Why the calibre of freelancers is rising

Rich Rosser

Rich Rosser

Recently, I wrote an article about a question I was asked by the ‘Head of People’ at a rapidly growing FTSE 250 business. The question was whether they were missing a trick not specifically targeting freelancers to work for the business. The question underpinning that was whether the quantity and – more importantly – the quality of freelancers (some people call them contractors/independents/interims) was rising.

The simple answer is yes, and here are the main reasons why.

Platforms – like movemeon.com – make it easier to find this type of work. We provide a marketplace for high-caliber freelance consultants. But you also see these marketplaces at other ends of the market (e.g, outsourcing some legal bits & bobs, getting a logo designed, finding someone to clean your house). Technology is creating great marketplaces which drive supply on both sides of that market, in our case freelance consultants and opportunities for them.

Given it’s easier than ever to find the work, there’s a lot about freelance that naturally appeals to people. The chance to work for yourself on your own terms. The flexibility to work hours that suit your home life. The ability to take the school holidays off to be at home with the kids. The opportunity to earn a good day rate and therefore annual income (see here about what day rate you can charge) while still saving the client mountains vs using a consultancy (remember the day rate your firm charged you out at?!).


Consultants work all the hours God sends (or near enough). So, if someone decides they’re not in it for the long haul, it’s often impossible to find the time to discover and land the right opportunity. So, increasingly we see people just leave without another permanent job to go to. They leave because they know there’s a ready supply of freelance work for them. And they can freelance to pay the bills while they hunt down their next permanent gig. To that end…

Freelancing really helps to build one’s network. Typically, you meet a lot of different companies. Often you also meet PE funds who are a conduit to a whole host of portfolio companies. So we often see freelancers landing permanent jobs just because they are freelancing – either they go permanent with a client, or the permanent job comes through the network they have time to develop while a freelancer.

Freelancing is now a better-understood and widely-accepted move. Historically, hiring managers have been snobby about time spent working in ‘non-permanent’ roles. But times are changing. Just because a role was freelance, doesn’t mean it wasn’t a good role and it certainly doesn’t mean the person is less good. Quite the opposite can be the case, so it’s important to understand each person’s story and motivations behind the freelance work.

There’s a really important point that comes out of all of this and is at the core of the implication. Very high calibre people are dipping into freelance work between permanent roles. That’s particularly true of people just leaving consulting – and particularly at the manager level (when people look up at the partnership and decide it’s not for them). These have historically been viewed as the ultimate prize for employers (particularly PE funds who specifically target Managers from McKinsey, Bain & BCG), and these prizes are becoming more readily available.

Historically, organisations have felt that ‘career freelancers’ were not consistently high calibre options. That’s a huge generalisation (there are many brilliant career freelancers out there), but it is a commonly voiced impression. The point now is that there’s a far greater supply of non-career freelancers – who could be a great short-term asset to your business, and perhaps, even, someone that turns into a ‘try before you buy’ permanent hire too.

– by Rich

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