I know a lot of designers in the New York area, so frequently people ask me for references. But lately it’s very hard to find freelancers or anyone between jobs. The industry is booming, but the traditional place-an-ad, receive-a-million-resumes (or not), and interview-a-dozen-people way of finding someone is fairly inefficient.
The globalization of the programming industry has resulted in oDesk, a website that allows employers to post a contract description which applicants from around the world then bid on. The site also facilitates payment transfers and tracking the work by taking screen shots of the programmers computer every 10 minutes.
It would be trickier to hire designers and field researchers this way, but I’m betting it will happen eventually.