Jacob Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Vlad Hu started his career as a software engineer and eventually founded his own software agency, but over the past year, freelance artificial intelligence expert gigs have become a major work opportunity. Hu is not alone. The rise of generative AI is rapidly reshaping the freelance tech job market, with an increase in AI-related job posts from employers and job seekers on career and freelance job platforms including LinkedIn, Upwork and Fiverr.
Three years ago, becoming an AI expert would involve “deep knowledge of machine learning algorithms, deep knowledge of AI in general, and a lot of technical stuff,” said Hu, who worked through Fiverr on chatbot implementation projects.
According to Indeed, generative AI-related job postings on its platform increased by nearly 250% between July 2021 and July 2023.
According to LinkedIn — which is owned by Microsoft, OpenAI’s primary investment backer — since the large language model first became public in November 2022, LinkedIn member searches for gen AI terms have been on the rise. Since the beginning of April, the number of posts from US LinkedIn members mentioning the gen AI keyword has increased by 25% month over month. By June, AI keywords such as “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 looking for ways to integrate AI into their business platforms and are working with skilled freelance developers,” said a Fiverr spokesperson.
Hu said businesses interested in introducing ChatGPT or similar AI bots on the app approach him to understand the technology. Fiverr has seen increased interest in AI-related video creation over the past six months, according to a spokesperson, as well as hiring companies looking for AI app development experts.
Demand for AI freelance experts should continue to grow, according to LinkedIn, a survey conducted in June showed that 44% in the US intend to increase their use of AI technology in the next year; 47% say they expect productivity to increase.
LinkedIn Chief Economist Dr. “AI is already transforming the workforce,” Caryn Kimbrough wrote in a recent report, saying AI will increase productivity. “Over the past year, we’ve seen professionals adopt AI skills at a rapid pace globally; this is happening in parallel with employers looking for talent with the knowledge of how to effectively use new AI technologies to increase productivity in their organizations.”
Freelancer experts in AI have an opportunity to capitalize on the shortage of AI skills among current industry professionals, across various sectors of the economy. In the US job market, for example, the largest number of members classified as LinkedIn technology, information and media sectors are skilled in AI, at just 2.2%. Other industries are rapidly adopting AI core capabilities, including retail and financial services, but the current workforce is woefully understaffed.
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 many ways to get into AI consulting, jobs often require a strong foundation in computer science, knowledge of machine learning algorithms, proficiency in programming languages like Python, or experience with data management and analytics.
Many AI experts also have relevant college degrees or experience, such as a bachelor’s or master’s degree in computer science or engineering. Even so, “ultimately getting into the AI space comes down to demonstrating that you have the skills, ability and expertise to take on a particular project,” Leilani said.
At online learning company Udacity, there has been a 33% increase over the past year for AI-based courses — deep learning, AI programming with Python, AI for trading, machine learning DevOps engineer, computer vision and natural language processing among demanding courses. “To meet this demand, roughly 20% of our current content development roadmap includes generative AI and generative AI-related content,” said Victoria Paplian, general manager of Udacity’s consumer division.
For those not yet in the job market and interested in the AI field, Leilani suggests starting early by taking computer science classes. She says it will create a foundation in programming languages necessary for AI skills, especially for high school students looking to become familiar with the building blocks of many AI fields. She added that independent methods of learning, including YouTube videos or blogs focused on AI skills, are finding more in the workforce. Learning new concepts and tools like ChatGPT will become important as professionals of all types advance in their careers.
Hu suggested starting with the basics, including using OpenAI tools like ChatGPT, ChatGPT API, Dall-E, and davinci. But he added that mastery in these areas of AI is just the beginning. It is important to spend time deciding how to use these tools in business. The value of AI is limited by the user’s application of the technology, so knowledge must be complemented by the intended use. “It’s how you bridge the gap in a real-world problem that really matters,” Hu said.