Episode 040 – The 2021 State of Independence with McLean Robbins

Welcome to episode 40! Today we are joined by McLean Robbins, who is the Vice President of Enterprise Marketing at MBO Partners. 

MBO Partners is an organization that helps connect over 70,000 independent consultants with enterprise clients and helps the independent consultant succeed as a business owner. 

Today we’re joined by McLean Robbins. McLean comes to us with a well-rounded experience and vantage point as she is the Vice President of Enterprise Marketing at MBO Partners and an independent consultant herself. McLean interacts with independent consultants on a daily basis and meets with enterprise leaders regularly so she has gained first-hand insights from people who are buying the services that you sell. 

McLean shares insights that she’s gathered through the State of Independence study, the longest-running comprehensive look at the independent workforce. McLean shares the study results, along with her perspective, so you know how to stand out and thrive as an independent in the current corporate landscape.

Grab a notebook to take some notes because she’s got lots of great nuggets to share to help you move into 2022 ready to thrive: 

  • [00:28] Intro
  • [03:35] Meet McLean Robbins
  • [05:06] The nature of our work together
  • [06:31] What is the State of Independent, Why it started, Why it’s continued
  • [09:43] Why is the IC industry growing
  • [10:36] Is it currently more competitive for ICs
  • [16:01] How enterprise businesses engage with ICs 
  • [18:37] How ICs can stand out as their market their services
  • [21:28] What is teaming and how you can use it to grow your business
  • [26:01] Best practice for teaming with other ICs
  • [31:05] Advice for growing your practice over the next 12 months
  • [33:58] Working with a large enterprise as an IC  

McLean Robbins, Vice President of enterprise marketing at MBO Partners + Owner at Lily Pod Luxury Travel
Lily Pond – https://www.lilypondluxury.com/
Linkedin – https://www.linkedin.com/in/mcleanrobbins/
MPO – https://www.mbopartners.com/meet-the-team/mclean-robbins/
State of Independence study – https://www.mbopartners.com/state-of-independence/


Ready for help figuring out how to leverage these strategies in your IC business and ultimately double your revenue without working more? 

  • I invite you to book an IC Success Blueprint call with me.
  • On this call, we’ll dive into your business and get clear on your goals and challenges and determine an action plan for you so that you can create the business impact, income, and flexibility that you desire. 
  • To get on my calendar, please visit www.consultmelisa.com


  • Click here to download the 27 WAYS TO LAND YOUR NEXT CONSULTING CLIENT


If you love the content that I am providing, please consider rating and reviewing my show! This helps me support more people — just like you — create a growing, profitable IC business. 
Click here, scroll to the bottom, tap to rate with five stars, and select “Write a Review.” Then be sure to let me know what you loved most about the episode!


**note: This is an automated transcript, so please ignore spelling errors and grammar mistakes*


Welcome to the Grow Your Independent Consulting Business podcast. I’m Melisa Liberman, a fellow IC and business coach. On this podcast I teach you to become a consistently booked independent consultant without becoming a pushy salesperson or working 24/7. If I can do it, you can too. Listen on to find out how.


Today I’m so excited, I have a treat for you for episode number 40. I am going to introduce you to McLean Robbins, who is the vice president of enterprise marketing at MBO partners, which is an organization that helps connect independent consultants with enterprise clients and helps the independent consultant succeed as a business owner. And I want to share with you this conversation with McLean because she talks with us about a study that she’s she and the organization have recently completed called the state of independence. It’s the 10th year for this particular study where they’ve been tracking independent consultants are how our field is growing, how enterprise clients have been changing how they interact with independent consultants, and so many different success factors for you being an independent consultant. So today, McLean is going to share with you some of the insights that she’s gathered through the state of independent study, which just went live here in the last week or so, and share with you what she takes away that you can really apply to yourself and to your own business as you’re looking to grow it in the next 12 months. In the next year. She shares some very actionable tips, in addition to the broad takeaways from this study, including things like developing your independent consulting Black Book, and what types of routines you should be putting in place and how to stand out from the crowd of independent consultants that is growing. And why now is the best time to be an independent consultant, I can’t wait for you to hear all of this. It’s incredibly encouraging for you and your business. And for 2022. And I can’t wait for you to really dive in and hear what she has to share, I would get a notebook out and take some notes here because she’s got so many great nuggets to share. And the last thing I’ll say is, McLean is really uniquely positioned to be speaking about this, because she really works with independent consultants from every facet, she is an independent consultant herself, she has a side business that she’ll tell you about. She also works, you know, on a daily basis on a weekly basis with the 70,000 independent consultants that they have in their database. Obviously, not every one of them. But you know, that’s who she’s interacting with every day is independent consultants. She’s also a VP of marketing. So she’s got that expertise and knowledge to share of how do you market yourself to get out and become someone who’s known and ultimately sought after as an independent consultant. And then finally, she meets with enterprise leaders every so often, that’s part of her responsibility. And she talks about, you know, just a roundtable that she was at the day before we recorded this. So she meets with the people who are buying the services that you sell. So she’s able to come at this from such a well rounded experience and vantage point, and I can’t wait for you to hear it. So let’s dive in. And McLean, I’m happy to have you here today, I would love for you to introduce yourself and tell the listeners all about what you do both personally and professionally.


