We’ve all heard similar terms being used for the same thing: ‘gig economy worker’, ‘independent workforce’, ‘self-employed consultants’, etc. All of these terms refer to the title of this blog, and label the phenomenon that started to gain traction over a decade ago, and is now around 2 million people in the UK – the equivalent of 6% of the total workforce. More broadly, there are up to 162 million people in Europe and the US involved in some sort of independent work. Growth-wise, the statistics are even more staggering – In the UK, according to IPSE (Independent Professional Self-Employed association), the segment has grown by 52% in the past 16 years (2.6% CAGR). What these figures show is a buoyant segment of the workforce that is here to stay.
We can further understand the segment by focusing on the strategy and management consulting sector of the economy in the UK. Data shows that the consulting sector has grown on average by 7.5% between 2014 – 2016, outpacing national economic growth (which in turn reached a peak of 3.3% during that same period). The sector is worth around £9.75 billion, driven by a demand for enhanced strategy, operations, digital and technology services. It is estimated that a fifth of that £9.75 billion pie goes to freelance consultants; these people are usually entrepreneurial, highly experienced and looking for flexibility and greater accountability in their work.
The same report states that 40% of respondents from the survey now use an even split between traditional consulting firms, and independent consultants.
So what are the benefits of using independent consultants?
A greater degree of flexibility: Independent consultants are fluid and adaptable to project timelines and requirements, without the need for long-term contracts.
Pricing: Whilst having the full backing of a consulting firm is beneficial in some cases, in others, it brings an added overhead that can be avoided by using freelance consultants.
An equivalent quality of work: Respondents from the survey cited equivalent quality of work delivered by freelance consultants – this makes sense, knowing that contractors value their own personal brand, and strive to work hard and continue to add value to it. Freshminds goes to great lengths to interview and vet all of the consultants in our network to ensure this level of quality
Lead time/speed: Finding independent contractors is faster than the hiring process of a consulting firm – that being said, this is dependent on having a reliable and effective source of quality consultants, which is what Freshminds offers all its clients. Personal networks and referrals are still preferred, but as we have experienced, they often fall short and lack the breadth of choice we can offer.
In light of current economic and political events, companies can engage a combination of traditional consulting as well as independent contractors, and benefit from a combined approach that is not mutually exclusive but looking to work together to bring the best of both worlds. Unknown conditions and regulatory hurdles, businesses will find themselves navigating peaks and troughs of work which will require a flexible option to plug in the gaps; businesses will also need to remain agile in the face of constant change, adjusting their strategy to keep up with the new commercial landscape and needing support to help them make the right decisions within a short timeframe.
Overall, we foresee these needs continuing to grow across the UK, indicating to an even bigger desire for the independent contractor option to be available. The freelance revolution is well in effect, and the upside is there for the taking.
 “UK has 2 million freelancers and the number will continue to rise”, August 2018; Consultancy.co.uk
 “Independent work: Choice, necessity, and the gig economy”, October 2016, McKinsey Global Institute
 “One fifth of UK management consulting work goes to independent consultants”, April 2018, Consultancy.co.uk