Companies look to hire more freelancers

Monday 30 September 2013

Six out of ten companies expect to hire more freelance talent in the coming 12 months, according to a new report from Tower Lane which indicates continuing demand for independent workers.

In the study for freelancing website Elance, the consultancy firm found that contractors and self-employed professionals can add real value to an organisation. Indeed, three-quarters of companies surveyed said they used freelancers because they needed to utilise different skill sets at different times, demonstrating the flexibility that freelancers can give a business in order to meet specific and changing demands. Of course this means they can also deploy their budgets more efficiently - half of firms said they engaged the services of independent workers so they could save on the costs of hiring permanent staff.

Contractors are already aware of the seismic shift in the business world towards the flexibility of freelance talent. Tower Lane explains that volatile business markets mean that permanent staff are not always viable, since specific skills may not be in demand for lengthy periods: nearly nine out of ten firms hired contractors for projects lasting less than a year. Three-quarters of businesses said they turned to freelancers to close different skills gaps as and when they arose, while for 90 per cent, individual departments made the decision to hire a contractor depending on their own specific needs. Specialist expertise, then, is the driving force behind freelancer recruitment.

Though this can make the market for self-employed professionals less secure, it does suggest that there will be a greater variety in the opportunities that become available, giving contractors who seek diversity in their projects plenty of new roles to consider. As some doors close, it is likely that others will open.

But for many companies, getting access to the right flexible workers is still difficult. Nearly four out of ten said they did not feel they could find suitably qualified freelancers and a fifth said this was actually the biggest challenge they faced. However, every company involved in the study referred to difficulties in finding, hiring and managing independent talent, which perhaps explains why nearly half of those surveyed said they used third-party recruiters to find talent with the right skill set for them.

For many contractors, the survey will highlight the importance of a proactive approach to hunting for work. Companies are struggling to find the right skills, although they are clearly out there - meaning that contractors who are willing to go directly to businesses and contact them about opportunities could just get lucky. But at the same time, the study illustrates the significance of maintaining visibility - being as searchable as possible both online and through recruiters could allow contractors to reap the rewards.

Interestingly, the US-based study showed that sales and marketing freelancers were the most sought-after, with six out of ten firms seeking these skills. This contrasts with the UK where, although sales is a popular discipline, it is hard to find a sector with stronger demand for contractors than the IT and engineering industries. Even so, both of these disciplines made it into the top five, with IT skills in second place - sought by a third of businesses - and engineering and manufacturing skills coming in fourth with 29 per cent. Design and multimedia talent was targeted by another three out of ten firms, while the top five was completed by a quarter of companies seeking writers or translators.


By Victoria McDonnell

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