Yeah, of course. Thanks, Melissa, for having me. So my name is McLean. I am the Vice President of Marketing at MBO partners. We are a platform that connects self employed or independent workers with enterprise organizations that makes it safe and easy and effective for them to do business together. I’ve been with the organization for six years, I was independent and still am. So I was recruited into the organization as I have my own business, which has shifted as so many independents do. I used to be a content professional, and I now own a travel agency as well. And so I think it’s really fun because I’m getting to bring this amazing organization to life here. And really help people do the work. They love the way they want, which is our purpose here at MBO. And then on nights and weekends and mornings and lunch breaks, I’m able to help my own clients do something that they love as well. So I think it brings a really special perspective to the business because I can certainly see what we’re doing as a platform organization, but then I can live it on my own as a small business owner. And so being able to talk to you today about not just our business, but the research that we’re bringing to life now in its own VR is so so exciting because I personally resonate with it. And I hope the listeners do too.


Thank you. It’s so fun. I was trying to think back as to when we met, I think it was a couple of years ago, I was doing some networking and met some individuals that MBO and the company is such a welcoming organization, to consultants, and helping bring them into the fold and really look at where their businesses are, and how to help them grow their businesses. And so I was one of those consultants early on that we worked on some marketing videos, and did some work together early on, and have continued that on and off for the last couple of years, it’s been so fun to have this relationship with you. And I’m excited for you to be here today to talk about both your business and the state of independence report that you run every year.


Well, thanks for having me. And it’s been a pleasure to get to know you over the past couple of years and watch your business change and grow. And I think your journey is so similar to so many independents that work with us, they start out doing one thing, and they have, we call it sort of a cyclical nature of independence, you’re going to shift your business to meet demand and you’re going to go back into traditional work, you’re going to come back out, you’re going to work independently. And all that is to say is that nobody has a singular career path anymore. The days of working 40 years for a company getting a gold watch and a pension are no more and we don’t need to be sad about that. We need to be really excited about the opportunity. And that’s really what this year’s research shows. So I’m so excited to share a little bit more about it.


That’s great. McLean. Okay. So let’s start off and why don’t you tell the people listening to the podcast, what the state of independence is and why you initially created it and why you’ve kept it going over these last 10 years?


Absolutely. So, MBO is more than 20 years old as an organization. And 11 years ago, we decided that we wanted to know a little bit more about the people that worked on our platform and in our business. And so we decided to conduct a third party sort of statistically relevant research study, the only one of its kind to understand not just how big this audience was, but what motivated them, what did they care about sort of the size, the sentiments, and we kept it up, because we were the only people in the industry really looking at this growing segment of the independent workforce. Last year was our 10th year, and we still are the longest running deepest dive research into the American Independent workforce. And I think what’s really, really interesting is, I’ve been with MBO for six years. So I’ve gotten to see a good chunk of this research sort of come and go into the market. It’s been utilized by large consulting organizations, by enterprise by government, and also by independent themselves to say, is this an opportunity? Am I alone? Is this something that I really want to do with my life, and I think over the past two years, last year, being the 10th, year, this year, being the 11th year, the thing that’s most interesting to me is the key theme we’ve pulled out of the research, which we’re calling the great realization, people, post COVID. And I hate to say, post COVID, as we go through another surge, you’re still sort of in COVID. But post, the start of the pandemic said, wow, work and life isn’t working for me the way it needs to be. And we’ve seen this, we’ve heard it referred to as a great resignation, we’ve heard talk of burnout of women leaving the workforce, and we surveyed last year, in the middle of COVID, you know, sort of July 2020, when people were like, Oh, we’re past that initial first wave. But we’re not totally sure what’s going on. We saw a slight dip in the hard numbers of people being independent. But quite frankly, we saw a slight dip in the number of people working in the world, because the workforce was definitely down at that time, too. And this year, what we’ve seen in the research, so, so exciting, is we’ve seen a massive, massive rebound in the number of people in the independent workforce, 34% annualized increase up to 51 million people working independently. That’s the highest jump single year jump ever, in our research, it’s a massive increase of people working all types full time, part time, occasionally, it’s really pointing to the fact that people are giving independent work a fair shot, they’re thinking about it as a viable alternative to traditional employment. And it’s pointing to a really, really bright future for those people out there, those listeners of your own podcast who want to go out and carve their own destinies. So I’m happy to dive into any facet of it that you’d like.


