During the course of the last six years the UK has seen a dramatic increase in the number of small business start-ups. Fuelled by the gaps in the market left by the recession, thousands of entrepreneurs seized the opportunity to make their bid for corporate success, and a significant percentage achieved it. There is a time however, in the life of every small business when things begin to get too complicated.
Once a business has been established and regular work is coming in, whole days can be spent responding to emails and answering the telephone, leaving little time for the important matter of driving the company forward: attending to marketing; finding new customers; building an online presence; enhancing customer experience. The problem is that although these are all important issues, employing a dedicated person to deal with each section of a business that requires ongoing attention can be extremely costly, and money is often tight during those all-important early days.
For many small businesses the on-demand freelance market has provided the perfect solution.
A recent study by the UK's leading online freelance marketplace, PeoplePerHour, has shown that the most rapidly growing area for SMEs seeking help is in specialised digital content marketing.
Facebook and Twitter have been considered important marketing tools for promoting brand awareness for some time now, but the flavour of the small business month is currently Instagram. Having gained more than 300 million users in the five years since it was 'born' in 2010, Instagram is one of the most successful social media platforms of the moment, and shows no sign of waning popularity. As the platform recently introduced a digital marketing programme, there's little surprise that the shrewd small business owner is wanting to get in on the action.
Employing a full-time digital marketing expert could cost a company in the region of £30,000-£60,000 per annum – a figure not easily met by the average start-up. The ability to reach a range of self-employed professionals through an online freelance marketing platform, such as PeoplePerHour, allows business owners to secure the expertise they need on a short-term basis at a fraction of the cost, without the concern of handling payroll or the other obligations of a permanent employer.
A freelance Instagram marketer works for an average of £30 per hour, which may seem a lot on the surface, but it's surprising how much can be accomplished in such a short amount of time. This allows businesses to achieve their marketing aims without committing to expensive, long-term employees. Facebook and Twitter designers are also charging an average of £28 per hour, while social media account managers will work for £21 per hour… But that hour, spread across a week, could deliver all of the social media coverage that a business might need.
The freelance market also offers SMEs other vital business services on an hourly basis: blogs are a fantastic way to draw new customers to a website; while a full-time writer may not be necessary to the running of a business, a freelance blogger could keep web content fresh for as little as £22 per week. Another important area is app development – while most companies will benefit from having a dedicated app, few will require a permanent app developer, and when you can hire a freelancer for £35, why would you employ someone permanently?
Xenios Thrasyvoulou, founder of PeoplePerHour, comments:
'When you start a new business there is so much to do, especially when you begin to attract regular customers; keeping on top of things can be a struggle. Having a resource such as PeoplePerHour, can be a God-send.
'To make a living as a freelance anything – writer, web designer, marketer, or accountant – you need to know what you're doing. In employing a freelancer to take care of niche areas of a new business you are getting the very best expertise to get the immediate job done, without all the difficulties and expense of taking on permanent employees. It's a relationship that seems to work for everyone.'
Small and medium enterprises have been viewed as the key to Britain's early exit from the global recession. A sensible deployment of funds in the strategic use of manpower could be seen to be at the heart of that.