The benefits of a virtual workforce

If things start to get on top of you while running a successful small business, it may become necessary to enlist further help. Yet employing additional, permanent staff brings with it extra headaches. SmallBusiness.co.uk spoke to Xenios Thrasyvoulou, founder and chief executive of online skills marketplace Peopleperhour.com about the benefits of using a virtual workforce.

While running a successful small business, it can be tough to find that balance between committing enough of your time to ensure success and not running yourself into the ground. Small business owners often say that the first few years are the hardest and can put a real strain on your life outside work.

If things start to get on top of you and you find that the everyday, essential tasks are falling to the bottom of the pile, it may become necessary to enlist further help. Yet employing additional, permanent staff brings with it extra headaches.

To ease this process, businesses are increasingly turning to outsourcing essential support functions of their business, freeing up their valuable time. Virtual personal assistants (PAs), off-site staff who can work on small or large projects for a fixed fee, are one such method.

SmallBusiness.co.uk spoke to Xenios Thrasyvoulou, founder and chief executive of online skills marketplace Peopleperhour.com about the benefits of using a virtual workforce.

He explains: ‘Small companies are increasingly looking for flexible labour and need a platform on which to do that. Forums, like Peopleperhour.com, help people find skilled freelance professionals to undertake support tasks or functions on a ‘per project’ basis.

‘Really, it functions like an online marketplace where professionals can put up their profile and companies or “buyers” can list their requirements. Buyers then receive bids from professionals willing to carry out the work and can choose the most suitable one. We take a ten per cent commission from the freelancers, which works out less than you’d see from an agency and it remains completely free for the buyers.’

Permanent recruitment can be a time-consuming process. The obvious costs associated with advertising the position are one thing, but there are underlying aspects to the procedure, such as the time taken to conduct interviews, which to a small start-up company could be valuable time making sales or winning new business.

Once you have found a suitable candidate, there is initial and ongoing training, human resources issues and time and effort spent to stay in line with employment legislation. Added to this, there are other fixed costs like tax and National Insurance contributions.

Thrasyvoulou continues: ‘Remote support can really help small businesses and busy individuals to get projects done in an easy, cost-effective and transparent way, without the hassle and costs associated with employing someone full-time to carry out these tasks.’

‘The idea is that this type of forum increases transparency and visibility to the process by cutting out the middleman and putting the onus on the individual parties to transact directly, openly and fairly.

‘For some projects, freelancers can be an option,’ adds Thrasyvoulou, ‘but they can be notoriously difficult to find. Freelance talent is elusive, so people end up using a recruitment company. Unfortunately, the way that they work, the middleman approach, could end up costing you more than you want to pay.

‘One of our clients described them as the estate agents for the employment sector; they want to place someone in a permanent position because they get better commission, which means they can be quite pricey.’

Outsourcing is not a new concept, but until more recently it was seen as the privilege of larger companies. Small business owners simply didn’t have the resources to outsource core processes on the large scale needed for it to be worthwhile. Through such professional forums, off-site staff or freelance workers could offer SMEs a viable alternative to permanent recruitment.

For more information visit www.peopleperhour.com.

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