Are you ready to go independent?
Higher satisfaction, more meaningful work, control over work life balance. These are just a few of the reasons why so many talented professionals across the globe are choosing independent consulting as the next step in their careers. Should you be doing the same?
Who is going independent?
In the past five years, the freelance workforce has grown by 3.7 million workers in the US alone (Upwork). But who are those freelancers? If the millennial dream of becoming a so-called “digital nomad” has never truly resonated with you, it might be hard to envision yourself embracing freelancing. The good news is – freelancing has many faces. Beyond the digital nomads working from the beach (more power to them!), other categories of workers are taking their careers into their own hands. They are highly skilled, and often very experienced. Does that sound familiar?
The 2018 Future of Consulting Survey gathered responses from 307 independent consultants. On average, their consultants had 26 years of professional experience (10+ in a specific industry). Next to that, a smaller percentage of under 40’s had taken the leap into independent consulting relatively early on. Amongst them, 68% intended to remain independent over the next three years, double the amount compared to the first survey administered in 2002.
What does independent consulting look like?
Becoming independent means being in charge of what your career path might look like. All of a sudden, the choice is in your hands. This entails, first of all, less predictability. No 9 to 5 also means not relying on regular monthly paychecks, but working project by project. The challenge, for independents, is being able to source a regular stream of interesting projects. Next to that, the career path of the independent consultant is less predictable. There is no corporate ladder to climb – you are in charge of defining what success will mean to you.
Most independents seem to be faring pretty well. Several studies show that freelancers see themselves performing better work, enjoying a better work-life balance, as well as benefiting financially. What’s also significant, most of them are highly satisfied with being able to perform more impactful work for clients – delivering better value for money, and with a higher chance of implementation than what they did in traditional consultancies. Finally, the projects they are tasked with are of higher quality, and more intellectually challenging. Consultants are satisfied with using their time on doing good work, rather than investing it in office politics. And finally, many also report earning the same or more as when they were employed full-time. Interestingly enough, freelancing seems to lead to a dramatic drop in the pay gap among men and women.
So, should you go independent?
Independent consulting is not for everyone. While being your own boss has many perks, it also comes with plenty of challenges. Independents have to invest time in finding their next project, manage their admin work, and fend for themselves without a big brand. It can be a lonely endeavor. So how should professionals approach this? Who should consider going independent?
It’s all a question of mindset. Eden McCallum analysed the results of its survey together with professors from the Asper School of Business, the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and the DeGroote School of Business. They found out that the most successful independent consultants have developed a unique attitude that allows them to cope with the challenges of the freelancing life. In general, they tend to be more proactive, resilient, and mentally agile.
- Proactivity: Those who actively spent time building their network and planning their next career moves were more satisfied and successful.
- Resilience: Highly correlated with more billable days and greater satisfaction. Being able to envision the uncertainty of independent work as a challenge, and focusing on aspects they could control (i.e. bidding on more projects to ensure more work flowing in) leads to more work and financial security.
- Mental agility: Being able to envision other perspectives and think flexibly about one’s own work was also related to more billable days.
So what about you? Do you have the capabilities necessary to go independent?
Created as part of the study, this quiz can help you assess your strengths and abilities to embark on the independent journey. Read the prompts carefully and check whether they apply to you most of the time, sometimes, or almost never.
If going independent is something that has been on your mind for some time, we hope this quiz has helped you find some clarity. Should you want to embark on this journey, training those skills is key for you to really succeed and benefit from an independent career path.