What Happens When Freelancers Use LinkedIn ProFinder
Match.com is the #1 online dating site and a pioneer in the online dating industry. The site is based on how people “meet, court and develop relationships. ” LinkedIn is the #1 social network for business and a pioneer in social networking for business. So when LinkedIn launched ProFinder in 2016, it should have been a great way for freelancers to connect with clients. Is it?
On the one-year birthday of ProFinder in August 2017, the business matchmaking service had 70,000 freelancers nationwide—including me—in categories like writing and editing, design, photography, and IT services.
Does LinkedIn ProFinder Live Up to its Potential?
To be on ProFinder, you have to complete an online application and LinkedIn has to accept you. Once this is done, LinkedIn will notify you of “relevant” freelance projects and you can submit a proposal. LinkedIn allows up to five freelancers to submit a proposal for each project. The proposals include a message, your price quote, and a link to your profile. If the client is interested, he/she can contact you directly.
So let’s see how ProFinder actually works, and whether it’s living up to its potential as the Match.com for freelancers and clients. Four freelancers who’ve used ProFinder are sharing their experiences with the freelance job site:
Mia, Frieda, and I are freelance writers and Sharese is a freelance editor.
Are ProFinder Freelance Jobs Relevant?
“I have not had appropriate matches with the leads from LinkedIn ProFinder,” says Mia. “As a writer focusing on medical and scientific content, the leads tend to be more on engineering and resume writing.”
Mia did submit a proposal for “the only project that seemed like a fit for my specialty.” It was a waste of her time, she says, because the client never even looked at her proposal.
Sharese tried responding to a project request, but doesn’t know if it went through. “The process didn’t seem to be user friendly, and I did not continue responding to project requests,” she says.
Local Focus: Major Flaw #1
ProFinder’s focus on local freelancers is a major flaw in its design. “Many freelancers, especially writers and editors, work with clients from all over the world,” says Sharese, who was surprised that the project requests she got were all within her state.
I’ve worked with clients across the U.S., and have never even met most of them in person. Frieda lives in Texas, and says the “local” project requests were often as much as a 10-hour drive from her home.
Lack of Relevant Matches: Major Flaw #2
Another major flaw is ProFinder’s inability to match freelancers with relevant freelance jobs. Sending Mia a project request for resume writing is ridiculous, as is sending me a project request for web content from a wood cabinet-maker.
I love writing web content. But I’m a freelance medical writer. The headline of my LinkedIn profile starts with “Freelance Medical Writer.” My summary and the rest of my profile clearly focus on my specialty. So how did I get a project request from a wood cabinet-maker? I’ve never even submitted a proposal because the freelance jobs don’t even come close to matching what I do.
Are Great Clients Using ProFinder to Find Freelancers?
Most clients using ProFinder to find freelancers—80%— are small businesses (50 or fewer employees), reports Elaine Pofeldt in “Thinking About Trying LinkedIn ProFinder? Check Out These Findings.”
That’s not good for freelance writers, editors, designers, and other creative professionals. Large businesses are usually the best clients for us—because they:
- Understand the value of freelancers
- Are willing to pay us what we’re worth
- Have an ongoing need for freelancers.
The wood cabinet-maker was a small business owner, as were all of the other project requests I’ve gotten through ProFinder.
Wasted Time and Effort on ProFinder
The best prospective client who Frieda connected with through ProFinder was a small, start-up contract research organization.
This prospect, located more than two hours away from Frieda, insisted on a face-to-face meeting. Frieda reluctantly agreed because the freelance opportunity appeared to be lucrative.
“During our meeting, the potential client mined me for ideas and then stated he wanted to work with people who weren’t greedy,” says Frieda. This was unsettling, especially since the meeting and travel to and from the meeting took most of Frieda’s day. The client then told Frieda that he wanted her to work in-house at least once a week, even though his project request mentioned he was open to working with both remote or in-house contractors.
A few days later, the client called and asked Frieda to lower her proposed rate, which she did not do since she was charging the market rate for freelance medical writers. “In the end, I lost almost a full work day of productivity without securing a client,” she says.
Other freelancers I know who submitted proposals have found that clients don’t want to pay the fee cited in the proposal.
