Can we live without the Dynamics freelance recruiters?

In my last blog I wrote about why I think that the Dynamics recruiters are wasting our time. That cause a lot of people to confirm that they also had that experience. My blog post was primary directed against the recruiters who are mostly working with Dynamics freelancers. Not so much with the recruiters working with the more permanent jobs. It’s my personal experience that they are a bit more serious than the ones only working with freelancers. The funny most thing is that actually many recruiters confirmed that this is how the business work.

But nobody is really happy about the way it works today. It’s not only the freelancers, but also the recruiters who feels that they are wasting a lot of time on each other. The recruiters feel that many of the freelancers are primary lying to them in regards to what their real experiences with Dynamics are, and what they know and don’t know.

Also many of the members here on DUG have asked me that they would love to join a “network” where we don’t need the recruiters. Most people see the recruiters as a unnecessary link between the customer and the freelancers with the only purpose of making more money for the recruiter. Instead they would really just want the customers to contact them directly.

In my blog post I also promised that I would come up with an idea to how this network could be organized. And I’ve been talking with a lot of members, freelancers and recruiters about it. But I’m sorry to say that I have not found out exactly how it can be done.

As I see then most of us will be able to live without the Dynamics freelance recruiters.

But it does require a big network and that you spend a lot of time on finding your projects. Time that you could actually use better on doing your Dynamics projects. If you have been a freelancer for many years (not a contractor) then you most likely already have a lot of customers who come back to you all the time. But if you’re a typical Dynamics contractor who only works on one contract at the time and often for very long periods, then it’s more difficult for you.

First we really need to see at what the recruiter is actually bringing to the table. When we talk about recruiting for a regular permanent job, then the job of the recruiter is really to work with the employer to analyze exactly what they need and then to work with the “market” to find the right new candidates. The recruiting job is very much a mix between a consulting and a sales job. Often the recruiters have a long and close relationship with their customers.

How does freelance recruiters work?

Recruiting freelancers and contractors it’s different. Here the freelancers are most often seen not very different from inventory in a hardware store. If the client asks for a chain saw, then it’s important that the recruiter is able to show the customer a wide selection of different chain saws. And most often the customer will simply pick the cheapest one that can do the job and cut down the trees. The ones that really want quality doesn’t buy it from the hardware store, but know that he usually get better the quality from the logging supply store.

Bringing that picture back to the freelancing market, then it means that for those looking for freelancers via the recruiters, then price is most often a very important factor. Whereas if quality is more important then the customers know that they often can find the freelancers better by using references from their own employees or other freelancers.

So what am I suggesting?

What I think that we need is a our own market place where freelancers/contractors and those buying the services from freelancers (resellers, isv’s and end-users – let’s just call them “partners”) can meet each other.

A place where the freelancers can announce their skills, their prices and their calendars. This way they can put up the time they want to sell, so that the partners needing the services who are available and at what prices.

At the same time the partners can announce their projects and what skills they are looking for and when. The freelancers can then bid for the project.

Some of you might ask what would make this any different from RentACoder or eBay? A long way then it is the same. But here it will be only for Dynamics projects, that will allow us to streamline the setup a lot to pull forward and highlight the real specialties of the freelancers. But even more important to sell the idea to those buying freelancers and contractors. It’s not enough that we maybe can find one or two thousand Dynamics freelancers to join this, if nobody knows about it and like to buy from it.

I’m currently working with some of the most experienced people in the Dynamics freelancing and recruiting industry to see how this can be done in the “real life”, as it has to be setup where it on one hand will be a natural extension of the Dynamics User Group and on the other hand will be a setup that will allow us to get back the big investment we need to build up such a network (software development, advertising, server hosting, hardware etc). But still without sign-up fees for the freelancers or huge % cuts in the revenue for the projects. To make things easier for us (and cheaper for the freelancer) then it would also be the freelancers responsibility to invoice the partner.

So far everything is still on the drawing board and everything can still change. But I would love to hear from you. What do you think about this idea?

 

Comment List
  • Sounds like a good plan! It's definitely very beneficial to both partners and freelancers.

  • Erik,

    I find your blog entry eerily pertinent.  I’ve been working with Navision since 1997, mostly small companies.  I’m recently now looking for work and I’m SERIOUSLY trying to get into freelance development rather than putting my future once again in someone else’s hands.  The exact problem I’m encountering is that without a list of NAV partners or NAV customers I am forced to use the recruiters.  Your idea for a Dynamics NAV “Rent-a-Coder” is excellent, especially with the market presence of DynamicsUser.NET.  I think sign-up fees would be a great way to get the working capital necessary.  Other high-end or industry specific job sites require you to purchase a monthly subscription in order to be seen or see the listings.  It’s the expense for the exposure/marketing.  

  • I am not really sure what all this emphasis on recruiters is?

    I have been Freelancing in Navision for about 15 years now, and never once have I engaged a client through a recruiter.

