A recent survey by digital freelance marketplace PeoplePerHour found that 67% of SMEs are now using freelance talent to fulfil roles in their company.

A Week of Freelance Work a Monthfreelancer survey

The survey of 1,000 MEs found that on average, they are paying for 41 hours of freelance work a month – the equivalent of a full-time week.

62% of SME managers said now work with more freelancers than employees. An ‘average’ team is made up of 12 freelancers and just 3 employees, and it’s not unusual for those teams to consist of workers from abroad. 21% of the SMEs surveyed said they have workers from at least three different continents in their team.

“Ten years ago, the majority of businesses cited local staff as their main source of employees, now the majority cite freelancers as their main source of hiring,” said PeoplePerHour founder Xenios Thrasyvoulou.

PeoplePerHour estimates that this change in the team dynamic may mean SMEs can access around 50 different skills – whereas a locally-recruited team of employees may only be able to offer 5 to 10. Admin, web development and app development were the tasks most commonly outsourced by SMEs.

The Appeal of Freelancers

So why are SMEs increasingly turning to freelancers? What’s the appeal? The survey results do seem to back up PeoplePerHour’s finding about skillsets.

  • 55% said they hire freelancers to complete tasks their team – or local workers – lack the skills for.
  • 37 % cited greater capacity and flexibility in their team.
  • 27% said online outsourcing was simply crucial to the running of their business.
  • 23% said that hiring freelancers enabled them to cope with extra workload without increasing overheads.
  • 13% sad it allowed them to access skilled workers without incurring recruitment fees.

“‘Self-employed and freelance workers make an enormous contribution, not just to SMEs and the wider business world, but to the whole of the UK economy,” said Xenios Thrasyvoulou.

“In allowing businesses to access niche skills without the expense and trouble of recruiting a permanent employee, it could be argued that the freelancer is the real grist to the mill of British business. It’s time that we stopped underestimating the benefits that they bring.”