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Are freelance developers an untapped resource?

Bonnie Gardiner (CIO) | Sept. 16, 2015
Employers seeking software developers should consider contract positions, flexible work environment.

Developers may increasingly be looking to freelance rather than seek full time work with one company due to a preference for flexibility, their pick of projects and higher pay.

A recent survey by digital freelancing platform, Upwork - formerly Elance - found that 83 percent of freelance developers (out of 1068) said they preferred freelancing over full time work thanks to increased flexibility in working hours, locations and methods.

Meanwhile, 69.9 percent said they preferred to pick their own projects and do more interesting work than a full time job would provide, and 61 percent said they can earn better money freelancing.

Only 7.3 percent claimed they turned to freelancing due to difficulties in finding work in their local market, which comes as no surprise as businesses become increasingly software driven.

The survey also found freelance developers were not short of work, covering an average of 32 hours per week, with the maximum response being 80 hours per week.

The findings suggest hiring managers seeking developers to fill the growing skills gap should consider hiring freelancers rather than internal full time teams, as developers worldwide are actively seeking freelance work and plan to continue to do so.

Respondents were confident they could maintain a strong work output through freelancing also, with the majority anticipating their work hours would only increase in the next 12 months (55 percent), while more than a third expected the same amount of work (36 percent).

Only 2.9 percent anticipated they would work fewer hours in the next year.

Most freelance developers rely on freelancing full time, as three in five developers (60.2 percent) said between 75 percent and 100 percent of their total income came from freelancing, the majority of which said freelancing provided 100 percent of their total income (41 percent overall).

Regarding preferred criteria when choosing what clients to apply for jobs with, around half of respondents said they preferred technical product managers who could describe exactly what they need, however 43.3 percent said they had no preference, and 8.3 percent preferred non-technical clients who needed support defining their requirements.

The research by Upwork aims to shed light on how employers can tap into the vast network of skilled freelance web and mobile programmers available online.

The findings follow a survey by the Technology Councils of North America (TECNA), Apollo Education Group and the University of Phoenix earlier this year, in which 83 percent of employers in the US and Canada reported a shortage of software development professionals, due mostly to the lack of qualified local talent.

"Software engineers are critical to the functioning of nearly every organisation and industry, so closing the talent gap is a high priority," said Bob Moore, executive director of TECNA.


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