Freelancers and the Limited IT Talent Pipeline

Johns Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies recently surveyed 790 nonprofits and found that only 37% have been trying to recruit IT personnel. However, of those actively seeking IT help, 70% found it a very difficult task.

In its study, “The Nonprofit Workforce Crisis: Real Or Imagined?” researchers suggested that 37% was a relatively low percentage of nonprofits looking for IT staff, considering that 84% of the nonprofits were recruiting all sorts of professional and support personnel. For example, the report showed that 81% are trying to recruit administrative assistants and 56% are trying to find fundraisers.

In its study, Johns Hopkins researchers proposed that one of the likely reasons why fewer nonprofits are recruiting IT staff compared with other job positions is that nonprofit organizations frequently have smaller technology-related budgets.

Still, researchers noted that other types of nonprofits — such as museums, universities, and healthcare — tend to have larger IT budgets. In fact, Johns Hopkins research found that tech spending by healthcare companies has increased recently due to the surge in electronic medical records and other IT-enabled systems.

Freelancers Can Fill Labor Shortages

The Johns Hopkins study also pointed out that most nonprofits, as with many companies, rely on freelance help to fill a limited IT talent pipeline.

Indeed, convincing freelancers to work in-house was cited as one of the key challenges for IT managers surveyed in a recent Forrester Research report, “Recruiting IT Talent: Adjusting to a Hot Market.”

As the unemployment rate holds steady at less than 5% and the pool of qualified labor continues to shrink, a new Sologig.com survey of more than 2,400 employers found that 55% of companies have either relied on freelance or contract workers or intend to in the future.

According to the survey, 36% hire freelancers for technology-based openings (compared to 13% for consulting; 10% for accounting/financial operations; 7% for design; 6% for marketing; 6% for human resources/staffing; 6% for admin/clerical; and 5% for sales).

“From the employer side, hiring contractors gives companies access to diverse perspectives and allows them to control costs and respond quickly to changes in the marketplace,” says Ben Jablow, senior director of Sologig.com.

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The Freelance Marketplace

Sites such as RentACoder, Scriptlance, E-Lance, and YourCoders.com offer places for recruiters and freelance IT workers to connect.

For example, YourCoders is a relatively new freelance marketplace based in the Netherlands that covers categories such as software programming, Web development, graphic design, and Flash.

Bernd Hilders, YourCoders project manager, asserts that outsourcing projects can save a company more than 50% in expenses compared to in-house development, one of the main reasons why companies choose to outsource.

The Sologig survey also polled 5,600 employees and found that, in the IT field, 66% would consider freelancing.

As far as earnings potential, IT freelancers are not earning chump change.

Within the IT field, employers surveyed by Sologig report paying $50 or more per hour for qualified freelance help. Overall, the survey found that 10% of freelancers working for the companies surveyed can make $100 per hour or more; 18% can make $75 or more; 34% can make $50 or more; and 63% can make $25 an hour or more.

Elaine Rigoli has nearly 15 years of experience managing content and community for various B2B and consumer websites. Elaine has written thousands of business and technology articles and has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal and eWeek, among other publications.

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1 Comment on “Freelancers and the Limited IT Talent Pipeline

  1. Another great site to find freelancers, particularly for long-term projects, is oDesk. Based in Silicon Valley, oDesk is an online marketplace with over 15,000 tested and rated providers. One of the unique aspects of oDesk is that unlike many other sites, its oDesk Team software allows for hourly payment jobs — this enables Buyers to set up long-term contracts and is very useful for IT management or website management. Additionally, oDesk providers take a series of skill tests when they sign up, providing for an independent skill assessment of their abilities.
    — Michelle, oDesk.com

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