The Emerging World of Online Contract Work

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The Emerging World of Online Contract Work

As we discussed in the previous trend this month, The B2B Sharing Economy, businesses are profiting by using online platforms to share office space, equipment, and in some cases, their patents. An extension of this trend is the emergence of talented professionals who use online platforms to share their talent among several companies.

There are several freelance platforms, including Guru,, oDesk, and vWorker, but the largest is Elance, a privately held company that operates in more than 170 countries. It enables millions of entrepreneurs, companies, and freelance workers to connect through its online workplace.

Freelancers—including software engineers, application developers, Web and graphic designers, copywriters, market researchers, data scientists, social media marketers, customer service agents and other business professionals—can find temporary work at companies for a single project. The employer—which can be anything from a small start-up to a multinational corporation—can then decide whether to renew the contract with the freelancer or part ways.

A study last year by independent research firm Imperative found that Elance's network of online professionals increased 52 percent over the previous year and hiring by businesses on Elance went up by 60 percent.1

In 2013, 441,000 new businesses joined the platform, 1,214,000 new jobs were posted, and 1,153,000 new freelancers enrolled.2

Overall, it has more than 500,000 companies and two million freelancers, who earned a total of $285 million in 2013.

This arrangement provides benefits to both the businesses and the freelancers.

Using online contract workers gives companies flexibility. They can easily scale up or down to take advantage of new opportunities or to match rising and falling demand. While it takes an average of 23 days for companies to hire a new employee, it only takes 3.3 days, on average, to hire a contract worker on Elance.

Eighty-five percent of companies believe that hiring freelance talent online gives them a competitive advantage. For that reason, three-quarters of the companies surveyed expected to hire more freelancers in the year ahead.

For the freelancers, online work provides a higher volume of job opportunities. According to the Imperative study, the average Elance freelancer receives an average of 5.7 new job opportunities per month.

Another benefit for freelancers is a higher level of job satisfaction. Sixty-nine percent are happier when freelancing versus working at a traditional on-site job. On average, freelancers enjoy 28 more personal days than they did when working in a corporate environment...

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