Contracting online

By Steve Alexander, InfoWorld |  Career

THERE'S A NEW TYPE of digital exchange in town, one that matches workers' skills
with the projects that require them. These dynamic sites may someday give traditional
staffing agencies a run for their margins.

In yet another version of the disintermediation scenario, upstart dot-coms such as
eLance.com, Guru.com, FreeAgent.com, IQ4hire.com, and Monster Talent Market are looking
to give contract workers a direct connection to companies that want to hire them,
pocketing a modest transaction fee in the process and undercutting the traditional
intermediary, the staffing agency.

Although they are new to the staffing game, these types of Web sites do have some
unique advantages. They offer workers the chance to find their own clients in databases
of RFPs (request for proposals) and project descriptions -- for free and from anywhere.
They give corporate clients an opportunity to draw from a global pool of independent
contractors at reasonable prices. And they are striking a chord with contract workers
who don't want to pound the pavement looking for work and don't want to fork over as
much as 30 percent of their paycheck to a staffing agency.

"I'm trying to avoid using agencies, because they are taking part of my pay. If I
can find clients on an exchange, then I can bill the clients directly," says Phillip
Kahrl, a Lotus Domino programmer, in Bishop, Calif. "Exchanges are a good way to get
new job contacts without having to do cold calling; I can see what people are looking
for."

The sites are popular with small companies, those with fewer than 50 employees,
because they don't charge the premiums that a staffing agency does -- extra fees that
rapidly drive up project costs.

Faith Kaminsky, a Web designer with her own firm, Hey You Productions, in New York,
uses Guru.com to hire programmers with experience designing Web sites that require
database interaction.

"I've made good contacts that way, and I've contracted out some work to them,"
Kaminsky says. She also uses the exchange to find projects for her company. "By listing
myself on the exchange, people come to me instead of me going to people. The majority
of companies I've done work for found me that way."

Everyman's network

Finding work is tough when you're trying to network outside the United States. The
biggest selling points of exchanges are that they make global networking possible, they
make it cheap, and they make it easy.

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