LinkedIn Marketplace and the broken freelancing platform model

Vanessa Green
March 31, 2021

LinkedIn, professional networking behemoth and platform notorious for publishing god-awful ‘‘broetry”, recently announced it’s developing a new service called Marketplace to enable its 740 million users to find and book freelancers.

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They will join the ranks of other established freelancing platforms like Upwork and Fiverr and take an eye-watering 13%-27% off the top of every job booked through the site. Fiverr currently takes 20% on all projects booked through their platform and Upwork takes between 10% - 20% depending on the size of the contract.

Honestly? That is straight-up robbery.

Historically, freelancers and gig workers have not had it easy - especially during the pandemic. Years ago, tech giants swooped in and ‘disrupted’ various industries by luring in freelancers with the promise of flexible scheduling. Even corporations looking to save on full-time employment costs are now actively veering away from hiring permanent staff in favour of taking on contract workers to fill the gaps.

And for many freelancers, myself included, there are benefits to this type of work. The ability to balance work and home life being one of the most important. Others include not having to take on awful clients, no commute and no one micromanaging you.

There are downsides of course - no job security (though, many argue that doesn’t really exist in the corporate world anymore anyway), clients not paying on time or at all, no benefits, no expenses coverage, no pension, no healthcare, no paid vacation, etc.

So in a world where gig workers justly fight tech monoliths to be recognized as employees, where they struggle to make ends meet without unemployment insurance, where they are often treated as disposable by their employers, it feels like a slap in the face for a tech giant like LinkedIn to swan into the freelance platform game and demand 25 cents for every dollar their users earn.

There are, of course, risks for these gig economy middlemen: managing payment is complex and potentially risky. However, at the end of the day, gig workers seem to be the ones to suffer from these risks, as many complain that little is done by these platforms to deal with deadbeat clients who refuse to pay.  That’s not to mention the influx of fake job ads, employers never actually hiring anyone for listed jobs and non-existent customer support for freelancers.

So, what’s the solution?

There are many ways to monetize these freelancing platforms. Subscription-based models are a popular option, charging both freelancers and employers to pay a monthly fee to sign up and post or book a job. Other options include paying to promote your profile/job posting.

Basically, the way job boards used to work back in the day.

But Microsoft-owned LinkedIn is a big player in the game. They have a lot of brand power and credibility, which means both job seekers and employers will use this new platform, and LinkedIn will be there waiting to scoop that cream right off the top.

As for me, and many other freelancers, I won’t be using LinkedIn Marketplace. I will slave away doing business development the old-fashioned way. And while it might take time, I’ll rest easy knowing that every dollar I earn is actually mine.

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