By Rieva Lesonsky

Hiring is challenging for small businesses in the best of times. But finding skilled talent, whether full-time, part-time or freelance, in an economy at essentially full employment is especially tough.

Help is on the way. Upwork, the largest freelancing website, launched Upwork Plus this morning. Upwork Plus is a “packaged service offering” created expressly for small, growing businesses to help them find and hire top-tier freelance talent.

David Abramson, VP of Growth at Upwork, says Upwork Plus was created to ease a particularly onerous pain point for small business owners—finding skilled freelance talent. After many conversations with small business owners Upwork realized they needed to create a “new model” to help small business owners, “who are under so much time pressure,” connect with the site’s top freelancers.

Future Workforce

The hiring challenge was underscored in Upwork’s 3rd Annual Future Workforce Report, which showed:

  • Over 3X (43%) as many small business hiring managers said hiring had gotten harder in the past year than though it had gotten easier (13%)
  • 57% cited ‘talent scarcity’ as their top hiring challenge
  • Hiring the right talent was ranked as the top growth driver for small businesses, followed by securing new customers and creating new products/services
  • High-growth businesses (small businesses who have grown more than 30% YOY) are turning to flexible, freelance talent to help ease project workloads and drive business forward:
    • 72% of high-growth businesses leverage freelance talent, and they expect to increase their utilization
    • 87% of businesses currently using freelancers plan to maintain or increase their usage in 2019

Small businesses face the additional challenge of competing with larger, better funded mid-sized or enterprise-level companies that can afford to pay more and offer better benefits.

Abramson says small businesses are “very innovative in how they run their own businesses” and they need innovative solutions. That’s what they’re getting with Upwork Plus, which is loaded with features, including on-demand support, greater visibility for job posts, dedicated dashboards for collaboration, and access to an exclusive community board devoted to Upwork Plus customers.

For $49.99 a month, Upwork Plus members get:

On-demand support from account managers. In addition to having access to 24/7 customer support, Upwork Plus customers can call on account managers “to help them post their first job or scale their hiring.” You can also “opt-in for talent specialist services that can assist in sourcing and highlighting top freelancers.”

Greater visibility through promoted job posts and client badge. Upwork Plus customers receive a monthly ‘Featured Job’, which, among other things, is included in a daily digest sent to top-rated freelancers. Clients also receive a client badge on the freelancer’s search results page to help attract talent.

Collaboration across an organization. Upwork Plus customers can track program efforts across an organization all in one place using their dedicated dashboard. It also enables customers to access collaboration and project status tracking tools.

Plus Community Board. I have long thought that small business owners need more access to one another—a place they can connect and talk about shared challenges and solutions. Upwork Plus customers get access to an “exclusive community board with guides and resources to help them find success with Upwork. Learning tools and forums will allow new clients to ask questions and share tips with other customers.”

The Importance of Freelancers in Growing Businesses

Freelancers have a major impact on U.S. businesses. The 5th annual study from Upwork and the Freelancers Union—Freelancing in America—reveals:

  • In five years, the freelance workforce grew 3x faster than the non-freelance workforce
  • 7 million Americans freelance in the U.S. today, up 3.7 million in the past five years.
  • Americans spend more than 1 billion hours per week freelancing

Upwork already offers special solutions for Business (mid-market) and Enterprise companies; Upwork Plus now gives small businesses a specific solution of their own.

There’s more information about Upwork Plus here.

Freelancers stock photo by GaudiLab/Shutterstock