By Daniel Hunter

A major new survey has revealed that a growing number of small businesses prefer to hire freelancers than in-house staff.

This year’s PeoplePerHour.com Small Business Survey — released today (Thursday) — revealed that 2011 was the year in which hiring freelancers turned from an occasional activity to a regular necessity for a large proportion of the UK’s 4.5 million small businesses.

Of the 1300 small business owners polled in the survey, 80 percent felt freelancing had become more common in the UK small business community over the past year.

32 percent of respondents had started using freelancers for the first time in the past six months, with 33 percent reporting they now use freelancers on a weekly basis.

According to the report, the primary driver of this trend is technologies that give small businesses better access to reliable freelancers.

41 percent of respondents believed websites had made finding various skills online easier than ever before, with 64 percent feeling that hiring freelancers had become ‘more reliable’ in the past year.

“For many years now, small business owners have been able to source freelancers online,” says PeoplePerHour.com Founder and CEO Xenios Thrasyvoulou.

“However, it’s only in the past couple of years that you can hire freelancers across a wide range of skills with 100 percent confidence, which enables businesses to accurately assess freelancers’ reliability.

“As the survey findings suggest, hiring freelancers has become the recruitment strategy of choice for thousands of small businesses across the UK. And the trend is showing no signs of slowing down.”

The suggestion that small businesses are increasingly choosing freelancers over in-house staff is supported by the Small Business Survey, which finds that 41 percent of respondents planned to increase freelance hiring over the next 12 months. In stark contrast, just 16 percent expected to hire in-house staff.

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