The freelance revolution owes its explosive growth to a trifecta of trends: first, the rise of freelancing as an attractive alternative career for a growing range of professions; second, increasingly available and affordable tech that allowed professionals to live in one location and deliver work to another, virtually; and third, the acceptance of remote work resulting from the pandemic Covid-19. The combination has gone a long way in democratizing opportunity, by liberating talented people from the limitations of local economic opportunity, and benefit from the global economy.
Opportunity may be more nearly democratic as a result, but talent and expertise are different matters. We’ve all heard of Pareto’s Rule, and it seems to fit that the top 10-20% of freelancers contribute the majority of value to their platform. Most leaders say that 10-20% of freelancers obtain project work through their platforms. Those providing regular work for 20% plus are relatively few and far between, and it’s the rare platform that generates meaningful work for 30% or more.
How do platforms additionally support or reward their highest performers, the group they surely want most to retain? I put the question to marketplace CEOs:
“What extra help, if any, do you provide the most productive (e.g., top 10-20%) of your freelancers? What additional support, or services, do you offer to reward and retain them, help grow their business, and incent them to share leads or projects with colleagues?”
Here’s what they told us:
Eldri Coll Mossige, CEO Folq (Norway) “To reward and retain our most productive freelancers: Tip scheme: When a tip about new consultants, buyers or assignments leads to a new assignment the consultant (the tipper) is rewarded financially. Reduced margins over time (in assignments with Folq) and Paid participation in vetting of new consultants. We are experimenting with placing a badge on their profiles in order to make them stand out for buyers, and Profiling through ads, blog posts, and presentations on our meetups.”
Ömer Güven, CEO Fintalent (Liechtenstein) “At Fintalent we provide data infrastructure such as access to CapIQ, pre-vetted educational offerings as well as templates. This provides added value for our members, and gives results for our clients. We invite top performing talent to apply for privately listed jobs. Additionally, our core team is contactable at short notice and any of the Fintalent family can arrange a call with our team to discuss any issues. Furthermore, we are working on a community function for talent to share knowledge as talent on our platform are at different stages in their careers, from 2nd/3rd year analysts to C-level talent.”
Brett Riley, CEO ITARMI (UK) “ITARMI creates additional value for its freelancers through Ethereum utility tokens. When our engineers get great reviews they are rewarded with tokens that they can part exchange or trade for discounts on training and other incentives. The idea is that if we can build value in this form of crypto we in turn create value. Great service is rewarded and in so doing we in turn get the loyalty to the brand.”
Stefani Thrasyvoulou, Marketing Head People Per Hour and Plus.Works (UK) “In combination with the powerful, tiered rating system that our marketplace PeoplePerHour offers as well as client reviews, the best and most productive freelancers are then considered for our premium service Plus.Works. This, as you can see is a separate, bespoke service for which only the top 1% of our 3million+ freelancers are considered for, and the result is that they are matched with bigger clients and longer-term, more rewarding projects.”
John Brodie, Chair Gigged.AI (Scotland) “For all our freelancers we provide a Customer Success Manager to help give them more time to work on projects and find new projects easily. We are introducing an incentive programme based on referrals of new projects and freelancers to our platform. We will be launching a service for top 30% of freelancers which will include sessions from leading experts on topics including sales and marketing to help them grow their business”
James Sandoval, CEO Measurematch (UK) “We invest heaps of time and effort to ensure professionals participating in MeasureMatch create the best possible first impressions. Buyers of services gravitate to profiles featuring ratings and reviews, so we preferentially support and engage our most active and successful professionals. Both manually and through platform automation, providers’ profiles are promoted to new and existing clients, both on and off platform.”
Susan Marshall, CEO Torchlite (Us) “Our freelancers are all an extension of the Torchlite family and culture, which means if they need emotional support or help getting medical help for their families, we work with them to do that. We also provide regular coaching on how to run their small businesses including marketing, project management and customer service.”
Matt Dowling CEO FreelancerClub (UK) “We shortlisted a group of the most active members who we felt embodied the values of the Freelancer Club and invited them to join an Advisory Board on Slack. Our freelance members are at the centre of the Club and the Slack group provides them with a platform to express their thoughts, ideas and suggestions. As a means of giving back, members receive early access to events, guides and updates. We also award them with a ‘recommended’ badge on their profile that adds to their credibility and increases their chances of finding work.”
