Freelance Still Runs On Word Of Mouth

By Michael Kanell
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Fragment the economy into ever-more efficient units, freelancers who can start and stop assignments on a moment’s notice. Toss in 21st century technology, communication that can pass job assignments around the world in less than a second.

And you know that means futuristic ways of connecting people to work.

Yet as the number of independent workers continues to expand, the most common way they find assignments and get work is … word of mouth?

Yes, according to a piece this week in the Harvard Business Review, based on a new survey by MBO Partners.

Freelancers, or “solopreneurs,” as MBO refers to them, are people who do contract work on assignments that may be defined by a time limit or pegged to a project.

When the time is up, the contract completed or the work is finished, they move on.

A lot different than the old idea of having one employer for years or even a whole working career.

The economy is increasingly peppered with these people.
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An estimated 17.9 million “solopreneurs,” and 12.1 million more who do freelance work on the side, according to MBO, which based its estimates on an online poll.

These are not just dog-walkers, lawn-mowers and intersection-sign-holders. Many of them are techies, but others are accountants and lawyers and executives. About 2.7 million of them make more than $100,000, says MBO.

And many people have assumed that this new model would combine with technology to change the way work gets assigned. Only not so much, says article author, Justin Fox.

Among these freelancers, 12 percent said they got assignments mostly from an agency. Four percent said they were referred by another employer. Three percent said they got their gigs from online sites and three others cited social media.

Those methods were dwarfed by the share that said they relied on word of mouth: 75 percent.

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