I've been following Elance, one of the first (maybe the first?) web-based freelancing markets, since 2000 when it was a start-up of the tech boom. When I saw their booth last week at Web 2.0 Expo, it was a great chance to ask them how things have changed over the last ten years.

 Think about these particular last ten years: Many of us live and work via the Internet rather than a desk; outsourcing is an assumption for many firms rather than an experiment; Moore's law is still with us; and Emeritus Prof. Edgar Schein of MIT said in 2004, "..we bascially do not know what the world of tomorrow will really be like, except that it will be different, more complex, more fast-paced, and more culturally diverse" (p. 331). Elancing is an organizational design tool that should be in all our toolboxes. Elancing, and freelancing in general, provide organizational flexibility -- but not just about basic staffing-levels. Companies like Elance provide access to staffing for jobs you haven't even thought of. Jaime Mehl of Elance (featured in the video below) opened my eyes to this issue. She says there are "..going to be projects posted that we don't even know about yet -- or [that haven't] even [been] invented yet." [vimeo 11645520] From a recent Elance report:

While the U.S. Department of Labor reports that the nationwide unemployment rate held steady at 9.7%, the Elance Online Talent Report shows online work continues to grow at a steady pace as its talent pool earned more than $20 million in the first quarter of 2010, surpassing a total of $260 million of work completed to date on Elance. This represents a nearly 40% increase year-over-year and demonstrates that businesses are increasingly turning to online talent, an important and thriving employment segment, to drive their economic recovery. Companies are turning to online talent for mobile development, open source, social media and cloud computing, making these the fastest growing skills in demand on Elance.

Kudos to the managers who take advantage of virtual freelancing. These managers are responding to the added complexity (and cultural diversity according to the Elance Report) that Prof. Schein predicted. They have developed the systems savvy to work with the technologies that enable elancing and have the skills to design organizational practice to take advantage of the flexibility. I welcome examples in the comments below. Have you been able to integrate elancing into your organizational design? What are the technical and organizational skills you feel are most critical to your success? ----- More background on Elance from their site: (founded in 1998, following the publication of Malone and Laubacher's, Dawn of the E-lance Economy.)

Today, Elance is the most widely used application for Services and Contractor Management. More than 200,000 employees are using Elance to find, buy, manage and pay external services and contractors from more than 2,000 suppliers across 50+ services categories, including information technology, consulting, contract and temporary labor, marketing, print, human resources, engineering, maintenance and facilities.