LinkedIn just announced a massive new expansion of a popular site feature that makes it even easier to win new business on the platform.

LinkedIn is done playing games. Instead, the world’s largest social network for professionals just announced a major new expansion of its initial foray into the gig economy, making it clear the site is serious about moving beyond its core use as a full-time job-seeking / hiring platform.

Freelancers, Contractors and the “Gig” Economy

“At a high level, we’ve seen a growing number of freelance/gig professionals on our platform – a nearly 50% increase over the past 5 years – who are looking for short-term gigs or new business leads,” LinkedIn spokesperson Kenly Walker told me in a recent email. “To ensure we’re providing the same type of value for these independent workers as those in more traditional 9-to-5 professions, we’ve been piloting LinkedIn ProFinder – a marketplace that connects consumers with independent service providers.”

Today, LinkedIn launched ProFinder nationally – covering more than 140 service areas. The announcement also shared some interesting data trends (gleaned from LinkedIn’s own internal member data) related to the gig economy and its growth around the United States.

Gig Economy Growing Fast – And LinkedIn’s Plan to Address It

According to today’s announcement:

  • The number of freelancers on LinkedIn has grown by almost 50 percent over the past five years.
  • Healthcare and pharmaceutical industries have seen more than 50% growth in freelance workers over the past five years compared to 21% growth for non-freelance workers.
  • The Southern states of Florida and Texas were two of the three states showing the most freelancer growth in the country. Colorado was the other top contender.
  • When ranking states/districts with the highest freelance population overall, the East and West Coasts topped the list.

Here’s a graphic from LinkedIn breaking down some of its key findings on the gig economy vs. full-time employment growth over the past 5 years:

LI Trends
How it Works

ProFinder is a LinkedIn-based freelance marketplace that connects consumers and small businesses looking for professional services – think Design, Writing and Editing, Accounting, Real Estate, Career Coaching – with top quality freelance professionals best suited for the job.

Whether you’re looking for someone to design your custom wedding invitations, file your personal taxes, or write copy for your small business website, the goal of LinkedIn ProFinder is to help you hire the right freelancer for the job by leveraging the power of LinkedIn’s vast network.

A pilot version of the program has been in place since last October, featuring more than 50,000 freelancers across more than 140 different service areas.

“With our network of more than 450 million members we feel we can play an important role in driving and supporting the gig economy,” LinkedIn said in today’s announcement.

Worth noting: LinkedIn does not get any cut of the money exchanged between the client and professional, according to Walker. Payment actually takes place off platform.

The only monetization component of the model for LinkedIn is that professionals who have submitted 10 or more proposals are required to subscribe to the site’s Business Plus subscription ($60/month). With this subscription, pros can submit unlimited leads per month. Anyone already on a Business Plus subscription or above will be grandfathered in and receive the same feature entitlements, according to Walker.

“The gig economy is a growing and influential part of the modern workforce and we aim to provide the same type of value for these independent workers as those in more traditional 9 to 5 professions,” LinkedIn noted in its announcement. “On the other side of the coin, we strive to extend this value to our members looking to hire these types of white-collar freelance professionals. With LinkedIn ProFinder, we aim to do the heavy lifting to quickly and easily connect you with the best-suited and most qualified professional freelancers for the job.”

LinkedIn’s Built-In Advantage

One big advantage LinkedIn has over other freelance marketplaces is its vast network of 450 million members in 200+ countries, along with the quality of endorsements and testimonials (which require a real person’s name, face and LinkedIn account to give and receive), the physical location of someone in regards to your business, whether or not you and the person submitting the bid are connected directly or have connections in common, and so on.

(Note: ProFinder is only available in the United States for now.)

One final bit of advice before you sign up for ProFinder as a service provider – make sure you’re LinkedIn profile is what I call “client-facing,” meaning it reads not like a virtual résumé but instead is all about how you help your ideal clients achieve their biggest goals.

If you need help, click the link below to get access to a free video training series I’ve put together.

(WATCH: How to Create a Killer LinkedIn Profile!)