Alex Hyett
Alex Hyett
CEO and Founder of GrowRecruit

How to Become an Independent Recruiter

Maybe you dream of becoming your own boss, being able to work from anywhere, having more free time and earning more money. Becoming an independent recruiter can be a great career path and can give you all these things. So how do you become a freelance recruiter?

Getting experience as a recruiter

Companies hire freelancers because they don’t have the skills in-house and don’t want to take on someone full-time. When they hire a freelance recruiter they are getting a highly skilled individual with lots of experience available on demand for a short period of time.

If you have never done recruiting before you are going to have a hard time convincing clients to use your services. Before embarking on a freelance recruiting career it is recommended you have around 5-10 years experience at a staffing agency first.

Working at an agency will give you the experience you need to track down clients and source candidates. This will also give you the time to build up your network ready for when you go freelance.

Most recruiters use LinkedIn as their main avenue for sourcing candidates. Over a few years, you will build up a large network on LinkedIn which you can take with you when you move position or start your freelance career.

While working for an agency you will need to consider what niche you want to target. While the agency you work for may have clients in a range of different industries, as a contract recruiter you are going to find it hard to get clients and source candidates unless you niche down.

Put yourself in the client’s position, who would you rather hire?

  1. a tech recruiter who has many years experience sourcing software engineers with a LinkedIn network of thousands of software engineers.
  2. a recruiter with a network of a mix of industries where only a handful relates to the client’s industry.

Every industry comes with its own acronyms and buzzwords that you will need to understand to be able to communicate effectively with clients and candidates. By niching down you can become an expert in your industry.

Taking the leap into freelance recruiting

So you have built up many years experience and you feel you have the skills you need to strike out on your own. You are ready for more money and more freedom. So should you jump?

One of the largest differences when moving from a steady paycheck to a freelance career is how and when you get paid. Even though you could earn more as an independent recruiter you are going to have dry months and busy months. Therefore, before taking the leap it is recommended that you have at least 6 months expenses.

Once you are ready it is important to not burn bridges with your current employer. If you leave on good terms they may employ you on a contract basis to help with any overflow of work.

It is also worth checking your contract. Many companies add in non-compete and non-solicitation clauses in their contracts to stop you from setting up your own company and stealing all their clients. However, there is always an end date on these terms after which their clients are fair game. So keep in mind you will need to find your own clients to work for when you start.

Once you ready you need to make a plan and stick to it. You will need to consider the following:

  • What niche you are going to target
  • Where you are going to work from (home or co-working office)
  • How you plan to find clients
  • How you are going to source candidates

As a freelancer, you are running your own business. Therefore you will not only be in charge of finding clients and candidates but also marketing, sales and accounting as well.

Even though you could set yourself up as a sole trader, most companies will only work with limited companies. There are also many tax benefits in setting yourself up as a business. You will also need the following:

  • A business name - check with Companies House to make sure it is available.
  • A business bank account - you can set one up instantly with Tide.
  • Applicant Tracking System - our own GrowRecruit has some excellent features for freelancers.
  • Accountant - you can do the accounts yourself but you can save yourself a lot of money by getting an accountant.

Finding clients as a contract recruiter

As a freelance recruiter, you have 2 important tasks, finding clients and sourcing candidates.

When you start out you will unlikely be able to contact any clients you worked with during your time at an agency due to non-solicitation clauses in your contract. However, one way you can find clients is by hunting for company’s who are actively hiring.

Try looking at job boards such as Indeed or Monster and find companies that are hiring. You will then need to contact them, pitch your services and see if they want to work with you. If they agree then you will need to set up payment terms. The general rule of thumb is to charge between 15% and 25% of the candidate’s annual salary.

You will want to get a contract written up by a lawyer for your clients to sign. There are too many stories of external recruiters not getting paid by clients.

Sourcing candidates to fill the position

If you have spent any time at agencies then you should be very experienced in finding candidates for positions. This is when you can use the extensive network you have built up over the years to try and find candidates. You can also use tools such as LinkedIn or social networks to search for candidates. By focusing on a niche you should know exactly how to pitch to candidates.

Once you have found candidates you will need to coordinate as many interviews as possible for the position. You should expect you will get 1 placement per 25 interviews. Of course, this will depend on the client and the quality of candidates you are able to find.

Another way of finding candidates is to list your own jobs on job sites and your own career sites. If you use an applicant tracking system like GrowRecruit you can even set up your own career site and have candidates apply.

Getting paid

You have found the perfect candidate and your client has hired them. Now is the time to get paid. Unfortunately, you likely have to keep pestering your client’s account department to get paid.

If your client doesn’t pay then refer them to your contract, in the worst case get a lawyer involved.

Becoming an independent recruiter can be a challenging career path but it does come with a lot of freedom that you wouldn’t get from your 9-5 agency position.