Now, small businesses balance their staff with freelancers. A recent study done by UpWork.com and the Freelancers Union found that around 57 million Americans were working as freelancers as of 2019. This makes up about 36 percent of the U.S. workforce and amounts to $1.4 trillion in earnings.
The term “gig economy” has often been used to describe this new demand; however, it has become clear that contract employment is simply part of a new reality for the entire U.S economy. Technology and its use in business have made it more convenient than ever for freelancers and companies to work together. The above study also estimates that, at its current growth rate, the majority of the U.S. workforce will be working in some freelance capacity by 2027.
This shift provides an excellent opportunity for small businesses to maximize their workforce. Instead of competing with large companies who have endless resources at their disposal, small businesses can utilize freelancers to find top talent without hurting their budget. A recent survey by Linkedin found that 70 percent of small businesses have hired a freelancer in the past, with half of these being within the past 3 months. Also, 81 percent of these businesses plan to hire more freelancers in the near future.
There are several ways freelance workers can benefit a small business. To help give a clearer picture, this article will outline some of the most impactful reasons.
How Do Small Businesses Utilize Freelancers?
Before we cover the benefits of freelancers, it’s essential to know where contract work is typically most effective. The following industries maximize their potential by seeking out contract employees that can supplement their workforce.
Freelance opportunities in this industry are by far the most common. In 2018, 43 percent of small businesses reported the need to hire a website or an application designer, and 34 percent of small businesses reported the need to hire a web developer.
This is the second most utilized skill for freelancers. In 2018, 37 percent of small businesses reported hiring a freelance accountant within the year.
Art and Design.
Opportunities in this space include graphic design, interior design, and commercial art. Graphic design is the most common, with around 28 percent of small businesses hiring a graphic designer within the past year.
Retail Sales and Marketing.
The retail world has changed drastically in the last several years. Because of this, more and more small businesses are looking for ways to maximize their online presence. Freelance content writers, copy editors, social media specialists, project managers, and marketing coordinators are more in demand than ever. LinkedIn’s survey found that 35 percent of the retail workforce was made up of freelancer workers in 2018.
With the emergence of online public schools, the demand for online teachers has significantly increased. There are currently over a billion people learning English globally. This need creates an abundance of opportunities for freelance educators.
We may not typically think of the healthcare industry as a place for freelance work, but there are several specialized positions in this field for freelancers. Web-based options include virtual pharmacists, clinical medical writers and researchers, and drug safety associates.
The above list gives an overview of where contract workers typically find the most opportunities, but this by no means covers them all. If you are a small business in need of an expert in any field, freelance work can be an excellent option for your company. But how can freelancers benefit small businesses? Below we will review these effects in-depth to show why small businesses balance their staff with this talent.
How are Freelancers Effective?
Here’s why small businesses balance their staff with freelancers:
Enhance Internal Expertise
Small businesses can typically only employ a small staff due to financial constraints. The best and the brightest in each field may be out of reach for most small businesses. Because of this, internal team members may have a limited skill set.
Since a strong team has a significant impact on the overall success of any business, those with limited hiring power can find the expertise they need through freelance workers. This massive pool of specialists can help companies create a team of workers with various skillsets and backgrounds.
Additionally, an experienced freelance worker will require very little training or managing. Since most freelancers have worked in a variety of positions within their industry, they are more likely to understand the ins and outs of most assignments and can get started with very little oversight.
The flexibility involved in freelance work tends to work well for both businesses and workers. In fact, 77 percent of full-time freelancers say the main draw of freelance work comes from the flexibility it affords them. But workers are not the only ones that benefit from this flexibility.
With freelance workers, businesses have the freedom to reach out only when freelance services are needed. In contrast, an in-house employee must be continuously supplied with work to optimize costs.
Hiring and training a new employee takes time. Interviewing, running background checks, completing the necessary paperwork, and training the employee could take months. That means considerable time and money spent before the employee hits their peak productivity levels. When a pressing issue or project comes up, this can be terribly inconvenient. Additionally, rapid business growth will demand that companies take on help more quickly.
With hiring freelance workers, this is not an issue. Contract workers have less paperwork to complete, and, beyond looking into their experience, no background check is necessary. This allows freelancers to get to work right away, ensuring your company meets its needs faster and stays within budget. When business growth is rapid, freelancers help companies ensure they don’t grow beyond what the business can afford.
Many online platforms now offer freelancers a place to advertise their skills and experience. In fact, 71 percent of freelancers say the amount of work they were able to attract online has increased over the last several years.
These resources make it easy and convenient for freelancers and companies to come together. Some of these sites will even screen and verify work history, which takes the guesswork out of hiring and assigning projects.
Maintaining Budget and Reducing Risk
As mentioned above, hiring a seasoned employee can be costly. Many small businesses don’t have the budget to offer experienced workers a full-time salary. In addition to salary, medical benefits, paid time off, sick leave, and training can also come with a big price tag.
However, small businesses no longer have to yield skilled workers to large companies. With freelance help, organizations can hire top talent in their industry, without the long-term financial commitment that comes with an in-house employee. The added cost of medical benefits and training are eliminated with contract work since these freelancers are not entitled to benefits. Businesses are also not required to pay taxes, Social Security, or Medicare for contract workers.
The convenience of freelance workers also reduces the risk businesses take when hiring talent. If a new hire does not meet expectations, companies have to take proper steps before removing them. This costs additional time and money. If a freelance worker falls short of demands, the company can simply sunset the engagement.
Many small businesses and startups operate with limited office space. Since commercial rent, desks, and computer setups are costly, this may be another expense companies can cut. If space is sparse, there will often be the issue of where to house new employees. With a freelancer, this is never an issue. Since most contract workers operate remotely, a small business can get an experienced worker without additional overhead.
Small Businesses Balance Their Staff with Freelancers
As you can see, it makes sense that more small businesses balance their staff with freelancers. When hiring in-house employees, businesses are limited to those in their geographical location. Since many startups are not able to pay for talent to relocate, they must only look within their region for new hires. Opening your business up to a pool of freelance workers helps create a global and virtual network of experts that is always in reach.
Every small business will have to decide when it is right to hire an in-house employee or when a freelancer worker will fit the bill. However, it is best to keep an open mind when it comes to contract employees. Many online resources make it easier than ever to communicate and connect with experts in every field. The flexibility freelancers provide may be the boost your business needs to succeed.