Recruiters, Sourcing & Wasting Time

One of my observations from both Tru London and SOSU (Sourcing Summit) Europe is how much time recruiters and sourcers waste.

Recruitment is an industry that is heavily subsidised – not by the EU, before you start penning tirades to your MEP – but by successful placements, which subsidise the huge amount of time spent on roles, hunting down and chatting candidates that lead nowhere. Contingent (success-based) fees can be 20-30% of a candidate’s first year salary. That fee often subsidises a number of other searches (a lot of work) that leads to nothing.

Traditionally, recruiters have dealt with this problem through volume. Even today, many of the recruiters I visit focus on maximizing call numbers, in the hope that if they throw enough shit… candidates against the wall, some of it will stick.

Imagine how much time is wasted each day by recruiters researching and calling candidates who are completely unsuitable – either because they don’t fit the job description, or because they wouldn’t do the role, no matter how silver-tongued the recruiter? An hour or two a day, per person? Times that by the number of recruiters in the world and we’re probably talking millions of hours a day, wasted. In addition, that research and those calls don’t merely waste the caller’s time, but also the prospective candidates contacted. Ouch.

If you times the amount of hours candidates spend fending off recruiter calls and deleting emails by their hourly rates, recruiters probably waste our economies millions and millions of dollars a day. It’s no wonder recruiters are so unpopular.

I’d suggest much of the negative press recruiters receive (as Greg Savage and Jim Stroud note, just type “recruiters are” into google and have a look at the autosuggestions) is because of the pressure on them to maximize their number of calls in a day. The reason – so they can wade through these prospective candidates in order to find a needle in the haystack – someone suitable, ready to talk to a recruiter and willing to move.

It’s also no wonder recruiters have such a high turnover rate (the highest of any industry, some say), as to be on the receiving end of such negativity, coupled with the ‘boiler room’ environments many face, isn’t pleasant.

At 3Sourcing, we believe that sourcing isn’t just about finding suitable candidates in a targeted and efficient manner, but also arming the recruiter with enough information to make a considered approach to a suitable, willing candidate. Excellent sourcing tools and skills could, better still should, help recruiters become far more targeted. Our own tool, 3Sourcing a ‘people search engine’ or ‘aggregator’ is a step towards improving available information on candidates. For now, we’re focused on developers in the UK whilst we trial the system, but our aim is to cover many sectors and geographies to help people do that research.

Aaron Neale, a Director at one of the more progressive firms we’ve visited Stott & May says, “People aggregators are the future of our industry because it affords a recruiter more of their most valuable asset; their time.” Or, as Johnny Campbell from Social Talent, as speaker at SOSU succinctly puts it, “Oh. My. God. If that doesn’t convince you that you need to be using people aggregators, then you shouldn’t call yourself a recruiter.”

Here’s to making recruiters time more efficient and improving their reputations.

3Sourcing – finding tech talent, simplified

When we started 3Desk in early 2012, our vision was to make the labour market more liquid.

We believe that helping find people meaningful work is one of the most valuable ways we can drive a healthy and happy society. We believe the recruitment market is tired and desperately in need of innovation, which represents a huge opportunity.

Armed with the knowledge that the contingent labour market would grow to 50% of the total market by 2020, we set out to build a marketplace that would transform the way freelancers are hired.

It was an excellent idea. It still is. Each day the platform places people in jobs all over the world. We won the European iTalent Award and acquired over 370,000 users in just a few months. But the platform (as is often the case with marketplaces) was proving hard to monetize. So we took stock of our findings and decided to spend a couple of months experimenting with new ideas.

A few of those ideas went unnoticed, but one caught on – within an hour of emailing a prototype to a few recruiters I had a number of them on the phone asking if they could get more logins for their colleagues. Within a week I was getting called by companies we hadn’t even sent the prototype to. Word was getting out, without our even trying. For an entrepreneur, that’s a wonderful sign.

Armed with amazing feedback and desperate demand, we continued to experiment. Three months later, we’ve pivoted. Our prototype has blossomed into 3Sourcing (, a search engine for people and the reaction has been phenomenal.

