Demand for web development skills is booming for the first time since the dotcom collapse.
A study by the Association of Technology Staffing Companies (Atsco) found that freelance web developers received an average 30% pay rise during 2004 - the largest since the dotcom boom.
Sustained success at Google and eBay has created a more positive environment for investment over the past year, increasing hourly rates for freelance web developers to £26, compared with £20 a year ago.
Ann Swain, chief executive at Atsco, said, "Contractors with those skills should make full use of them because rates are going up by hefty amounts. Permanent staff are in a good position to keep their jobs or find new openings. For people looking to get into web development, there is now work out there and this could be a good time to switch."
The increase in demand for web development skills has been driven by sustained performance of online business channels.
In December consumers spent more than £3bn online, an increase of 20% on the same period last year. And online advertising spend is expected to hit £615m this year, up from £552m in 2004.
In the public sector, the deadline to get all government services online by the end of the year has also boosted demand for web development skills, Swain said.
But she said this would not continue to bolster the market to the same degree. "E-government money will dry up long before everything is finished. The government has been spending in this area but it is not a bottomless pit.
"If Labour gets in again there will continue to be investment, but at a more subdued rate."
Atsco surveyed 4,117 IT professionals for the research. The sample was made up of 30% IT contract, 59% permanent staff and 11% currently not working. The main skills sought in web development are Java, Microsoft's .net, C#, SQL and SQL Server, Swain said.
"A commercial background can add value to your skills. Work in a large corporation on a web project to add more value. Not just a static site, " she said.
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