    My opinion is that recruiters are one of many channels to find new clients, and if managed correctly I think they can be a strong and very valuable aspect of Feelancer's marketing strategies. But if you rely on recruiters alone to find your work then I think you really need to rethink your strategy.

    Freelancers also need to look at the difference between finding a contract and finding a customer. As a contractor of course you can go from contract to contract, but a Freelancer you need to build up a profile of clients to work with.

  • The one obvious, immediate and beyond any doubt result will be drop in all freelancers rates, and NAV consultants/developers (not freelancers) salaries in longer term.

    The 'network' does not prevent freelancers to lie about their skills. Another to freelancer's reference is not of big value for the customer - you can't recommend anyone not knowing them, and if you know someone then it is hard to be unbiased.  You will write positive recommendation or write nothing - so you will not eliminate liars.

    The 'network' does not save your precious time. You will stil need to spend some time learnig what in fact needs to be done, spend some time to prepare quote, and at the end you will compete with other frelancers doing the same. At the end of the day the customer will pick only one 'chain saw' - one where price/(quality*performance) rate will be the best. And because in fact customer cannot value correctly price and performance, he/she will pick the cheapest solution.  

    The 'network' will not give you view on projects, not on serious one. This is because serious projects are related to ways how the company works. Serious projects are what gives the company advantages, and no one will want to publish that knowledge (in form of speification/inquiry). The serious company will pick serious reliable MS partner and not just 'any' freelancer from the market. Unless, as David said, it is 'your' customer, which already knows you, but then this in not the 'network' related benefit.

    BTW - The 'network' already exists, or maybe even a few. LinkedIn is a good example.

    So most probably it will be the another waste of your precious time. That is my humble opinon.

  • @Digiteckid: When you say sign-up fees are a great way to get the capital, how big do you think that it should be to 1) get capital enough, 2) show that the freelancer is serious and 3) not scare away the serious freelancer.

  • @David: You're right. Previously when I was freelancing, I talked with tons of recruiters. But never ever did all the time I spend talking with recruiters end up in a freelance job. Instead it ended up in a permanent job with an end-user.

  • @Slawek: You have some very good points, but also some that I really don't agree in. One is that you say that the LinkedIn site is a freelancers network. LinkedIn is merely a tool for you to network. Yes you can connect to recruiters via the linkedin site. But that's it. It's requires that you're doing a lot of work to find jobs via LinkedIn. This is not how a "freelance network" should work, and nothing how I wrote in my blog.

    You also say that "serious company will pick serious reliable MS partner and not just 'any' freelancer form the market".

    One of the points using a 'network'

    is that you're not only writing your own descriptions

    of your work and your skills (not just because you could easily lie about them), but because one thing that is worth more than your own descriptions are others descriptions of you and your work. So if you check any of the generic freelancers/projects websites, then one of the most important feature here is that the employer can also read how many projects you had via the network, sometimes even how much money you have previously made via the network and most important a description and review of you created by the people who owned the projects. So I know that if you have a good profile with a list of many customers who all said that you've been doing a great job with them, that's worth much more than anything else.

    So I agrees with you so much that they will not pick "just 'any' freelancer", but I know that they will pick freelancers with a high and good reputation on the network.

    If the 'network' is not designed the right way, then it will not add more value to you, than sites like Linkedin. Then it will just waste your time just as much as recruiters are doing today. It's not going to be easy to create this network.

    That's also why I didn't already create the DUG Freelancers Network!

  • Eric,

    Forget LinkedIn, it is just an example of existing tool, network interconnecting professionals.  It is generic professional network, generic so lacking some useful NAV (or developer) oriented features, but  its idea is more less the same.  You can publish your skills, you can publish in how many project you took part, you can recommend someone or receive recommendation.

    The point is - can you verify information published on LinkedIn in any way? I’m afraid no, not using LinkedIn itself. And in my opinion not because LinkedIn is lacking some functionality, but just because people are acting in such a way. You can of course rely on recommendations, but problems are: 1. in fact recommendation cannot be verified, 2. no one is writing negative opinions to public forums.

    The main task of any recruiters, including freelance recruiters, is to find candidate and **verify** his skills before he is presented to the customer as one of ‘chain saw’ to pick. This is in my opinion what recruiters are paid for. Another matter is whether they’re doing their job or not.

    If you want to build the ‘The network’ which eliminate freelance recruiters you will have to build a tool which provide the same functionality. I mean the tool which allows customers to find a freelancer and **verify** its skills in reliable way. And this is just half of what the network should do, the easier half. The second half is to tell customer what kind of skills he really needs, and in my opinon recruiters (good ones) are indispensable here.

    So as long as ‘the customer’ is end-user company he will go to the recruiter, or go to some MS partner.

    The network will be very useful tool for partners seeking for temporary work force, allowing them to pick cheapest available developer. In longer term all this will lead to drop in freelancer fees and in regular employees salaries. I mean ‘low level’ employees, like developers and consultants, which will become easily replaceable by temporary workforce.