In just 3 months from a standing start, over 50% of the UK IT recruiters are using the platform and we’re already close to making a profit. One recruiter said that 3Sourcing is ‘the best tool we’ve seen since we first tried LinkedIn’. Johnny Campbell gave us a pretty smashing review here too -

Not bad, given we’ve only just begun. We’ve kept our focus extremely narrow for the time being (just software developers in the UK). However, the engine is hugely powerful and applicable across many geographies and sectors. Over the coming weeks and months, we’ll be sharing our progress, what we’re learning and some amazing new features that have been driven by user requests.

But freelancers fear not, our mission remains unchanged. The original platform is still alive and well and we’ll be integrating the two in due course to help employers and employees find each other a little more easily.

Wish us luck.


The more observant amongst you will have noticed that things have been a little quiet upon the 3Desks recently. Fear not, we’ve not abandoned you… we’ve been hard at the coal face working on something very, very special.

We’ll be slowly interweaving this new tool between the 3Desks in good time, but if you’d like a sneak-preview, have a look here. Please note, it’s currently only for finding technical candidates in the UK, but we’ll be expanding sectors and geographies soon.

Johnny from Social Talent reviewed our beta here in a wonderful article and said, “Oh. My. God. If that [3Sourcing] doesn’t convince you that you need to be using people aggregators, then you shouldn’t call yourself a recruiter.” With that, Johnny has shot to the top of our Xmas card list.

In September, the we’ll be launching at the Sourcing Summit Europe in Amsterdam and would love to see you there. We’ll also be attending Tru London and Discover Sourcing, so do come and find us.

More shortly…

Finding More Freelance Work – Alerts Feature

One of the issues with most freelance marketplaces is that only a small number of freelancers actually find work on the platform. Of the thousands of people signed up, perhaps 5-10% of people actually win work.

We want all our users to be able to use 3Desk to help them find something, even if it’s not directly through the platform.

As such, we’ve introduced a new email alert feature, to help people find work:

You can now search by title, sector or location and find roles, whether on 3Desk directly or with our partner Indeed.

You can also set up email alerts, which will send you those opportunities via email daily or weekly, so that it’s even easier to ensure opportunities find you.

Good luck!


Tips, Feedback and Freelance Help

Here at 3Desk, we always love feedback. Problems, issues, ideas, thoughts or constructive criticism are graciously received, because it helps us make the site even better.

To help you, here are some of the most common questions or requests:

How do I find more work?

That’s the million dollar/pound/shilling etc. question and the most common thing freelancers want to know. If we could click our fingers and solve this for you, we would.

We set up 3Desk to help connect employers and freelancers way more easily and rest assured, we’re doing all we can. This article explaining how to increase your rate is very relevant to finding more work and also the second article in the series. I’ll post some more shortly. Good luck, keep your profile as complete as possible and make sure to share it.

I’m an employer and a freelancer, or I’ve set up the wrong account

No worries, go to – and toggle between the two. Employers don’t currently have a profile (it’s coming). By the way, if you’d prefer a bit of ecological hardwood or a desk made out of solid Incan silver (you’re only limited by your imagination) – you can choose your desk from our 3Desk choices.

I’m not getting the right or enough candidates

We’re unable to ‘control’ who shows interest, although we do try to filter spam (i.e. wholly unsuitable candidates) as best we can. You can also mark people as spam, which helps us improve our matching. We try not to prevent people applying altogether, if we can.

If you’re still not getting the right or enough people: 1) Make sure your job description is specific enough, or is it too specific? 2) Have you added the right keywords? Let us know if you need any help or to look at your profile, we’ll do what we can. 

The matching isn’t working well or I’m too busy to receive new opportunities

We introduced the matching service, matching freelancers to employers, because we wanted to try to help save you time. It does work, but getting it spot on is very, very difficult and is related to the number of jobs we have, how people input them (which we try to edit), keyword variations, location names and the way information in your profile is added.

Trust me, Raz has two mathematical Olympic medals and a PhD in Artificial Intelligence – it’s not at all easy but it’s improving all the time. The better your profile and the job information, the better the matches will be… but we do sometimes get them wrong. If you don’t want to receive notifications, you can always change these here – – But be warned, we may then miss you if an amazing job comes in, or we have news for you.

I can’t see jobs outside of my country, or I’m in the wrong country

We’re focused on face-to-face freelancing. Which means that we generally try to limit people to their ‘area’ to prevent people from far, far away applying for local jobs.

