In October, LinkedIn, the popular professional online network and recruiting platform, has quietly launched a pilot of ProFinder, a new tool which connects businesses with local freelancers. The service is offered at no charge! This appears to be a test marketing initiative. The service is only available only in some locations in California and for only three work categories: accounting, graphic design and writing and editing. It is also not for remote work but local work with local employers. But, I could not help but wonder if the market for online platforms is not saturated already and if the existing online platforms are failing to capture the loyalty of their users, for either local or remote work!
When I evaluated some of the leading freelancer platforms I found, without much surprise, that few online platforms are without detractors. Though I have only listed 12 of the better known platforms here, the Internet is crowded with hundreds of such players.
So, why is the deep-pocketed LinkedIn foraying into the space with a non-monetized offering? It is possible for latecomer LinkedIn to leverage its existing customer base of 380 million, to find itself at the top, even at the outset! [Excuse the digression, but this also calls for a little self-congratulation, given how the DCR Blog has been repeatedly predicting that the freelance/independent workforce is set for growth and that they are set to play a major role in the economy in the future, too. It appears that LinkedIn has been paying attention to the profiles of its subscribers.]
Let us look at the various issues faced by the hirers and the freelancers, when using these platforms. Both sides complain that the platforms have failed to scale beyond the tasks of scheduling work, processing payments from the buyers of labor, and collecting their fees. Both hirers and freelancers suffer when platforms charge a membership fee, offer few job opportunities and provide no guarantee or refund fees. Users complain that most platform vendors refuse to accept constructive feedback and unilaterally block both customers and freelancers alike when raising a concern. Each group also expressed additional concerns:
Given these issues and concerns, it is not really surprising to find more platform vendors entering this sector in order to offer a marketplace that serves the needs of all parties. It is only to be hoped that some of the risks will be mitigated and problems resolved by these new players. We have deliberately avoided naming a specific platform when enumerating the issues with them, but do feel free to write in and share your experiences.
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