Guest Blog Post: Is LinkedIn ProFinder Worth the Expense?
It’s official, fellow ghostwriters…our profession has been absorbed into the gig economy. That means we’re not just service providers, we’re also a market niche waiting to be tapped. And more than any other product, they want to sell us access to our own source of income.
Like many creative professionals, ghostwriters face a never-ending challenge in the quest to find work. We’re always on the hunt for the next contract…and the one after that. In the last few years, dozens of platforms have sprung up, promising to foster connections between freelance professionals and the people who need their services. For most, the business model relies on offering free access to the consumer, while charging the contractor for the right to pitch their services.
LinkedIn is no exception. Its ProFinder service works along the same lines as Upwork, or Thumbtack, or Guru. Someone needs professional services—say bookkeeping, a professional portrait, or articles written—so they go to the platform and fill in a form describing what they need. ProFinder then notifies registered service providers, who respond to the post by uploading a bid on the platform. The potential client reviews the bids, gathers any additional information they need from the bidders, and then selects a contractor. The platform collects its money from the service provider, either by taking a cut of the agreed fee, selling credits exchanged for the right to bid, or charging a subscription fee.
There’s a natural appeal for the consumer. It costs them nothing. They get access to a variety of service providers with little to no effort on their part: no hours of online research, no cold calls, and no scouring review sites. And they’re under no obligation to buy anything. Heck, they can put out bid request if they are months away from needing the service, or if they are not sure they’re going to hire a contractor at all. They can just test the waters, see who’s out there, and get a sense of how much it might cost. Awesome!
For us, things are a little more complicated. On the one hand, you do get access to a marketplace that draws potential clients. You get to preview requests and select the ones that like a good fit. On the other, you invest time and effort to put together a bid letter that may never even be opened. You have no opportunity to ask the questions necessary to truly diagnose a client’s needs before quoting a price. And you pay for the privilege, whether it creates a legitimate interaction with a buyer or not.
This is especially problematic for professionals in fields like ours. Unlike accountants or wedding photographers, we cannot create “one size fits all” packaging. Different contracts require different labor and time commitments. The effort involved in a 30,000 word memoir based on five one-hour interviews differs radically from that of an 80,000 historical epic needing extensive factual research and hours of conversation about the client’s vision.
It’s no surprise to me that quarterly Association of Ghostwriters (AOG) office hour calls often involve the question “What do you think of LinkedIn ProFinder?” What follows is an effort to answer that question. This is not an official review. Rather, I compiled experiences from other AOG members and compared them to my own, hoping to uncover whether the platform offers value for our profession. Here’s what I found out.
I used ProFinder for about 6 months. First, I received 10 free bids. After depleting those, I had to sign up for Premium to get continued access. In total, I submitted 24 bids for either ghostwriting or developmental editing. My numbers broke down as follows:
- I passed on 30+ bid requests that didn’t fit my project/client requirements.
- 4 bids—40% of my initial 10—went unopened.
- 20 were viewed.
Of those 20:
- 3 were declined by the client on ProFinder’s platform without further contact.
- 12 resulted in a conversation, either via message or phone.
Of the 12 conversations:
- 1 individual followed up to inform me that he had chosen a different ghostwriter.
- 3 individuals did not need the services they had requested; they actually needed something else (like proofreading) that I don’t do. Or else, they didn’t really know what they needed.
- 3 others ghosted me after their initial message. That is, they did not reply to any further messages from me, even if they had requested a meeting.
In the end, I found 1 ghosting contract and 2 editing contracts from the platform.
I asked members of AOG and of the LinkedIn group Ghostwriters Worldwide to share Profinder experiences with me. Eight people responded; six of them shared stats. These are listed below:
- Respondent 1: 15 bids, 12 of which were opened, 1 contract signed.
- Respondent 2: 12 bids, no contracts.
- Respondent 3: 12 bids, 4 responses, 1 contract signed but then dropped.
- Respondent 4: 100 bids, “most” opened, no contracts.
- Respondent 5: 9 bids, all opened, no contracts.
- Respondent 6: “several” bids, 1 opened, no contracts.
None of the respondents expressed a positive impression of the service. Like me, they found many of their bids went unopened. Several were ghosted by individuals who requested a conversation, then disappeared. One respondent expressed a sense that her pool of potential clients was largely “unsophisticated” and unable to work successfully with a professional ghost; another felt that consumers came to the platform seeking “bargain basement” rates for content creation. A third described most of her contacts as “tire kickers” who had little to no intention of hiring a professional any time soon.
Ultimately, it looks like LinkedIn ProFinder has a long way to go before it offers genuine value to creative professionals like ghostwriters. The platform itself still has logistical problems. For example, 11 of my 24 bids are still listed as “in conversation” even though they are all over 8 months old. There is no way for me to archive or delete them, and it clutters up my Client Request page. In addition, the bid request form asks no questions about the client’s budget or time frame—vital pieces of information for making an accurate bid. Nor is there any way to educate or prequalify potential clients before offering a bid; many of the individuals who post bid requests are shocked to find how much it costs to work with a trained, experienced professional. This isn’t their fault, necessarily, but it wastes a lot of our time and theirs. It took me 6 months, and several hundred dollars, to figure out that I needed to look elsewhere for leads.
I have written elsewhere about LinkedIn’s problems and missed opportunities when it comes to creating value for creative professionals, solopreneurs, and other “non-corporate” workers. Since we represent a rapidly growing segment of the modern workforce, we deserve not just to be monetized, but to have our professional needs recognized and met by those who hope to profit from us. I, and many of our colleagues in this industry, still make frequent use of LinkedIn. But this seems to be in spite of the platform’s indifference to (and occasional contempt for) freelancers and independent contractors.
I cheerfully pay my annual dues to AOG because it offers me networking opportunities with my peers and vets potential clients before giving them access to our community. I would gladly sign up with other platforms that put me in front of quality leads for my services—one that understands what ghostwriters need and delivers the goods.