Small businesses and startups often lack the funds necessary to hire full-time employees, but they need top talent to build their businesses. This has led to a demand for skilled freelancers that has driven some of the most talented workers to opt for self-employment, with 53 million Americans now working as freelancers.
Perhaps taking a cue from their smaller counterparts, large corporations have begun to realize the benefits of using freelancers for their projects. Contract workers give businesses the flexibility to hire additional workers on a short-term basis, sometimes even contacting the same freelancers intermittently when they need specialized work completed.
“The pleasure of working with major companies like Genentech, eBay, McGraw Hill and BMW is they all had a keen understanding of the value of on demand high level tech talent,” says Michael Solomon, co-founder of 10x Management, a firm that matches top tech talent with companies. “These companies are leading the way with this fundamental understanding and the know how to manage top level talent.”
Here are a few examples of how larger businesses outsource work to freelancers.
Time Warner Cable: Time Warner regularly lists freelancers among its job openings, including positions for TV reporters and producers. With 24,800 employees worldwide, Time Warner oversees operations for a large number of its properties, including TV stations and websites. Its freelance opportunities are often specific to local TV markets, with freelancers working alongside full-time reporters and producers to prepare news broadcasts.
Shutterfly: Photo-developing site Shutterfly uses a combination of employees and contractors to build and grow its website, manage operations, and help with marketing. Interestingly, the company made the choice to shift its customer service jobs back to America a couple of years ago. Today’s Shutterfly contractors now help with development and growth, while salaried employees handle day-to-day duties.
Ancestry.com: Genealogy website Ancestry.com hires freelancers for positions like archival digitization, writing, and administrative support. While the company is based in Utah, it has set up offices across the globe and works with freelancers in each location to get the expertise necessary to maintain its software. Ancestry.com is the largest for-profit genealogy site, with more than two million subscribers across the globe.
PayPal: PayPal not only helps small businesses pay freelance workers, the company also relies on this type of worker. In coordination with staffing agencies, PayPal outsources web, IT, and software jobs, as well as design, sales, and marketing work, according to community feedback on OnContracting. These jobs aren’t posted on PayPal’s job boards, so contractors must work through one of the company’s preferred providers to be considered for any contracting work.
AT&T: Like PayPal, AT&T works with staffing agencies for its contractors, hiring everything from software developers to clerical workers through these third-party providers. Each contract has a finish date, which can be any time between one week and 36 months.
Facebook: Facebook also relies on a third-party recruiter to source freelancers. In this case, the company is called PRO Unlimited and job postings on Indeed demonstrate the range of freelancers Facebook hires. The social media site uses contract workers for quality assurance, technical support, and customer service, among many other types of positions.
Bloomberg: News leader Bloomberg uses freelancers for its offices around the world. A sampling of job postings for freelancers reveals positions like HR representatives, marketing and project management professionals, and creative designers.
Microsoft: One of the world’s biggest tech companies uses third-party providers for its outsource workers. Before signing a contract with any of these providers, contractors are warned to watch for a non-compete clause that prohibits them from working with another Microsoft vendor following the end of the contract period. This non-compete period can range from six months to 18 months and should be negotiated before signing.
Nintendo: Nintendo has been an innovator in gaming since the 80s, so it’s no surprise the company has embraced freelancers as part of its business model. Many of its software engineers, quality assurance specialists, and business analysts are hired directly by the company as freelancers.
Whether businesses work with third-party providers or hire freelancers directly, contract work is a great way to get specialized skills without committing to annual salaries. As more skilled, educated workers opt to work as contractors rather than employees, businesses of all sizes will find it difficult to find top talent among salaried job applicants and will begin to make the shift.