The percentage of people working as consultants, business coaches, and full-time freelancers is growing rapidly. And the reasons for growth are more than just the high incomes.
Multiple surveys over the last few years have shown that independent workers are more satisfied, happier and healthier than their 9-to-5 counterparts.
A number of consulting associations and back office support firms do annual surveys of the independent workforce. The results from MBO Partners, the Institute of Management Consultants and the London School of Business all give the same result, independent consultants are satisfied with their jobs, like the independence and feel their careers are getting stronger.
With those responses you can expect the independent workforce to continue growing. The stagnation of employee wages is another good reason to go independent, but there are more. People want to work as independents for greater personal freedom, better income, and greater work satisfaction.
Why Consultants Go Independent
The vast majority (90%) of independent consultants are satisfied with their jobs. This is the conclusion from a sample of 307 independent consultants of whom 75% are the main or sole household earner. (Research by the London Business School and consulting firm Eden McCallum, 2018).
In that survey the London Business School found that consultants were more satisfied in their jobs because,
The downsides independent consultants reported where,
Tobia Vetter, former BCG principal
Now independent consultant for 7 years
As reported in Why Consultants Quit Their Jobs to Go Independent
The Full-Time Independent Workforce is Increasing
The latest State of Independence 2019 survey by MBO Partners shows more of the workforce are becoming full-time independents. In 2016 the number of full-time independents was 53%. Now it is 67%, a 14% increase in three years. These are people who are independent BY CHOICE.
The reasons for this growth are clear. Most people felt that working independently was better for them personally and for their professional career. In addition, more than half said they felt more secure working as an independent.
Lack of predictable income is the biggest complaint among independents. That complaint is completely in line with what I have heard in my 30+ years of working with other consultants.
Few consultants use a proven plan for creating a smooth, high-income cash flow. More often they are caught in a feast or famine cycle –working long hours with clients and having no time for marketing, then when the client engagement ends, they spend long hours marketing and no time on client work. It’s a continuous feast or famine cycle. It drives most consultants and their spouses crazy. Getting out of this feast or famine cycle is key to building a successful consulting business.
Independents Have Higher Job Satisfaction
The 2019 MBO Partner’s report shows that full-time independents have a 69% satisfaction rate with their income. That’s close to the 66% satisfaction rate of full-time employees. But the difference stops there.
Independents rate their interest in their work 20% higher than job holders. Consultants have multiple clients, work their own schedules and use their own methods.
Full-time independents have significantly higher job satisfaction rates than job holders. This is may be because once they have built the foundation of niche, client profile, and filling their pipeline they can,
The number of full-time independents planning to continue as independents continues to rise. In 2019 70% of full-time independents said they plan to continue, up from 64% in 2018 and 58% in 2015.
Minimizing Consulting Risks
Often, new consultants start their first year with client references that carry them through the first year. But then referrals begin to disappear and so does income.
That is when most consultants enter the feast-or-famine cycle – working too hard and not marketing, then marketing and not working. This cycle cuts into the two primary reasons consultants enjoy their work, higher income and greater independence.
Critical to Success helps new and experienced consultants build thriving highly successful businesses with courses and one-on-one coaching.
Dena McCallum, Susan Ashford, and Brianna Barker Caza, "Why Consultants Quit Their Jobs to Go Independent", Harvard Business Review, July 15, 2019
MBO Partners State of Independence in America 2019
Clarification: The survey by MBO Partners includes both freelancers and consultants. In brief, freelancers work on short term projects and tasks under the direction of the hiring employer. Consultants give guidance and supply expertise over a short or long-time frame and work to achieve a goal without the employer controlling their methods.
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