I’ve been doing a lot of business development lately.  A large portion of my day is sifting through requisitions, websites, and resources to find suitable work – preferably work that is aligned with my goals as a small business owner.   There are lots of considerations such as rate, the industry, and potential for long term commitment that come into play.  I’d much rather be working on a project and coding with my colleagues, but it comes with the territory when you run your own web firm.  It’s tedious work, but considering the alternative such as paying a sales guy, or using a recruiter – it’s currently the lesser or evils.

I’ve always avoided recruiters.  On my list of least favorite things they rank slightly above offshore web development and toll booths.  The idea of someone getting 30 percent (or more) of my compensation when they typically don’t know much about my field is difficult to stomach.  My favorite recent quote in dealing with a recruiter after I inquired about their take was, “We don’t discuss percentages with talent”.   Really?  You would think the potential to make 30k on a single connection would be worth more effort than that.  In my experiences they typically have very little knowledge of technology other than what they have gleaned from their cold calling routines.  I understand that most people in my field aren’t particularly socially adept so they can use a little help when it comes to networking and presenting your skills in the best light.  Yet I’ve never once heard of recruiter help with a resume (other than asking for YOU to adjust it for the position), provide a laptop, training, or even coach you through an interview process.  I’m sure it doesn’t make sense for them because that all requires time and it’s much easier to shuffle resumes of multiple candidates for a position than to actually enable a candidate.  A recruiters job is to present as many candidates as possible for the clients who pay their bills – not to find the right job for a candidate.   It’s a capitalist economy – so fair enough.

I guess my main beef is the compensation.  30% ?!?  I’ve seen instances where it’s closer to half.  I can’t think of another sales professional where the amount of work performed constitutes those percentages.  Real estate agents can get around 6 percent for the sale of house.  Elite enterprise software sales guys get 3 to 8 percent commission on their quotas.  Where is the precedent for this percentage?

My other gripe is with the companies that enable this market to exist in the first place – particularly with contract work.  If you are a company in need of web talent, why wouldn’t you just negotiate with a firm or freelancer directly?  Do you really think it’s good business to put 30% percent of your budget to a finders fee?

So freelancers of Chicago unite!  Grab your pitchforks and torches and keep the recruiters at bay.  Try a little cold calling yourself, pass out a few business cards, and do a little more networking.

Honestly, if needed, I think I’d be better off with Ben Affleck as my recruiter – at least I might get a retainer out of the deal.