Five reasons why professionals are becoming freelance consultants
As corporate life can become political and bureaucratic for many, professionals are opting for freelance consultancy in order to enjoy benefits such as greater flexibility and control. Demand for their services is also on the rise as businesses seek to quickly pull together expert project teams in response to business opportunities and challenges.
The consulting industry is experiencing major disruption. Previously consulting was the territory of the big four consulting firms with a smaller group of independents who picked up work based on their personal networks
Now online platforms create large, efficient marketplaces that match consultants with appropriate work.
Both big corporates and small start-ups are using these platforms to assemble instant teams to implement short and long-term projects.
Unencumbered by the everyday ‘noise’ that hinders the productivity of permanent employees, contract consultants are fully productive.
Working as an independent consultant is a serious alternative to being employed.
Research among 285 independent UK consultants by B2E Consulting¹ showed five major reasons why they are so happy:
1.Flexibility and choice
The main reason why contract consultants work this way is to enjoy the freedom and flexibility of being able to choose the work they do and the clients they work for. Over 76% of respondents cited greater flexibility as one of the three key reasons for becoming an independent consultant.
Many also value the opportunity to choose when to work, commenting that they ‘only want to work part of the year’. The benefits are prevention of burn-out and the mental well-being that comes from being able to choose positive rather than negative projects and workplaces.
2.Opportunity to increase income
Secondly, independent consulting can lead to increased earnings. 56% of respondents labelled this potential increase in earnings as the next highest reason. One respondent lamented that they had started freelancing sooner, adding, ‘I wasted so much money with a low permanent salary.’ 59% responded that over 75% of their chargeable time had been utilized.
3.Escaping the politics
A big appeal of working independently is walking away from the internal politics that come from being an employee of a larger organisation. Overall, 93% of respondents strongly agreed or strongly agreed with the statement; ‘I believe that successful delivery against my client's objectives drives my career progression, rather than internal company politics’.
4. Specialise in satisfying work
The fourth reason independents are happy versus employment is the opportunity to adopt a more specialist role.
‘I much prefer the flexibility and the fact that I can be myself’
Professionals often love their field and expertise, and want to work in that as opposed to the administrative and other work that comes with being an employee – which can be a distraction from getting the important work done. 85% agreed or strongly agreed with the statement ‘I have focused my career to become a subject matter expert in one or more areas, in order to add specific value to my clients.’ 88% disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement ‘I feel I would be more effective achieving my client’s objectives if I were a permanent employee.’
5.Control over career
Finally, professionals taking a freelance path can better meet their career goals, according to the research. Many feel, ‘Having control over my own development has significantly improved my ability to deliver high quality results.’ In addition, they also understand that as an independent they are solely responsible for any career progression, and a 90% majority agreed or strongly agreed that, ‘I actively invest in self-learning and ensuring my knowledge is up to date so as to remain relevant to my clients’. While the onus is on the professional to up-skill, how their up-skill is their choice. They might want to do further study, write a book, spend time with family, take a sabbatical, and these career goals are much easier to accomplish as a flexible independent.
Technology is making work more flexible and easier to find
Whilst the freelance life is not for everyone, for those with marketable skills and who enjoy variety, consulting provides the opportunity to step away from the politics and focus on the work itself.
Online platforms using AI algorithms make it simpler to be matched with work that is suitable for you, making it easier to transition to this space if you haven’t worked in it before. Here are some case studies of successful consultants and some tips from online platform Toptal.
If you would like help finding work that could be a good fit for you, arrange a phone call with me here.
Melinda Livingstone is the founder of IncomeConnection: matching people seeking an income with opportunities to earn an income from the growing on-demand sharing economy and setting them up for success. She writes and speaks on the on-demand sharing economy and the opportunities it provides.
¹B2E Consulting December 2017 Consulting Community Survey Findings.