Individuals who may be on the fence about making the leap from full-time to freelance should find comfort in knowing that companies continue to expand their need for skilled consultants in areas across all industries and business divisions.
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.
As a company that empowers individuals to work for themselves, we’re constantly asked, “How is the market for consulting trending?” So, we compiled our top five freelance consulting trends for 2021!
1. The number of freelance consultants continues to grow
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. Of those who freelanced in 2020, 65% earned more than they did as a W2 employee, and 57% earned more within six months after quitting their full time job.
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.
2. Companies are looking for skilled freelance consultants in nearly 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.
Not sure if you fall into one of these categories? Use our guide to hone your niche.
3. Project management is one of the most in-demand skills
Regardless of industry or background, project management skills continue to be one of the most sought after needs. Given that many freelance consulting roles are project-based and require progress tracking and outcomes, we recommend highlighting your project management skills when developing your proposal. If you’re considering the investment in continued education, you might even consider becoming a Project Management Professional (PMP).
4. The rise of remote work will benefit freelance consultants
With the rise of social distancing amidst the pandemic, remote work has become more acceptable in most industries. This means that more companies no longer require talent to be within a specific city or region. Instead, they are looking for an individual who will deliver the highest quality outcomes to meet its needs.
We recommend highlighting your experience working with remote teams or in remote cultures when meeting with your potential client and in the proposal process. Share how you work with others in a non-conventional setting, and showcase how you’ll ensure that this is not a hindrance to project success.
5. Companies are paying for outcomes, not hours worked
In a more traditional work environment, fulltime and freelance employees were expected to track and report on hours worked instead of project outcomes. As more companies are considering outsourcing work to freelance consultants, they are also structuring the project based on outcomes instead of time worked.
As you are developing your proposal to work with potential clients, don’t hesitate to propose a payment agreement that is contingent upon outcomes or performance instead of hours worked. This will increase your autonomy as a self-employed team member and drive results instead of punching a clock. This allows you to take control of your work-life balance and track the milestones within the project as a key to success.
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.
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.