Freelancing continues to gain steam in the U.S. as the price of providing healthcare and other benefits to employees remains high and companies look to contain costs.
With that in mind, professional social networking site LinkedIn launched a pilot program called LinkedIn ProFinder in October to help its member employers connect with professional freelancers.
ProFinder works by asking prospective employers what sort of work they’re looking for, when they need it and how much they’re willing to pay. Freelancers can respond with proposals. The service is free for the foreseeable future as LinkedIn experiments with the service and collects data.
The platform is now live in Southern California after it was first unveiled in San Francisco, followed by New York in December.
The tool targets four job categories in L.A. -- writing and editing, marketing, design and accounting -- with plans to add real estate and software development soon.
Thursday’s launch includes users based in L.A., Orange, Ventura, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
With ProFinder, LinkedIn will go up against rivals in the so-called gig economy such as TaskRabbit, Gigwalk, Freelancer and Upwork, though ProFinder is more geared toward white-collar professionals. The Mountain View, Calif., company ultimately hopes to leverage its user base of more than 400 million people to rise above the competition.
“We have a growing number of freelance and independent professionals on our platform who are looking for short-term gigs or new business leads,” Vaibhav Goel, group manager for ProFinder, said in a statement.
“For example, a designer who recently left a full-time corporate role to venture out as a freelancer needs to drum up new clientele and substantiate his or her brand as an independent professional,” Goel said. “By building a marketplace that connects consumers with these types of independent professionals, we hope to create economic value for LinkedIn members.”
There are about 15 million freelance workers in the U.S., according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
One study estimates that number will soar to 60 million by 2020.
Follow me on Twitter: @dhpierson