And freelancers are happy to take on contract work and see real benefits to joining the flexible workforce, said Michael Kirven, co-founder and principal at Bluewolf.
"They do it because they want to, not because they have to," he said, noting that freelance work clearly offers flexibility not found in full-time employment. Also, training and financial benefits accompany contract work.
"They always get to be on the bleeding edge of something sharp," Kirven said. "It keeps their skill set sharp and billing rates high."
With the bigger paycheck, though, comes the expectation that contractors match regular employees in technical, application, and communication skills, said Jack Cullen, president of IT staffing agency Modis. Over the last five years, and especially in 2011, freelancer salaries have increased and are now comparable to full-time salaries, he said.
"They're looking at that individual with almost as much scrutiny as they would a full-time hire," he said. With some companies restoring staffing budgets, "hiring managers today are looking for that candidate with just about everything" and are cautious about whom they hire, Cullen said.
At BI Incorporated, which develops a range of monitoring and tracking devices for the criminal justice system, "there are definitely some similarities" between the full-time and part-time employee interview process, said CIO Andrea Young.
After staffing firms suggest candidates, BI conducts its own interview to assess soft skills, such as handling the tight deadlines that accompany BI's agile development process, said Young.
"We do releases every three weeks," she said. "They have to be someone who has a good workflow under pressure."
In rare cases, temporary work can serve as a potential gateway to full-time employment at the Boulder, Colorado, business, said Young. However, "you never know. If some of those individuals were a great resource on the team and they fit in well, so if we needed to have a regular employee they might be a candidate," she said.
BI turns to contractors when the IT department is expanded beyond its normal capacity or a particular skill set is required, Young said.
Since the company doesn't always know what its workload is going to be, a variable workforce allows the company to handle "a burst that we have to scale up for," she said.
A burst in work accompanied a project that involved updating proprietary software that handles the location function on some its hardware. Previously, users logged into separate portals depending on whether the monitoring was done by GPS or radio frequency, Young explained. The new software aimed to consolidate both UIs into a single portal.
The project required some work to modernize legacy application architecture and Young used contractors for the job. The company didn't have a firm idea of how the revamped application would impact its business and staffing needs, she explained.
"On an interim basis, we have the ability to use contractors until we know what that long-term workload is going to look like," Young said.
Young also turned to contractors when BI worked on a mobile development project: "That was a specialty that we didn't have on the team."
Young noted that BI is "also mindful of the whole co-employment issue" and makes sure that the third-party that located the workers handles freelancer management.
While the company wants candidates who fit the team and stay for at least five months to justify BI's training investment, they're ultimately not her company's employee, said Young.
"They are an employee of the staffing agency," she said. " So there are some clear differences that you have to make sure that you outline."