In 2010, one-third of all American workers were independent – that means freelance, self-employed, or part-time, explains the Freelancers Union. And many of the fastest-growing online freelance jobs are around technology, from email marketing (at #5) to Android (#6), WordPress (#8), and HTML (#9).
The growth of freelancing is partly thanks to the uncertain economy, which makes it more attractive to hire freelancers – temporary workers who don’t receive benefits. But Coworks community manager Jill Gutierrez thinks freelancers get short shrift sometimes.
“Freelancing is not a second-class role. It is a central role in our economy,” she says. “It should be and is equally as valuable and critical a component to a business’s staffing model as full-time.”
While freelancers abound, the best ones aren’t always easy to find. Startups have to muddle through by trolling LinkedIn, combing through applications posted on freelance sites, or asking friends.
Instead of presenting as many freelancers as possible, Coworks wants to narrow down your options. It recommends freelancers who have been employed by people in your social network. It’s effectively like asking everyone you know for a recommendation, without the annoying emails or phone calls. You can recruit for jobs in design and illustration, photo and video, web and apps, and writing and translation.
With free and paid plans for clients and freelancers, Coworks can also handle your billing, payments, and tax documents. Gutierrez thinks that freelancers spend too much time trying to wrangle with IRS rules, find invoicing software, and set up payments.
In fact, 77 percent of freelancers have had clients who don’t pay, and they have to spend time chasing them down. “When it comes time for payment, suddenly they’re very hard to reach,” quips Gutierrez.
Coworks’s social network model may seem to narrow the pool too much compared to sites like Guru or Elance. But if you want, you can also search all freelancers and see how many degrees apart a potential hire is (as on LinkedIn).
The San Francisco startup launched at the end of April and sees itself as part of a broader movement.
“People feel more empowered to build the lives that make sense for them and to put the pieces of their life together the way they want to, and we find that very inspiring,” Gutierrez says.