A survey released today by Elance and Microsoft Office Live shows that 64% of small business owners would prefer to do something else (tax returns, give a speech, run a 10K race) than develop a website. For many it is a difficult task that they would prefer to ignore or have a professional complete for them. This provides a great opportunity for web designers and developers.

Conducted by Decision Analyst Inc., in December 2008, the survey of 600 small business owners also revealed that 61 percent of respondents would continue to spend the same or more on marketing in 2009. Small business owners recognize the importance of their website and 43% indicate that having a web presence is extremely or very important to the success of their business, and 71% say they use email and/or online advertising to market their business. In terms of staffing, just more than half intend to maintain their current staffing levels, while nearly a third believe they may need to hire contract or freelance help. Small-business owners surveyed were most likely to hire freelance workers to help with their Web design, marketing and sales efforts. Nearly 20%, according to the survey, look online for help developing these applications.

Although just more than half of the small-business owners interviewed did not have a Web site, almost two-thirds admitted that having a Web presence is important to the success of their business. Lack of budget, time and technical expertise were among the top reasons for not having a Web site, the survey revealed.

Microsoft Office Live Small Business and Elance Inc. launched a new partnership today, called Services Marketplace, to help connect entrepreneurs with web designers. Allowing designers to find new opportunities and entrepreneurs to find the expertise they need for their projects. More about this opportunity can be found on the Elance Community Blog.

Thanks to Carol Adams for contributing to this story.