We’re working to allow people to apply to different areas at present – hopefully this will be solved shortly.

Why wasn’t my job posted?

We have very strict criteria, ensuring the quality of the platform remains high. We don’t allow freelance opportunities that are; commission based, beneath a minimum wage, permanent or roles that sound too vague or not suite right. If you’ve spotted one you think isn’t suitable, let us know.

Why are you called 3Desk?

We are focused on freelancers that work ‘in person’. Those freelancers will likely have a number of different places of work, or multiple desks. We’d like people not to be tied to one position, we think that would make the world of work a bit better.

Anything else I should know?

Yep. We’re doing all we can to build something amazing. It takes time. It will never be absolutely flawless for everyone, but we think it’s already really cool and we receive wonderful feedback (which we love to get) every single day.

There will be little niggles. Please be patient. We’re a tiny team in comparison with companies like Airbnb, eBay, Elance etc (companies we look up to) so bear that in mind when comparing. Even they were like us, once. Plus we do some things better.

If you like what we’re doing, follow us on Twitter, and join us on LinkedIn, Facebook.

Best Example Freelance Profiles

We’re loving the way people are playing with our new freelance profile. Our aim was to enable people to design the profiles the way they wanted, to showcase their skills and talents as a freelancer, as well as winning endorsements – here’s more about our reasoning for building the new profile.

More and more people spreading the love. Raz has also built some really cool features that enable you to fill your profile automatically from Twitter, your personal URL and by uploading your CV.

Here are some best examples of our fabulous freelancers from across the globe, including a couple of D-list celebrities – click on the photos to see their profiles:

1. Matthew, an illustrator from London, UK

2. Mohamed, a marketing professional from Egypt

3. Joel, an Art Director from New York, USA.

4. Samantha, an actress from Australia

5. Our own resident super-hero, Raz, France

6. Paula, a designer from LA, USA

7. Yours truly, because 7 is my lucky number – Bristol, UK

8. Helen a Jill of all (wonderful) trades from Sacramento, California

If you’ve got a profile you’d like us to see and share, or anything changes you’d like, please send us a Tweet or leave us a note in our LinkedIn group.

We’ve lots more to add, so keep your eyes peeled for the new features we’ll be rolling out over the coming weeks.

PS – why the different backgrounds? We wanted to make it ‘look’ like a desk. You can choose the desk you want to work at from your account page. You’ve got 3Desks to choose from, obviously.

The Ultimate Freelance Profile & Birthdays

The New Freelance Profile

I’m thrilled to announce that we’re launching your NEW PROFILE (coincidentally on, 3Desk’s 1st Birthday).

We built this profile using feedback from thousands of our users to help freelancers win more work and share your unique skills. Here are some of the highlights:

1) The profile is now built from ‘cards’ that can be added, deleted, moved, resized and edited. Freelancers can add projects, skills and images. Use the ‘improve your profile’ button for suggestions. The better the profile, the more likely freelancers will be found, and hired.

2) Freelancers can SHARE THEIR PROFILE and people can now find, contact and hire them directly, (as well as applying to the opportunities we have listed, like before).

3) Freelancers can ask for endorsements – the more they have, the better chance the of winning work. Perhaps more importantly, it is also a clever way of letting people know what a freelancer is up to without explicitly having to asking for work.

4) Connect a personal website, blog, CV/resume, and other profiles and we’ll auto-magically use them to populate a profile.

Voila, if you’re a user here’s your profile – make sure it looks great.

This is obviously just the beginning and there may be a few (hopefully small) issues – Raz is only human after all (although he deserves a cape, here’s his profile). We’ll be improving the profile, listening to further feedback and adding new features over the coming weeks. Please do get in touch on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook if you’ve any comments, thoughts or ideas.

I’ll also be sharing the best, so if you think your profile looks great, let us know on Twitter 

Your New Profile on 3Desk

An example new profile

Over the last 5 weeks, we’ve had an amazing time trying to build the ultimate profile for freelancers. In order to understand what people wanted, we listened to over a thousand freelancers who sent us ideas. We amalgamated these opinions and thought deep on the responses.

We’re excited to say we’re almost there. Although there are many more features to add, we’re proud to offer you a chance to test-drive the new look. To see your profile, click here: 

Here’s a cheeky example for you, so you can see how a normal profile can look:

Here are some of the many features we think you’ll love:

-       Fill your profile in just a few clicks using your other profiles on the web. We auto-magically use Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook and your personal website/blog to build your profile for you in seconds.

