Small businesses across the UK are becoming increasingly reliant on freelance and self-employed talent as a means of plugging skills gaps, according to a new survey.
Conducted by online staffing platform PeoplePerHour, the poll of 1,000 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) has indicated that 67 per cent are now filling skills shortfalls by harnessing freelance talent from across Europe, taking on 41 hours of freelance work per month on top of their core payroll.
The top outsourced skills include admin, web development and app development, with 62 per cent of SME business managers saying they now work with more freelancers than employees, with teams made up of an average of three employees versus 12 freelancers.
This allows these SMEs to access upwards of 50 different skills, compared to only five to ten delivered by the in-house team alone. As such, 55 per cent of those polled said the ability to plug skills gaps is the main reason for their increased freelance expenditure.
Meanwhile, 37 per cent said increased capacity and flexibility were the most appealing aspects of taking on additional freelancers, while 23 per cent cited the ability to cover extra workloads without having to increase overheads.
As such, 27 per cent of SMEs said they do not believe they would be able to run their business without access to online outsourcing.
Xenios Thrasyvoulou, founder and chief executive officer of PeoplePerHour, said: “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.
“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.”