16 recession-proof side hustles exploding in popularity since the start of the pandemic that you can do from home

  • Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, more workers have been turning to short-term freelance jobs – and more freelance employers have taken to posting work opportunities.
  • Business Insider compiled a list of the top 16 side hustles that are seeing a surge in demand since the pandemic, with data from online job forum Freelancer.com.
  • Roles in mathematics and statistics have seen the greatest increase in demand, followed by application programming, document encoding, and project management.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

As the pandemic continues to batter the economy, unemployed Americans have increasingly begun looking for new sources of income to supplement or replace their lost wages. Jobs are scarce, though, and most businesses are still shuttered or only partially reopened.

In response, more people are turning to freelance work or side jobs to make ends meet, while others are using their newfound downtime to launch their own businesses. 

Online job forum Freelancer is one of several job search resources that have seen activity spike during the pandemic. The site has seen more than 35,000 new users and approximately 10,000 new job listings since March, says its CEO, Matt Barrie. 

The surge in demand for freelance roles reflects a shift in the way people approach work and a focus on career development from more short-term work opportunities, Barrie said.

"The great thing about freelancing is that you get to architect your career and create a job, rather than take a job," Barrie said. "You get to really build a palette of skills." 

By analyzing recent job postings on the site, Freelancer offers a portrait of what lines of freelance work are in demand during the pandemic. 

Some of the key takeaways? Since the start of the pandemic, more people are becoming engaged in starting their own businesses, especially in e-commerce. Meanwhile, local jobs that involve in-person work, like house cleaning and lawn maintenance, saw decreases in listings by 35%. 

Below is a full list of the hustles that have proven the most popular amongst freelancers, including no-brainers like remote app development and some surprises, like the surge in demand for mathematicians.

16. Shopify template creators 

Job postings increase from Q1 2020 to Q2: 54.4%

Why it's popular: Ecommerce platform Shopify has been on the rise since the start of the pandemic, with more people buying things online rather than in-person. But anyone looking to build ecommerce platforms on the site also need to build their own pages, and many require help developing them. Those with coding and developer skills are especially in demand. 

15. Software programmers with Objective-C skills 

Job postings increase from Q1 2020 to Q2: 58.7%

Why it's popular: Objective-C is the primary programming language used for writing software and apps for Apple's operating systems, iOS and OSX. As more entrepreneurs begin to design apps during the pandemic, the need for programmers with proficiency in Objective-C has also been on the rise. 

14. YouTube creators 

Job postings increase from Q1 2020 to Q2: 58.7%

Why it's popular: YouTube is now a popular way to promote businesses and ideas. This means that video making and editing skills are experiencing a surge in demand. Videographers with animation skills who can create thumbnails and video introductions, for example, have had plenty of work opportunities in recent months. 

13. 2D animators

Job postings increase from Q1 2020 to Q2: 58.7%

Why it's popular: The rise in need for 2D animation mirrors the popularity of other graphic design-based work, a field that has seen a spike as people spend more time online. 2D animation stops short of the complex computer programming required for 3D animation, but it helps add a more complete visual component to presentations, graphics, and pitches. 

12. Computer-security engineers

Job postings increase from Q1 2020 to Q2: 62.1%

Why it's popular: Computer security experts help protect both enterprise and entrepreneurial endeavors, as anyone conducting business through the internet has a need for safe transactions and privacy. As a result, computer security jobs are growing in popularity and have seen a healthy pop in demand, thanks to the pandemic. 

11. Foreign-exchange trading engineers

Job postings increase from Q1 2020 to Q2: 62.7%

Why it's popular: As the lockdown draws on, restless day-traders are increasingly looking to monetize their down time through smart, nimble investing. In the foreign exchange markets, where traders make money by exploiting the different prices of the same commodities, much of the work is becoming algorithmically operated. Traders looking to create these kinds of hyper-specific algorithms need specialized coders to help them, which has led to a spike in the number of freelance jobs for metatrade engineers.

10. Game developers

Job postings increase from Q1 2020 to Q2: 64%

Why it's popular: As game enthusiasts increase their screen time during quarantine, developers have been taking advantage of the moment to spearhead new digital entertainment. Most game developer roles require coding experience and strong IT skills. 

9. Game designers

Job postings increase from Q1 2020 to Q2: 68%

Why it's popular: Game design is another crucial aspect to building a game, but it requires a slightly different skillset, like computer animation and graphic design experience. Designers also need a knowledge of the game console they're working on. 

8. Legal researchers

Job postings increase from Q1 2020 to Q2: 68.1%

Why it's popular: Legal research involves identifying information, such as primary sources and background information, needed to make legal decisions. Lawyers, law librarians, and paralegals are usually in most need of this type of research, and it's possible to do this work remotely. 

7. Statistical analysts 

Job postings increase from Q1 2020 to Q2: 74.4%

Why it's popular: The rise in demand for statistics skills is generally due to the increasing volume of digital and electronic data with the COVID-19 outbreak. The amount of data has dramatically risen due to tracking and tracing of coronavirus cases, hospitalizations, mortality rates, and tests conducted, as well as the impacts of the pandemic

6. Animators with Adobe Flash skills

Job postings increase from Q1 2020 to Q2: 76.2%

Why it's popular: Adobe Flash is a software used for multimedia content creation. Flash skills are often requested by game, animation, and app developers, and they've especially been on the rise along with the uptick in demand for game creators. 

5. Mechanical, electrical, and civil engineers 

Job postings increase from Q1 2020 to Q2: 80.7%

Why it's popular: The transition to remote work has opened the door for engineering to grow even more project-based. Businesses in need of small amounts of engineering work can assign out tasks online and pay per job, saving companies money and giving unemployed engineers a shot at some extra cash and new connections.

4. Project managers

Job postings increase from Q1 2020 to Q2: 86.2%

Why it's popular: As businesses transition to remote work, the need for intermediaries between technical teams and business teams only grows more important. Project managers act as liaisons between different professional ecosystems, a service that has risen in importance as distance-working makes clear communication more difficult. 

3. Computer engineers with proficiency in XML

Job postings increase from Q1 2020 to Q2: 89.9%

Why it's popular: Extensible markup language, or XML, is a kind semantic markup that is integral to text-based code, though it can also be applied to data structures. Software design was already a booming field before the pandemic, but stay-at-home mandates have led to a rise in remote collaboration.

2. Software developers with API expertise

Job postings increase from Q1 2020 to Q2: 91%

Why it's popular: An application programming interface, or API, is a set of protocols used for building application software that helps various components of a program communicate with each other. APIs provide the building blocks for programmers to put together software, which means that as software development continues to rise in popularity, so will the need for experts to stitch together APIs.

1. Data-set analysts for contact tracing and day trading

Job postings increase from Q1 2020 to Q2: 99.6%

Why it's popular: This line of work has benefitted from two boons: The first is the rise in contact-tracing and analysis of pandemic-related data sets.

Second, spiking interest in day-trading and investing on apps like Robinhood has led to a rise in automated-trading algorithm projects.

"Because sports aren't really operating well at this point, all the people who would do fantasy football and DraftKings are actually making money now by trading the stock market," said Barrie.

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