It’s great to have that track record and those trends over the last 10 years to something that’s really ballooning, like you described, is such an important asset that independents can point to and look to to figure out where the trends know why they’re in such a good space right now. So I would love to hear McLean your thoughts on you know, as the number of independents out there grow, and like you were just talking about the acceleration in the number of independents. Tell me a little bit about what your thoughts are on whether or not it’s becoming more competitive for independent consultant to land new work and really stand out from the competition.


Absolutely. So I’m going to point to three reasons that the independent workforce is growing. And I think all of them are very positive reasons. And then I’ll talk a little bit about how competitive it can be, because I think you can see competition as, as both a benefit. And yeah, just, you know, quite frankly, getting somewhat more competitive to get those in demand jobs. So three things happened when we had this really massive increase in numbers. One, the majority of people who are doing this are doing it to supplement their income. Now, supplemental income, over 70% of people said, this is a reason that they are independent right now. So that means that these people are doing independent work part time or occasionally. And so there’s a loyal core of people who are doing this full time about 15 million people doing this absolutely full time. This is their their primary business, the small business owners, that’s what you think of traditionally, when you think of somebody who says they’re a freelancer or an independent worker. But what we see is a massive increase in the number of people who decided to go into independent work either less than 20 hours a week or on occasion as they wish to do. So it’s a viable option for people, maybe you have small children at home and you need time to care for your children are you need time to care for an aging parent or a sick relative or a sick spouse. Certainly, during this pandemic, we’ve seen more people than ever leave the workforce to do that. Or maybe you’re just burned out, and you only wish to work part time where you are in retirement and you say I’m going to supplement my income or pick up something occasionally. So there’s any number of reasons people would do this, including, in addition to all the other things I have listed, doing this to figure out if independence is for you doing this to test into a passion or to start a small business. So that’s an interesting trend is to sort of where the independent workforce sits, and why it’s growing that part time supplemental is definitely the highest growing number. Next, we see a massive increase 68% of new entrants this year, millennials and Gen z’s. So independents are getting younger. And if we look at the demographic breakdown of the independent workforce, we see Gen Z’s are still a fairly small portion of the independent workforce overall, because of course, they’re just really aging into the workforce. Not all of the Gen Z’s are fully in the workforce yet. But we see millennials as the largest single chunk of the independent workforce. And we certainly see these two generations as the most entrepreneurial yet. So what we see here is a really bright future for independent work, because these people are going independent earlier in their careers, they’re interested in Independence, and they likely will continue with independence, if they don’t do it, their entire career, maybe they cycle in and out of a traditional job, but they’re very interested in staying independent. So we know that the numbers are going to continue to increase, these very entrepreneurial generation stay in the workforce. And then next, we see 55% of entrance this year as women and this is a female business owner and speaking with another female business owner excites me to no end, because I think everybody had heard about what we called the she session how women left and were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic as it comes to the workforce. And that’s in many ways we know because women’s industries that they work in were disproportionately hit by layoffs. And women had to leave to take care of their families, or they were the ones who chose to leave to take care of a spouse or an aging parent or a sick relative. But we did see a massive rebound of women in the independent workforce this year. And so will the numbers do skew slightly more male, if we look at the workforce as a whole, the fact that women came back and they choose to do it on their own terms is really positive for female independence will likely break down that data in some more detail later this year. So go to your question, which is is it more competitive to be independent? And I would say the answer is yes and no. And the reason that that answer is yes and no, is yes, of course, if there are more people supply and demand, the supply is larger. And so therefore, if we have 10 people competing for one job, yes, it’s a little bit harder to get that job. But the reality is employers are just now saying, Gosh, really need people. So there’s obviously a massive amount of job opportunity out there. And many employers are saying everybody’s remote now. So I can engage somebody as a qualified, talented, independent professional. And so there’s people who are really, really good at what they do the top in their field, which I believe are the people who are listening to this podcast, those people are going to find it a better time than ever to be independent, because enterprises are waking up and saying, Wow, these people are the best of the best. If you’re the best at what you do, you’re likely to be self employed, because you can make more money. You can have more clients, you can do it on your own terms. Statistically, you’re going to feel happier, you’re going to feel healthier, you’re even going to statistically make more money doing it. And so businesses are saying, Yeah, I will engage in dependence. And so in many cases, it’s actually less competitive to go in and and independent than it used to be because businesses are more open to engaging you. And also there are simply more people doing the work, which means the systems are better in place to engage independence. And it’s simply easier to go into an enterprise than it’s ever been before. But of course, if you’re in an in demand field, I don’t think that that’s any excuse to say anything less than at the top of your game, because you know, those people who don’t continue to rescale, or to try to do their best, are going to stagnate and they’re going to find that somebody is gonna laugh at them. So keep training.


