LinkedIn, the online employment and social giant, has entered the freelance market with ProFinder, a new online platform designed to connect the specific requests of employers with a pool of suitable, local freelancers or independent professionals looking for short-term assignments.
The pilot program was first launched in late 2015 in San Francisco, and then New York. It now is live in Southern California. The decision by LinkedIn offers another solid indication of the rise of the so-called “gig economy.”
According to a study by Intuit, 4 out of 10 American workers will be independent contractors by the year 2020. The growth of freelancer marketplaces like ProFinder cuts different ways for small businesses, especially in the services sector: They can hire short-term help through these platforms or find short-term jobs themselves–or lose steady clients to freelancers.
Here’s how it works: An employer can enter the online platform (at no charge) and fill out a request for the type of work they need, along with their price range. At the same time, freelancers can respond with proposals. While LinkedIn is far from the first company to enter the freelancer market, the twist is that the company will dedicate LinkedIn professionals to sort through the requests and to come up with a list of possible freelance hires – all within 24 hours.
For now, there are only four job categories for its Southern California audience – accounting, writing and editing, design and marketing. However, the company has said it intends to offer up to 15 different job categories.
LinkedIn will have to battle for its share of the gig economy with existing players, including TaskRabbit, Upwork and Freelancer.
Upwork unveiled its Upwork Pro last month. Upwork Pro is described as a “new talent sourcing offering for midmarket companies.”
Like the ProFinder model, Upwork Pro will offer companies a pre-screened pool of top freelance talent, based on specific requests. Company officials say the goal is to significantly reduce the time that hiring managers take to bring in freelance talent. Upwork claims it can reduce a process that often takes 3 months to an average of just 3 days.
Other companies, like TaskRabbit, have existed in the gig economy for some time. TaskRabbit, founded in 2008, is an online platform that matches freelance labor with local demand. A family looking for help moving into a new home might utilize TaskRabbit. Many of the tasks can be completed in hours or a single day. The company says it has thousands of so-called “taskers” who are both vetted and background-checked.
The impact that ProFinder will have on these existing companies is difficult to assess. However, LinkedIn officials are counting on the impact of their huge professional network – more than 380 million members.