The State of Freelance Consulting

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We’ve done the research so you don’t have to. The world is changing as a result of COVID-19, and it impacts your professional life. We now live in a world where nearly all work is remote, companies are hiring more consultants than ever before, and any speciality can lend itself to freelance consulting.

How can you take advantage of this new way of working?

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies tied geographic location to the size and caliber of their talent pool. With a more broad acceptance of remote work due to social distancing, there has been a shift in mindset, and talent pools are broadening outside the metro area where a company’s headquarters are located. 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of unemployed Americans was 10.7 million in December 2020. This is nearly double the number of those unemployed in February 2020, prior to the pandemic. This has resulted in more individuals considering self-employment and 12% of the U.S. workforce shifting to freelance work. Additionally, more companies are open to hiring freelance consultants rather than full time employees to mitigate the risk of long-term employment costs. Instead, they are focused on high priority projects and performance-based outcomes that can most often be achieved by a contracted employee. 

Based on the trends in unemployment, company needs, and the rise of a remote-forward workforce, we’ve compiled some of the most helpful data to help you understand the state of the freelance consulting industry and where it's going. 

There is an accelerated speed for go-to-market initiatives 

As more revenue is generated through online sources like company websites and Amazon, companies are required to adapt to a more digital landscape. This means that speed to launch has become a top priority. Without the proper in-house talent, it can be difficult to recruit, hire, and onboard an expert in a particular industry while also moving quickly with go-to-market initiatives. If a freelance consultant’s niche is in an area that will be valuable to a company and they have the ability to move quickly, it is predicted that companies will elect to hire outsourced talent on a project basis. 

What does this mean for you?

Specifically and tangibly outlining how your expertise can help a company can make a difference in winning a contract with a company and the amount they pay you. Make it really easy for them to understand your added value, and the “close” will be much easier. If you’re not sure where to get started, check out our downloadable guide, “Creating a Well-Written Proposal.”

There is a significant shift in the talent pool 

Women have been disproportionately affected by the impacts of unemployment due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Bureau of Labor Statistics shares that four times as many women than men dropped out of the workforce in September. Working mothers have been laid off or are electing to step away from full-time employment to care for and educate their children. Highly-qualified individuals are now looking for roles that allow for more flexibility outside of 9-5 employment. 

If a company has a need for highly-skilled talent and has the flexibility to work outside of the conventional employment parameters, there are millions of qualified women who are seeking opportunities outside the realm of full-time employment. 

What does this mean for you?

As a woman, freelance consulting gives you an opportunity to level the playing field. Whether it’s matching rates to your male counterparts or finding a contract role as a result of being laid off, you can use consulting to take the power back into your hands as an independent worker. 

Core workforces are expected to shrink and outsourced roles will continue to increase

According to research done by the Harvard Business School (HBS) and Boston Consulting Group (BCG), almost 90% of business leaders reported talent platforms would be somewhat or very important to their organization’s future competitive advantage. Additionally, 60% of leaders anticipate that it was highly or somewhat possible that their core workforce would be smaller. 

As a result of a shrinking core workforce, HBS and BCG predict that platforms like Upwork and Toptal will be essential in connecting skilled workers with companies. Additionally, more digital talent platforms are likely to emerge for both industry-specific roles and overarching talent marketplaces.

What does this mean for you?

You don’t need to be a W2 employee to work for the company of your dreams. As a consultant, you can find various companies that you enjoy working for and add value to them while working for yourself!

Change champions are essential and most often not full time employees 

In order to successfully manage change, many companies believe that an external source is essential in making recommendations from a neutral perspective. The impacts of COVID-19 have required them to think creatively about best practices and priorities to advance the business. Freelance consultants who are organizational change professionals have a unique opportunity to hone their niche and showcase how their background can help support an organization’s change management initiatives. 

What does this mean for you?

Don’t be scared to disagree or oppose a company. If they hired you as a consultant, they want your honest opinion based on your experience and background. Speak up for what you believe in, even if it opposes their past direction or a leader’s point of view. Often, they’ll respect you for your opinion and appreciate you challenging them.

Companies are looking for freelance consultants in every industry 

There is a misconception that freelance consultants only work in fields like engineering. In a recent study by Business Talent Group (BTG), the top 10 areas for freelance consultants include strategy/internal consulting, marketing, operations, human resources, business and corporate development, procurement, interim leadership roles, digital and tech, profit and loss leaders, and innovation/research and development. 

Those who may have formerly been on the fence about making the leap from full time to freelance are finding themselves investing in their freelance consulting careers due to the increase in opportunities and remote-forward expectations. 

What this means for you

No matter your areas of functional expertise, you can work part time as a consultant. Don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise. If you have expertise and value to add to a company, you can use it to consult. The key is to frame that value-add in a way that’s specific and tangible for a company to understand. It’s worth it to put the work in to get to this point.

Freelance consulting isn’t going anywhere 

In a 2020 study, Upwork and Edelman Intelligence shared that the freelance market in the US has grown to over 36% of the workforce, totaling 59 million Americans. Additionally, freelance consultants earned over $1.2 trillion in earnings in 2020, a 22% increase from 2019. 

Due to the economic impacts of COVID-19, companies have embraced remote work and performance-based employment, and we expect the number of individuals who elect to become self-employed continue to rise. 

What this means for you

As we look ahead to the remainder of 2021, we predict that freelance consulting and self-employment will continue to rise. If you’re someone who has been on the fence about making the leap to freelance work, Mylance is here to help.

Written by:

Team at Mylance
Marketing + Content Team

Every Mylance team member has done consulting. We're experts, and we've seen what consulting enables: more time with our families, traveling the world, more time on passion projects, or to start that business we've been dreaming about.

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