A year ago, Dr. Ken Stein was ready to grow his team. The energetic founder of a capital holding firm in Manhattan, Stein needed A-list talent for an open executive assistant role but knew it didn’t require someone full, or even part-time. He also wanted to be able to meet talent beforehand, to assure a great fit.

Unable to find a level of candidate quality through traditional staffing agencies, Stein turned to Worldwide101’s new talent sourcing model: subscription staffing. Stein described in detail what he was looking for – a quick learner with an unparalleled amount of organization and killer intuition – who could be available for around 60 hours per month. Worldwide101 suggested Christina, one of our California-based administrative professionals with 10 years of experience working at Fortune 500 companies — giving both sides veto power on the match. They’ve been working together ever since.

It’s fantastic to have a world-class professional who is available in a way that he/she wouldn’t have been otherwise due to geography,” Stein says. “And at a cost that is way more affordable than finding or hiring someone ourselves, especially here in New York City.”

In fact, premium subscription staffing is getting popular precisely because more leaders demand these advantages—the flexibility to scale quickly, at lower cost, and without the hassles of recruiting and hiring. Fueling the trend are thousands of the world’s most talented performers—including many with years of experience at Fortune 500 companies—who are ditching office jobs to remotely contribute to businesses they’re passionate about. Unlike temps and “gig economy” workers, these high performers are motivated by long-term team relationships, career development opportunities, and the chance to make a real impact.

How premium subscription staffing works

Premium subscription staffing reflects the broader “subscription economy” trend, in which we’ve begun subscribing to everything from music and software to cars and clothing, rather than suffering the hassles of traditional asset management.

When it comes to premium staffing, the subscription model looks like this:

  • Subscriber (business owner/founders/executive) pays a monthly subscription fee for each staff member, for the number of hours they need them.
  • The subscription staffing company hand-matches the client with a member of their team whom they believe would be a good fit based on skills/experience and personality.
  • Hirer and staff meet in advance via video or phone so both can approve the match.
  • Hirer and staff begin a long-term working relationship virtually.

Business leaders specify not only the skills and personality they’re looking for but also how many hours a month they think they’ll need. They meet and approve subscription staff before taking them on, with staff getting the ability to accept or turn down the work, to maximize the odds of a long-term fit. Leaders can then flexibly scale up or down—in people and/or hours—as needed.

More and more roles making sense via subscription

The first premium subscription staff were “virtual assistants,” remote staff who handled executive admin tasks such as scheduling and booking travel. Today, the world’s pool of extraordinarily talented remote workers has grown to include marketers, project managers, bookkeepers, and more: Last year alone, Worldwide101 received 32,000 applications from people who want to work this way.

A broad range of highly skilled talent available via subscription has made all the difference for Shrujal Patel, co-founder of a Chicago-based management consulting service for healthcare organizations. A Worldwide101 client for 3 years, Patel has a project manager and executive assistant via subscription.

“In a traditional sort of hire-and-fire situation you tend to be very reactive,” Patel says. “And I think many small businesses suffer the problem of either bringing people on too soon and having a cash flow burden, or bringing on people too late, where you’re already so far down the road and in the weeds that you can’t catch up. The subscription model has given us a significant amount of flexibility for our size, and lets us quickly respond to client needs.”

On the staff members’ side, too, the subscription staffing model can be the answer to establishing work/life balance. A 2016 Deloitte study found that 41% of people who had thought about working remotely were attracted by the idea of saying goodbye to full-time employment to work where, when and how they want, but 70% of those said the unsteady cash flow and lack of benefits of working as an independent contractor would discourage them. For people like Catherine Caraway, previously a project manager for a global non-profit who has now been an employee of Worldwide101 for the last four years, subscription staffing solves that problem.

“My husband’s in the military, so I knew remote work was my best bet for growing my career,” Caraway says. “But I don’t want to deal with the uncertainties of freelancing or trying to start my own business. Now I have security and freedom on a level that I didn’t even think was possible. I love supporting different clients, on my own time, but still knowing what’s coming next.”

Where premium remote staffing goes from here

Of course, premium subscription staffing brings up all kinds of questions. Which roles are appropriate for remote, subscription workers, and which aren’t? When is the perfect time for a business to pursue subscription staffing vs in-house hiring? Is this what the future of work will look like for all businesses?

The answers, no doubt, will be shaped by pioneers on both sides—hirers looking for more flexible, more affordable ways to source great talent, and staffers who want fulfilling work on their own terms. But the trend appears here to stay.

“This is the modern way to operate a business like mine,” says Sarah Giblin, owner of the ecommerce store RiutBag and a premium subscription staffing devotee for 3 years. “More companies are evolving to a point where they realize you don’t need someone to be in the office full- or even part-time to be great at what they do.”