Love that. You know, this is such an exciting time. I know we’ve all gone through so much in the last several years, and not all of it has been positive. However, as you’re describing it, McLane. So many barriers were broken down that had been built up over such a long period of time, and they’ve all come down so quickly in terms of being able to work remotely and to impact an organization and to effectively onboard people into roles, you know, even when they’re an independent, remotely, and to never even really meet the client in person. There’s so many of those barriers that are gone. Now, as you described, you just described it. And it’s really seems like a greenfield opportunity for independents who are interested in continuing to grow their business and land clients that might not have been open. Otherwise, the way you describe it bring such optimism for the next year. It’s exciting.


I mean, I think the data proves that there should be optimism, but we hear it from the there’s more than 70,000 people that work on our platform. And we speak to tons of them every day. I mean, I don’t get to touch all 70,000, of course, but I touch hundreds of them in a given year. And I think everybody’s feeling really positive about the opportunities that are out there. And as I said, it doesn’t negate the need to continually rescale to stay at the top of your game to practice those sort of business hygiene tasks, like marketing, like making sure that your you know, finances are in order, but there’s more opportunity than ever before. And I do think that on the enterprise side, and I speak to many of our enterprise leaders, we actually had a roundtable with them yesterday, they’re saying, Wow, post COVID Our whole workforces remote. And so we don’t need somebody who’s sitting on site. And also our full time workers have been sitting at home for two years, you know, by and large, not going into offices. And so if we’re not going to require everybody to be co located, it gives us a lot more flexibility in our talent pool both full time and independent, to figure out exactly who we want to hire, and we want to engage the best person for the work. And we want that person to come to start immediately. And we want them to make an impact on the business. And independents are uniquely positioned to do this. Because they come in, they say this is what I’m gonna do, I can solve a problem. And day one, yes, I need to be on boarded, I need to be paid on time I need to be treated as part of the team, we know our data shows that they care about that. But that they can also get in and make that business impact. And then they can get on with their work, go to serve, you know, somewhere between four and six clients a year on average, and feel like they’ve really made a difference not just to one organization, but hopefully many over the course of a year.


That’s phenomenal. I love you know the other angle that you bring to the table here, which is having that exposure to the people who are buying consulting services. So you’re talking to the independent consultants all day long, that Bank of 70,000, you’re doing this research in the state of independence, you’re independent yourself. And you also talk to the leaders who are buying independent consulting services. So I’m curious from that well rounded perspective, tell me what your thoughts are on how an independent consultant can stand out as their marketing and selling


