A handshake at a freelance recruiter

Speak to any seasoned freelancer and they’ll probably tell you a story or two – more often than not a horror story – about recruitment agencies. We’re taking a look at what recruiters do, and what to expect when you deal with one.

What do recruiters do?

Essentially, recruitment agencies act as an intermediary between business looking for new employees or freelancers, and the workers themselves. Their function is to source the most suitable person for whatever job vacancy they have been asked to fill.

With many recruiters fuelled by aggressive commission on each placement they make, placing more employees at more employers means more cash for them (potentially meaning a lower freelance rate for you), and it’s thanks to this dynamic that they can find themselves subject to widespread criticism, most freelancers viewing them as a little parasitic in nature.

Swelling in size over the past twenty years or so, recruiters are now such a prominent force in the UK job market you’ll have probably come across them even if you only recently started looking for work. I know I have in the past, recruitment consultants regularly offering me jobs in recruitment, weirdly enough.

For freelancers on the hunt for work then, how do you go about getting yourself signed up to a good one, and what are relative benefits and drawbacks of using a recruitment agency?

Finding one

With an overabundance of agencies out there, some are likely to be more suited to your needs than others. As a general rule it’s probably best to sign up to a small collection – say no more than three – otherwise you may find yourself struggling to fend off eager consultants on the phone all day.

Thankfully there are plenty of specialist freelance agencies; Profiles Creative and Character Creative are amongst the agencies a little more nuanced to the freelancers needs. Be wary of signing up to more high street agencies, as you may find your CV and skills given little credence and recruiters pushing you into less than suitable roles.

What are the benefits?

A potential advantage a (good) recruitment consultant brings is from the sales perspective. Carrying the gift of the gab, they should be more capable of selling you over to clients, especially if you’re able to register with one of the many dedicated freelancer agencies. Finding a specialist freelancer agency also means they’ll be perfectly at home negotiating freelance contracts – one less thing to worry about.

Elsewhere, a proactive recruitment agency can spare the lengthy process of job searching, whilst giving you access to jobs that might have otherwise gone unnoticed, potentially putting you at the front of the queue. With close links to companies and industry, their expertise can help temper the feast-and-famine cycle.

In the ideal freelancers/recruiter symbiotic relationship, a recruiter would feed you a constant stream of high-quality, suitable work. This means you can get on with the work you love, and leave the job hunting to the recruiter. In reality, most freelancers mix agency work with gigs they’ve sourced themselves.

What are the drawbacks?

As with any industry, there are some unscrupulous operators out there. Incessant phone calls from ill-informed recruitment consultants offering you work that you cannot undertake is a frequent complaint. Another widespread ruse used by recruiters to ensnare new talent is the posting of fake jobs on online job boards. You apply, they get your CV, and pitch you out to their clients, all without you knowing. If a client bites, they call you with the offer of a job out of the blue while taking a hefty slice of your day rate.

At the end of the day going direct or through a recruiter is up to you. Every freelancer has their own recruiter horror stories, but with a bit of research you can hopefully avoid the worst culprits. There are some good agencies out there, and given that the vast majority are free to join, really, you’ve little to lose.

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Ross Bramble
Content Executive
Updated on
October 8, 2020

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