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According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are currently about 15 million freelancers in the United States. Intuit’s 2020 vision study shows that number might rise to 60 million by 2020 — just four years from now. This is all pretty logical: companies have been decreasing their appreciation and protection of employees for decades, and advances in technology + platforms have created various new economic niches. We call these “The Sharing Economy,” “The App Economy,” “The Knowledge Economy,” “The Gig Economy,” and more.
As you set out on a freelance path, some of your major options for finding jobs, clients, and leads include:
Interestingly, LinkedIn has usually been absent from this list for freelancers. Sure, you can brand yourself as a freelance in your specific area on LinkedIn — and you can reach out to people, share articles, post yourself, and make connections that way. It works for many.
But despite LinkedIn having 400 million users in 200+ countries, they’ve never really had an official product or channel for linking freelancers to client work.
In October, they started trials of LinkedIn ProFinder in San Francisco. It’s since spread to southern California and New York City, with future growth planned. A few weeks ago, I was able to speak with some of the ProFinder product managers about the concept.
ProFinder was developed as a way for business owners to quickly and easily connect with qualified freelance professionals, using existing LinkedIn information and algorithms. Here’s how it essentially works: a business owner lists a project or job in one of several niches, including writing/editing, marketing, finance, accounting, etc. Freelancers can then bid on the jobs via a RFP process. (Freelancers are capped at bidding on five proposals per day.) The matching process is based on your skills, your overall LinkedIn profile, and the company’s talent-sourcing algorithms.
The overall goal is to ensure best fit between business owner and freelancer by utilizing the power of data. And perhaps the best part? It’s free right now for both sides as LinkedIn experiments with the service and gathers more data.
This could be a game-changer for freelancers and small business entrepreneurs, in my opinion. LinkedIn is by far the most powerful social network from a professional standpoint. However, they can have an ‘active user’ problem — only about 25% of their total user base goes on the site monthly. This makes sense: if you’re very busy or happy in your current role, you probably don’t have an incentive to visit LinkedIn every day. So if a freelancer or small business entrepreneur finds someone on there who could be a great lead and messages them, sometimes the response can take weeks.
Now the connection between ‘those needing work’ and ‘those with work’ on the freelance/entrepreneur side is much more direct, and the entire ProFinder platform is leveraged by LinkedIn’s overall power and data. While I love sites like Upwork and Freelancer, they can’t say the same thing.
You can sign up at LinkedIn ProFinder right now regardless of location; a LinkedIn account manager will get back to you within 2-3 business days on next steps. One of the freelancers I work with just signed up and told me the process takes less than 45 seconds and is extremely intuitive. Get on there today — the next major lead for your business could be days away.
LinkedIn’s also created a guide to standing out on ProFinder, which is a helpful resource to check out between signing up and waiting for approval.