The latest Global Online Employment Report from online work platform Elance suggests that companies are using the UK’s freelancing and contracting community on an increasingly long-term basis.

The number of businesses hiring freelancers has skyrocketed by 51% on last year’s total and pay rates have risen by 47% over the same period.

Topping the demand league table are freelancers specialising in a core contracting discipline, IT and programming, who accounted for 35% of all hires. Next came design and media specialists (25%) followed by writers and translators (23%).

Specialists in engineering and manufacturing saw demand for their talents soar by 173%. Demand rose by 87% for sales and marketing specialists and by 85% for administrative support freelancers.

Perhaps the most significant finding is a shift away from the traditional pattern of contractor hiring, where temporary projects are often offered to contractors in the same geographical location as the business. Increasingly, freelancers are being hired from around the world on a long-term basis. Global hiring figures from Elance show that 50% of hirers are retaining freelancers for more than six months, while one-quarter have retained the same freelancer or contractor for more than a year.

Elance’s VP of Europe, Kjetil Olsen, said: “There are more employers hiring more freelancers across a wider range of jobs. For some, this is about managing short-term demand for talent and de-risking growth, but it’s also evident that for tens of thousands of UK businesses, retaining freelancers as an integral part of their talent mix is becoming an essential strategy.”

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