The Truth About Why Consultants Go Independent

The game of recruiting talent and staffing companies is shifting, big-time. In previous years, employees may have been daunted by threats of a cold marketplace and not want to leave their traditional workplaces. Now, more and more people choose willingly to leave their corporate safe-havens and fly solo. Big consulting firms used to only worry about competing with each other, but now they have to worry about another group of talent: independent consultants.

25-35% of workers surveyed in Europe and the U.S. say they freelance or contract some portion of their income. A common misconception we have about gig workers is that they are uber drivers or task rabbits, UK research revealed that 59% of the gig economy are knowledge and professional workers and only 16% are doing app-based driving or delivery service work.

Management consultancy Eden McCallumand London Business School conducted an online survey of 307 independent consultants and 94 traditionally employed consultants in Europe and North America, here are the insights:

Why Consultants Go Independent

The independent consultants surveyed are highly trained and skilled,75% are the head of household. 90% said they sought out independent consulting, whereas only 10% reported being forced to go independent as a result of being laid off.68% plan to stay solo for at least the next 3 years.

90% of independent consultants surveyed said they are satisfied with the solo-preneur lifestyle, anddata indicates that they are happier with their professional lifestyle than the traditionally employed consultants. They are also successful. Most are meeting their target days and earning more or at least the same as when they were employed, even though they are technically working less.Independents also say they’ve seen improvement in quality of work since they were last with a firm. –91% said it can give a higher return on investment for clients and two-thirds said their recommendations are more likely to be implemented.

An important insight as to why consultants are moving towards independence, is because it gives them work-life balance. Professionally, the work seems to be both more meaningful and have higher impact for client and consultant. The majority of independent consultants surveyed said they feel more gratified by their work and believe they are providing a better service to their clients compared to when they were employed.

Personally, they report having more control over their time and more flexibility in finding the sweet-spot between work and life. As Sohini Pramanick, a former McKinsey manager told the Harvard Business Review, “With independent consulting, I get the best of both worlds – solving real problems and having impact alongside the flexibility I need to pursue other ventures and interests.”

With no benefits, or a major brand to rely on, there is more instability within the independent career path. But for many independents, security and stability hold limited appeal. Only having to focus on client deliverables and not company B.S. and admin nonsense was found to be particularly gratifying. As Tobias Vetter, a former BCG principal and a successful freelancer for seven years told The Harvard Business Review, “I’ve found the share of interesting and truly rewarding projects is much higher in my independent consulting life than in my previous role.”

There is much left to be desired concerning office politics and career management involved in the traditional firm life. Consultants are straight forward about what is valuable to them: exceptional deliverables, intellectual growth, the flexibility and control to choose where, when and with whom they work, and a decent work-life balance – the gig economy is delivering on all these marks. Traditionally employed counterparts also find these things important, but their satisfaction levels with most of these elements are significantly lower.

Women in particular find the flexibility of working in the gig economy worth it. Greater control over their time and a better work-life balance were the two key reasons women became independent. While this is true for men as well, the emphasis was greater for women. The traditional firms have not adequately adapted their firm-specific demands and working practices to make a more flexible career a satisfying option for most, which may be one reason why women make up a small percent of the top ranks of consulting, despite a roughly equal number of men and women being hired.

The independent route also appears to swerve the problematic gender pay-gap found at traditional firms. Consultants’ self-reported full-time equivalent salary information indicated that women are more fairly compensated once they go independent. Insights suggest that independent workers have as little as a 3% pay discrepancy based on gender versus a whopping 28% gender pay gap in the traditional consulting firm.

Millennials win big when they work freelance.71% are earning more, and another 13% are earning the same as when they were employed full-time. 79% of millennials surveyed found they are billing at or above their target days.The flexibility to pursue other interests or get their hands into start-ups also makes being independent more appealing.

There are also many opportunities making independent work more and more attractive. No matter what your Subject Matter Expertise are, there’s a place of you on the Bench. You can make your profile and find projects and clients who need your knowledge and skills. Head to to get started today.

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