New York Times reports a couple of articles about new means of engaging freelance workers and how the recession actually led people to refocus their careers in more flexible ways.
It's really a great innovation bringing employment opportunities to a global workforce whilst also helping small to medium (SME) companies get the resources which may otherwise elude them. You could describe it as a seismic shift in the business dynamic from the old scenario where your choices of business process, vendors and suppliers were very heavily dictated by local representation. Now you can look all over the world for the specific skills you need and experience the related cost benefits of buying in a global marketplace.
Have you seen these contracting marketplace sites?
http://www.taskarmy.com (disclosure: Contractor Taxation knows the founder of this site. It's still awesome!)
Of course in our humble opinion nothing quite beats the ability to have "face to face" contact with a consultant - especially when starting a project or dealing with a difficult discussion - but the growth in informal employment relationships is undoubtedly a great assistance to innovation and productivity. It also helps contractors increase their financial security and reduce their bench time.
And the "face to face" aspect is, in some respects, a technology and financial hurdle. Many of our clients use one or two visible consultants on site to administer contact between large international development teams and a local work site. In fact we only recently saw a demonstration of "Telepresence" - a much vaunted new technology (basically its a video conference in life size High Definition HDTV) which means you can have remote meetings whilst still getting all the non-verbal communication that "face to face" provides.
It was very impressive. Sure, its never going to be the same as a real live conversation in the flesh, but its really alot closer than you'd expect. Companies like Cisco are pushing Telepresence in a big way and there's no doubt it will be a big part of the new ways of contracting internationally.