There are 5.4 million business in the UK (source: gov.uk - Department for Business Innovation and Skills). They represent 99% of all the UK's private sector businesses and contribute £1.8 trillion to our economy.
If our small businesses thrive and grow, so does our economy. And that's good for everyone.
Ambition in abundance
There's a common trait of all successful small businesses. Ambition, they've got it by the bucket load. It's what keeps them hungry, nimble and able to outperform their larger competitors.
But ambition will only stretch so far.
Resources are stifling growth
The number one frustration for most small business owners is they don't have the time or money to do all the things they want to do. Hiring the expert staff members to help them grow, expand or diversify is time-consuming and expensive and this creates a problem.
It stops great ideas becoming successful businesses. It stops new products becoming best sellers. It stop small businesses becoming big businesses.
What if we could change that?
What if we could give small businesses a way to grow in small, manageable, affordable, steps?
The ability to access an on-demand, hidden, freelancing workforce is a massive opportunity for a small business when they can't afford or justify a full-time hire. Growing in smaller steps, with less outlay, can help small businesses get to the stage where a full-time hire makes sense more rapidly.
And if we give 5 million small businesses another, simple, affordable option to access the expert help they need to grow, it would change the UK.
The Hidden Workforce
There are literally millions of people in the UK available to provide professional services (like marketing, website development, accountancy, and much more) without the need for a full-time employment contract and salary.
Who are the hidden workforce?
In general, a 'hidden worker' is anyone outside the reach of traditional recruitment methods. In other words, they are not available for a full-time, location specific permanent job. We believe there are four main groups that make up the hidden workforce:
1) Professional mums and dads who are at home looking after families
According to IPSE, there were 287,000 stay at home mums freelancing in the UK in 2015. Add the stay at home dads, and there is a small army of professionals able to help.
2) Highly skilled professionals freelancing as 2nd jobs
250,000 freelancers in the UK are professionals who freelance as a 2nd job. What better way to get access to the people you can't offer a full-time job? This is a great way to get access to in-demand talent in a competitive industry.
3) Retired professionals
Figures from Mintel suggest that around 650,000 people retire every year. That's an incredible wealth of knowledge and expertise that leaves the traditional workforce every year. Short, flexible freelance contracts are an excellent way to access this part of the hidden workforce.
4) People with disabilities
A disability should not prevent a skilled professional from offering a great service to a small business. We believe that if you're a great developer, you're a great developer. Full stop. The flexibility of remote, freelance projects helps small businesses work with skilled professionals regardless.
The benefit for small businesses
There are two benefits the hidden workforce offer the average small business:
1) They get access to talent not normally within reach of their traditional recruitment efforts.
Location is one factor. When you consider your small business can really only effectively attract permanent staff within a 90 minute commute, it severely limits your ability to access talent across the length and breadth of the UK.
Salary is another factor. It's widely accepted a person's salary expectations increase with their level of expertise, until they reach the accepted market cap. As a small business, your budget for full-time salaries will often limit the level of expertise you can attract.
2) They can hire and pay workers for very specific projects
Removing the need to give everyone a full-time contract and salary, creates much more flexibility for a small business and allows them to do much more.
Here's an example. Hiring a decent full-time web designer will cost around £40,000 per year. For this investment the business gets the ability to design a great website.
But investing in lots of small specific projects, allows the small business to get a website designed, built, promoted and all the extra enquiries it brings serviced. The total investment is also lower because the small business can save on things like recruitment fees, national insurance contributions and equipment costs.
What work can the hidden workforce help small businesses do?
There are 101 types of project the hidden workforce can help with, but there are some limiting factors:
Location must be flexible
The hidden workforce is perfect for roles, or tasks, where the location is not a critical factor. For example, accounting or digital marketing or web development. All of these roles can be done from anywhere, all that's needed is an internet connection and a phone number.
You can read more about the sorts of roles you can outsource to the hidden workforce here.
Time of day must be flexible
If the role doesn't need to be delivered during specific hours, it will suitable for a hidden worker. For example, if a stay at home dad creates Android mobile apps around his duties as a parent, it's likely he'll be working during the evenings.
The work can be delivered remotely
Due to the main factors of location and time, it's easier if the output or work can be delivered remotely. For example, a finished website can be delivered by filesharing.
Is this the end of the traditional permanent job?
The short answer is no.
The hidden workforce is a solution for small businesses for whom hiring a full-time member of staff is not an option. Either traditional recruitment won't work or they are not in a position financially to offer someone a full-time salary.
But with the help of the hidden workforce, things can get done. Websites get built, products get launched, revenue starts to increase. The small business begins to grow. And with growth often comes the need for more permanent staff.
Another way of looking at it is the hidden workforce helps create opportunities for more traditional permanent jobs.