Top-Paying Jobs in the Gig Economy Are in Tech

Freelancers working in artificial intelligence, blockchain, and cybersecurity earn the most

19 June 2018

Did you know that in the 1940s U.S. employers started to offer medical insurance and other benefits to motivate people to commit to full-time jobs? Until then most workers were satisfied taking on gigs—freelance or contract positions. They had the flexibility to make their own schedules and accept or decline jobs.

That concept is coming back big-time. The gig economy has exploded in the past five years, with more than 57 million Americans working freelance jobs today—about 36 percent of the U.S. workforce—according to the “Freelancing in America” study conducted last year by Edelman Intelligence. The study was commissioned by the Freelancers Union and Upwork. Based on the findings, it’s predicted that freelancers will comprise the majority of the U.S. workforce within a decade.

As it turns out, the 10 best-paying positions per hour in the gig economy are in technology. The list is based on hourly rates from five freelance job sites. Here are a few fields that pay especially well.


Those who are proficient in programming languages including C++, Matlab, and Python, and are able to develop algorithms for machine-learning programs, can earn an average of US $115 per hour. Nearly every industry is hiring experts in AI, including finance, health care, and transportation.

To find out what other skills are needed to work in this field, read our article, “How to Land a Job in Artificial Intelligence.”


The average hourly wage is $87 for developers or architects who design and develop blockchain technology. Best known as the underlying ledger system for supporting Bitcoin and other electronic money, the technology is now being used for managing supply chain. Blockchain programmers must be well-versed in C++, Python, or Solidity.


Companies including Tesla, as well as the FBI and other government agencies, are hiring “white hats”—ethical hackers—to prevent cyberattacks on their systems. White hats counter website hacks, data theft, and denial-of-service attacks. If you’re skilled in spotting security vulnerabilities, you might consider getting a gig in this area, where the average pay is $66 per hour.

Freelance opportunities include implementing company-wide penetration tests and monitoring and fixing vulnerabilities in Web applications. Being certified as a security professional is helpful in getting hired as a freelancer in this field.


Consider designing virtual programs for an average of $50 per hour. There are many opportunities to create AR and VR programs for a host of applications. Construction companies and water treatment plants, for example, are adopting AR helmets to overlay instructions on equipment to fix faulty machinery, and real estate professionals can provide virtual walk-throughs before a building goes up.

Developers are required to have experience in 3D modeling and scanning, be fluent in C, C#, or C++ languages, and have a background in developing AR or VR algorithms.


AWS Lambda is a service offered by Amazon that charges its customers for server space only when a website code is activated, compared with traditional servers that charge for hosting all the website’s code at all times. Moving to AWS provides a big cost savings for companies.

Helping clients transition to AWS requires proficiency in C#, Java, Node.js, and Python. Developers are required to write and load code onto Lambda and design triggers that activate the code. The gigs pay about $51 per hour.

Visit to find out what the other top-paying fields are. To find gigs, check out such job sites as Freelancer, Guru, PeoplePerHour, and Upwork.

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