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Working as an Independent Consultant in the Modern Age

Working as an Independent Consultant in the Modern AgeWhen you think of the term “independent consultant,” what do you envision? Depending upon your age, background and experience, you might subscribe to a different definition than the next person. To some people, the term “independent consultant” is simply code for “unemployed.” To others, the term refers to someone who is brought into an organization to do the dirty work that management can't handle or would otherwise like to avoid. Not long ago, when a consultant was brought into a workplace, it meant that the company was looking for a way to increase POPs, or People Off Payroll.

Although these definitions still exist in the minds of some people, the meaning of the title “independent consultant” has shifted to a more pure and literal definition. Essentially, an independent consultant is someone who has taken the initiative to leverage his or her skills and experience in a marketplace that has shifted significantly from an earlier ideal. These professionals work independently, but they are far from being “unemployed” just because they don't receive a single paycheck from a single corporate entity. What's more, today's independent consultants are rarely hired to take people off of payrolls anymore – that practice is, frankly, a thing of the past. In fact, independent consultants are actually responsible for creating jobs more often than not.

The Living Language

I often like to point out that English is a living language, and it is always subject to change. The definitions of words and phrases are not always set in stone, which means that meanings have a tendency to transform over time. For example, if you asked someone to define the word “drive” 50 years ago, he or she would probably talk about the word in terms of operating a motor vehicle. These days, that definition is still relevant, but you might get some different answers that illustrate the ways in which words change over time.

If you asked someone to define “drive” today, he or she would probably define the word as a means of data storage like a hard drive or a USB drive. Another example is the word “manufacture.” The word derives from Latin, and it originally referred to the process of making something by hand. These days, when people think of the word “manufacture,” it's likely that they envision machines and automated systems instead of skilled human artisans.

My point is that words and terms don't always mean what they did when you learned about them. Unfortunately, it takes time for people to bring themselves up to speed with modern meanings of common terms. Sometimes it takes the right timing and the right generational alignment for a word or term to live up to its purest meaning. This is what's happened with independent consulting.

What it Means to be a Modern Independent Consultant

There has really never been a better time for independent consulting. Economic realities have forced companies and organizations to think about different ways of accomplishing goals and achieving results, and many of them are using consultants in ways that were simply not that common one or two decades ago. Technology has also had a major impact on the business world. Thanks to the Internet and the availability of amazing devices like smartphones and tablet computers, people can really work from anywhere. The climate for consulting has never been better, and organizations are starting to realize the benefits of hiring consultants.

From the perspective of employers and organizations, consultants provide the following:

  • A tremendous amount of knowledge capital

  • A fresh perspective on problems and their possible solutions

  • An ability to drive results in ways that full-time team members are not typically capable of

  • An affordable way to impart expertise and wisdom to less-experienced team members

  • The ability to add an adjunct member of management in order to accomplish specific goals


If you are interested in becoming an independent consultant, you can look forward to the following benefits:

  • The ability to make a positive difference in a variety of locations around the world

  • True independence from the drudgery of the traditional corporate world

  • True job security – if you lose one client out of eight, you still have seven left

  • A fantastic outlet for the knowledge and experience capital that you have built throughout your career

  • The ability to make things happen and accomplish tasks instead of sitting in meaningless meetings or engaging in distracting water-cooler talk


Now is the Perfect Time to See if Independent Consulting is Right for You

If you have built a tremendous amount of knowledge capital and experience, but you aren't satisfied in the traditional corporate world, now is the ideal time to try your hand at consulting. This is especially true if you are one of the many people who have been affected negatively by the Great Recession. Consulting is truly the best way to make a meaningful difference in the world by using the tools that you have developed and honed over time.

To many people, the term “independent consultant” has negative connotations, but the term's modern meaning is actually quite positive. Consultants make things happen, and they help organizations accomplish their goals. Although they work independently, they are far from being unemployed. If you are ready for a career change, and you're eager to make a positive impact on your life as well as the world around you, I encourage you to seriously consider a career in consulting.


How do you define the term “independent consultant?” Have you been reluctant to consider consulting because of its antiquated, negative connotations? If you're interested in learning more about consulting in the modern age, take some time to sign up for our free newsletter, or download a copy of our free eBook, “Experience Matters.”