The life of an independent recruiter is not simple or easy, but it’s the one for you. Whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been steering your own ship for years, there are unique challenges that face you every day, recruiting season and year. One of the biggest pain points and creators of stress in your life as an independent recruiter can, of course, be the financial instability that comes with such autonomy. How do support yourself? How will you make it through those pesky summers and Decembers? You may love recruiting, but let’s face it, you’re not doing it for your health. Let’s make sure your passion and hard work result in a long and successful recruiting career.

Use these 5 methods for growing as an independent recruiter and managing your financial opportunity & risk.

1. Choose your best billing model

Fee-based recruiting

Start your journey by addressing your billing model. A fee-based recruiting strategy may not always be ideal, as there is no guarantee that you will be paid for your efforts. After all, only about 1/10th of candidates that you present will be qualified. This payment structure is tempting though, as it can be extremely profitable depending on the position that you’re looking to fill. With the typical rates of 15 -25% of the first year’s salary, you could easily make $15,000 off of one $75,000 role at a rate of 20%. If you have the perfect candidate in mind or deeply rooted networks in a particular field it may be worth considering. If you’re already billing this way with great results, it may be worth continuing. However, it’s always good to remember that there are alternatives available to you.

Contract recruiting

Marketing yourself as a contract recruiter can seem worth it as you will be paid for your time worked. The downside to this is that many companies fear that they will be taken advantage of when using this method. This could be the result of what Sue McKechnie refers to as the “influx of ineffective recruiters” which may have left many departments relying on less experienced recruiters after the position began to boom in 2014. You can combat this by using an effective time-keeping method and taking notes on your progress. Transparency builds trust! Some time tracking systems that we find to be helpful are toggl and IFTTT’s (If This, Then That) time tracking recipes.

I prefer this recipe, which tracks your hours with the press of a button and logs them on an easy to share Google Spreadsheet.

*Pro Tip: Virtually every post on this subject reiterates that you should never compromise on your bill rate as it devalues your skills and time –  who am I to stray from tradition?

2. Seek specialties and niches to market yourself

You may have to get a bit creative and move out of your comfort zone to start or grow as an independent recruiting consultant.

For this, we’ll turn to Greg Savage for sage advice. He suggests that smaller recruiting firms should focus on “areas where assignments are long, skills are rare, and tasks are complex.” His reason being that high-skilled temps in niche industries are your best bet for growing business. He recommends finding candidates that frequently do contract work, sometimes called “career contractors,” and building relationships with these people. You both can benefit greatly from regularly working with one another.

(Savage also suggests that you should focus on placing higher-paying roles, allowing you to focus on making fewer, higher-quality and higher-returning hires. At the risk of sounding obvious, sure! This would be ideal. However, we understand how challenging this can truly be, especially getting started or branching out. Higher-paying jobs generally take longer to source, match and ultimately place. It may be hard to do this kind of niche recruiting, but it can still be worth part of your time over the long-haul. If you can transition to this kind of work exclusively, you might find it rewarding in multiple ways.)

3. Find your niche with local resources

To find your niche or to venture into a new one, consider joining your area’s Chamber of Commerce to see who’s hiring, who’s downsizing, and what industries and niches are booming. This will also allow you to network and connect with other business owners. Small networking events and industry meet-ups are also great ways to find candidates and to meet colleagues who may be interested in split fee opportunities.

Take a look at events offered by:

Think about “split fees”

Many recruiters avoid split fees and feel as though they are too difficult to track to be viable. However, you may find split fees to be useful as you grow your small business. You won’t have the resources and reach of larger firms, but you do have increased flexibility. Split fee recruiting will give you access to more companies and a broader range of candidates.

4. Take advantage of feasts AND famines

Use slower times like summer to get your name out there. This time is great for doing all of those business-critical activities that you don’t have time for during peak recruiting season(s). Spread the word and make those connections.

I know – networking’s great, but that won’t pay the bills. There are more practical ways to improve your career during slow times like summer lulls, which tend to result from mid-year re-allocations of annual budgets and summer vacations. Use slow times to catch up on administrative tasks and to catch up on industry trends. Perhaps now is the time to investigate new recruiting tools or to find a new payroll system. Now would also be the time to get any client-impressing certifications, such as social media recruiting and diversity recruiting certifications.

You may also want to use this time to begin building relationships with new candidates and recent grads. Let acquaintances know that you’ve gone out on your own and are looking for recruiting opportunities.

  • Attend networking events
  • Rev up your social media presence
  • Go to career fairs to find candidates

Remember, connecting with talented candidates (no matter if they’re active or passive) is valuable no matter their fit with immediately available roles. Slow times are perfect for filling your pipelines with talented candidates who could make for fast fits as they progress in their careers and you become tasked with recruiting for new positions with evolving requirements.

For recent grads, try connecting with students who majored in degrees that align with your niche industry. They may not have enough experience to be placed now, but you should try to remain in contact with them as they progress in their careers. You can offer simple help with:

  • Drafting resumes
  • Prepping for interviews
  • Answering interview questions
  • Offering LinkedIn introductions to other industry professionals

These activities build relationships with young candidates early in their careers when they especially need the help. Forming these relationships also allow you to bolster your talent pipelines as the candidates become more experienced (and more valuable). Your early kindness and help could go a long way as they hop between companies, jobs and professions.

5. Use HR tech wisely

In recruiting, the technology that you use can easily make or break you. The right tools will make your job easier and save you time, but the wrong ones (like outdated pieces of software or poorly designed applicant tracking systems) can take hours out of your day and leave you feeling frustrated. In addition to using the right recruiting tools, another tool to consider is an accounting tool to assist your bookkeeping. Take a look at this Forbes article to point you in the right direction as you weigh your accounting software options.


Going out on your own can be stressful. Working as an independent recruiter is a different animal than having a steady paycheck coming in while you orchestrate perfect matches. It will take time to generate a client base and a solid reputation as a dependable source of quality candidates, but don’t get discouraged. You’re the proud lone ship on the free market’s open waters. Such autonomy can be a stressful gift, but a great gift nonetheless. Keep at it and stay tuned for more tips.

We’re happy to help you on your way to success.

If you’re interested in learning how Jobjet can help you in your journey as an independent recruiter, feel free to read more with the link below and see our collection of powerful tools that find, organize and help contact qualified candidates.

Learn about Jobjet