Does freelancer specialization make all the difference?

Feb 27, 2015

Now that I’m a freelancer, it’s not just benefits and sick leave I’ve lost; it’s also the ability to attend a party without thinking of it as an opportunity to network. I dread the inevitable “what do you do?” question because that means it’s time for me not only to explain what I do but to try to persuade the person that they probably need me to do it for THEM.

Realistically, most freelancers spend about 50 to 70% of their time trying to find work. A much smaller percentage of time goes toward actually doing said work. Now there are a bunch of startups trying to make things better. They’re called freelancer pools, and while a few, like TaskRabbit and Odesk, are more mainstream, there’s a whole new array of organized and very specialized options that might be a better fit for you.

Freelancer pools are mostly merit-based platforms—you sign up, they look for the work for you. But they also take into account a freelancer’s areas of special interest and background.

MBA & Company and HourlyNerd are MBA-specific. SkillBridge works to place management consultants for individual projects. Contently and Ebyline are journalist/writer-oriented platforms that match content creators with companies in need.

Most allow you to sign up through LinkedIn or uploading a resume, so it’s pretty easy to get started. But are they as good as they sound?

Specializing might not just help you get a better rate, but it’s also the key to get gigs you’re better-suited for, too. While there are plenty of horror stories about Task Rabbit and other gig-centric platforms (11 hour work days, washing cat poop off laundry—no thank you), people seem to be pretty positive about the new freelancer pools.

“I think the more specialized approach helps a lot,” says freelancer Anna Ramirez. “I’ve gotten jobs through the broader networks, but HourlyNerd and MBA & Company both seem to have a more rigorous vetting process with the clients. I’ve been well-matched to the jobs and it has more integrity to it. I feel like I’m doing work I’m experienced to do, not compromising.”

Likewise, Contently and Ebyline users seem to have similar words of praise. “I always worry things like this will be a content mill, and if you’ve tried to work with even one you’re left a little traumatized,” says writer Beth Hall. “But, with Contently and Ebyline, first, not everyone is approved, which is helpful—you know they’re actually reviewing what you’ve submitted and doing quality control. And then with both I’ve worked directly with an editor and been paid well. I’d go so far as to call it a great experience with both.”

It sounds like these freelancer pools are definitely on to something. Now maybe I’ll be able to attend parties without spouting networking propaganda. Thank goodness.

Freelancers, have you used freelancer pools? What do you think?