You don’t need a fancy college degree to make great money, if you happen to have tech skills. Whether you’re someone who can code, provide help with websites or test software, you can earn a six-figure income with your tech skills. Experience and references are helpful, but no college degree is required. And, even if you don’t have the relevant skills today, if you’re willing to learn tech, you can earn plenty.
“Tech provides a comfortable living and can have huge upsides depending on career choices,” says Chris Kolmar, co-founder of Zippia and editor of its career advice blog.
To be sure, if you don’t already have mad tech skills, you may need training to get into this field. However, that training increasingly involves certificate programs that you can earn online in your free time. Coursera, for instance, offers classes on user experience, web design, cyber security and data analytics. Most of these programs can be completed in 6 months of independent study that demands less than 10 hours a week. Coursera charges $39 per month for unlimited access to these classes and Google provides scholarships for those who can’t afford the cost.
What can you expect to earn when working in tech? Google estimates that annual earnings of people completing its certificate programs start at least $50,000. Zippia estimates that information systems managers earn a median salary of $131,000; while median wages for information security directors are $173,000. And those at the top of their craft earn considerably more.
Google maintains that there are hundreds of thousands more tech jobs than workers to fill them. The online search giant says that more than 100 big companies are committed to finding full-time jobs for graduates of its certificate training programs.
However, one of the benefits of tech careers is that demand is so great that you can work remotely, part-time, and freelance and still earn five-and six-figure incomes. There are literally dozens of freelance sites that vie for seasoned tech experts.
Freelance sites for tech specialists
However, when it comes to finding tech work in the freelance world, you’d be well-advised to choose your agent carefully. Several big sites that promise to connect tech experts with work, such as Freelancer and Upwork, expect workers to bid against one another for jobs. That can push rates down to third-world-country levels, which is where many of the freelancers working on these sites live.
But there are plenty of freelance sites that offer reasonable-to-excellent pay. Some of the best:
Sites for those with experience:
WorkingNotWorking and Creatively are technically both geared toward artists and designers. However, the positions these sites advertise are increasingly digital. So if you’re a designer of beautiful websites or a user-experience expert, who can make websites and apps both intuitive and attractive, these are great places to post a portfolio and look for work. Neither site takes a commission from creatives who find work here.
If you have at least five years of experience, you can apply to join Braintrust. A tech cooperative, all prospective freelancers here are given a piece of the network, so your acceptance to Braintrust hinges on being interviewed and accepted by the freelancers already there. Your Braintrust shares don’t pay dividends, they simply give you a vote in how the network operates. Currently, if you find a job through Braintrust, you’ll get 100% of your rate. The site will add a 10% fee to the client’s bill to pay network expenses.
SMA Inc. enlists freelancers for software development, systems engineering, computer graphics and presentation, management analytics and other projects. The site asks freelancers to sign up with a detailed resume explaining not only what they’ve done in the past, but what systems they’ve used, how they measured their success, and what roles they played in completing various projects. Those who make it through the screening process are invited to work on jobs that pay between $28 and $80 per hour.
Freelancers on the FreeUp marketplace are also heavily screened. But those who clear this hurdle say they find plenty of work and it’s well paid. You view open projects from employers. If you want to take a project, you contact the client for a brief — 10 to 15 minute — chat, during which time the client decides whether or not to hire you. Freelancers are paid based on their skill level. The site doesn’t nick freelancers for fees, but it adds a 15% commission onto the client’s bill.
Toptal likes to brag that it hires only the creme de la creme of tech talent. It then markets that talent to corporate clients needing project work. In theory, freelancers set their own hourly rates and simply make their services available via the platform. However, a company spokesman says Toptal lets freelancers know when their expected hourly rates make them “uncompetitive.” The site is secretive about its mark-up, which is rumored to be substantial. But freelancers working here say they’re still well compensated.
You don’t necessarily need mad coding skills to build a simple website with Wix or WordPress. However, thousands of people seek this service every year. If that’s your tech talent, you can find plenty of work on Fiverr. This broad-based marketplace allows freelancers to set the prices and parameters of the job they’re proposing. Clients come to you.
For instance, a designer named Zainsaeed100 proposes to build a three-page website for $100 and a 10-page site for $380. With more than 1200 reviews, it’s clear he’s made hundreds of thousands of dollars on the site. And since the web package he offers is a fairly standard template, he can likely spin out new sites within an hour or two.
Meanwhile, Fiverr Pros — those with more experience and credentials — offer bespoke sites at much higher rates, usually $1,000 – $5,000 per site.
GoLance is also a broad-based freelance platform that connects tech specialists with clients. You set up a profile that says what you do and what you charge. Companies contact you when they’re interested. If you get hired, you pay an 8% fee to GoLance for making the connection.