Most online job platforms have hidden downsides.
The recent tech boom has altered both the notion of a job and how we search for one. Today, more and more people are freelancing, opting for jobs with flexible work hours.
In search of self-fulfillment and new opportunities to make money, many turn to online job platforms. However, these don't guarantee a fast and, above all, successful search for work, even if a person is highly qualified. And most platforms are overcrowded with applicants.
Expectations vs. reality
Freelancing carries the perception that clients are plentiful as are the benefits. For example, a freelancer can take on a project that he or she really likes and fit it into their schedule sandwiched between other day-to-day tasks or hobbies. There is also a perception that one can develop his or her talents by choosing projects that belong to specific fields of interest.
This all sounds extremely tempting; however, freelancers often don't receive enough credit for their hard work, they compete hard for low-paid jobs and they work far more than the conventional eight hours per day. Online job platforms were started to address these problems, and they have attracted massive numbers of participants, but the profit-oriented policies of these intermediaries seem to have only made these problems worse. According to the international payments gateway Payoneer, the average hourly rate for freelancers is $19 per hour, and a large share of this is paid to job platforms for acting as intermediaries.
Unexpected fee changes
In 2016, UpWork, one of the world's largest online workplaces, sent a newsletter to subscribers announcing changes to its service policy. The message said that "the more business you do with your clients on Upwork, the more money you keep." However, Upwork increased their commission, which came as a blow to freelancers who perform smaller jobs infrequently.
Another stumbling block is hidden within the rating systems that are often confusing for users. For example, UpWork offers a stat called Job Success Score (JSS). It is based on a formula that is not revealed to freelancers using the platform. Users have stated that their JSS can drop from 100 to 80 percent for no obvious reason or, conversely, their JSS won't increase following positive client feedback.
One can also search for jobs online on sites intended for professional networking. LinkedIn recently launched a new ProFinder service, modeled after popular freelancer-for-hire sites. Using ProFinder, you can look for projects based on keywords, categories and location. However, LinkedIn receives a lot of traffic from potential clients who are not fully aware of freelancers' rates and offer low-paid jobs that candidates don't want to compete for.
Another difficulty is matching job listings to an area of expertise. A freelancer can receive multiple requests per day, but it is possible that only one of them matches the freelancer's skills. Filtering these by location makes no sense, but still, LinkedIn's ProFinder often sends freelancers notifications for jobs in their area that do not match their expertise.
As one can see from this article, finding work is still challenging. Online platforms and marketplaces are too focused on increasing their profit. They charge employers for posting jobs and charge freelancers for using the service. The user experience and the quality of service often remain secondary.
This situation opens the door for removing the intermediaries between clients and freelancers – a new system, using state of the art technology, to enable people all over the world to fulfill their creative potential (while earning a comfortable wage) and providing quality work to companies at a reasonable cost.