As we emerge from the turbulence of 2020, the need for unique skills and expertise to help accelerate business growth in 2021 and beyond, is greater than ever. Forward-thinking companies are increasingly seeking out independent consultants to tackle critical business challenges in a post-pandemic world.
While big consulting firms continue to be reserved for broad initiatives requiring full-scale consulting solutions, the industry is also seeing a dramatic rise in demand for targeted engagements with highly skilled independent consultants.
Why? According to BTG’s 2021 High-End Independent Talent Report:
Independent Consulting In Numbers
As demand for independent talent rises, the number of professionals choosing to work independently is also increasing. 48% of U.S. adults are either currently working or have worked as an independent professional at one time during their career. This is according to the latest statistics from MBO Partners’ 2020 State of Independence report. This number is expected to rise to 54% by 2025.
Additionally, according to Upwork’s 2020 Freelance Forward report, 58% of non-independent workers who began working remotely during the pandemic are now considering working independently moving forward.
While the pandemic has accelerated growth, independent consulting has been steadily rising in popularity for the past decade.
5 Reasons Independent Consulting Is A Growing Phenomenon
What is attracting a growing number of professionals to work as consultants? Despite the so-called perils of self-employment, many are opting to go it alone. Let’s find out why consulting is becoming a favored career choice among so many professionals.
1. A Demand For Flexibility
A demand—and need—for more flexible work options in today’s world has seen independent consulting grow in popularity. Flexibility isn’t just a talent demand—it has also become a key business need.
The ability to take on different types of projects without bureaucratic hindrance is a major attraction for independent consultants. With this, comes greater career ownership and flexibility. Rather than being assigned to whatever work is available, consultants are in charge of choosing their projects.
The increased freedom and flexibility to pursue passions or even fund an entrepreneurial venture of their own has also lured many professionals to take the leap into working as a consultant.
Flexibility is also a huge reason why companies are choosing to work with independent consultants—especially post-COVID-19. The pandemic served as a dramatic inflection point and in the current world, 56% of CEOs emphasize the need to aggressively pursue operational agility and flexibility.
Harvard Business School’s Building the Own Demand Workforce report further backs this up:
Companies are also enjoying the flexibility of being able to hire people with the right skillset and qualifications—regardless of their location. Global boundaries have been brought down. It’s now possible for a consultant who lives in Barcelona to land a consulting project for a New York-based company. A business in Germany might hire a consultant from Ohio if they think their skills are more aligned with their job requirement.
This dual-ended demand for flexibility has created a whole new world of opportunities for independent consultants. If we’ve learned anything from the pandemic, it’s that the actual work done matters more than the location of work.
2. Companies See the Value of Independent Consultants
In addition to the flexibility benefits of hiring independent consultants, businesses are also seeing the value of independent consultants in other areas of business as well.
To survive in a hyper-competitive world, especially post COVID-19, companies have realized they must first win the war for talent. For many businesses, this has impacted hiring decisions. They have understood the increased risks and cost of making full-time hiring decisions amid changing business needs.
This has seen businesses increasingly turning to consultants for advice and strategic guidance—especially attracted by the higher quality experience, flexibility, and cost-effectiveness delivered by independent professionals.
These skilled workers offer clients a more agile ‘plug and play’ option to get projects off the ground—even in times of uncertainty. Harvard Business School’s survey revealed that companies have seen the value of incorporating highly skilled freelancers into their core processes. When asked what value they get from platforms, more than 40% of business leaders reported that using talent platforms helped the organization hasten speed to market, boost productivity, and increase innovation.
Further, as businesses suddenly shifted to remote in 2020, independent consultants’ valuable remote work experience was also advantageous for clients. Upwork’s Freelance Forward Report also found that 40% of independent professionals have consulted or trained clients on how to work remotely, 27% have taught clients how to use online tools, and another 29% have taught clients how to manage projects online.
3. More Avenues to Find Consulting Jobs
Traditionally, independent consultants have relied heavily on the strength of their professional network alone to find new projects when they go independent. However, freelancing platforms have revolutionized the industry—making it easier for independent experts to connect with clients. According to the MBO Partners report:
The rapid adoption of remote work due to COVID-19 has also increased opportunities for independent consultants. As more businesses realize that remote work is possible—online talent platforms make it easy for these businesses to hire and integrate independent workers at their company—making businesses more open to hiring independent workers. Nearly 50% of business leaders expect their adoption of digital talent platforms to increase significantly in the future, per Harvard Business School’s Building the On-Demand Workforce report.
These platforms and services have therefore become a fantastic resource for aspiring independent consultants to find projects and jobs. Independent consultants are increasingly able to use technology, connectivity, and online marketplaces to find new markets, clients, and customers around the world.
It has given them the confidence to make the move to independent work—knowing they have the ability to start finding the right clients without having to solely depend on networking or other traditional methods of scoring independent projects.
4. The Pursuit of Work/Life Balance
According to a global report by Hays Group, 40% of employees do not feel like their employers allow them to maintain a good work-life balance. However, COVID-19 forced the world to slow down.
Remote work and the consequent lack of long commutes gave many workers the opportunity to do more than just work. Work-life balance has never been more important than it is now. This has seen more employees jump ship to independent consulting in pursuit of balance.
While independent consultants continue to do interesting and rewarding work — they are able to control their own schedules. Independent work gives them the freedom to take on projects they like, while also allowing them to pursue personal interests, spend more time with family and overall, just enjoy a better and, healthier work-life balance.
87% of skilled independent professionals report remarkably high levels of satisfaction. A further 83% are optimistic about the future and 81% desire to stay the course.
5. Better Earning Potential for Consultants
The ability to earn more by working independently is a major reason for the global shift towards self-employment. It’s common for employees at traditional management consulting firms to exhaust their opportunities for growth. However, for independent experts, the sky is the limit. Their professional and financial potential is capped only by their skills, experience, and business development acumen.
75% of those who left an employer to work independently say they make the same or more income than they did in their traditional job. These skilled professionals are in control of their own income—with the same report finding that 57% of independent consultants set their own prices.
Furthermore, even during the pandemic, highly skilled independent consultants saw an increase in their earnings. According to BTG’s 2020 Talent Lens report, 10% of independent talent—many possessing technical and operational skill sets—have actually commanded higher daily rates since the start of the pandemic.
Ready to Go Independent?
The future of work is going to be driven by flexibility and a desire to do meaningful work. In fact, the future is already here. The rise of independent consulting is proof of this.
The ability to choose one’s own projects, own hours, and own clients is driving thousands of professionals to pursue an independent consulting career. If you would like to make the move too, Business Talent Group is dedicated to helping top talent like you connect with the world’s best companies. The BTG team supports both our talent and clients for success, from project inception to completion.