Business is booming for online freelancers

Tuesday 27 August 2013

Freelancers who find work online are enjoying a boom period, new research shows, as it has emerged that the number of UK firms hiring freelancers via the web has rocketed by 51 per cent.

Online work platform Elance says that in its latest Global Online Employment Report, it found that payments from companies to freelancers also shot up by as much as 47 per cent compared to the previous year.

Perhaps unsurprisingly for an online medium, it was IT skills which appeared to be the most highly sought. Just over one in three freelancers recruited in this way worked in the IT sector, while over the first half of this year, more than half of all jobs posted on Elance’s site were in this field.

In particular, cybersecurity appears to be a top priority for many businesses - around the world, demand for networking and security skills rose by a spectacular 300 per cent. However, the need for mobile app developers rose by a striking 62 per cent and software developers saw demand rise by 49 per cent, indicating that a range of technical skills are still crucial for companies who do not have the competence or capacity in-house.

Design and multimedia freelancers belonged to the second largest category, which accounted for 25 per cent of all hires, while writers and translators could lay claim to 23 per cent of the appointments made through the online channel.

A number of sectors demonstrated increasing rates of pay, too, which were not always in line with the number of vacancies being advertised. For example, IT and programming disciplines actually posted one of the smallest rates of pay inflation - although at 40 per cent, this was not inconsiderable in itself. Instead, writing and translation posted the highest increase in earnings year-on-year of 80 per cent, while sales and marketing and finance and management followed on 70 per cent.

Businesses appear to see clear advantages to finding freelance talent online. Nearly nine out of ten companies said they actually gained an advantage over the competitors as a result, while 45 per cent said it offered them the freedom to expand into new markets.

“For some, this is about managing short-term demand for talent and de-risking growth, but it’s also evident that for tens of thousands of UK businesses, retaining freelancers as an integral part of their talent mix is becoming an essential strategy,” says Kjetil Olsen, Elance vice president for Europe.

The quality of the workers available through the Internet was also confirmed, as 87 per cent said that the talent they find online is either as good or better as that which they can find locally. Since 70 per cent also said they hired online freelancers to fill existing skills gaps, it seems that being able to access talent from around the world can be beneficial in the face of local and regional shortfalls. For those freelancers who are successful in obtaining contracts, it is likely that long-term working relationships will be the result - half of businesses said they would hire freelancers to work on more than one project.

By Victoria McDonnell

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