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Firms can be ‘clients of choice’ for independent professionals; valuing their work is one key

February 21, 2018

For firms to attract and retain the top independent contractors, freelancers and other independent labor, it has become more important to be a “client of choice” — especially given the low unemployment rate in the US, according to a new report from MBO Partners. Some of the key attributes at clients of choice are valuing independent professionals’ work, letting them have control over their schedules and treating them as team members.

“For businesses to effectively compete in the marketplace, it is critical to engage the best and the brightest independent professionals,” said Gene Zaino, CEO of MBO Partners. “To do so, they need to understand both how and why independent professionals choose their clients, and what clients can do to position themselves as a client of choice.”

MBO Partners’ report is based on research that includes data from more than 17,000 in-depth surveys and hundreds of interviews over the past seven years.

Among the top workplace attributes independent professionals cited as very important or somewhat important for firms to be a client of choice:

  • 97% cited valuing their work.
  • 95% cited having control over their work.
  • 94% cited control over their schedules.
  • 94% cited being able work on tasks they enjoy doing.
  • 92% cited being treated as a team member.

The report defined independent professionals as those who provide services to businesses rather than products. This population has risen to 7.3 million in 2017 from 4.5 million in 2011. It includes independent contractors, statement-of-work-based labor and freelancers.

Among the report’s findings on who independent professionals are:

  • 57% are male and 43% are female.
  • Average age is 52.
  • 83% have four years of college or more.
  • 45% have graduate degrees.
  • They had an average income of $98,000.
  • The average independent has seven years of experience working independently.
  • Works with two to four clients at a time.

Their top reasons for going independent:

  • 59% cite a desire for greater work/life flexibility.
  • 57% cite a desire to control their schedule.
  • 46% desire or need to earn more money.

The report also found that female independent professionals emphasized different motivations than male independent professionals:

  • 65% of women cited the ability to control schedule compared to 51% of men
  • 68% cited more flexibility compared to 52% of men.
  • Only 25% of women said they feel more secure working independently, compared to 32% of men.
  • Women are less likely than men to go back to traditional jobs.

In addition, the report looked at millennial independent professionals, and their motivations:

  • Millennials are more likely to be reluctant independents: 40% would prefer a traditional job.
  • Only 48% of millennials said they are highly satisfied compared with 73% of nonmillennials.
  • 75% of millennials want clients to provide education and training versus 49% for nonmillennials.
  • 19% of millennials listed social media in their top three sources of work compared with 8% of nonmillennials.


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