Upwork and Fiverr, the most important freelancing websites, combined have 23 million members. LinkedIn has 810 million members.
Here’s a pie chart so that you’d imagine.
At the time of this writing, LinkedIn is not a competitor in the freelancing space. This space is dominated by Upwork, Fiverr, and similar platforms.
LinkedIn is a successful platform. They branded themselves in a niche area. LinkedIn is “primarily used for professional networking and career development.”
Think of it as a restaurant that has 800 million customers. However, they don’t produce food.
LinkedIn is specialized in that niche, and it’s not simple for such a business to simply transform, even if freelancing is within the same umbrella of operations.
This is particularly why what Facebook is doing nowadays in rebranding as Meta and offering their services differently is one of the biggest risks ever taken. It very much might fail if people don’t like it.
Upwork, Fiverr, and similar websites are the ones specifying their niche in the freelancer area. If you’re a freelancer or want to be one, then you have to sign up for their platform. A person launches Fiverr.com knowing that she/he will either hire or be hired.
However, for LinkedIn, the case is different.
A person might be looking for a job. Another might be sharing an interesting piece of information. The third might be hiring. The fourth might be building a network. At LinkedIn, there are various segments of people.
At this stage, the freelancing websites have nothing to fear. However, a few small moves that LinkedIn is doing are proving that they’re moving more towards this industry. Eventually, the best way to connect employees to companies is to get the job done, regardless of where that will happen.
What could happen?
Nowadays, LinkedIn is offering services, to showcase the freelancers on the platform. They’re trying to make a distinction between freelancers and non-freelancers. They’ve done the same with people hiring, and looking for jobs.
However, they haven’t officially connected freelancers to clients. Simply put, they don’t handle the payments and all the operations in between, which is the main business model of all freelancing websites.
This should be frightening to freelancing websites. Simply, because if I have a strong LinkedIn network, then I don’t need a middle man when there’s LinkedIn.
Why would I use a freelancing website like Upwork, pay them a commission, work hard to abide by their rules, if I simply could have a killer LinkedIn profile to showcase my work?
This thought is what’s dangerous to the likes of Fiverr and Upwork. LinkedIn does not have to monetize from being a middle man. They could do what Fiverr and Upwork are doing, with a bigger network, and no cost.
They don’t even have to charge the hefty 20%+ commissions that those websites are charging. Simply, they could charge a tiny payment processing fee, and will still make billions in the process.
Alright, then why aren’t they doing that right now?
Simple, it’s branding. Their job is not to link freelancers to clients. They have a bigger goal. They’re a social platform, not a “gig” platform. Adding such a service could be similar to Mcdonald’s offering a pizza.
It could affect their main business model, which is monetizing through ads and recruitment services. The moment it becomes a beehive of clients is the moment it’s swarmed by people to make quick money, rather than look for the perfect company.
So, how will they probably get into the gig industry?
They’ll do so slowly. They’ll test services. Some will fail, and some will succeed. Covid was a major spike in that area. People are now working from home more than ever. This directly grows the freelancing market. If you’re sitting at home and working, then why not with multiple employers?
The work-from-home culture has arrived and is there for the long run. Hence, it’s a reasonable conclusion that LinkedIn will get more deeply into the freelancing market. It’s only a matter of time.
What should you, a freelancer or an employee, do about this?
At this stage, one has to be aware. Don’t underestimate that LinkedIn profile of yours. I’d advise you to start building a presence there. It’s a win-win, whether to you as an employee, a freelancer, or an entrepreneur.
That’s the beauty of LinkedIn’s platform, it’s connecting all of those segments together. Hence, before doing such a step, they ought to make sure that this won’t affect any of those parties negatively.
This beauty of professional social connections might be the reason why LinkedIn would choose to never get into the gig market deeply. The risks might outweigh the benefits, leading to this idea being scrapped.
Nonetheless, LinkedIn is now a guru in the professional networking industry with no visible competitor. One would be very unwise to not grow there and explore new possibilities.
I’m Al, a business consultant in Zurich, Switzerland. I believe in the power of delivering value to you, the reader. I’m focusing my content to be more and more on Medium, and Linkedin. Hence, follow me on both channels to keep in touch and connect.