By Kathy Caprino –
In my current exploration of women’s leadership in all business arenas, and in researching how women are thriving in a wide range of professional settings, I had the pleasure of speaking recently with Aassia Haq, Chief Marketing Officer – MBO Partners and Former CEO – ALUMRISE, Inc.
Aassia is steeped in the business of supporting the success of independent consultants and solopreneurs through her work with MBO Partners, which provides a full array of backend services for independent consultants. To serve their clients better, MBO Partners spearheaded the first ever national look at independent workers – those who had opted out of corporate America to forge a new independent path. The study revealed several key findings that are vitally important for anyone considering launching an independent consultancy and leaving corporate America behind. The bottom line is that there is an exciting movement afoot in the U.S. of workers leaving the corporate arena to pursue independent work and solopreneurship, and the prospects are strong for making this third path successful and rewarding. Further, women who have forged powerful corporate careers but believe that the existing corporate model is ill-fitting and misaligned for them may well find private practice and consultancy just the model they need and want.
The study looked at both men and women, and found that there were some marked similarities and differences in their experiences and outcomes. Below are key findings from the study that shed light on the growth of this new and exciting movement of independent workers, especially for women:
1) Satisfaction with independent work is much higher than work in corporate settings
86% of independent workers are satisfied or highly satisfied with their life choice, only 9% were dissatisfied – making the story of independent workers a true silver lining in the American story of jobs, small business and worker growth and satisfaction. MBO Partners predicts that by the end of the decade, 1 in 2 American workers in the private workforce will experience or embrace career independence or solopreneurship. That’s a movement worthy of attention, and of our focusing new attention and effort on creating effective support tools, methodologies and approaches that will help solopreneurs succeed in this third path of work.
2) Women are on par with men in the solopreneur environment
The survey revealed findings that are consistent with the many successful female solopreneur stories that I’ve observed first-hand through my work as a women’s career and leadership coach, and in organizations such as 85 Broads, and that MBO Partners sees in their Business Owner associates (of which more than half are women business owners).
3) Women define success in different ways than those who typically represent the traditional arena of entrepreneurship and small business.
The study showed that success for women independent workers was not necessarily co-related to high growth business aspirations in terms of size of business/revenues — but rather correlated to more personal benefits, namely flexibility, control, being one’s own boss, and doing work that is meaningful and personally fulfilling.
When the nation talks to women about their aspirations of becoming entrepreneurs or creating small businesses, is it using the right language and outlining the appropriate motivations? Are we accurately identifying and articulating the real reasons behind the wish of many hundreds of thousands of women to become independent and run a small business? I think not.
Interestingly too, I’ve found in my Forbes Leadership interviews with some leading entrepreneurial experts, there is a an underlying belief that working for yourself, or having a one-woman small business, is an “inferior” option than running a multi-million-dollar business with numerous employees and many products and services. I disagree with this line of thinking. It’s neither inferior or superior to serve an independent consultant versus an entrepreneur (with staff, multiple products/services, etc.). The key is to understand how you’ll thrive best, and choose the path that supports your individual core needs, values, and wants.
Only you can decide what type of work you want to do, in what ways, and what will bring you the most success, reward, and fulfillment. And only you can determine for yourself the level of financial reward and responsibility you want. If you long to launch a multi-million-dollar entrepreneurial venture, then make that your goal and do everything in your power to achieve it. If, on the other hand, serving as an independent consultant and working solo in a booming practice is for you, then explore what it takes to make it on this third path.
4) Women independents are a force.
There are 8.5 million independent women workers in the country, significantly more than the population of 5.7 million-strong group of stay-at-home moms. Think about how much resourcing and “think time” is geared to solving problems for women who are working in the corporate arena, and to those who choose to stay at home. We’re leaving an enormous segment of working women unaddressed — the third path of independent consultancy and solopreneurship.
This movement is growing rapidly, and it’s no surprise that the study of micro-entrepreneurship is also on the rise. The time is right for our nation to support the micro-entrepreneur, and for professional women to explore – if they choose to — a new model and path that offers a different way to achieve their ultimate career visions. MBO Partners estimates that independents contribute approximately one trillion dollars to the GDP. And women make up about half of all independents. That IS a force.
Further, independent work can serve as a form of training ground for getting the basics right of going out on your own, and is often an incubator for many independents to become even larger-impact entrepreneurs. As Gayle Lemmon describes in her powerful TED Talk “Women Entrepreneurs, Example Not Exception,” women are succeeding abundantly in entrepreneurial ventures, and we need to highlight these as examples of inspirational role models, not as exceptions to be ignored.
5) It’s not a lack of experience that leads to independence. It is an ABUNDANCE of experience and a maturity in business that prepares women for the new benefits, and challenges, and rewards of working solo.
Independent women workers (vs. male independents) are most likely to go independent and stay there later in their career, with Boomer and Gen X women more likely to stay on the path than Gen Y.
Unlike the traditional view of an independent worker as a “Kelly Girl” who is forced into independence and stays in relatively unskilled roles, female independent workers are likely to be experts and specialists. 2.2 million of America’s independent professionals are $100K+ high earners. For women, in terms of success on the path, they remain at par with male counterparts.
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I’m personally thrilled to see this third path of employment – the independent/solopreneur path – emerging as vibrant and growing. The more options professionals have today to apply their talents, skills and expertise in service to others, the better. And the more avenues we have as a collective group of talented professionals to generate substantial financial and emotional reward doing work we love, the stronger we are as a people and as high-potential contributors.
Are you ready to explore a new path of work that fits more closely with your authentic needs and values? Do it!
(For more information on starting your own consultancy as a solopreneur, check out The Independents’ Guide by MBO Partners.)