Social media is undergoing something of a change at the moment, with Facebook challenging the anti-vaxxers and far-right pundits, Twitter rolling out its new look and taking the trolls to task and now LinkedIn, which has joined the game with a nod to the freelancing community.
Hacker extraordinaire, Jane Manchun Wong made the discovery. Wong is to the internet what Sherlock Holmes is to Edwardian villainy. She’s always first on the scene, always makes the breakthrough and is a total legend. We have no reason to believe she wears a deerstalker. Wong is famous for scooping the world with her work. She famously caught on to Facebook’s dating feature and was the first to take a look around before the plans were even released to the public.
This self-professed “white hat” hacker, or someone who uses their powers for good, rather than ill, spotted that LinkedIn was testing a feature that would effectively allow freelancers to showcase their skills on their profile. This then will, in theory at least, allow recruiters to find best matches and link them to the most suitable employers and voila, you’ve got a job, a steady income and no more mortgage arrears. She flagged up the move via her Twitter account and the ears of freelancers across the world pricked up at the sound of a brand-new thing to sign up for.
But what does this new feature unlock and isn’t it just another of the eleventy billion things that freelancers sign into for fear of missing out on landing their dream client?
The thing with LinkedIn is that it knows full well how vast their global platform is and that more than half of its users in the US alone are signed up as freelancers. Globally, the figures are harder to pin down but one thing’s certainly not in doubt: freelancing is big business for LinkedIn and its manoeuvring itself to be the place to go for finding freelance gigs through connections and its dedicated job pages. This latest development is yet another step towards achieving this corporate objective.
Last year, LinkedIn published its ‘Big Ideas for 2019’ manifesto and included information about workforce makeup, or Millennials working alongside Gen Z, and other far more interesting stuff. One big idea that stood out was a statistic claiming that more and more companies will come to rely on freelancers, particularly in a continually challenging financial climate. The freelancing lifestyle itself, LinkedIn claims, will change dramatically and change for the better. How you may ask? Through better awareness of the rights of those working in the Gig economy and through the rather surprising claim that we will, collectively, attempt to wean ourselves away from social media and enjoy our real lives for what they are. This, in itself, will help us reconnect with ourselves and help us to combine our values both professionally and personally. You heard it here first.
For those of us still on the frontline of freelancing, where each day brings with it a fresh wave of professional highs and lows, the promise of yet another way to connect with potential employers is almost lost in the cacophony of noise and information overload. If your Twitter feed isn’t already clogged full of promises to get your website seen, put your digital marketing right or using Pinterest to get work, then you’re probably doing something right. But for the vast majority, it’s yet another thing to do in the battle to win jobs and commissions.
That’s not to say it won’t be worth doing. LinkedIn knows its stuff and Wong seems to think it will work. It might even take some of the leg work out of pitching for jobs with the site matching clients to you, rather than you determinately pursuing your next job and facing yet another rejection.
The big hope for most freelancers is that they will be recognised and rewarded financially for their skills, no longer having to take lower paid jobs, knowing they’re worth much more or competing on Upwork and People Per Hour for which, unless you are very discerning, can sometimes feel like a race to the bottom.
If you are a freelancer, then you probably approach this news with the familiar hope that you’ve finally found the silver bullet of finding regular, well-paid work coupled with the strong suspicion that your email account is about to be inundated with unsolicited nonsense. Very much business as usual. But maybe we’re just being too cynical. LinkedIn knows its market after all, it knows it inside and out and if it can make this work and establish a new world order in freelancing recruitment then we’re right behind it.
If more and more are taking to the freelance model, then change is needed and sooner rather than later. Making matches and connections is more important than ever and perhaps LinkedIn is just visionary enough to lead that charge.