British small businesses using more independent workers

At Net:Work last December Gene Zaino, the president and CEO of MBO Partners, made a bold prediction based on his firm’s research: Independent workers will be the majority in the U.S. by 2020.

Whether Zaino’s estimate of exactly when freelancers and independent professionals will outnumber regular employees proves correct, the general trend toward a rise in the number of independent workers is hard to deny. Online platforms connecting these pros to contract-based work are flourishing, and media chatter about the so-called “gig economy” is growing steadily louder. But is what is true in America also true abroad? Are other countries experiencing the same rise in the percentage of workers going independent?

A new piece of evidence suggests that freelancers are a growing part of the economy in the U.K. as well, at least when it comes to the small-business sector. Online labor platform recently polled 1,300 British small businesses about their use of freelance talent. The survey found:

  • Eighty percent of responding businesses said freelancing had become more common in the UK small-business community over the past year.
  • Thirty-two percent of respondents had started using freelancers for the first time in the past six months.
  • Forty-one percent of respondents planned to increase freelance hiring over the next 12 months, compared with 16 percent who plan to hire more in-house staff.
  • Thirty-three percent reported they now use freelancers on a weekly basis.

The release accompanying the survey also points out that the trend has been good for PeoplePerHour specifically, with total registered users doubling from 120,000 to more than 240,000 over the past year.

The technology changes that are enabling businesses in the U.S. to take advantage of independent workers are just as present in the U.K., as are strong economic pressures on businesses to cut costs and maintain agility, so the findings are hardly surprising. Nonetheless, the survey is interesting as a confirmation that these trends are affecting workers and organizations across the Atlantic as well.

Image courtesy of Flickr user C.G.P.Grey