Technology-fuelled digital disruption will continue to transform the Australian workforce, and the emergence of the peer-to-peer, sharing or ‘gig economy’, as we have come to know it, is one of the fastest growing examples of this.
In the past, freelancers have been constrained by availability and lack of income stability, but now with the help of technology we are seeing a rapid rise in freelance employment opportunities. In addition, this technology is giving power back to freelancers and businesses, enabling workers and employees to be un-restricted by location and demographics.
We recently conducted a study to understand how Australian businesses are using freelancers and found some interesting trends that will benefit both small businesses and freelancers.
The freelance revolution has gained momentum over recent years as traditional work structures are swapped for staffing models with fewer core staff supplemented by experts from the freelancer community.
Our research found that almost three quarters of Australian businesses have been using freelancers for over two years. Interestinglyour research revealed that 70% of Aussie businesses expect to be doing more work with freelancers in the future.
The capabilities of freelancers can provide small businesses the ability to prioritise skills that will best serve the needs of their business. Importantly, the significant growth of freelancer platforms enables businesses to not only gain access to a wider pool of talent, but also allows Australian businesses to access experts from all over the globe.
Through our research, we found that skills in web design, mobile development and programming are skills that are in high demand in Australia. Eight in ten Australian businesses are outsourcing to international freelancers from the US, UK, China and India, to keep up with changing technical skills that their staff may not be specialised in.
With technology breaking down so many barriers for trade, small businesses can look to use this newfound freedom to their advantage by integrating freelancers as a core part of company processes. In doing so, they will have greater capacity to consistently achieve business objectives and remain competitive in the global market.
Our research found that businesses integrating freelancers into their core operations experienced several benefits. Freelancers were able to provide extra resources during busy times, they kept costs and overheads down, and helped in keeping a small business lean, agile and competitive.
Based on our research, here are three tips for small businesses looking to leverage freelancers.
- Prioritise skills over fees
When it comes to selecting a freelancer, it is important to ensure you are getting the most value out of your investment.
Businesses who are using freelancers effectively are prioritising skillset and project experience over fees and years of experience when selecting freelancers.
- Take advantage of freelance platforms to find the right fit
Sometimes finding the right talent can be difficult, but technology has made it easier than ever for businesses to find larger pools of talent to choose from.
We found that freelance platforms are most effective when it comes to finding contract workers, followed by employment agencies, word of mouth, and online portfolios and websites.
Of the two thirds of Aussie businesses that have used a freelancing platform, there preferred platform is Freelancer.com, followed by Fiverr and Shutterstock.
- Optimise payment processes to make your business attractive to freelancers
Knowing how to manage payments is a key factor to attracting (and in some cases retaining) the right talent.
Over three quarters of businesses using freelancing platforms pay directly through the freelancer platform and the majority use PayPal.
From our research we know that security, low fees and ease of use are most important for businesses when paying freelancers, followed by fraud protection and customer service.
Payment security is the number one driver for freelancer payment and businesses looking to tap into freelancing must invest in secure payment platforms to remain attractive to freelance workers.
Brian McDonnell, Director, Mid-Market and Small Business Segments, PayPal Australia