[pullquote type=”right, left”]Occasionally…we’ll get someone questioning the ethics of charging candidates a fee for having worked a job Matched through the FCP Talent Registry. And you know what? I get it.[/pullquote] Since we started this in 2007 most people (candidates and employers alike) have been happy with our unique model of charging candidates 10% of the first four weeks of their work with a new client. Occasionally though (very occasionally) we’ll get someone questioning the ethics of charging candidates a fee for having worked a job Matched through the FCP Talent Registry. And you know what? I get it. Charging freelancers for the privilege of working a job? On the face of it that sounds outrageous and I can totally understand. So let’s go beyond the face of it. But first – here’s the tweet that prompted this post. It’s a piece of public criticism that came to me via twitter after I reached out and suggested FCPTalent for an employer (also an editor) who needed FCP X post talent in a hurry:https://twitter.com/alisterrobbie/status/463944216364609536 Although I don’t know him personally I’ve got this idea of @alisterrobbie and in that idea he’s a good guy. He’s active in the online world and seems to be doing a lot of good work. He’s been a balanced advocate for FCP X too which give us that in common. It’s exactly for these reasons that I’m taking to the blog to address his concern – a lot of criticism you can just ignore but criticism from someone you respect deserves a response. Yes, FCPTalent.com does charge a 10% fee to any candidate who successfully sources a job through us. It’s true. Is that unethical? Let’s look at it…but first some background. It’s important to stress that when not running FCPTalent I am an editor. In that role I used to be with a couple of recuitment agencies. I think their work is valuable and time tested and that’s why people who can afford it pay the big bucks to go with an agency. But it’s crucial to understand that an agency model has never been a free service for the candidate. I remember one day accidentally discovering the rate at which I was being charged out to an employer, and of course I knew the rate I was in turned being paid. The difference was around 40%. The client paid the agency and then the agency in turn paid me. Of course, that was only one side of the equation. The client also paid a fee! And not just one fee either. If a client decided that they wanted to keep an editor on permanently negotiations would begin for a release fee. The difference between our model and any other recruitment service is not that one makes money from candidates and the other from clients, it’s that in the case of traditional recruitment agencies this fact is concealed from the candidate. We’re wide open about it. When freelancers sign up we put that right at the front of the form deliberately. You know those online forms that wait until you’ve already spent 20 minutes meticulously filling them out only to end on a “gotcha!”…we don’t do that. The question today is…is our business model ethical? Don’t we just squeeze freelancers – who’s rates are already being squeezed by market pressures – for the privilege of working? No. We charge for the service of connecting freelancers with new clients – clients who we work hard to find. These clients often represent ongoing work for these candidates way beyond the first 4 weeks.
- We don’t charge them to simply “be” on the Talent Registry.
- We don’t charge a fee to “release” them from the Talent Registry if they want to go work full time.
- Crucially – we let freelancers negotiate their own rates. Several freelancers on the registry that I know of routinely charge 10% more for jobs sourced through us as it is a cost of doing business. And while we stop charging at 4 weeks, they remain working at a higher rate.
- Furthermore – like an ad hoc union, we defend candidates rates by setting a lower limit on what employers are allowed to pay for a job to come through FCPTalent.
- We have a policy of turning away employers who we discover have poor business practices or who pay unreasonably late.
- We make a point of contacting every freelancer who has applied for a job and letting them know how things are going. (This is as a direct result of experiencing the frustration of not knowing whether or not an agency job was going ahead. Remember – I am an editor.)
- Every time an invoice is sent out a note is added to the invoice that says “Please make sure you are paid by the client before paying our invoice”. If they experience delays in being paid we experience those delays too.
In other words FCPTalent is very much a pro-freelancer model.
Does it still feel somehow morally wrong to charge a candidate fee for being matched to a job? Like I said – on the face of it I can understand – but I believe anyone who understands what we’re about especially when compared to how other recruitment operate we’re a very accessible, affordable and ethical service. Would it help if we also charged the employers? If so please know that in fact we do. However if they give us more than 24 hours notice we waive any fees and almost every employer chooses that option.
The fact is that there are more candidates on the Registry than employers using it – the more employers who use it the better for everyone and because of this the “free for 24 hours” notice policy has become a hallmark of our service. I’m not really out to change @alisterrobbie‘s mind in particular and I certainly have no problem with him challenging a business model that he sees as at odds with his values. Indeed a lot of you may think he has a point. All I hope is that I have managed to give a reasonably compelling public reply to a public tweet that suggested our model was perhaps predatory or unethical when in fact it is something that (as a freelancer myself) I am very proud to have built. Feel free to chime in below, Dear Reader – I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter.
Doug Suiter FCPTalent.com 7 May 2014