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When working in a company focused on growth, speed rules. That’s why when a project comes up that requires freelance help, many prefer taking the self-serve approach. This usually means posting a project on job boards or asking a colleague, “Who do you know?”

Finding talent on your own is called direct-sourcing. Unlike traditional methods, direct-sourcing cuts out the middleman, which can provide better matches and start projects sooner. But not all freelancer sources are as efficient as you may think.

According to a survey conducted by Bredin, companies prefer direct-sourcing talent via job boards, referrals, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Let’s look at how they compare.

The Upwork SMB Survey was conducted online by Bredin, a research firm specializing in SMBs, from January 16-19, 2018, and polled 503 principals of U.S. businesses with 500 or fewer employees.

Job boards

Pros: Job boards like Monster, Indeed, and ZipRecruiter provide large, built-in talent pools. That’s good in two ways: more potential eyeballs can see your post, and you may get better results when conducting your own search. Job boards usually offer helpful tools like rate guides to help you budget, and tips for writing job descriptions.

Cons: Job boards usually charge per post, which can get pricey if you have multiple needs. Monster charges $399 for one ad in one location. Indeed gives you an option to pay per click. The downside to that is you may end up paying for people who just want to see what’s out there and have no interest in submitting a proposal. Depending on how well your project description is written, you may also end up paying for a lot of unqualified clicks.

What’s more, job boards usually send your post out across the same 100+ sites. This can increase your time spent sifting through a pile of unqualified submissions. Spraying your post across 100+ sites also makes it easy for it to get lost among the other posts. There are options to push yours to the forefront…for an additional fee of course.


Pros: Referrals often come from employees, peers, or colleagues. Sometimes, you can find talent quickly because people usually hang out with others holding similar interests. If your colleague is a CSS developer, they may know several other qualified developers open to project work. Asking employees for referrals may produce more accurate matches because they know what skills are needed to produce the work quality you need.

Cons: You’re pulling from a smaller network, which can increase the time it takes to fill your need. Although most of us are professional, there’s always the risk of getting the stink eye from a coworker if you choose someone else over their friend. Or worse, if you fire them. There’s also a chance you’ll spend more time filtering out unqualified referrals. Your colleague may say their friend’s brilliant because that’s what they heard, but they probably never worked with the talent to verify it.

Facebook and LinkedIn

Pros: For ease, we’ll combine these two sources into a general social media category. If your network’s big enough, social media provides an inexpensive way to get your project post out to a gazillion eyeballs in seconds. That’s an exaggeration, but you get the idea. You can also filter searches with just a few mouse clicks, which makes it easier for you to proactively reach out to talent.

Cons: No one’s going to post bad reviews and testimonials on their own profile, so reviews of their overall work may be biased. Like the other two sources above, this one can be time-consuming to use because the vetting, engagement, and payment processes are all manual. If you have multiple needs, you can spend so much time attending to the admin needs, you may sacrifice time spent on other important tasks.

Is Your Talent Source Built for Your Growing Business?

You’re engaging a freelancer because you don’t have time to do the work yourself. Or because you don’t have the expertise in-house, right? Whatever the reason, you probably want them to start as close to “now” as possible.

If you use a traditional staffing agency, it takes an average of six to eight weeks to engage a freelancer. Utilizing the popular direct sources above may require about the same time.

That’s partly due to the size of their respective talent pools, the talent shortage, and the manual (think lengthy) vetting and engagement processes. It’s a lot of effort to put into something so slow.

To meet their needs faster, companies are turning to another, and fast-growing, source for talent: freelancer websites like Upwork.

Freelancing websites provide an easier and cost-effective way to connect with the right talent. Because you’re accessing a global talent pool, it’s easier to find talent—including those with high-demand skills.

An Oxford study found online freelancing platforms are so efficient that:

  • Talent usually starts within two to four days
  • Automated processes save 25-30% on admin costs
  • Talent costs are 60-70% less than traditional channels

Shannon Williams, co-founder and VP of sales at Rancher Labs, relies heavily on freelancers from Upwork. “In general, their entrepreneurialism and expertise are great because they’re used to hitting the ground running and delivering amazing results. That’s great when we have urgent requirements,” says Williams.

With freelancer websites, you can find most of your talent needs from a single source, save time with automated processes, save up to 70% over traditional channels, and get projects started and done faster. Perhaps the only question now is, if you’re not sourcing talent through a freelancer website, what are you waiting for?