Transitioning from a full-time job to freelance work or launching your own business can be a scary leap — I totally get it. As a small-biz owner who helps people and companies shine online with content creation, marketing and web production projects, I’m constantly searching for cool new ways to find projects that light me up inside. In the last year of working for myself, I’ve taken to websites for freelancers like Craigslist, Upwork and Thumbtack to score gigs, along with connecting with some of my fave clients on the CloudPeeps platform. So as a huge fan of LinkedIn, I was stoked to see the company launch ProFinder, a new platform dedicated specifically to pairing companies with skilled freelancers. Eager to give it a whirl, I decided to dedicate a whole week to reading through leads, submitting proposals and connecting with people looking for help in my areas of expertise.
Signing up for ProFinder was pretty much the easiest experience I’ve had to date on any freelancing site. Since LinkedIn already has my work history, portfolio samples and recommendations, it imported them right into ProFinder. It was literally less than a minute before I had a snappy new URL I could share specifically for the type of work I do.
Though I love the streamlined look of my new profile and I was able to highlight my areas of expertise, I was disappointed that I couldn’t remove items that were a distraction from the services I currently offer. For me, this includes my part-time job as a Bar Method instructor (I like to show that on my regular LinkedIn profile but don’t typically share it with freelance clients unless they fall into a health or wellness space).
I was also unsure how to edit the top section that lists my areas of freelancing expertise. This also determines which leads I get from clients who want to work with people like me, so I reached out to customer support via live chat. I was surprised that they were so on top of it and helped me fix my listed expertise in two seconds flat.
I had a few leads come through on the second day. Right away I noticed that, though the requests met my broad areas of expertise, none of them were exactly right for me to submit a proposal. Case in point? A web development lead calling for super advanced technologies and a technical writing opportunity for a biology company — all things I’m simply not interested in or educated about.
I think LinkedIn might see a higher percentage of matches if they eventually let freelancers be more specific about their interests, industry experience or specific skills in terms of tools or programming languages.
On the third day, I had four leads come through. Two of them were a great match for me, so I clicked over to submit my first proposals. I was a bit late for the first and unable to send one through — the platform maxes out after the first five freelancers respond (just like Thumbtack). Talk about a sense of urgency! The second proposal went through just fine and I was able to include a project-based rate (hourly is also an option) with a quick paragraph pitching myself and my experience.
I was blown away when I got a message back from the potential client within 30 seconds! Using the built-in LinkedIn messenger system, we set up time to talk the following day.
No leads came through at all on the fourth day, and my potential client asked me to reschedule our call for the end of the week. Wanting to prep myself for our chat, I spent time going through her website and realized that I might not be as ideal for her project as I originally thought. The subject matter was a lot more niche than she mentioned in her proposal and outside my expertise. Since I always welcome a good convo and meeting new people, I rescheduled our call for the end of the week.
Four more leads came through on the fifth day, all within a few hours in the afternoon when I was working at my computer. I didn’t see any that jumped out at me as a good fit or note any opportunities where I was confident I could step in and elevate a client’s work or company to a new level. Pass, pass, pass. I was sure to click “I’m not interested” for each on the ProFinder platform in case LinkedIn uses the data to send me better lead matches.
I took the rescheduled call with the potential client who liked my proposal earlier in the week. She was SUCH a gem. However, despite liking her personally a ton, my initial hunch about her focus and my area of expertise was on point. I let her know that I’m more focused on tech, career, lifestyle and wellness verticals and am not the best person to help her with ultra-focused finance work. She told me she’d love to work with me if I change my mind and that we should still get together for coffee next time she’s in San Francisco. How nice!
On the last day of my ProFinder experiment, I saw three more leads come through. One was a content production opportunity for a tech startup I LOVE (I read their blog *all* the time), so I decided to find out how difficult it would be to submit a proposal with my iPhone, since I knew that waiting until I got home could mean missing the chance to connect if five people were as excited as I was. Though typing a thoughtful pitch on the phone is never fun, sending it went off without a hitch thanks to the responsive design and awesome mobile experience. I haven’t heard back yet, but hope this might be the first job I land from the ProFinder platform.
Reflecting on my weeklong experience, I believe that ProFinder will become a popular and powerful way for high-quality clients and freelancers to connect in coming months and years. After all, everyone already uses Linkedin! For now, I’ll keep reading the emails that come through, but continue to spend most of my time on the platforms that consistently match me with more niche, high-paying jobs for now.
Have you tried LinkedIn’s ProFinder to find freelance gigs or someone to help you with a project? Tell us about your experience on Twitter @BritandCo!
(Photos via Getty and Krista Gray)