what they do? Absolutely. And I’m going to point to a piece of data in our research that I think is super interesting. As we look at how independents find work, we’re seeing a massive increase in those who are using what we call online marketplaces to find their their next role. And so in 2012, when we first started asking this question, as part of our research, about 3% of independents use an online marketplace. And the function of that was there just weren’t that many online marketplaces in 2012 do so of course, you know, a small number used it. And I think back to what I was doing in 2012. And you know, I don’t think I was using online marketplaces, either, although I was pretty digitally savvy. And now in 2021, we had 40% of independents using online marketplaces. And I think when somebody thinks about going independent, or even if they are independent, they say, How am I going to get my next project is definitely a concern. It’s always been in sort of the top concerns that independence have, along with making sure that they have enough financial income, making sure that they have the benefits that they need, etc. But there are so many more ways to find work right now. And the fact that 40% of independents are using these marketplaces. It’s really positive both for the enterprise buyer and for the independent themselves because it’s making it easier For the enterprise buyer to find and engage with these people, I’m not going to say that it’s a, you know, a one size fits all solution, because quite frankly, most independents are finding work through their network, and word of mouth and their past employers. Those are definitely the top reasons and top ways that people are finding work. But as an enterprise organization, they are looking for independence in any number of ways. They’re using traditional recruiters, they’re using their online systems. And they’re using people that they’ve used before. So if I’m an independent looking to partner with an enterprise and do that, I would say work your network, look on your LinkedIn, which is, you know, still the social platform most professionals are using, call up former employers call up former colleagues and make it known that you’re doing this independent work, and then say, you know, I’m ready to be engaged. And if you do so, you know, not a super plug for the MBO platform, because you do so on a platform like MBO, you come with the fact that your compliance to be engaged and that you can do so under all of the legal structures. And you come sort of with the heft of I’m an enterprise ready, independent, which I think is great. But if nothing else, understand that enterprises are looking for people who are ready to engage in that manner. And so I would say, start reaching out to your network, and then as a supplement, get on some of these platforms that are made for skilled independence in your area. And try that because it’s more popular than ever before. And enterprises are definitely looking there for their next set of talent.


That’s great. Let’s shift gears a little bit. MacLean and talk to me about another trend that was included in the state of Independence was the growing use of teaming, where we’re independence work together, whether it’s a formal relationship or more of a loose relationship. They’re working together to meet client demand. So I’m really curious to hear your thoughts on how those independent consultants can get started with teaming as they’re ready to start growing their business and practice.


Yeah, this is a huge trend. And I’m so glad that you call this out. So about one in four independents are currently teaming or have teamed on projects. And Teaming is really where you work, you know, multiple independents to deliver a project to a single client. This is a trend that enterprises are really excited by, because instead of having to go out and cobbled together a group, we’re not necessarily sure is going to work well together. And they’ve got to do all the work to put together a project and find this skill and this skill and this skill, and then hope that the people all work well together. Independents are saying no, no, I can come to you. And I can serve the entirety of this project, much like a small on demand consulting firm, and I can come in and I can do everything, and you can pay in some cases, you can just pay me the lead independent, and then I will funnel out as a broker the money to the rest of my independence. And so for those really successful independents, the ones that are the best at what they do, more and more are finding this lucrative because they can bid on larger projects. For those who like to not necessarily, you know, work 100 hours a week, or 80 hours a week, they can divide up the time, they can divide and conquer and focus just on what they’re really, really good at. And enterprises are finding significant value in this as well because they can get larger projects of work. And they don’t have to, as we say, do the work and take the risk of putting together a team that may or may not work to deliver the project. Because you are kind of guessing when you pull together three independents with disparate skill sets as to whether or not they’re going to not just be able to deliver the work, but work well together to do so. So it takes a little risk away from the enterprise. It’s not that it hasn’t been happening for some time. But it’s newer in the sense that enterprises are figuring out how to do this. And certainly, it’s pretty easy to do so on our platform. And independents are figuring this out as well. So for those people who are really successful looking to take their business to the next level, I would certainly suggest cutting that little black book together not just the people who are in your field, but the people who are in complementary fields. And I would point to a group we have on our platform called MBO advantage where a lot of our consultants are doing that successfully. You may have a project manager, I’ve got somebody who’s a little bit more creative who’s doing the creative work. And then I’ve got somebody who’s actually doing the the bulk of the programming, the coding, whatever it is, that’s, that’s actually delivering the project. And they’re finding that they can network together on our platform, team up, bid the work and then actually deliver the project pretty seamlessly.


