The coronavirus pandemic has transformed many office workers into remote workers, and that’s likely to continue even after the pandemic ends.
LinkedIn is hoping to capitalize on the new reality by developing a service for freelancers to find work. Called Marketplaces, the new service will enable businesses to find, hire, and pay freelancers.
Tech news site The Information first reported about Marketplaces on Feb. 19.
LinkedIn, owned by Microsoft, is looking to build off a strong 2020, during which millions of Americans who were left unemployed by the pandemic used the site. LinkedIn’s $8.8 billion in revenue during the year was nearly 20% more than in 2019.
In a statement, LinkedIn spokeswoman Suzi Owens said the number of LinkedIn users who added “open for business” to their profiles has soared since the pandemic began. The phrase “open for business” suggests that those people are openly searching for work.
Marketplaces, which is supposed to launch in September, will focus on white-collar jobs in fields like design, marketing, and software development. Employers would be able to use the service to compare the rates of individual freelancers and the kind of work they offer.
“In the future we’ll be building new ways to share more about the services you [could] offer directly through your LinkedIn profile,” Owens said.
Microsoft is considering taking a cut of the transactions on LinkedIn Marketplaces as well as charging freelancers to post their own ads, according to The Information.
Marketplaces pits LinkedIn against publicly traded online freelance job boards Upwork and Fiverr. Together, those two sites generated nearly $550 million in revenue in 2020, a 37% increase from the year before.
Marketplaces is expected to blend features from both competitors. It will let businesses shop for freelancers and compare rates, similar to Fiverr, while employers will be able to post their own proposals to freelancers, similar to Upwork.
After the job is done, customers who hire freelancers can then post reviews about them.
Marketplaces is expected to replace ProFinder, a longtime LinkedIn feature that lets users post jobs and hire freelancers. But the new service takes things a step further by letting users connect and facilitate deals directly on the site.
Marketplaces is the latest in a series of efforts by big tech companies to tap into the growing market for connecting freelancers with jobs. In December, Facebook announced it was forming a team to develop a service for hiring freelancers, mostly those specializing in physical work like home repair, although it’s unclear when that service will debut, according to The Information.
Even before COVID-19, freelance work has been gaining momentum. In 2017, Upwork and the Freelancers Union suggested that most U.S. workers will be freelance by 2027. But that timeline was potentially accelerated by the pandemic.
“Remote work, and the talented freelancers who work remotely, will increasingly be the norm,” Hayden Brown, Upwork’s CEO, said in an April interview with Fortune. “The trends supporting this started well before the current crisis, and may be accelerated by the changes everyone is making to adapt to new realities.”
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