When you think of hiring a freelancer, what kind of jobs come to mind? Many people think of administrative support tasks, or overflow work like handling customer service calls. Although it’s a smart use of freelance talent, more companies are utilizing freelancers for mission-critical tasks, from creating new revenue streams to building an entire company.

How companies really use freelance help

Meet growth needs on a tight budget

When San Francisco-based startup, Instapage, experienced rapid growth, they needed more engineers, designers, and customer support specialists. But competition and costs for local talent were prohibitive, so the company turned to the talent cloud through Upwork.

Tyson Quick, CEO and co-founder of Instapage, says, “Engaging freelancers outside of the Bay Area let us stay competitive because we can’t always find the top-quality people here. And the cost savings let us continue to grow the company with a lot less capital.”

As the company grew, they continued using a hybrid model. Not only did this help them maintain a high-quality product, it saved them nearly $2.3M annually. The savings was reinvested into marketing and product development, which helped fuel growth.

Fill skills gaps, especially for flexible access to in-demand skills

Companies surveyed in Upwork’s Future Workforce Report say one of the top benefits of using freelancers is finding skills that match their need (39%). That was the case for Vivino, the world’s most downloaded wine-pairing app.

In its early days, the founders wanted to create the biggest wine database in the world, but they realized they couldn’t find the talent they needed in Denmark, where the company is based.

The founders built a prototype by engaging two freelance mobile app developers through Upwork. The prototype helped secure funding, which the founders used to hire a small, core staff and engage freelance experts for other projects. They engaged a range of talent from mobile app developers and QA teams to data entry experts, content writers, and translators. They also turn to freelancers when they need highly specialized talent, such as image recognition.

Scale productivity

What’s the number one benefit of freelance help? Companies report it’s the ability to scale up or down as needed (40%). That was the case for Upwork when the company underwent a huge rebranding campaign in 2015. The campaign doubled the number of creative projects across twice the number of channels, which meant the five-person creative team needed a lot of help keeping up with the rebranding projects. They also needed help supporting new, company-wide initiatives.

The creative team used the Upwork website to build a hybrid design team with freelancers and agencies. Hybrid teams are a mix of employees and freelancers where full-time employees handle core strategy and freelancers help execute specific projects. By building hybrid teams, the lean creative group accessed marketing and creative skills they didn’t have in-house, such as videographers and mobile web developers. The flexibility of freelancers also enabled the group to scale the team up or down as needed.

New think: focus on the skills you need, not the project size

As the examples show above, contingent workers can help in a variety of ways. Sure, they’re great for the typical smaller tasks, such as updating a spreadsheet or whipping out a last-minute press release. Freelancers are also ideal for larger, more complex tasks.

A fast-growing trend involves utilizing freelancers to form rapid prototype teams. This is where a business unit collaborates directly with freelance experts such as a designer or mobile front-end developer. Their goal: take ideas from concept through functional prototype within weeks, if not days.

Contingent workers aren’t just a cost-effective way for your teams to get the talent they need. Freelancers are often more skilled too. Partly because their expertise is their business, it’s what they do every day.

If you brainstorm all the use cases where freelancers can help you get more done, you’ll probably find you’re underutilizing this workforce.

Remember, don’t limit your team’s potential by worrying about the size of the project. The new workforce model is to think about the work you want done and the talent you need to complete it, because the experts are out there.