Freelancers working online are happier and more productive than workers in traditional onsite jobs, a new report shows.

Wednesday 29 May 2013

Freelancers choosing to work online tend to be happier and more productive in their work than their counterparts in onsite jobs, according to a new report.

The first Annual Impact Report from online freelancing platform Élance shows that more than two-thirds of freelancers are happier working online than they are when working traditional onsite jobs. Seven out of ten also said they are more productive than they were when they worked in corporate environments - which is probably related to the fact that freelancers enjoy an average of 28 more days off than their counterparts working as employees.

Flexibility, higher rates and the variety of the projects on offer are often cited as the biggest attractions of freelance work, and two out of three freelancers said they expected to earn more money this year. It certainly seems that there are plenty of opportunities to choose from: the average freelancer is able to take their pick from 5.8 new jobs each month.

As a result, freelance workers are forming wider professional networks that may well benefit them in the future - full-time freelancers formed 8.2 new relationships on average as a result of joining an online work platform.

The report investigates the effect of the growth of online freelancing on both flexible workers and corporations on the key criteria of opportunity, productivity, happiness, community, flexibility and equality. In each of these respects, turning to the expertise of self-employed professionals brings benefits for businesses as well as freelancers.

As many as three-quarters of companies said that they planned to hire more independent workers over the course of this year, while an even higher proportion of 85 per cent believe that engaging freelancers online gives them an edge over their competitors.

Finding the right skills quickly is clearly a motivating factor for firms - the average time to fill a vacancy via Élance is less than four days compared to 23 days using a conventional recruitment process, and the report also shows that companies can make significant financial savings. But ultimately, companies are driven to the Internet to find the best talent without any geographical restrictions.

Unsurprisingly, the bulk of freelancers working online are in the creative industries, with writing the most popular role. Workers with experience in administration and the marketing sector are also represented online, but it seems appropriate that the other contractors who are showing the most interest in online working are programmers and web designers. Since IT contractors are among the most highly sought freelance workers, the figures are a clear indication that online networking is seen as a fruitful means of finding work.

But freelancing online is becoming a viable option for a more diverse range of contractors, with a 153 per cent increase in the number of freelancers using their skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics online.

“Work has profound positive impacts beyond the traditional economic dimensions,” said Fabio Rosati, Élance president and chief executive. “This report illustrates some of the impacts of online work to highlight the life-changing economic and social value being created by millions of entrepreneurs, companies and freelance workers who connect through our online workplace.”

By Victoria McDonnell

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