    Another issue is the quality of the code. You know ‘the garage joke’ – invitation message saying „You can have your car fixed fast, cheap and with high quality, but you can pick only two at a time”. Lot of developers persuade customers that picking all three options at a time is possible with them, when in fact quality of the job is suffering. But problem is that quality cannot be verified by customer, and cannot be verified by any ‘network’ tool. Any kind of ranking will promote such developers/freelancers, as cheap, fast, and reliable, because problems with code quality will become visible after some time, long enough, when it is too late to give negative opinion to freelancer doing the job.

    Such a person will have a ‘good profile’ – lot of projects, lot of positive recommendation, especially if he cares mostly of marketing part of his job, asking customers for recommendations. And they will get them just after the job is finished and customer is happy.

    To sum up – the network you’re proposing will do nothing good for freelancers. That is my opinion.

  • Erik, same conclusion about recruiters!

    So, I totally agree with David.

    I also with Slawek that you should be careful with creating something that in the end might be used by end-customers or recruiters (!) the wrong way.

    In 2 1/2 year freelancing, I only had jobs through the network: old-colleagues, friends, relations of customers and other freelancers. No recruiter found one for me up to now. Some tried, but failed. Most, recruiters are interested in short time gain and a large margin between freelancer and end-customer. I found working directly for a customer the most pleasant way to do business. It is much easier with things like planning the work and you can be honest to them. They and I know what we are talking about, most recruiters don't.

    I prefer working with freelancers and (small) companies who share this feeling. Some give me a job sometimes, some I give one sometimes. It's all about live and let live. Something that is very rare in the world of Microsoft, Customers and Solution partners.

    It's like an old Indian saying: Give a smile to the world, and one you will receive it back.

    So, the question is: how to find customers and like-minded freelancers to share jobs and capabilities with? How to strengthen the network of freelancers?  Using LinkedIn? Twitter? Organize a meeting? Setting up a another website?

    BTW. Have a look at http://www.dynamics4all.nl/

  • Erik - Sign Up Fees:

     That's a tough question.  For a site that was just starting out I'd be skeptical of $25.  For a site with sufficient verifiable activity $250 would be cost effective.  With the going rate on the east coast from $150 to $200 I'd make my fee back in 1 project.

  • I hear the frustration and its not new. Im just in process of selling my house. I wish I could find the buyers without having to use an agent and save me money. Why cant I? cost its hard work and takes and im better using that time doing what im best at which isnt being a real estate agent. Its the same thing with recruitment. In fact there already a market available such as the one Erik talks about but its not used greatly except by recruiters as it simply a tool and not 'the answer'. The other thing worth remembering is that all the comments here are by contractors (freelancers). Utimatley what will drive the success of this is the employers and in my experience they dont want to be trawling over databases and websites. Ive heard the whole 'get rid of agents' so many times but it never happens because the people that want it that way are the employers and the recruiters.

  • New business in the US for NAV & AX is flat.

    Not sure about GP, but I do know one thing that MS is giving their

    AX and NAV referrals to GP Solution Centers.

    I have personally been approached by a GP

    solution center with a very large upgrade, for NAV.  The solution center admits they know nothing about NAV.  Their sub contractors agreement is horrible, basically who is your attorney and how soon are you going to sue me.

    This particular upgrade will require 6 to 8 months of work.  They only think it will take two weeks..............

    Now, because MS is giving leads to their GP's that belong to AX and NAV who does MS think they are benefitting, the GP Solution Center that is incompetent, their customer ?  Doesn't seem MS values them either.    

  • @ Susan: It is the first time I hear this. In fact I heard about one NAV solution center in the US who bought a GP partner primary because they would get more leads, as they got almost no leads for NAV. But this was about 10 years ago.

    If they now are giving NAV leads to GP partners, then it has to be because they get absolutely no new leads for GP, only for AX and NAV! And as a partner you're sort of expecting that you're getting some leads from Microsoft.

    As to the contracting part, then I think we should have a discussion about sub contractor agreements (what to accept and what not to accept). I will start this debate in the Dynamics Freelancing group (I hope that you will join in it).

  • In the past, I have had a lot more problems with BAD freelancers then GOOD Freelancers.  Maybe it would be a good way to rate freelancers, like iFreelance, etc., so us "buyers" don't get burned.  The prices are also way over the place so this may even them out as well.  This also may lead to customers going around VAR's and that can lead to pretty bad results as well, as well as destroy the partner channel, which is going thru a notoriously tough time as it is...

  • @Michael: No doubt that there are BAD freelancers who lie about their qualifications. I don't think that anyone would say different. And I'm also sure that all the GOOD freelancers wish that it would be possible to see who where good or bad, to keep your wording. Yes one thing that makes the different marketplaces good is the ability to rate the service providers. The only problem (and you see that on several of the sites like rentacoder) is that even these ratings are worth almost nothing, when all it takes to get a better rating is to create a 5 USD project and get a friend to rate you!

    So for it to work the raters needs to be rated also! So who should rate the raters?

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