SMEs increasingly rely on freelancers

Thursday 22 August 2013

New research has revealed that small businesses are increasingly turning to freelancers and contractors to provide vital experience.

Although the study by was carried out in Australia, the results are based on the 8.4 million independent professionals globally who secure work through the site. This means the trends are worldwide and could easily be taking place across the UK.

Analysis of more than 300,000 jobs posted to the site in the second quarter of 2013 found that businesses are increasingly trying to innovate their way to the top of the market. This rapid pace of technological change is leaving small businesses at a disadvantage as they often do not have the staff with enough time or experience to lead the charge for change.

However, the poll found that SMEs are getting around this by increasingly leaning on contractors and freelancers. While traditionally freelancers have been used to provide peripheral support, the research suggests they are now providing core business functions.

It found that SMEs are outsourcing key business tasks such as accounting, report writing and even creating powerpoint presentations. In quarter two, there was a 23.3 per cent increase on the previous three months in small businesses looking for accounting services from a previous total of 888 jobs. Report writing increased by 20.5 per cent from 1,535 roles.

Perhaps most surprising is the 35 per cent rise in the demand for people to create Powerpoint presentations, from a total of 1,499 jobs. These require in-depth knowledge of the business, the person the Powerpoint is for and the audience. It’s clear, therefore, that these are not side-projects given to anyone, but tasks carefully assigned.

This is further supported by the fact the ‘throwaway’ projects being outsourced are falling. Copywriting, ghostwriting and PDF conversions that require little to no inside knowledge have fallen by 13.5, 11.8 and 38.1 per cent respectively.

"2013 will be viewed as a year of unprecedented disruption, with tectonic shifts in the design and manufacturing industries as they struggle to adapt to the unstoppable rise of crowdsourcing and 3D printing," chief executive officer Matt Barrie explained.

"But with disruption comes opportunity, and over the next couple of months there is a unique window for any entrepreneur with an innovative business model to build a billion-dollar company."

Indeed, the report also found that SMEs are turning to freelancers rather than local agencies for design projects. This is likely down, as Mr Barrie explained, to the massive explosion in the importance of online content which hinges on good design.

However, the findings also suggest that the rising fees charged by design agencies are forcing small companies to look to freelancers and shop around for the best deal.

With the rise of the online industry, small limited companies and self-employed are now teaming up to work together in a way that was never previously possible. Freelancers are increasingly being treated as important suppliers or even business partners, and this is a trend that is only likely to continue as the demand for online services rises.

By Victoria McDonnell

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