The Fight Against Commoditization

To be unconventionally employed is to be in a constant state of concern about lead flow. There can never be enough pots to keep warm, and the best case scenario is likely feeling like you may have taken on too much.

While relationships and networking have historically been a huge determinant of keeping a healthy lead flow, some trends are democratizing the lead process, for good and bad.

One of the most common discussions I’ve had recently with readers and associated freelance and consulting friends is the emergence of LinkedIn ProFinder.

By its built-in network, LinkedIn has “weaponized” the narrowing of the pitch process. If you are looking to hire someone for a project and don’t have a person in mind, you can submit it through LinkedIn, which will alert people in its database to send proposals. This is not that dissimilar to sites like Fiverr, 99Designs, and others – the Internet has increasingly produced vehicles for people to hire others for work with less friction.

In LinkedIn’s system, your ability to sell yourself in your proposal in extremely limited: the only fields allowed in the response is your rate and a 200-1500 word essay on why you are the right person for the job. The process seems to favor cost as the primary deciding factor at the expense of your experience and quality of work. It’s quick and frictionless, but maybe friction can be good. It can ensure the right choice has been made.

The technology obviously benefits the hirer (cue the recurring theme), and it does give people without strong networks the ability to vie for business about which they may have otherwise never known.

And yet… and yet… if this proliferates, it’s plain to see that it puts an overall pinch on the expected wages that someone can expect to make from this business. It also is likely to cause both sides misery as the hirer may have buyer’s remorse more frequently, and the hired class may find the whole process demoralizing. You obviously can choose not to participate and be fine as long as your lead flow exists outside of these markets.

But it could be a path to commoditization. If today’s clients put tomorrow’s work on something like LinkedIn ProFinder, you may find an overall crunch on your income. Though maybe the impersonal, low-quality nature of bids will produce low-quality work and people will return to a broader pitch process.

What about you? Have you tried LinkedIn ProFinder? Or where else do you get leads where you are made to feel like a commodity? Is it a worrying trend? Or are these places just a way to supplement income from your best clients?