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The Rise of Independent Recruiters

The year 2020 saw unprecedented disruptions in the job market as the COVID-19 pandemic led to widespread layoffs and a sharp economic downturn. Among those affected were recruiters, who have since adapted to these new challenges by going independent and starting their own recruiting firms. In this blog post, we will explore the successes and challenges experienced by these trailblazing independent recruiters, and feature insights from leading recruiting firms that have recently emerged.

Recruiting in 2020

The landscape of recruiting has been undergoing a seismic shift as an increasing number of recruiters opt to go solo. This trend has been driven by various factors, including mass layoffs, a desire for more flexibility and control, the ability to focus on niche markets, and leveraging personal networks and connections.

During the early stages of the pandemic, many companies experienced a sudden downturn in business, leading them to cut costs and reduce their workforce. Unfortunately, recruiting departments were often among the first to go. During the initial months of 2020, talent acquisition specialists at some of the largest tech companies — ZipRecruiter, LinkedIn, Compass — lost their jobs.

The reasons for this are complex. First, recruiting is often seen as a cost center rather than a revenue-generating function. When businesses need to cut costs, they may look to areas like recruiting that are not seen as essential to the bottom line.

Second, in the early days of the pandemic, many companies put hiring on hold or reduced their hiring needs due to the economic uncertainty. With fewer job openings to fill, some recruiting teams found themselves with less work to do, making them more vulnerable to layoffs.

Finally, some companies may have viewed their recruiting teams as expendable because they could outsource or automate some of the recruiting functions. This could be especially true for companies that have been forced to adapt to remote work, which has made it easier to outsource recruiting to remote talent or to automate parts of the process. The demand for recruiters continued to decline in 2022.

LinkedIn’s Future of Recruiting 2023 report

While many recruiting professionals were laid off or furloughed in the early days of the pandemic, LinkedIn’s Future of Recruiting 2023 report predicts that recruiting will become an even more strategic function in the years to come, with recruiters playing a critical role in driving business-critical changes.

LinkedIn’s predictions fall into five themes, including the role of recruiting, economic uncertainty, employer brand, skills-first hiring and internal mobility and upskilling. One prediction is that the remit of recruiting leaders will continue to expand in terms of breadth and depth, with more strategic, skills-based hiring tactics. Another prediction suggests employers will increasingly hire contractors to give them more flexibility in reacting to market conditions without making long-term commitments. This is great news for recruiting firms.

The Independent Recruiting Boom

Going independent can initially look like a daunting prospect but it can turn out to be a blessing in disguise. Recruiters that create a more personalized approach, focus on the unique needs of clients and candidates can be highly successful even in this market. The market is dominated by large agencies, but smaller firms and individuals can also establish successful businesses.

Here’s why you should consider starting a recruiting business:


The recruitment industry is known for its profitability, but many don’t realize the extent of its earning potential. By securing a few clients each month, achieving $30,000 a month is possible, with room to grow. Recruiting agencies typically charge 15-20% of a new hire’s first-year salary, leading to high commissions for top positions. With determination, there’s no limit to scaling your business.

A GROWING MARKET Recruitment is a growing industry, with smaller agencies and independent recruiters entering the field alongside large companies. By seizing this opportunity, you can potentially reap significant rewards.

LABOR SHORTAGE The labor shortage caused by the “Great Resignation” has left companies increasing salaries and perks to attract the limited labor supply. As a recruiter, you can assist these companies in finding and hiring the talent they desperately need.

A SIMPLE BUSINESS MODEL The recruitment business model is straightforward, with no need for a physical office or employees until you’re ready to scale. Minimal overheads and basic requirements like a computer, internet access, and a LinkedIn subscription make starting your recruitment business less intimidating.

THE RIGHT SKILLS Starting a business is never easy, but with good time management, organization, and sales skills, launching a recruiting business is achievable. Focusing on building relationships with clients, understanding their needs, and delivering results is crucial.

To make your mark, begin by creating and optimizing your LinkedIn profile, building your network, and establishing your personal brand. Be prepared for the initial challenges, such as acquiring your first client and finding your niche. Reach out to decision-makers in various sectors through LinkedIn or cold emails to open doors.

While starting a business always carries risk and requires hard work, the current landscape makes recruitment an attractive sector for 2022. If it appeals to you, there’s no reason not to give it a try.

Challenges of Going Solo

While many independent recruiters have seen success, the journey has not been without its obstacles. Some of the key challenges include:

  1. Building a Client Base: Attracting new clients can be difficult for any business, and it’s no different for independent recruiters. “It took a lot of networking and marketing to get the ball rolling,” admits Sarah Johnson, founder of TechHunters, a tech-focused recruiting firm established in 2021.
  2. Managing Finances: Starting a business comes with financial risks and responsibilities, and recruiters must be prepared to navigate these challenges. “Budgeting and financial planning were key to ensuring we could sustain our business in the early stages,” explains Jane Smith of TalentBridge.
  3. Maintaining Work-Life Balance: As independent recruiters, many find themselves working long hours to ensure their businesses’ success. This can make it difficult to maintain a healthy work-life balance. “I had to learn to set boundaries and prioritize self-care, even as I worked hard to grow my business,” says John Doe of TalentMagnet.

Success in the End

Despite the challenges faced, independent recruiters have found that the rewards of going solo outweigh the obstacles. They have gained greater control over their careers, the ability to focus on specialized markets, and the satisfaction of building a business from the ground up.

The rise of independent recruiters is a testament to the resilience and adaptability of professionals in the face of adversity. With determination, hard work, and a clear vision, these recruiters have shown that it is possible to thrive, even in the most challenging circumstances.

As more recruiters continue to embrace the independent route, it will be exciting to see how this trend continues to shape the industry and contribute to a more diverse and dynamic recruiting landscape.