Small businesses are arguably the engine room of the UK’s economy. Small businesses represent 99% of all private sector businesses and contribute around £1.8 trillion to the economy every year.

To run a successful small business, you need ambition and innovative ideas. But therein lies the challenge. Most small businesses owners don’t have the time or the money to hire skilled people to help turn those innovative ideas into action. Hiring a full-time member of staff is simply too much of a risk, especially in the early stages of a venture.

But what if it didn’t need to be that way? There’s a huge ‘hidden workforce’ in the UK that offers a new, alternative way for small businesses to hire the skills they need to fulfil their potential and kick-start growth in the overall UK economy.

Who Are The Hidden Workforce?

According to IPSE, the body representing freelancers in the UK, there were 287,000 stay at home mums freelancing in the UK in 2015. Add the stay at home dads and there is a considerable number of professionals able to help a small business with a whole range of services. A small business can tap into a wealth of expertise, from marketing to accountancy, without the need or desire for a full-time employment contract and salary.

And it’s not just those with childcare commitments. There are retirees, experts freelancing around a day job, and talented people with disabilities who may find a conventional office job a challenge but still have masses to contribute.

Recent research from IPSE shows that, on average, UK freelancers have up to one week of available time every month for more work. This means that even the most urgent, or specialised of projects need not hold back a small business – there will be a freelancer available to help.

The opportunity for small businesses

This talented hidden workforce could be a massive opportunity for small businesses who are willing to adapt and offer flexible, remote contracts.

It’s likely a stay at home mum providing marketing consultancy around her children will be working in the evenings or at weekends. A father who works from home designing websites will be delivering his finished product by file sharing rather than presenting to you in the office. But by thinking creatively about who your employees are, and where and when they work, businesses can gain immediate access to this pool of professionals from across the whole of the UK.

Added Bonus: More skill for less money

There is an added bonus for hiring ‘hidden’ freelancers for small businesses. Hiring freelancers not only offers small businesses a less-risky option for acquiring skills and getting things done, there is the added bonus of getting more skill for less money, meaning budgets can go much further.

For example, most business owners know a website is essential to remain competitive in today’s marketplace. But a skilled, full time web designer is likely to cost around £40,000 per year in salary and National Insurance contributions.

However, by investing in lots of small specific projects – someone to build the website, someone to promote the website, someone to handle all the enquiries you start to get from the website – you can save a lot of money.

Recruitment fees, national insurance contributions and equipment costs are all wiped off the budget immediately. Instead of £40,000 for a full time worker the cost can come down significantly. Plus, you would get an expert in their field for each specific component.


Author – Gary Elliott

Marketing Director of is the UK’s freelance marketplace, where we believe high quality work deserves a fair price.

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