I plead guilty to enjoying a cold beer or two, and I’ve watched with amazement as the decade-long bull market in the craft beer industry shows no signs of abating.
When you see colleagues walking around with bags under their eyes, it's a safe bet one of two worries is keeping them awake at night: "How am I going to get everything done within my budget?" or "How can I bring in more customers?" <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> For anyone thinking about both at the same time, well, there's always Ambien.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> It's been said necessity is the mother of invention, so it may come as no surprise savvy business leaders are embracing the hiring of online freelancers as a way to grow their customer base while minimizing fixed costs.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> The fact is, online work has come of age. When companies need expertise nowadays, they simply go online, post their requirements, and start fielding proposals from far and wide from skilled and tested independent professionals who are ready to work. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> This real-time access to a vast pool of qualified skilled technical, marketing, and administrative experts is giving companies a real advantage—it enables them to stay flexible while getting real work done on-demand. Think about it: Ramp up when you need to, scale back when you don't. As business leaders know, it sure beats the ups and downs of recruiting, hiring, training, and then severance.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> The notion of paying for talent and resources only when you need will certainly make the finance department happy. But what about driving the top line? <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> At this very moment, marketing and sales executives (including, potentially, your competitors) are finding and hiring freelance professionals to help attract new customers while servicing existing ones. Every hour of every day, businesses are hiring sales and marketing mercenaries to optimize their Websites for search engines, to freshen up their e-mail marketing, to vet and qualify sales leads. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> They're writing blog posts, translating media releases into foreign languages, integrating PayPal checkout, surveying their high-value customers, researching competitors, and so on. Getting the idea yet?<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Many job sites today offer online directories of sales and marketing freelancers who specialize in subject matter expertise ranging from graphic design to copywriting to Flash animation to telesales. Accessing these experts is generally as easy as posting a simple job description (describe what you need), and allowing the marketplace to compete for your attention.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> But as anyone who has worked with humans knows, finding a warm body is sometimes the easy part. Getting a great work result is where the rubber meets the road.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> This is where doing your homework counts for more than extra-credit points. With people becoming so much more comfortable and familiar with online profiles in general, it's become a simple matter to browse portfolios of prior work, read comments left from previous clients, check up on credentials, and even discover if they happen to know anyone you know.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Once you find someone with the right provenance, the next step is to set things up so you get the result you're looking for. Communication is key here. Setting up a work engagement with proper expectations, deliverables, and corresponding timeframes will not only ensure you get what you need, but also go a long way toward keep your contractor happy and on task.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Which bring us to paying for the results. With payment services like escrow available, companies never have to worry about losing deposits or paying for work that doesn't meet requirements. And with the carrot of positive public feedback (and the stick of negative public feedback) one can rest assured their freelancer will be motivated to deliver a truly inspired performance.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> So, what does this look like in the real world?<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Consider Edith Yeung, founder and executive producer of BizTechDay, the small business technology conference held annually in San Francisco. In need of some help, Yeung went online and found, interviewed, and hired a marketing virtual assistant who happened to be based in Ohio. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Yeung enlisted the assistant to execute event promotions activities, recruit event volunteers, and manage communication with partners and attendees. With her help, Yeung was able to put on the 550-person conference with a staff of only three people. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Inspired by the effectiveness of hiring online talent on-demand, Yeung now regularly relies on freelance professionals who provide timely expertise in a wide variety of activities—including producing marketing materials, writing press releases, executing promotions, Web development, and sales operations.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Hang on. Aren't freelancers usually less capable and experienced than full-time workers? Absolutely not. This myth is on the top of the list in today's "knowledge economy," where those with specialized skills are moving out of the cubicle. Labor pundits are squabbling over who can predict the demise of the terrestrial workplace first.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Why so? Beyond the primary benefits of accessing the right people whenever they're needed, companies are rapidly embracing online work due to advances in enabling technologies (chat, video conferencing), greater general comfort, familiarity in communicating online with strangers, and growing interest in the green benefits of telecommuting. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Thus, it's not difficult to recognize this online worker on-demand trend is much bigger than simply a byproduct of today's uncertain macroeconomic climate. On the contrary, it's truly the future of work.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Whether your mandate is to acquire new customers or keep the ones you have, tapping into the vast pool of online talent offers a flexible, cost-effective, and immediate way to get marketing and sales jobs done…and the business results that come with it.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> And getting business results is something that will allow even the most stressed-out insomniac to rest easy at night.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <i>Brad Porteus is the chief marketing officer at Elance. He can be reached at <a href="email: email@example.com">firstname.lastname@example.org</a>.</i>