Matt Mottola, CEO VentureL (US) “We reward top talent by curating exclusive events, intro’s and programs. Freelancers we work with don’t want a LinkedIn or Facebook type network. They want small trusted tribes, so on top of our software for curating their own networks, we provide exclusive community activities to foster meaningful connections.”
Dr. David Küpper, CEO Expertpowerhouse (Germany) “At expertpowerhouse, we offer our consultants various trainings throughout the year. Some of the trainings are for the entire expertpowerhouse.com community whereas others are more targeted towards a specific group or geography. With selected professionals we do collaborative content development and sharing to push their visibility in social media and beyond. We also have webinars to inform members about the latest developments in independent management consulting and changing customer requirements. However, most important to retain the best talent on your platform is to offer a constant stream of interesting, impactful and attractive project opportunities for your consultants.”
Ricky Willianto, CEO Ravenry (Singapore) “Our freelancers work with Ravenry because we provide high quality leads for them. The more engaged and active our freelancers are, the better we know their capabilities and the kinds of clients they will be most successful working with. That makes it easier for us to match our top 10% freelancers with the best clients we have on our platform.”
Jasmine Haria, co-founder FluidTal (India) “FluidTal has a people first management approach. We offer them their desired rates and pay them their worth on time. For the loyalty and performance of those who exceed expectations, we use gift cards and virtual courses. The relationship is not transactional. Rather we nurture them to be brand influencers and motivate them to create a positive influence of their work and values on their peers.”
Sandeep Dhillon, CEO Talmix “We’ve found that providing a high level of support from initial engagement through to project completion, our consultants become our advocates and ambassadors, introducing us to new clients. We want to make sure that success is shared. We have tried various incentive and referral programmes over the years but typically find that our successful consultants mark their success in fees earnt, rather than additional commission.”
Connor Heany, CEO CXC EMEA (Ireland) “With regards to the top 20%, we seek to match freelancers with clients outside home markets to generate additional revenue opportunities for them and also to increase the value they might bring to new projects. For example, we are matching Australian Freelancers with opportunities in Poland and Hong Kong and matching freelancers in Poland with US opportunities. Our goal is to ensure that the top 20% are fully utilised which can be a problem for some platforms.“
Shahriyar Ramezani CEO Codemonk (India) “We help our top 10-20% freelancers with additional pay-outs as we realised they were critical to the success of our platform in the early days. Therefore, we share part of our revenue and classify them as Partners of CodeMonk. Given how well that model worked, we are looking to implement additional features to allow our “Partners” to earn more by bringing further projects and freelancers into our ecosystem.”
Arnaud Sourisseau, CEO OMS (France) “Here is what we offer to our most successful consultants, whom we staff the most: 1. We highlight their profiles and in their area of expertise which we publish in the media, on Linkedin and on our website, and 2. We co-design common consulting methodologies that we push to clients in order to win new projects on which they’re staffed.”
Nishant Aggarwal, CEO Nomawo (US) “One of our primary objectives is to help freelancers develop the mindset of a CEO and a business owner. The freelancers who show up and contribute the most get additional visibility internally and externally.”
Sachin Bhagwata, Head of Enterprise, Andela (NY/Africa) “With an acceptance rate under 5%, our network enjoys the top 10% of Africa’s freelancers. Andela offers unique benefits: payment in any currency (from USD to crypto), access to exclusive long-term roles with over 200 clients, educational and community opportunities, and training partnerships with global brands like Google and Facebook, and events featuring amazing leaders.”
What’s the take-away?
It’s clear from our CEO comments that helping top freelancers is on the minds of many platform leadership teams. There seems a variety of ways that platforms are giving extra support and attention to their best freelance performers, but it’s still early days. Many platforms are just starting to think about how to reward, engage, and retain their top freelancers and we see a range of strategies offered by these CEOs, including financial payments, increased marketing visibility and project opportunity, and the offer of additional help in personal brand and client relationship building.
But not all platforms are focused on providing additional support to the top 10-20% of freelancers. Many of the CEOs I’ve talked with are unsure whether and how to provide more assistance to a segment of platform members, and emphasize the benefits they provide all their freelancers through education, coaching, meetups, and other benefits, including cash payments such as the case with Norway’s Folq.
However, the final comment, belongs to Expertpowerhouse’s David Küpper, who wisely reminds us: “(M)ost important to retain the best talent on your platform is to offer a constant stream of interesting, impactful and attractive project opportunities for your consultants.” I couldn’t agree more!
Viva la revolution