The Wall Street Journal Examines the Continuing Rise of High-End Contract Work

March 16, 2022 Rachel Halversen

Already on the rise before the COVID-19 pandemic began, high-end contract work has only become more enticing for an increasing number of highly specialized professionals. These in-demand thinkers and doers are finding that independent consulting offers more control over their hours, locations, and the type of projects they take on—resulting in high salaries, increased flexibility, and greater fulfillment, according to a new article from The Wall Street Journal on the booming independent consulting market featuring insights from Jody Greenstone Miller, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Business Talent Group (BTG). 

Why talent are turning to independent work

Krish Venkata, a healthcare process-management expert and member of the BTG talent network, enjoys both the professional development opportunities and earning potential that independent consulting presents. “[Venkata] says the consistently steep learning curve of new clients and new projects suits him. [He] now earns twice what he was making before in a full-time job, only now he works on one or two three-month-long projects at a time.”

For a majority of independent talent, the key motivators for switching to contract work are control and flexibility, which are being enabled more and more by the widespread adoption of remote work arrangements during the pandemic. BTG has tracked this trend extensively, with Miller stating that 90% of projects requested by our clients are now being performed completely remotely—a nearly 180° shift from pre-pandemic times when 80% of projects had an in-person component.

Understanding both sides of the equation is essential

This shift to remote work has opened up a significantly broader talent pool for companies as they struggle to hire all the full-time staff they need. But as clients increasingly realize the value of staffing projects with the best-fitting talent—regardless of where they are in the world—their expectations are rising in turn.

“[As an independent talent] you have to continue to prove yourself, and you also have to be able to walk into an org and be effective really fast,” Miller says.

Independent professionals are earning more in less time

Brad Roller—an independent consultant in BTG’s network who focuses on product strategy and project leadership—says his experience mirrors the primary motivators for other talent. “I kind of decided I never wanted work to get in the way of taking my girls to soccer practice,” says Roller. He bills around 40 hours each week, arranging his schedule so that he can drop off his 6- and 9-year-old daughters at school and be at soccer games in the late afternoon. He also builds in downtime between projects, but despite working less, he expects to ultimately earn more this year than he did in his previous position as a management consultant at a traditional firm by taking on the work independently with significantly lower overhead expenses.

Highly skilled talent with niche expertise are certainly sought after

By providing fast, flexible access to in-demand skills and expertise, the independent talent market has established itself as an indispensable piece of human capital infrastructure for top companies. According to BTG’s proprietary data, the skills most requested by business leaders seeking high-end gig workers include project management, market landscape and research, organizational design and workforce planning.

Read more at The Wall Street Journal, or check out BTG’s High End Independent Talent Report to see more in-demand skills and project types, as well as how leaders across 12 industries and 12 business functions are using independent talent to fuel growth and operational excellence amid continuing uncertainty and labor shortages.

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