Image by Horia VarlanA recent survey conducted by freelance marketplace []( reveals how the recession has affected small businesses’ approach to flexible hiring, and how these businesses will in turn adjust to the post-recession era. Results show that the freelance economy has been an ‘ace’ for small-businesses during the recession whilst there is also conclusive evidence that small businesses intend to adopt the flexible hiring method for the long run.

The survey, carried out over’s 73,000+ user database, is one of the most extensive ever to be conducted on the UK small business sector. More than 360 small businesses responded to the survey during the last three months between May and July 2010.

### A summary of the key findings is as follows:

#### The Internet is taking an instrumental role in new generation startups.

Small businesses have shown remarkable dexterity in embracing new technologies in order to remain flexible and efficient:

* Almost 1 in 5 small businesses now sell their products/services entirely online whilst 37% operate entirely virtually
* Online media and the blogosphere have surpassed traditional media as the main source of news and information for small businesses
* 35% state that an increase in flexible hiring has constituted the main change in their business in the last 2 years.

* IT/Web development in particular is a sector in which small businesses are focusing on, with the majority now choosing to fill in-house IT/Web roles with highly skilled freelancers.
* 38% are planning on increasing their use of freelancers for IT/Web development. Only 1% plans to reduce it.
* 31% site Web Design as the most sought out IT skill required in their business
* 54% of businesses are currently filling in-house IT/web roles with freelancers.
* 52% prefer to use UK-based freelancers for their IT as opposed to offshore

### Freelance trends

#### As the flexible working method shifts from a fad to a long term solution for small businesses, experience and quality replace cost as the crucial factors employers are now looking for.

* 1 in 2 small businesses now use freelancers more often compared with 2 years ago
* 58% prefer local freelancers to offshore
* 52% site ‘experience’ as the most important criterion in their decision of allocating their project
* An estimated 50% of small businesses now use freelancers at least monthly, with 58% of respondents citing quick access to specialist skills as the principal reason
* 56% of small businesses believe that what is still missing from the freelance community are ways of distinguishing quality freelancers

In summary, the results highlighted above ignite a general sense of optimism, and in particular for the freelance economy. Small businesses are increasingly entrusting freelancers for various jobs, with monthly earnings of the top freelancers on PPH growing tenfold in the last 12 months and now averaging over £2,000 per month for the most active. In fact, 60% reveal that they get repeat business as well.


Image by [Horia Varlan]( ~ [cc](