-       Your profile is split into cards, each of which is moveable, re-sizable and customizable. You don’t have to conform to the restrictions of the static layout of other sites any more! Enjoy moving them and watching them snap into place.

-       SO many people asked for endorsements. These allow you to – a) to get other people to endorse and recommend your work, adding weight to your profile and demonstrating how good you are and b) it allows you to share your work/profile with others and get hired directly through your network.

-       You can create any cards you want to, to ensure your particular services are represented. Use images, text and markup to make your profile shine.

-       Project cards enable you to showcase work you’ve done for clients.

-       Skills are a vital part of a freelancer’s offering. We enable you to link them to projects and endorse them individually.

-       A ‘profile completeness’ counter, so you don’t have to guess what to add – we’ll suggest things to do next, starting with the easiest/most important first.


As ever, we’d love your thoughts so please let us know what you think. We’re also looking for some best example profiles, please send us yours on twitter ( and we’ll share the best.

Finding a Freelancer Shouldn’t Be Difficult

This was originally posted here

The life of a freelancer is often envied. Being free to work when you want and with the clients you choose certainly sounds seductive.

Full-time employees long for the freedom that freelancers seemingly possess. A common perception is that freelancers mostly work from home (infamously in their pyjamas) and dive into client offices as and when needed without getting snared up in office politics and meetings. All for a higher day rate than the full-timers get, even though the permanent folks are chained to their cubicles and office hours.

Yet as any experienced freelancer knows, the truth is rather different. As our freelancers on 3Desk tell us, you have to run your own business – be a mini-entrepreneur, subjected to all the strains and stresses that accompany this journey (and perhaps, without the potential upsides if your business won’t scale, or run itself).

Freelancing success is often dependent on business skill

Freelancers often take big financial risks to go out alone. It can be isolating and very, very hard at times. Many of the people who I’ve spoken to, talk about periods with little work where stress is high, when they are forced to do intensive business development to find new work. Few suggest it is easy. For most, the freedom is definitely worth the risk, but some fall back into full-time work because of the security it provides (think sick days, healthcare and the community a team brings,).

Picture the designer – a savant when it comes to colours, pixels, user experience and the look and feel. A highly-skilled being. Yet this personality type doesn’t always go hand-in-hand with the marketer, and yet almost every freelancers has to ‘sell’ their own work in order to win new clients. Meaning that the most skilled is least able to find work unless people recognize their talent. Freelancers rely on their own networks through word-of-mouth and use recruiters – each of which is fraught with pitfalls and especially in the case of recruiters, is very costly.

Apply for a mortgage as a successful freelancer, with multiple high-paying clients and typically a bank will not lend you as much money as if you earned the same salary from a single employer. Despite the fact that a single employer might mean a more precarious income stream.

All of which seems rather strange…

What if you were hired because you’re a talented freelancer, not a great salesman?

For many skilled freelancers, like web developers, designers and marketers, there are often a plethora of opportunities in one’s local area. The problem is not so much that the opportunities don’t exist, but that the current methods do not provide the market with the kind of liquidity that ensures security. At 3Desk, we dream of a market where everyone value is based on their actual skill, rather than their marketing skill.

Many freelancers are unaware of opportunities that come up because they never hear about them. Tracking job boards and other sites for opportunities is time-consuming and hard to navigate.

Employers are also affected. Because it’s difficult to find freelancers, as and when they’re needed, many see the process as being much like hiring someone full time. That shouldn’t be the case. Bringing a freelancer in for a day is so mindbogglingly easy that many talent ‘issues’ could be solved by giving it a go.

We think freelancing can help change the world for the better

If it were easier to find work and easier to hire freelancers, the advantages of both being and hiring temporary workers would markedly improve. It’s not just ‘traditional’ freelancers that would benefit, but also mothers who’ve recently given birth might have the capacity to work a few hours a day, or a few days a week. We think that freelancing could actually change the world and I was inspired to start 3Desk by two friends who work in international development.

In most markets, the supply and the demand exist but the current connective mechanisms prevent the two finding one another easily and cheaply.

