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Tech companies desperate for skills but spurn top freelancers

Hitesh Choudhary / Creative Commons

Michael Solomon has attracted glowing portraits in The New Yorker, The New York Times and Bloomberg for his clientele of tech worker superstars, outsized computing talent that has produced or worked on some of the best-known programs in the world. Like the agents who represent athletes and actors, Solomon negotiates their terms of free-lance employment, which for the top-draw people — right now machine learning and artificial intelligence specialists — can command up to $1,000 an hour. Solomon takes 15% off the top.

But he says his New York firm, 10X Management, has 4,000 potential clients on a waiting list: Years after the invention of the term gig worker, Silicon Valley, he says, still isn't comfortable enough with the idea of hiring free-lancers. Many still prefer full-time workers. "We have to build up the demand side," Solomon tells Axios.

Why it's important: Technology companies are screaming for talent, and spend much time stealing each other's best workers. According to Solomon, they need — like other sectors of the economy — to get more used to gig workers, people who will be loyal and sign a confidentiality agreement, but want more freedom, in particular to move on when the job is done.

How it works: Solomon says his clients are extremely talented at what they do, but "aren't necessarily good at the business side." They need someone to negotiate their pay and other conditions of employment. On average, he says his clients earn $175 to $250 an hour, and, taken over a year, work around 30 hours a week.

An up-and-coming hot profession in terms of pay: specialists in virtual reality and augmented reality technology.