AI expert is a hot new position in the freelance jobs market

By: Kate Morgan

Vlad Hu began his
career as a software engineer and eventually founded his own software agency,
but over the past year, the big work opportunity has been freelance artificial
intelligence expert gigs. Hu isn’t alone. The rise of generative AI is rapidly
reshaping the freelance tech job market, with AI-related job posts from
employers and searches among job seekers surging across career and freelance
job platforms, including LinkedIn, Upwork and Fiverr. 

Three years ago,
becoming an AI expert would involve “deep knowledge in machine learning
algorithms, deep learning AI in general, and a lot of technical things,” said
Hu, who works through Fiverr on chatbot implementation projects.

According to data from
Indeed, generative AI-related job posts have increased on its platform nearly
250% from July 2021 to July 2023.

According to LinkedIn —
which is owned by Microsoft, OpenAI’s primary investment backer — since the
large language model first broke through with the public in November 2022, LinkedIn
member searches on gen AI terms continue to grow. Since early April, the number
of U.S. LinkedIn member posts mentioning gen AI keywords has increased 25%
month over month. By June, AI keywords like “ChatGPT,” “prompt engineering,”
and “prompt crafting,” were being added to profiles 15 times more frequently
than at the beginning of the year.

“Many companies are
exploring ways to integrate AI into their business platforms and working with
skilled freelance developers,” said a Fiverr spokeswoman.

Hu said businesses
interested in introducing a ChatGPT or similar AI bot to an app often contact
him to understand the technology. Fiverr also has seen an explosion of interest
in AI-related video creation over the past six months, according to the
spokeswoman, as well as hiring firms searching for AI app development

Demand for AI freelance
experts should continue to grow, according to LinkedIn, with a June survey it
conducted among executives finding that 44% in the U.S. intend to expand their
use of AI technologies in the next year; 47% say they expect it will increase

“AI is already driving
changes in the workforce,” wrote Dr. Karin Kimbrough, chief economist at
LinkedIn, in a recent 
report which found just under half of executives
say AI will increase productivity. “In the past year, we’ve seen professionals
globally adopting AI skills at a rapid rate; this is happening in parallel with
employers increasingly looking for talent with knowledge of how to effectively
use new AI technologies to enhance productivity in their organizations.”

There is opportunity
for freelancers expert in AI to take advantage of the lack of AI skills among
existing industry professionals, across sectors of the economy. In the U.S. job
market, for example, what LinkedIn classifies as the technology, information,
and media sector has the most members proficient in AI, at just 2.2%. Other
industries are experiencing rapid adoption of AI core competencies, including
retail and financial services, but off a very low base percentage of current
employees who are proficient.

Freelance job platform
Upwork, which recently signed a deal with OpenAI to connect businesses with experts
familiar with its large language models, says the total number of AI skills
being marketed by experts is upwards of 250. According to Margaret Lilani,
Upwork’s vice president of talent solutions, although there are multiple
pathways to AI consulting, a strong foundation in computer science, knowledge
of machine learning algorithms, proficiency in programming languages like
Python, or experience in data management and analysis are often needed across
job tasks. 

Many AI experts also
have related college degrees or experience, such as a bachelor’s or master’s
degree in fields including computer science or engineering. Even so,
“ultimately landing work within the AI space comes down to showcasing that you
have the skills, ability and expertise to take on a particular project,” Lilani

At online learning
company Udacity, there has been an increase of 33% over the past year in
interest for AI-based courses — deep learning, AI programming with python, AI
for trading, machine learning DevOps engineer, computer vision, and natural
language processing among the in-demand courses. “To meet this demand,
roughly 20% of our current content development roadmap includes Generative AI
and Generative AI-related content,” said Victoria Papalian, general manager of
Udacity’s consumer division.

For those not yet in
the job market and interested in the AI field, Lilani suggests getting an early
start by taking classes in computer science. She says a foundation will be
built in the programming languages needed for AI expertise, especially for high
school students looking to become familiar with the building blocks of many AI
fields. She added that independent methods of education, including YouTube
videos or blogs focused on AI skills, are becoming more sought after in the workforce. Learning
new concepts and tools like ChatGPT will become important as all types of
professionals across industries advance in their careers.  

Hu said to start with
the basics, including use of OpenAI tools, like ChatGPT, ChatGPT API, Dall-E,
and davinci. But he added that proficiency in these areas of AI is just
the start. Spending time determining how to use these tools in business is
critical. AI’s value is limited by a user’s application of the technology, so
knowledge needs to be supplemented with intention for its use. “It’s how
you bridge the gap with the real world problem that really matters,” Hu

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