Yeah, I’ve been a member of advantage for a while now. And you know, a couple of things come to mind whether you whether the listener joins advantage and meets people that way to build out those relationships or through some other mechanism of meeting other independence. It not only is it beneficial to meet those people who have complementary skill sets to you and like McLean described it so well to create that Black Book of people that you know, you can work well with and complement what you deliver to clients, but it’s also such a great way to combat the loneliness of being an independent consultant and to have that type of community as well,


I think that is the thing that got me through the pandemic, as a small business owner myself, I mean, my colleagues that MBO are great. But as somebody who runs her own business, it wasn’t necessarily my friends who got me through this past year, it was my colleagues that I was in the trenches with that I could call and say, I’m really having a bad day about X, I had, you know, a client cancel a project, and I’m waiting on this money to come in. And I don’t know what to do about this, this is changing. And that’s to me what made the difference. So finding your tribe, your network, your group, through a platform like ours, through you know, any sort of community group or through a professional affiliation, it can be so, so powerful. And we definitely know that independence struggle with loneliness. But if you’re using these groups to simply team up to deliver work to, you know, you can find that professional fulfillment, and that’s really, really great. I’ve been able to find good friends along the way as well, which I think is an added benefit. But if you can find that professional fulfillment, then, you know, that’s half the battle.


Yeah, that’s so good. Are there any other best practices or examples that you want to share McLean that you’ve seen, from your vantage point of people creating this teaming type of a situation very effectively,


I think it’s definitely finding people, as I said, not just with your own skill set. But with complementary skill sets, we’ve seen a lot of people successfully mentor younger independence. And I think certainly, if you have that desire, and that ability to give back in your skills, it’s always nice to train somebody who’s a little bit younger than you are a little bit less skilled, when you’re giving back and paying it forward. You know, I love being able to do that in my own field. But you’re also finding somebody who can do the work. And you can make a little bit of a profit off of it, while still overseeing and getting quality assurance. But I think that that sort of those adjacent skillsets, and one of our enterprise leaders described it in a roundtable I attended yesterday as going out in concentric circles. And I thought that that was such a well positioned thing to say, because it’s not about finding, if you’re a graphic designer, 15, other graphic designers, but then it’s about partnering with the UX teams and the branding teams and the front end developers and the project managers. And so those people who aren’t going to necessarily compete with you one on one for projects, but who are going to have somebody who needs your skill set in their network. And so tapping into those people, and then quite frankly, beyond the teaming relationship, just knowing that you need to pursue networking, there are people who are and I’m in marketing, so I like networking, I like talking to people, but that does not come naturally to everybody. So forcing yourself to get out there be it to send a couple of LinkedIn messages every day, you know, to get on and say I’m gonna spend five minutes my LinkedIn network this morning, or to spend five minutes on professional development and you know, sort of polishing your skills that you’re ready, or to spend a couple of minutes a week on your resume or sending out and getting on these platforms and looking at what’s available, any of these types of things are going to contribute to your hygiene as an independent worker. And then at the end of the year, it’s not going to become, oh my gosh, I don’t have a project, oh, my gosh, I have to do my finances, oh my gosh, I have to do my branding, it’s just going to become part of your daily routine. And I think that’s a best practice that a lot of independents forget. Because when you are an employee, it’s easy to get lazy, and not to knock, being a full time employee works for people, it’s a great thing. And you do have a lot of benefits. But you often don’t have to go out and do a lot of these extra things yourself. Because you’re not working there, your colleagues or your colleagues, your next work is going to come in because your boss is going to provide it for you your check is going to come every other week, because you’re an employee. And as an independent, it doesn’t have to get in the habit of doing the other things that make it all streamlined at the end that you can focus on that work.


Yeah, I love that reminds me of something I was talking about with a client yesterday, they were telling me how comfortable they’re feeling and how things feel really good. And I said, I think you might be doing it wrong. You should not feel good all the time. If you’re feeling not comfortable, then we need to shake things up here a little bit and push you further and they ended up agreeing after some, you know some diving into this more but that complacency can kind of set in and it can be easy to fall into that situation where you’re doing things that feel comfortable and not necessarily doing things that move the needle like you said, for those of us who networking doesn’t come naturally too which is I think most of the population but Kleenex and Kira you’re unique in that way to really create super


duper Melisa, I actually I hate big groups of people but I don’t mind networking. It’s just like I like it one on one one on one.


That’s right. Yeah. So it’s a how do you know creating that routine like you just described and the hygiene to continuously have conversations and it isn’t a Start Stop type of an activity. It’s part of owning a business.