At 3Desk, we’re making little steps to address that. By enabling freelancers to create customizable profiles that do the marketing for them (here’s a sneak peek of our new design, a work in progress.) We also match people to jobs using a special algorithm and ensure freelancers know where they stand, even if they don’t win the work.

We want to make the full-time workers of the world jealous of the reality, not of the perception.

The World, Working

Here’s a little, slightly wordy New Years update we shared, in case you missed it:

In this update, I promised I’d explain why we think freelancing will change the world. If you’ve not read it, here is our first ever blog post, explaining our mission.

As the year ends, it’s often time for a little reflection and many of us have a bit more time to ruminate on our working lives and the contributions we make. At 3Desk, we’re reminded that what we are building is not about Raz or me, but instead a platform that gives YOU a vehicle with which to contribute – by connecting you with others and showcasing your work.

That is why we’ve spent the holidays building new features, including profile updates allowing you to highlight your skills, previous projects and achievements, as well as getting endorsements from others, both on and off the platform. We’ll be releasing these early in the new year.

…but first, so you understand where we’re hearding, here’s a bit more about 3Desk’s grand vision:

Why Freelancing?

Our aim is to create a liquid marketplace for temporary workers who interact face-to-face. In short, this means building a site that enables employers and freelancers to find one another and manage their relationships with the absolute minimum of fuss.

Why? Because after talking to thousands of employers and freelancers, the same problems perpetuate – for freelancers, it takes significant time, effort and determination to ensure that they have enough work coming in. A majority mentioned that the hardest thing about freelancing is marketing themselves, which is a great source of stress and anxiety as well as reducing the amount of time spent actually earning. For employers, the difficulty in finding freelancers, managing contracts and paying them means that the same people are used again and again, or work is left to full-timers, even if better freelancers could be found. It should be logical – you need something done, hire an expert in… yet it remains difficult. We want to make it easier for both parties.

A ‘liquid’ marketplace means one where the right people can be found, at the right price, at the right time, enabling the best people to get paid the most, and the appropriate skills to be utilized as and when they are needed. Building such a marketplace is a huge undertaking and one that we’ve only just begun – but over the course of this, our first year, we have started to plant the seeds.

The Bigger Picture

As well as making life easier for freelancers and employers, there are additional benefits to building a freelance marketplace.

For some, freelancing is the optimum choice, enabling flexibility, freedom, focus and a chance to control their own working life. For others – the unemployed, mothers with small children, or those who’ve been forced to retire early, for example – it offers a chance to do pieces of work and to break the ‘in work’ or ‘out-of-work’ deadlock that many face. With the challenges that exist in the troubled economies of the Eurozone, to the burgeoning economies of the Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, there is a huge, growing base of skilled workers who don’t have full-time roles that are looking to find ways to put their talents to use.

The world’s economy no longer solely suits people having full time work in a single location for one employer. There are millions of mini-entrepreneurs – skilled workers, each needing to find pieces of temporary work. Even in the US – by 2020 over 50% of the US workforce will have a temporary job, of some description. Imagine the good that could be achieved if these people found appropriate work and the UN, aid agencies, NGOs, governments and businesses could find the talent they need, for the best price, when they need it.

We want to build a marketplace that enables this to happen.

Baby Steps

So, just a tiny ambition then :)

Seriously though, it is this vision that propels Raz and I each day and sustains us as we work weekends and holidays. Rather than pursuing financial goals, quick exits or chase the latest or coolest fad, we want to give other people the tools to make a difference in their lives. We may only inch towards this faraway vision, but the ability to use technology to make a difference is why we can remain so passionate, each and every day.

It might not be obvious when you first use 3Desk or think of freelancing. To most, we’re just another ‘freelance marketplace’ (or even god forbid, a recruitment platform) but the more observant amongst you and those who follow us on Twitter, Linkedin or Facebook will have noticed that we’re just starting to make baby steps in this direction.

For now, bits of 3Desk might not work, or there might not be enough jobs in your area. Forgive us, we’re a two-man team doing our upmost each day to make things a little bit better. However, we’re looking forward to getting a little closer to this shared dream in 2013.

Thanks for listening and being patient (especially if you’re still reading).

Tom (and Raz)

PS – Join us on Facebook | Twitter | Linkedin

Us, slightly sweaty/disheveled, on a run in Paris. Can you guess who's who?