The Rise Of The Online Contingent Professional

With collaboration now possible over the Internet, a new class of worker has emerged: online contingent professionals.
Getting Small Businesses Unstuck, Shafran Moltz Group
September 23, 2011

Years ago, there were only two common classifications of people that worked for companies: employees or consultants. Historically, most jobs were done at the company offices. As a result, workers could only be hired within the business’ local geography. Today, with effective collaboration now possible over the Internet, a new class of worker is being created: the online contingent professional.

Fabio Rosati, the CEO of Elance, a leading platform for online employment, says that this newest alternative offers special advantages for small business. "At a time of uncertainty, businesses are able to get more work done without having to lose the flexibility and the nimbleness that they need. They are able to find talent very quickly, almost on demand in real time and... pay for either hours they actually worked or results deliverable that are received." In fact, this is a huge market: in the U.S alone, contingent work is as a $400 billion piece of the economy with over 14 million American contingent workers.

Every small business now has the opportunity to connect with a work resource who is thousands of miles away. Fabio says at Elance they "have a receptionist who actually works in North Carolina while our offices are in Mountain View, California. She commutes 3,000 miles away. In a few seconds, after she drops her kids off at school... she logs into our system, and we bring her to our reception virtually. These kinds of things that can happen online are completely different from the old model. We would be never be able to find her; she would have never be able to work with us without technology." 

With more work collaborative tasks happening with ubiquitous high speed internet bandwidth, any company can work with people anywhere anytime. Chris Brogan calls it "Anywhen" since we can work anywhere and any time. An online contingent worker can set their own rates, determine how many hours a day they want to work and can work however many days of the week they want based on their financial goals.

While  these crowd-sourcing models have been around for a while, especially on the consumer side, they are not without complaints from people seeking this type of work.  This method tends you to drive down the price of services with less barriers to supply. Fabio compares it to shopping on Amazon.com, “You are no longer limited to the stores on main street. You can almost buy anything, anywhere."

Many companies are starting to use this hybrid model: on site employees and online contingent workers. So what are the best tips to hire these kinds of online contingent professionals for small businesses? Fabio says that owners need to keep in mind that “The key is to realize that what youre doing is youre building a team...that helps you succeed for a long time, that youre not just outsourcing a small project. You build a relationship so pay attention to the type of team you want, take time to evaluate candidates, their profiles, and their reputation. "

Have you used online contingent professionals? What are your best tips?