The length and depth of the recession has led to an increase in freelancers in many professions. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics claims that the number of people who became self-employed as a result of the downturn has more than doubled, to 1.2 million people.
This trend has significance for job boards, and for several reasons:
- Many of the self-employed simply don’t use job boards anymore – they’re not looking for a job (they’re looking for business!).
- Those that are using job boards may be using them in a different, less intense way than traditional job seekers – in other words, they might consider going back to a traditional job if it was ‘perfect’.
- Many have migrated to sites such as Elance that cater specifically to freelancers and their specific needs.
Although some sites (such as my alma mater, Dice) have long juggled contractors and permanent hires, many job boards have focused on permanent and long-term employment. Certainly occasional freelance job posting show up – but they’re usually not a priority for the job board sales teams.
Yet the freelance market has grown continuously over the past 30 years, covering sectors as diverse as accounting, IT, engineering, marketing, and almost everything in between. This emerging segment of the workforce represents a potential expansion path for job boards – but their unique needs must be met.
How are freelancers different from traditional job seekers?
- The ‘job’ they’re looking for is their next gig – and thus, they need help in marketing themselves to potential clients.
- They need a simple and effective way to bid on jobs.
- They need a simple and inexpensive way to get paid.
- They need insurance and the other benefits they no longer receive as a traditional employee.
- They may need tools – a ‘virtual workplace’ – that integrate with their bidding and pay systems.
- Many of them need a home online – a place where they can ‘set up shop’ without spending lots of money or wasting time.
- They may also need a place to connect with other freelancers for jobs that they ‘sub out’ – ideally, a place out of the view of their primary clients.
Each item on that list represents a potential revenue stream for the job board that’s willing to provide these services. Obviously, sites such as Guru, Elance, and others focus completely on this market – but they lack the niche focus of many job sites.
So how about it? Are you ignoring the freelancers in your midst? Maybe you shouldn’t.[Want to get Job Board Doctor posts via email? Subscribe here.]. [Check out the JobBoardGeek podcast archive!]