Updated: Feb 20
Special Guest Blogger: Yolanda Lau
When you think of the gig economy, you most likely think of people shuttling around passengers or delivering food and of companies like Uber, Lyft and Taskrabbit — companies whose workers are, generally, not thought of as highly skilled. You may also think of companies like Upwork, whose success is proof the business model for freelancer workers is here to stay. McKinsey reports that up to 162 million people in Europe and the United States are engaged in some form of independent work. That’s 20% to 30% of the working-age population!
From Low-Skill Freelancers To Specialized Knowledge Workers
But the gig economy is more than low-skill freelancers and side hustlers, more than drivers shuttling passengers, people hosting overnight guests and workers delivering meals and groceries. Today, highly experienced — and highly educated — knowledge workers and creative professionals are the fastest-growing segments of the gig economy.
Companies are realizing that the quickest and most efficient way to get specialized talent is to hire them as project-based gig workers. Corporate boards and executive teams are hiring experts who can provide high-level advice on how to take advantage of business and technology trends while also delivering tactical insights on implementation. These knowledge workers are changing the face of the gig economy.
The Role Of On-Demand Consultants And Advisors In Changing Times
With the rapid rate of change in today’s world, it can be difficult, time-intensive and expensive to assess and react to each new technology trend and challenge on your own. How should your company incorporate artificial intelligence and machine learning into its strategic plan? What are the latest cybersecurity threats, and is your company prepared for them? What is the internet of things, and how does it affect your market? Why should your company care about blockchain or 5G? How can your data be analyzed to provide deep insights into new product and market opportunities?
These kinds of questions and problems are perfect for executive-level consultants who have deep industry experience and can be contracted at an hourly or project rate.
On-demand advisors can help with a variety of needs — whether it’s providing an in-depth report on competitors, spending an hour giving advice on a potential new product, writing a memo on entering a potential new market, creating financial models and investment memos, or providing expertise on switching software systems. Executives can use on-demand knowledge advisors as sounding boards, to brainstorm ideas, get vital introductions, and ask for advice and insight at critical times.
How are corporate boards engaging on-demand advisors and consultants?
Corporate boards are also relying on independent subject-matter experts to help with high-level, long-term planning and strategy that management teams may not be focused on. Moreover, on-demand consultants can bring unique outside perspectives, which are particularly helpful at companies that lack diversity. I've seen it firsthand: Our consultants have helped corporate boards assess expansion plans, acquisition plans, capital raises and exit strategies. These kinds of projects are critical to strategic planning and management in today’s fast-paced economy.
So, how do you find these advisors and consultants?
Start by asking your network for referrals; someone you trust is likely to be able to make an introduction. And, after all, you’re most likely to have a successful engagement with someone who has a track record of delivering strategic insights. If your network fails to uncover the right professionals, there are marketplaces and providers of on-demand executive-level advisors like Business Talent Group, Catalant and our firm, FlexTeam. Some outsourcing options provide rigorously vetted executive-level consultants; through others, you vet the workers yourself.
Not sure how to vet your on-demand advisors and consultants?
When vetting your on-demand advisors, start by asking whether they have an incorporated entity and an EIN (IRS-issued employer identification number), as those are indicators of commitment to their consulting business. Review their LinkedIn profile and website for red flags. Then, if all seems well, ask for references, and request case studies that illustrate their value proposition. An experienced and reputable advisor may not be able to share work samples due to nondisclosure agreements but should be able to speak confidently about the kinds of work they have done and the outcomes they have achieved.
With more and more companies using on-demand knowledge workers, it will soon become commonplace to hire on-demand advisors. Companies that don’t will risk falling behind their competitors.
The future of work is here, and the decision to adapt and change for the better is yours.
About Yolanda Lau
Consultant | Entrepreneur | Advisor | Educator | Non-profit fundraiser | Forbes Contributor
Yolanda Lau is a co-founder of FlexTeam — a mission-based micro-consulting firm that matches talented mid-career women with meaningful, challenging, temporally flexible, remote project-based work opportunities. FlexTeam’s clients are businesses of all sizes across all industries and sectors and their most requested projects are market research / analysis, competitor research, financial models / analysis, and business strategy. FlexTeam is also the team behind Liquid, an all-in-one vendor management system for contracting and paying your freelancers and contractors (your liquid workforce).