Companies are increasingly onboarding independent consultants to handle special projects and provide the expertise they don't have on their current teams. A study by MITSloan and Deloitte confirms this trend, with approximately 30-50% of most enterprise workforces now composed of contingent workers. And it's easy to see why.
When compared to onboarding a full-time employee, leveraging outside expertise is faster and can help companies accelerate speed to market on mission-critical projects. And there are plenty of benefits where that came from (see this blog here to learn more).
But many business leaders still hesitate to hire or expand their hiring due to some common myths and fears. And we get it. It can be hard to entrust an important project to someone. Yet there are many misconceptions about onboarding independent experts on-demand that can be holding you back from driving and maximizing the impact of your initiatives.
In this article, we look at five common myths about independent consultants and dispel them with some key facts about how these contracting arrangements work. We also offer tips on making the most of your hires.
1. “Independent Consultants are too expensive.”
It’s natural to be concerned about price and its impact on your budget. In fact, you might assume that onboarding an independent consultant and highly experienced expert will be too expensive.
While it’s true that leading subject matter experts will typically command higher pay, the reality is that oboarding an on-demand consultant is usually more cost-effective than adding a full-time or even a part-time employee.
With an independent consultant, you pay an hourly rate or fixed cost. You may also need to pay any reimbursable expenses (if applicable). Otherwise, you avoid the costly overhead of providing employee benefits or incurring additional expenses for onboarding through a staffing firm or recruiting agency.
Likewise, you save associated costs related to onboarding and training. That's because independent experts typically have years of experience working in a specific industry or functional skill, so you don't have to spend as much time onboarding or training them. This means they can hit the ground running on day 1 of your initiative.
Most independent consultants also work remotely, which means you can save considerably on office and computer equipment costs, a workspace, supplies, phone lines, and more.
If you're not 100% sold that this work arrangement is more cost-effective, we invite you to try our On-Demand Talent Pay Rate Calculator to see for yourself. You can also download your free copy of our Independent Workforce Pay Rate Trend Report to learn more about the numbers behind the rates.
2. “Independent Consultants don’t know my business.”
You might worry that an independent consultant may not have sufficient knowledge or experience in your industry or business model. But the reality is that independent consultants often have extensive industry experience as part of their consulting work or from past corporate employment.
At Graphite, for example, our independent consultants all have backgrounds at major MBB and Big Four consulting firms or corporations across various industries.
Many even specialized in specific industries and worked with particular business models or types of businesses, such as B2B, B2C, startups, corporations, or investment firms.
But it's important to note that just like hiring a full-time employee, the key to ensuring you find the right independent consultant lies in the interviewing process. More specifically, the type of questions you ask when speaking to an independent consultant will enable you to understand their knowledge level and background.
To that end, consider checking the following resources to help you in your search:
- 9 Questions to Ask When Onboarding a Finance Professional
- 9 Questions to Ask When Onboarding a Business Strategy Consultant
- 9 Questions to Ask When Onboarding A Marketing Consultant
3. “I can’t trust them to be productive.”
Independent consultants often work remotely, so sometimes, there's a concern that they won't be productive or you won't know if they're working.
Business leaders may have difficulty getting past the idea that workers need to be in a traditional workplace and have supervision to be productive. The reality is that there is a growing body of evidence showing that remote workers are actually more productive than on-site workers.
Jordan Scheltgen, co-founder and managing partner of Cave Social, says that “focusing on someone sitting in a chair at your office for 40 hours a week is the wrong metric.”
Instead, it's critical to focus on the output and results, especially with independent consultants. Independent workers, by definition, get to determine when and how they perform their work. This is part of what classifies them as independent workers rather than employees by the US Internal Revenue Service.
In the end, it’s the output and results that count, and it’s up to them to determine how they get there. But you can still track their time and have clarity about the work they perform.
If you’re using a platform like Graphite to find and onboard independent contractors, you can see the hours worked on a project and even communicate with them via the platform.
4. “Remote workers are too disconnected.”
Another common worry about onboarding independent consultants, especially for remote work, is that they’ll be too disconnected from your day-to-day operations and the rest of your team.
However, with the advent of many online and cloud-based tools for project management and real-time communications and collaboration, remote workers are nearly as connected as traditional employees.
The only difference is that meetings may happen via video calls, and you may need to rely more on email and cloud-based collaboration software than face-to-face visits or working meetings in the office.
While working together in the same place offers some unique advantages, it can also create disadvantages such as lost productivity due to sick days, meetings, and distractions from noise, phone calls, and other interruptions.
If you still feel that “face time” and in-person collaboration are crucial, you can onboard an independent consultant for an on-site assignment or arrange periodic visits with travel expenses reimbursed as part of your work agreement.
Remember, the level of integration is something that you can actually control. If you want an independent consultant to be more involved in your company, you can take the necessary steps, as you would with a full-time employee, to do so.
5. “They won’t fit with our team and culture.”
Some businesses are concerned that onboarding independent consultants could negatively impact their company culture or be negatively received by their employees.
On-demand and remote work arrangements may differ from your usual course of business, but they don’t have to alter your culture or cause ripples in your workforce. The key is to clearly communicate why you are onboarding an independent consultant, define that person's role and responsibilities, and engage them as another team member.
You can actively include your consultants in all of your normal collaboration and culture-building activities, such as team meetings and regular communications. Likewise, you can also give your team members a chance to get to know them by encouraging informal “water cooler” talks at the beginning of video conferences.
Better yet, you can team them up to collaborate on a specific project and let them develop rapport by working together. You might even be surprised by the positive effects.
In fact, Traitify CEO and Co-founder Dan Sines found that onboarding independent workers actually improved his company’s culture and made its entire team more productive. It all starts with setting aside the myths and exploring the possibilities of what independent consultants can do for your business.
Taking the Step to Work with Independent Consultant
It can be nerve-wracking to hire an independent consultant, especially if you have never done it before. But most times, what we fear is the unknown. If you find yourself still pondering how to move forward, remember that you're in control of your engagement, and the more you know about the person you're looking to onboard, the less stress and more comfortable you'll be with the arrangement. For some quick examples of this talent acquisition approach in practice, check out some of our Success Stories to get inspired.