A question that I often see freelancers ask is whether or not they should work with a recruiting agency. Many freelancers see the lower rates and don’t want to accept less than the rate that they earn when they’re out there getting clients for themselves. Yes, you will generally earn a lower rate on the surface than you would if you were finding clients on your own, but there’s some things you should factor in before you swear off recruiting agencies forever.

A great reason to work with a recruiting agency is how much time you save.

You save time by spending less time doing sales. Between the two contract jobs I worked this year I spent less than 2 hours for the interviews. Factoring in researching the company before the interview and phone calls with my recruiter—I estimate that I spent around 6 hours combined to secure 6 months worth of work. As a freelancer selling directly to my clients I spent far more time than that on sales for projects that earned much less money.

I usually get 40 billable hours a week because I get to bill every hour that I work on a project. As a freelancer, you factor in time spent doing non-billable tasks into your hourly rate (or you should be) because you know there will be a significant amount of time spent on non-billable hours each month just trying to keep your business running.

Working through an agency also takes care of the most stressful parts of freelancing for me: chasing down clients for money and waiting for weeks to receive a check. You save time by not having to deal with the money since the agency takes care of that for you. I submit my hours each week and know I’ll get a check every two weeks.

So yes, on the surface you’re likely going to be earning a lower rate. But for me the time saved means more billable hours, which more than makes up for the lower rate.

Finding a good recruiting agency

I’m currently in my second 3-month contract this year that I received through a local recruiting agency. If you would have asked me a year ago what my impression was of recruiting agencies I probably would have given you a very negative answer based on my experience with them at the time. We’ve all received those annoying LinkedIn messages from recruiters that are obviously just spamming hundreds of names. Their pitch is generic and their jobs don’t even fit your skill set.

My #1 rule is to find an agency with a local presence. You can find them at local events, they know your name, and they know local businesses. They’re out there finding candidates by meeting them; they’re not finding candidates by spamming people on LinkedIn.

Another good rule is finding out whether the recruiter understand the field you’re in. You can usually tell within a couple minutes of talking to someone. They don’t have to be experts in your field but they should know enough about the industry to help find a good fit for you and not trying to place you in positions that are irrelevant to your skill set.

Results may vary depending on the agency. In my experience, finding a good recruiting agency has helped me out a ton because it allows me to maintain my independence as a freelancer while at the same time allowing me to bill for more hours.