Are small businesses driving the gig economy?

Posted: 9 November 2017 7:00 am

Almost 9 out of 10 SMEs have used a freelancer in the last six months.

News about the economy of flexible work, dubbed the "freelance gig economy", usually centres on the people working in that economy. While we do hear a lot about the Ubers and the Deliveroos – companies that are built by employing these people – but new data has revealed that the average small business also has a part to play.

The MYOB SME Snapshot has found that 89% of small to medium enterprises (SMEs) had used a freelancer in the past six months and are likely to hire one again. Business owners stated flexibility for seasonal businesses (47%) and access to different skillsets (41%) as being the top two advantages of hiring freelancers.

Considering small business owners struggle to maintain a good work-life balance due to stresses over workload and cash flow, accessing a flexible workforce that can complement their skillsets is definitely beneficial.

CEO of MYOB Tim Reed said this new approach to talent acquisition provides an opportunity for small businesses.

“By taking advantage of freelancers, business owners can free themselves up to look for new opportunities for business growth, without sacrificing business profitability, customer service or losing peace of mind that important tasks aren’t being looked after," he said.

"Small businesses can tap into a global workforce available around the clock with a broad range of specialist skills that can help improve and develop their business no matter the length of tenure required."

However, despite the advantages of using freelance workers, there are some disadvantages for businesses engaging in the freelance gig economy. Over one quarter (26%) of SMEs surveyed feel that freelancers don't understand their business and 10% said that the payment processes are too complex when hiring freelancers.

Reed said that using the right technology can make the freelance hiring process seamless.

"If you’re worried about hiring freelancers due to complications with payroll and during tax time, using online accounting software can simplify this process significantly and give you a more accurate view of your cash flow," he said.

Technology is a key element in this economy, with freelancer talent websites driving its growth.

Reed says that the changing shape of our workforce and the widespread use of these sites, which include Airtasker and Airbnb, has led to businesses being more comfortable with a different approach to talent acquisition.

“Ultimately, freelancers can be a great addition to your current employee base and can provide high-quality, specialised services when required," he said. "Many also run their own business, relying on repeat business and referrals, which means it will be in their best interest to provide the best service possible for you and your business.”

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