“I was so disappointed by this experience and the off-target project requests sent to my account that I have not used ProFinder since,” says Frieda.
Mia noticed that even though the project requests were from people associated with a company, often the requests were for their own personal projects.
Are Freelance Fees and ProFinder Costs Reasonable?
There are 2 more major flaws in the design of ProFinder.
Bad Price Quote Structure: Major Flaw #3
ProFinder’s price quote structure is another flaw. Freelancers have to provide a hard rate, with no option to include a project fee or price range. “You have to be prepared to quote an hourly range, even with limited knowledge of the project,” says Frieda. “I typically work off project fees. Quoting an hourly rate deters many potential clients before you have the opportunity to demonstrate your value.”
Frieda’s absolutely correct. Also, since freelancers work at different speeds, an hourly rate isn’t a good way to estimate the cost of a project.
I always include a price range in my estimates to prospective clients. Then, when the client changes the scope of work a little or hasn’t defined the project accurately—and one of these usually happens—the estimate is still accurate. Clients hate it when freelancers tell them a project will cost them more than they agreed to pay, even if it’s the client’s fault. (Of course, if the client makes major changes to the scope of work, we must increase our project fee.)
Hefty Monthly Fee: Major Flaw #4
What LinkedIn doesn’t tell freelancers when we sign up for ProFinder is that after submitting 10 proposals, you have to upgrade to Business Premium to continue using ProFinder. The cost starts at $47.99 a month (more if you pay monthly instead of by the year).
“The service hasn’t shown itself to be valuable enough to pay for,” says Sharese. Mia, Frieda, and I agree.
Is LinkedIn Worth it?
LinkedIn ProFinder is the only freelance job site that I’ve ever signed up for. I did this not to find clients—because I have a much better way of doing that—but to see how it worked. My conclusion is that it doesn’t.
The Better Way to Find Clients
Direct Email Swipe File: Direct email templates, examples, and tips
LinkedIn Does Work for Freelancers
Except for ProFinder, I’m a big fan of LinkedIn. The social network for business helps freelancers get great freelance jobs and clients, and lets us network with each other, which often leads to referrals. Through the posts and articles of people in our networks, we can learn many things that help us succeed as freelancers.
Sixty-two percent of freelancers who use LinkedIn say it’s “important” or “very important” in getting clients, according to How Freelancers Market their Services: 2019 Survey. That number is an 11% increase over 2017, when 51% of freelancers said they get clients through the #1 business social network.
Clients often search for freelancers on LinkedIn (without using ProFinder). I know many freelancers who’ve gotten great clients by crafting a client-focused profile that enabled those clients to find them.
“Many of my clients have come to me through LinkedIn,” says Sharese. “It is my best marketing tool. That is why I was willing to give ProFinder a chance. I will stick to managing my profile and making connections.” Clients have found Sharese by searching for freelance editors and she has also reached out to clients herself.
Mia uses LinkedIn to “stay on potential clients’ radar.” “If you post an update on an event you are helping with or something you recently wrote, your potential clients can see a highlight of your work. This keeps you near the top on their list of potential freelancers to work with.”
“I originally joined LinkedIn in 2005, and I have found the platform to be one of the most invaluable networking tools in my career in ways that far exceed forging new relationships and exploring business opportunities,” says Frieda.
For me, LinkedIn is a great tool for researching prospects, building my network, and learning new things.
Learn more about how freelancers can use LinkedIn
What Does the Future Hold for ProFinder?
LinkedIn cofounder Reid Hoffman told Fast Company that ProFinder will get much bigger eventually. He says LinkedIn is working on getting the formula right for taking ProFinder to scale.
The current formula is far from right. “With the current matching criteria for writers there is not much use for this resource,” says Mia. “I’ve put this low on the list for potential clients and leads.”
“I wouldn’t depend on ProFinder for generating leads,” adds Sharese.
Let’s hope that LinkedIn asks freelancers about our needs and how we typically interact with prospective clients before taking ProFinder to scale.
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Learn more about LinkedIn and ProFinder
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Elaine Pofeldt, Thinking About Trying LinkedIn ProFinder? Check Out These Findings