Do global freelance marketplaces fit the needs of UK businesses?

Is the global freelance model, where you can source freelancers from every corner of the world, suitable for small businesses in the UK? Gary Elliott discusses.

The rise of the gig economy has made outsourcing projects to remote freelancers commonplace for today’s modern business. And research by Oxford University shows this employment phenomenon is continuing to grow at a pace.

The benefits of working with such a large, diverse pool of freelancers are clear to UK businesses. Simply put, it’s easier to hire skilled people and get things done. In a workforce of millions, there’ll always be somebody available to work on your project.

But is this global freelance model, where you can source freelancers from every corner of the world, suitable for small businesses in the UK?

There are an increasing number of instances where it is much better for a business in the UK to outsource via a freelance marketplace in the UK.

The global freelance marketplaces do a great job when you need basic, repeatable tasks or get very simple projects completed. When a task is simple but time consuming, there are real advantages to outsourcing it to a freelancer in a low-cost location.

However, it doesn’t work so well when you start to consider more complex tasks or larger projects.

UK small businesses are outsourcing larger, more complex tasks to freelancers

As the on-demand working economy evolves we’re seeing a real shift in the UK from outsourcing basic tasks to businesses outsourcing bigger, more complex projects as they look for ways to get things done in a competitive employment market.

When outsourcing projects with any degree of complexity to a freelancer, the main concern for the average small business owner is finding a quick and easy way to hire the right person.

Speed and ease of hiring a quality freelancer

Receiving a high volume of applications and ultimately the lowest price may be attractive to some companies when outsourcing a very simple project. However, once a task becomes a bit more involved other factors rapidly come into play.

It’s common for the average web development project on a global freelance marketplace to receive upwards of a hundred applications – with prices and proposals varying wildly. This makes choosing the right freelancer difficult. You either need to spend a long time carefully scrutinising and responding to each application, or you take a gamble. Neither choice is ideal for a small business owner.

A better scenario for a small business owner who, looking for help, is to a receive a handful of considered responses from highly-qualified, local freelancers. For example, a small clothing retailer in the UK looking for a web developer for their e-commerce store. Working with a UK-focused freelance marketplace, they would be able to hire a local web developer, with experience of local trends and regulations to create a perfect e-commerce store, with convenient technical support.

Further advantages for businesses needing freelancers with specific qualifications

The advantages of using a local freelance marketplace are even more beneficial when you need specific qualifications or are bound by UK laws and guidelines. In areas where professional qualifications are required, such as HR and accounting, it makes much more sense to outsource your project via a UK freelance marketplace so you can make sure you’re working with a qualified freelance professional who will be compliant with the relevant UK regulations.

UK marketplaces also benefit skilled UK freelancers

It’s not only UK businesses who may struggle to work with global freelance marketplaces. The competition from low-cost countries is making it increasingly difficult for highly skilled UK freelancers to make a fair living from global freelance marketplaces. In some cases, UK freelancers are working for less than the minimum wage in order to win projects and become stuck in a ‘race to the bottom’.

This creates an issue for small businesses. Small businesses face huge competition for talent, and for some, the freelance marketplace is the only way they can hire the local people they need for business-critical projects. If skilled local talent is priced out of the freelance market, it may close off an essential outsourcing option for small businesses in the long term.

Gary Elliott is marketing director of WelikeToWork.

Further reading on freelancing

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel was the editor of from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.

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