Below the surface of independent consulting: autonomy, uncertainty and connectedness.
As part of the Executive Master in Coaching and Consulting for Change programme that I followed at INSEAD, I wrote my master thesis about independent consulting. The aim of my research was to get to know more about how independent consultants experience their independent existence. In turned out that autonomy, uncertainty and connectedness were the most important themes in their experience.
Independent consultants are generally quite satisfied with their lives. Mainly because of their increased autonomy level as compared to their previous situation when they were still employed. For many consultants, the wish for greater autonomy was the main reason to become independent. When working independent, their increased autonomy proved the main driver for their high work satisfaction levels, because their increased autonomy enables them to live closer to their values, which goes way beyond work alone.
Uncertainty is a second theme of importance. Over time, people learn to deal with uncertainty better, although for most people the theme remains salient, often more than people would admit at first to others and to themselves.
A third theme is connectedness. Although this theme doesn't influence the choice to become independent much, over time this theme becomes more salient for most. People start missing colleagues and a social work context. All of the interviewed consultants participate in multiple networks. At first, mainly for business reasons, as a source of project leads, but over time the social function of these networks becomes more important. Still, for most their participation in networks cannot completely fulfil their need for connectedness.
If you are interested in reading about my findings in more detail, I gladly invite you to read my thesis. The table of contents also contains a reading guide, providing you with a shortcut so that you don't have to read the complete thesis in order to get a good overview of the research and findings. Click here to download.