LinkedIn ProFinder – bringing Freelancers and Employers Together
Although LinkedIn promotes itself as a platform for Business-to-Business (B2B) networking and provides lots of tools for businesses looking for full-time professionals, the business site has done little to actively promote the many freelance professionals on its site — until now.
LinkedIn last week quietly launched ProFinder, a trial program aimed at connecting companies with freelancers, currently restricted to the San Francisco Bay area. The service is free.
In essence, LinkedIn is offering to be a broker of sorts between those who are looking for freelancers and those who have services to offer. LinkedIn claims to offer “hand selected” professionals, and there’s an online application for more freelancers to be included in the program. LinkedIn offers employers a short list of potential workers, who all have LinkedIn Profiles. Both can then connect and discuss tasks and fees and come to their own agreement. LinkedIn doesn’t negotiate or set minimums, and receives no percentage or other fee.
Currently, LinkedIn ProFinder only supports freelancers in certain roles, but offers this clip to show the eventual scope:
Although there are many online services for hiring temps and freelancers online, LinkedIn comes into the space with many advantages to make a difference in the freelance economy, if it decides to expand the program nationally or internationally.
Some of those advantages are:
The Pros are Already On LinkedIn
A great many LinkedIn freelancers are already attracting clients with their profiles and are active in BTB communications. Job hunters, who may be attracted to try freelance opportunities, are also already on the site.
LinkedIn has, at this time, roughly 380 million members worldwide. So LinkedIn has almost no additional cost in drawing freelancers to ProFinder.
The Employers and HR Pros Are Also Already Here
Likewise, LinkedIn is already a center for Human Resource pros and hiring managers for many corporations and sells talent acquisition services to them. A huge number of companies already have pages, and it is relatively easy for potential freelancers and employers to research each other. This raises the trust factor between parties.
LinkedIn will not involve itself as an intermediary
Unlike many online services, such as UpWork (formerly Elance and oDesk), LinkedIn is not offering contracts or collection and payment systems for the freelance workers. Nor is it offering mediation services for conflicts between the parties (usually over payment for time worked or services provided). Since the service is free (at least, so far), there is no added costs to the employer, either.
The Emphasis is on Local Hiring
Since the trial is only for businesses and freelancers in the San Francisco area (where LinkedIn is, coincidentally, well-placed to hire its own freelancers), all hiring is local. This means the people selling their services don’t need to compete with labor from other parts of the world who can drastically undercut what Americans see as fair wages. Although employers will need to pay more, they can use local workers, interview them, and build up a longer business relationship if the initial trial goes well.
LinkedIn ProFinder might provide an environment where freelancers can more easily illustrate their skills and compete on experience while building relationships, rather than just on price.
LinkedIn already makes it easier for employers to hire locally for full-time positions. If LinkedIn expands the program nationally, but emphasizes local hiring, this could be a boon to the 53+ million freelancers in the U.S. who often have to deal with competitors from the developing world.
However, if expanded, more of LinkedIn’s non-U.S. members will likely want the opportunity to participate in the U.S. economy, too.
LinkedIn is Not a Startup
Unlike most new online hiring services for freelancers, LinkedIn is not a startup but a well-established, well-financed and profitable organization. Since the companies and the freelancers are already members, LinkedIn ProFinder can advertise the service mostly on its own site, reducing advertising costs.
As a facilitator in the process, not a hiring service, LinkedIn’s costs would be lower than many other services, too.
LinkedIn Groups as Workspaces?
With the recent revamp of LinkedIn Groups, it might be possible to create private workgroups for specific or ongoing projects. With the new messaging, it is also much easier to share documents. Even so, LinkedIn doesn’t have many of the tools for collaboration, document editing, scheduling, video conferencing or internet phone services that other online workgroups have.
The Challenges of Expanding LinkedIn ProFinder
If LinkedIn decides to expand its program, It will find itself in competition with other services who are either well-established in the freelance world or specialized in vertical markets, such as physicians, health care, software development, and project management. LinkedIn is relatively weak in health professionals, the performing arts, non-profits, unionized workplaces, government, and hourly workers, many of which already have alternate vertical hiring systems in place.
These are just of the first days of the trial program, so it’s too early for real predictions. But, if the trial succeeds, LinkedIn rolls out the program nationally, and if it concentrates on hiring locally, (all big IFs), the program has the potential to help freelancers across the United States and other countries. Building on LinkedIn’s strengths, this could potentially be great news for the freelance community.
You can browse to see freelancers who already have signed up by looking at LinkedIn’s brief help page for LinkedIn ProFinder.
For More Reading
LinkedIn Releases ProFinder Pilot, Quietly Enters Freelance/Independent Workforce Market by Andrew Karpie, on SpendMatters.com, October 23, 2015.
LinkedIn pilot project targets S.F. ‘gig economy’ freelancers
by Benny Evangelista, on SFGate (the San Francisco Chronicle site), Oct. 19, 2015.
LinkedIn Launches ProFinder on the OnContracting website, Oct. 23, 2015.