Learning new skills during the corona crisis is essential to put you ahead of the curve both during the pandemic and in its aftermath.
Economically, this is a trying time. If we believe the experts, the world could soon plunge into the worst recession since the Great Depression.
Most freelancers have already seen a drop in gigs. The stock markets are under heavy pressure. Unemployment numbers in the US alone have skyrocketed to 26 million.
There is not much anyone can do about that right now.
What you can do is improvise, adapt, and overcome.
There are many ways for freelancers to steer their businesses through the crisis with a steady hand. One of them is to invest in personal growth, in adding new abilities to your skillset.
Research says that learning a new skill takes 20 hours. That’s an amount you can scrape together during the lockdown.
But this is not about mastering sourdough bread or new yoga poses.
Some project a surge in freelance work in the wake of the crisis. By taking advantage of the current lull, you can extend your capabilities to boost your freelance business and career prospects post-corona.
But where to focus?
Here are 9 fields in which to pick up highly sought-after skills that increase your business efficiency and visibility.
1 – AI and Machine Learning
Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and big data are three essential components of modern business. In a report released in January 2020, the World Economic Forum identified AI literacy as the number one data skill of the future.
Companies use AI and machine learning for data management, predicting consumer behavior, and detecting fraud. They can personalize marketing, and improve customer service with chatbots or interactive voice response for calls.
Mastering any of these aspects will give you an edge on the freelance market and increase the efficiency of your own business besides.
Even basic fluency in AI fundamentals will go a long way towards a better understanding of modern business practices.
2 – Analytics and Big Data
Data is important. Big data even more so.
Businesses rely on data to gain market insights, boost conversion rates, manage risk, design new products, drive innovations, and manage their supply chains.
In a Forbes interview with CEOs on in-demand freelance skills during COVID-19, the majority listed mining and analyzing a variety of data.
You won’t become a high-profile data scientist during coronavirus lockdown. But a certain degree of data literacy and an understanding of how to harness big data for business purposes will raise you a mile above most of the competition.
3 – Cybersecurity
During the corona crisis, a multitude of businesses has undergone a digital transformation. They have – often abruptly – shifted a large part of their operations online and suddenly work in remote teams.
Security considerations have often been neglected in the rush.
Unsurprisingly, hackers are seizing the opportunities right now. Since the beginning of the pandemic, there has been a sharp uptick in the number of cyberattacks.
Consequently, freelancers who are knowledgeable about cybersecurity are in high demand.
4 – Web Development and Web Design
With a huge part of business shifting online, web development and design are seeing significant demand.
Now more than ever, company websites need to be flawless and unique to stand out from the competition.
That means now is the time to step up your WordPress game, get to know the newest trends and plugins, and learn how to build a truly stunning website. Going further, learning the foundations of writing markup and coding, or extending your knowledge on the subject, will go a long way towards raising your profile.
5 – Content Creation
Vast numbers of people are stuck at home right now, and they’re hungry for content.
Learning how to write impactful texts for a variety of purposes – blog posts, video scripts, press releases, newsletter campaigns, website copy – is a valuable and marketable addition to your skillset.
The same holds for design and video editing. Visuals are a huge part of marketing, and video is a key trend in marketing in 2020, with platforms like TikTok on the rise.
Whether you hone these skills to expand your own online presence or reach the level at which you can provide services to others, content creation is an essential skill.
6 – SEO
Search engines are the largest source of traffic to business websites.
As a consequence, Search Engine Optimization is crucial to drive organic traffic to your website, increase your visibility, and ensure business success.
Providing high-value content is a major factor in SEO, but building your SEO skills can go much further. Optimizing content, local SEO, and technical SEO all play critical roles in improving your website’s search engine rankings and gaining visibility.
Ultimately, brushing up on your SEO skills won’t just leave you with a much stronger online presence, but also with abilities that are coveted in the job market.
7- Digital and Social Media Marketing
With the corona-induced shift to life online, digital and social media marketing have become critical. Digital marketing experts are highly sought after.
Doing research on crucial digital marketing trends in 2020, and developing your skills accordingly, will put you ahead of the curve. Which are the most prominent (social) media channels in your industry? What are the best strategies to gain an audience there? What sort of content is needed?
Answering these questions can give you the focus and knowledge you need to promote your own business and develop highly marketable skills.
8 – Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
It’s not all about marketing and technology. 2019’s State of the Workplace Report by the Society of Human Resource Management found that almost 40% of employers found the problem solving and critical thinking abilities of candidates to be sub-par.
Creative problem solving is an essential skill for succeeding in the workplace – whether you’re a full-time freelancer running your own business, or working remotely.
Luckily, these skills don’t depend on innate abilities but can be trained and honed through exercises and courses, together with other valuable soft skills.
9 – Emotional Intelligence
Another critical soft skill in high demand on the job market is emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence (EQ) is the ability to be aware of your own emotions, express them appropriately, and control them when necessary. It includes awareness of the emotions of others.
Connecting to people on an emotional level, and establishing rapport is essential in any business relationship. Whether you’re leading a team, interacting with customers, or expanding your network.
Investing time in developing your EQ will show returns in your own business life, and represents a valuable addition to your CV.
Your time is valuable. And using it well, especially during the corona crisis, is essential.
Acquiring skills that are valuable to your business, and that complement your freelance profile, will help you adapt to the post-corona market.
At the end of the day, though, committing to continually expanding your skillset, and adapting to new situations, is the most valuable skill you could possess.