Online Workforce to Grow in 2012: Report

In 2012, the market for online contingent work is set to double as more businesses hire and manage workers online for the first time.

Despite a stagnant employment market in 2011, online hiring has grown at a record pace, up more than 100 percent from 2010, according to Elance, a platform for online work. The company released its 2011 Online Employment Review, which reveals that the future of work will be contingent, global and online. As more companies seek instant access to talent and greater flexibility to run their businesses, individuals are taking control of their future by building careers as independent professionals, the report said.

While global economies continue to struggle with job creation, online work thrived this year with 650,000 new jobs posted, and cumulative earnings are set to surpass $500 million. The number of businesses hiring on Elance and the number of online professionals working on Elance grew more than 120 percent. Earnings for online professionals rose in more than 100 countries around the world. In the United States, earnings rose in 43 out of 50 states, including some of the hardest hit regions in unemployment, such as Michigan, Nevada and South Carolina.

"This year's job numbers suggest a structural change in traditional employment, as more businesses are adopting online and contingent work as a core business strategy," said Fabio Rosati, CEO of Elance. "Fueled by technology, work is no longer confined to the 9-5 and the office. Knowledge workers are building independent careers by working online with multiple clients, from their home, from public spaces or from co-located offices. The ability to gain instant access to qualified talent with in-demand skills regardless of location is a global trend that is starting to change the way businesses and people work."

Businesses are developing innovative workforce models that blend full-time and part-time, local and remote, and employed and contracted workers. The practice of hiring and managing talent online is spreading, and 83 percent of small businesses surveyed by Elance plan to hire up to 50 percent of their workers as online contractors in the next 12 months. The 2011 Elance survey of online freelance professionals indicated that nearly 1 in 3 workers began freelancing to be their own boss and work on the type of projects they love. The top benefits of online work cited include the ability to control their own schedule (90 percent), follow their passion (87 percent) and eliminate the commute (85 percent).

In 2012, the market for online contingent work is set to double as more businesses across the globe hire and manage workers online for the first time. The global demand for U.S. talent has increased steadily over the past year and is set to grow even faster as online platforms break down global barriers and open up opportunities for collaboration. In 2011, U.S.-based contractors exported their services to more than 140 countries, and global hiring of U.S. professionals saw a significant increase in more than 60 countries.