Business ideas for 2013: Freelancing and contracting

The market for outsourcing to experts will grow enormously, so can you make self-employment work for you?

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In the past few years, traditional rules about what constitutes ‘a job’ have been ripped asunder. Flexible working is now the norm, but more recently professionals have been given even more control over how and when they work.

This is good for workers, who feel more in control of their lives, but it’s great for start-up businesses too. Worried about the costs and admin of hiring someone? Then pay a contractor for specific jobs without the hassle of employment law or the worry about where you’ll find the money to pay salaries month-on-month.

Xenios Thrasyvoulou, founder of freelance marketplace PeoplePerHour, says his base of people looking for piecemeal work doubled last year to 370,000 and that growth is likely to continue in 2013.

“People are embracing a new way of work; selling their skills online either as part of the burgeoning five-to-nine economy or because they’ve decided to go it alone and become their own boss,” says Thrasyvoulou.

“A few hours’ work for one client often turns into an ongoing working relationship and freelancing can certainly be a lucrative business. Buyers also benefit from harnessing the power of the crowd. With a large workforce at their fingertips they have access to a huge array of experts – from designers and branding gurus to copywriters – without having to employ them.”

oDesk and Elance are likely to be among the main beneficiaries of the trend and have helped to build a market already worth $1bn. In 2012 Elance saw £13m worth of jobs posted on its site. oDesk meanwhile, has seen 70% year-on-year growth in the UK and has more than 32,000 clients posting 50,000 jobs a quarter. Contractors using the oDesk platform typically increase wages from the site by 190% in the first three years, with $225m earned by workers using the platform in 2011.

By 2020 one in two businesses will be hiring online and one in three people will be working this way, ensuring increased supply and demand. Going freelance, for quality suppliers, just got lucrative.

Published Mar 2013

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