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Freelancers are filling skills gaps for SMEs

Small businesses are increasingly relying on freelance talent to provide flexible and skilled labour, according to a new survey.

A new study by PeoplePerHour polled 1,000 UK small businesses and found that 67% are now filling skills gaps within their company by harnessing freelance talent from all over Europe.

The findings show that small businesses actually work with more freelancers than employees by a 4:1 ratio; on average, small businesses are commissioning 41 hours of freelance help every month.

Almost a quarter (23%) of SMEs say that freelancers enable them to cover extra workload without having to increase overheads; 55% say the main reason for using freelancers is that they can fill positions that local applicants lack the skills for.

Other reasons for outsourcing include:

  • 37% said it gave them increased capacity and flexibility;
  • 27% said that they simply wouldn't be able to run their business without online outsourcing;
  • 13% said freelancers enabled them to access skilled workers without incurring recruitment fees.

As a result, 62% of SME managers say that they now work with more freelancers than employees, with the average team comprising three employees and twelve freelancers. And 21% of small business managers say their team is made up of workers from at least three different continents. The top outsourced skills are administration, web development and app development.

Xenios Thrasyvoulou, PeoplePerHour Founder and CEO, said: "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. This turnaround has been rapid and the change has taken some by surprise … 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."

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