It's not uncommon for business owners to find themselves needing to make tough decisions fast. But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and the number of businesses in this position skyrocketed suddenly, it resulted in a shock – to put it mildly – felt around the world. Some had to let go of hundreds, even thousands, of their employees.
At the start of the pandemic, more than 140,000 companies marked their business temporarily closed on Yelp. By August, it decreased to 65,769. On paper, that looks like tens of thousands of businesses reopened. However, according to Yelp's economic impact report, 60% of temporarily closed businesses ended up shutting down for good. For many of the surviving businesses, one of the invaluable resources that helped resolve their financial and operational issues was freelancing.
So, what exactly happened this year – and could anything have affected the outcome differently? Let's take a closer look.
COVID-19: A nightmare for businesses
Companies large and small were, and still are, impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. Mom-and-pop restaurants have had to repeatedly close and reopen under strict operational guidelines. Even an organization as large as the NBA had to postpone basketball games for months, before switching to a "bubble" arena with digital fans in the stadium. But it's no secret that small businesses were hurt the worst.
Small businesses can easily be found with two weeks of cash on hand at any given time, making them very financially fragile. With Coronavirus Aid Relief not being readily available for everyone, concerns over being eligible only added to the angst shared by everyone about the lockdown extending too long or a second wave hitting too soon. In general, the economic sentiment among business owners is rife with doubt and uncertainty.
Although many are estimating that the small business climate will be normalized in 6- 12 months, the realization that we can never fully predict what lies ahead is sinking in. Some owners are already preparing for possible future disruptions — buying additional supplies to prevent shortages, updating websites and social profiles, and offering digital payment options.
But it's remote work and the rise of the freelance economy that stand to have the biggest positive impact on businesses working to make it through the pandemic and beyond.
How freelancing stole the show in 2020
Just a decade ago, businesses frowned on employees working from home. But the COVID-19 pandemic made remote work critical to keeping business afloat – and since then, employees and employers alike are changing their tune about it, with 55% of executives offering this option to their staff. So why all the mass layoffs during the start of the pandemic, if remote work was an option? At the time, many companies were losing business and revenue, needing to cut costs wherever possible.
But they still needed to maintain operations, which is where freelancers came in – they enabled businesses to continue minimum operations without paying hefty salaries. Freelancers are paid on a project-by-project basis, allowing companies to pay only for what they need.
How freelancers are saving financially impacted businesses
It's no surprise the pandemic is changing the work landscape. Between companies paying more attention to the vast number of skills available for hire and rising unemployment, freelancing is an enticing place to be.
Roughly 35% of the U.S. workforce (55 million people) are freelance currently – and that number is expected to increase to 43% this year. And as enterprises reevaluate their overall workforce structures, we also see companies putting off hiring employees because of the economy's downward trend. Positions available today may not be around six months from now. Yet, the work still needs to be done, making hiring independent talent ideal for businesses today.
Smaller enterprises are using freelancers to remain lean and agile, collaborating with them solely on the basis of need. Freelancers are cost-effective professionals specializing in essential business skills. And they're capable of efficient remote work -- they can jump into projects immediately and deliver outstanding results. That puts this paradigm shift in a nice position to become the new norm.
So what are we seeing so far? More businesses adopting hybrid models with both freelancers and full-time staff.
Preparing for an uncertain future with a team of freelancers
If there's one thing that's certain right now, it's this: nothing is certain. With future outbreaks and other disasters more plausible than ever, no one wants to be caught off guard. And while staying operational can be tricky when revenues plummet and employees are forced into their homes, having a team of freelancers on hand can clearly come in handy against those unforeseen obstacles – providing a smart safety net that gives businesses more control over cash flow and operations if there are more lockdowns. Here's why:
- Strong freelancers work efficiently. They're used to meeting tight deadlines without sacrificing quality.
- Their schedules are more flexible to accommodate yours.
- They tend to have a wealth of experience (no resources wasted on training). There's a wide pool of professionals to choose from (you can find the perfect match).
- No salaries, benefits, or taxes to worry about (more money in your pocket).
If you haven't already set up digital workspaces, now's a great time to start. Here are a few tips for hiring remote professionals for your virtual team:
- Find someone who has samples showcasing the skills you're looking for. If you're rebuilding your website, ask for a portfolio of past work.
- Be prepared with a detailed plan of your needs. It makes finding the right talent easier. Create an outline for the book you want to be written, or a creative brief detailing the end product and skills required.
- Don't be afraid to test a few freelancers -- the first pick isn't always the right
- fit. Offer test projects and smaller tasks before hiring someone for a major project.
- Use a freelancer platform with a large talent pool. Focus on services that organize freelancers by skill, industry, location, rating, etc.
- Communicate with your freelancers regularly using collaborative digital tools like Slack and video conferencing. This builds relationships and helps productivity.
Find the best freelancer for the job, every time
There are millions of professionals in the freelance market. However, finding the right one for the role and juggling overheads can be time-consuming. This is why we created Fiverr Pro.
Our purpose? To help businesses find exceptional talent while simplifying team management and budgeting. With our platform, monitor team progress set budgets, and approve transactions from anywhere. We've perfected the process so you can connect with the best freelancers to collaborate with any time you need to.