want now -- and tomorrow.

Well, we’ve been charting the key trends that FreelanceUK readers need to know about and have come up with the seven skills we bet will be the most sought-after freelance skills in 2020, writes Xenios Thrasyvoulou, founder and CEO of

1. Video

Content remains king in the online business world, but the form of that content is changing. On average, video marketers now receive two-thirds more leads a year than any other form of content creator.

The rise of video creation as a freelance skill might seem an oddity. After all, the world and his dog now has access to cameras on their smartphones – ubiquitous devices that are more sophisticated now than any dedicated kit you could buy a decade ago.

But that’s precisely why the demand for videography services is stratospherically climbing: because everyone can create high quality videos, the bar has been set higher. So if a business wants to impress, they have to feature the best, most beautifully creative, seamlessly-edited video content around.

2. Content Editing

SEO has become the internet’s hardest taskmaster in the last few years. And E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness) is rapidly gaining pace.

While a lot of companies are adept at creating their own web content, they’re not so hot at making it readable and accessible. Cue, Content Editors (CEs), who know what works from both a marketing and an SEO perspective. The astute freelance ‘CE’ can perform multiple tasks for a business – revising web copy, editing scripts, creating brand guidelines, producing infographics – all of which can transform Google ranking and customer interaction.

And freelancers can do this so well because they are learning as they create. Working for multiple clients means that freelancers – more than any other type of worker – get to have a breadth of experience which they are continuously building upon from a hybrid of sectors. And that is partly why such independent, self-employed practitioners are so highly regarded just now – their magpie-like traits, diligently and instinctively collecting the objects of experience, ideas and techniques as they practice.   

3. Animation

How many animations have you seen online this week? Too many to count we wager! And not just the cute cartoons depicting a cosy life with a cat. But the ‘explainer’ videos, the memorable character commercials, talking-heads, games and 3D modelling.

Animation has exploded in popularity because it’s a way to reach people, connect, explain and tell stories without the need for expensive locations, actors and sets. Without public interruption. And without needing to adhere to the laws of physics!

Not convinced? Well, money talks. The typical explainer video will generate £35 per hour for a freelance animator. That’s four times the national minimum wage.

4. Article Writing

Branding can be everything to the success of a business. Article writers can be an integral part of that. Unlike copy or content editors, freelance article writers don’t polish other people’s creations. They create their own work from scratch. Be that SEO-rich blogs, ghost-written marketing features, or company culture pieces.

5. Illustration

Illustration often has a versatility and a friendliness that photography lacks (one reason why ‘Photography’ isn’t ranking in this list). And it's these qualities that are drawing many businesses to adopt the form for both their online and offline content. Illustration can speak to you in ways that stock imagery can’t. Plus, the fact that illustration is far more demonstrably bespoke than other forms of imagery can make it feel much more personal. Which is something that customers very much want.

6. Graphic design

Graphic design was in high demand long before the dawn of the internet. Its popularity has only grown in the years since, of course. It is used in so many areas of business, from signage and branding to online art. You can be fairly confident in saying that as long as there is business, there will be need for graphic designers. In fact, in 2019, The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) recommended that graphic design be added to the UK’s Shortage Occupation List. The solid demand for freelance graphic designers would seem to support that addition.

7. TikTok

We’ve included TikTok in this list because it’s very much ‘one to watch’! And if freelancers need to get ahead of the curve, given that competition is always snapping at your heels, it’s precisely the sort of platform you’ll need to know about, if not master.

But a caveat -- if we may. In technology, fads come and go. A few years back, it was all about Blackberry development. Now, nobody wants to know – interest has fallen by 100% in the last year in relation to devices everyone once thought so addictive! And it’s not alone. So it’s never a good idea to assume that that trends won’t change.

At the moment though, TikTok is one to watch. Demand for TikTok-related projects increased by 1,700% on PeoplePerHour in 2019. And you can’t listen to the news or flick through social media without someone mentioning it right now. It’s, therefore, a fairly safe bet for the future. That said, do you remember Vine? It helped to propel online video to where it is today. Now… Well, there’s a reason I asked if you remembered it!

Final thought

As readers of this list can tell, the freelance marketplace is ever-evolving. That’s one of its biggest boons. It’s what makes it so, so useful to the business community. But that’s also why it can be challenging for those who decide to take that self-employed career path. And why it presents such an enormous and continuing opportunity in 2020 for those who do it well.


28th February 2020

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