5 reasons to become an independent business consultant

July 12, 2018

For many workers, commuting to an office, working out of a cubicle and reporting to a boss are things of the past. An October 2016 report from McKinsey Global Institute estimates that there are 54 million to 68 million independent earners in the United States alone, with over a hundred million worldwide. Freelance in America, a 2017 survey by the Freelancers’ Union and Upwork, predicts that at the current rate of growth, the majority of the U.S. workforce will be freelance by 2027.

Amidst the hype about lower-skilled gig-economy work like driving for Uber or Lyft or gathering groceries for Instacart, higher-skilled workers such as business consultants are also going solo.

Here are five reasons we feel it’s a great time to consider becoming an independent business consultant.

  1. Greater flexibility. Working for a big (or even a smaller) consulting company often means long hours and little flexibility in when and where you work. But going out on your own gives you more control over when, where and how much you work. Pick up projects when you have the availability or scale back to focus more on other aspects of your life such as family, travel or health and achieve better work/life balance.
  2. Less travel. Traditional consulting jobs often require travel Mondays through Thursdays most weeks, which can take a toll on the consultant’s personal relationships, especially for parents or those caring for relatives. Working as an independent business consultant typically means less (if any) travel and more time with family or friends. Since you’re usually working remotely, you can choose your work location instead of having to fly into a tiny airport for a 9am client meeting or spending your Thursday evening waiting for a delayed aircraft to arrive so you can get home.
  3. More autonomy. Under the traditional consulting model, you don’t get to choose your projects or clients. Working independently affords you more choice to pursue projects that excite you, work with people you enjoy and build your own personal brand and expertise. No more reporting to a micromanaging boss or participating in mandatory training sessions that cover material you already know. Now you’re in the driver’s seat.
  4. Higher earning potential. Large firms have high overhead, including training costs, office space and partner salaries. That means that while the client pays hundreds of dollars for each hour you work, much of that hourly rate goes to your employer’s coffers rather than your own pocket. Working as an independent business consultant allows you to set your own rates and work as much or as little as you want. Plus, as you grow your expertise and go above and beyond, you can raise your rates rather than waiting for a performance review and hoping management will give you a promotion or salary bump.
  5. Unlimited growth opportunities. With researchers at Oxford University predicting that nearly half of all American jobs could be automatable within the next decade or two, workers who take control of their earning power and professional development instead of relying on an employer could have a distinct advantage as our workforce evolves. By forging relationships with your own clients and becoming more agile in how you work, you’ll be well-positioned to thrive now and in the future. In fact, the Freelancers’ Union/Upwork study mentioned above found that 65 percent of full-time freelancers feel they’re updating skills as jobs evolve versus only 45 percent of full-time workers.

About the Author: Susan Johnston Taylor has written about business and entrepreneurship for The Atlantic, The Boston Globe, Fast Company and Entrepreneur, among other publications.

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