It is and owning a business. is only about, you know, 50% actually being good at what you do the other 50% comes from a lot of other stuff. And I think that is something that, you know, sort of cycles back to this great realization theme that is the core of this report is, knowing yourself trying independence and realizing that it’s not for you, is not a failure. In our mind. It’s just part of the learning process. And most entrepreneurs who’ve been successful have failed before, if you look at anybody who’s founded out, you know, fortune 100 business, or a very successful startup, many of them founded several startups before they got to the one that they did. And so there are going to be many people who try any number of even independent careers before they find the one that they want. And so knowing that you’re not alone out there in the struggle, and finding that, as we talked about earlier, that network to do it with is just part and parcel of the great realization. So I may paint a rosy picture about the future. I think it’s a very bright future. But I’m also a realist in knowing that part of realizing what you’re meant to do means that there are going to be bumps along the way.


Yeah, absolutely. Tony McLean. As you look at the state of independence, and the results that you got back this year, I’m curious what advice you would give independent consultants, those that want to grow their practices over the next 12 months? What advice would you give them to pursue over the next year? Sure.


One is just to not be afraid to take that risk. And so you know, if you want to go out and you want to learn a new skill, there are tons of opportunities to go out and do that. So you as an independent have the flexibility to take a project at a lower rate, you might not take a full time job at a pay cut, like I think I would find that pretty hard to stomach. But I could take a project that’s two or three months at a lower rate so that I could test into something and see do I like it, I could take something supplemental as an independent. And so I wouldn’t be afraid to take something that’s a smaller project that I’m used to as well to test into whether or not I like it. Or, quite frankly, if I’m considering going independent, where you know, most of us are still working from home, you don’t have that time spent commuting, like know that you can find a couple of hours in the day to do it. And it’s just about sort of building that hygiene, it’s very similar to starting a workout plan, it feels daunting to dedicate a half hour or an hour a day to do it. But once you get into it, you’re like, Oh, this feels pretty good. And then the next is really, you know, if you’re looking to grow your business in the next year, consider things like teaming, like online platforms, consider networking with other independent do those things that are going to contribute to the bottom line. And I have to say, as somebody who’s you know, working full time and then pursuing her own business, I have to sit there and look at return on investment. And quite frankly, return on time. Because work life balance is a primary reason people go and stay independent. They want to have that quality time with their families, their friends feel like they’re not burned out. And so look and say, are the things I’m doing driving a return? Am I getting my tasks done? Is this helping me make more money and quite frankly, am I happier doing it, and then drop the things that aren’t you know, if you don’t like networking, you don’t like going to events, don’t do it. There are plenty of other ways to do the bad stuff. That’s the benefit of owning your own business. But you do have to do like your taxes. And so figure out doing them yourself is a good idea or outsourcing them to a professional saves you those hours, it makes you happier, you know, there’s no wrong reason. It’s just that you have to figure out what works for you.


Yeah, I have to say hiring a bookkeeper was one of the best choices I’ve ever made. And I don’t have a lot of volume in my business, but just not having to look at that. She handles it all and meets with me every month is a godsend.


Oh, shout out to Chris my accounting for 10 years, but he laughs because he’s like, wow, you’re the only person I know who did a lot of things at the Four Seasons Hotel. I’m like, that is my business, luxury travel. I’m lucky. He laughs at me, but he keeps me sane. And I sure as heck couldn’t do it.


That’s great. What a beautiful business model for you quickly. I love you. Yes. Tell me anything else you wanted to cover today that we haven’t talked about already?


You know, I really think that what’s interesting to me is I didn’t think when I started my business, and quite frankly, until I came to MBO that I could work with these large enterprise organizations, I thought, oh my gosh, this is gonna be just like insurmountably hard. And unless they came to me, I didn’t realize it was necessarily possible. I thought I have to have this big established entity, I have to have been in business for 20 years, you know, I’m not good enough. And I think for those people who are out there who are really skilled at what they do, knowing that one, yes, you absolutely can make the leap to independence now have a plan, have a little bit of a financial cushion. You know, certainly make your business model work before you make the leap. I’m very cautious in that way. But knowing that you can go out and you can work with enterprise organizations, there are platforms like ours and there are others in the market as well, that make it sort of safe and easy to do. So. I think that that lends a lot of confidence and hopefully gives a lot of people hope that this workout there can be done and for those people who are already working In that way, know that, you know, we see a really bright future. And those enterprises that we talked to are largely saying that they want to grow their independent population. And they don’t want to grow their independent population, because they think it’s cheaper than hiring employees, they want to grow it because they see the power in the independent workforce, they see the power in accessing these skills, and in making a vital and vibrant core of their workforce independent alongside their traditional full time employee base, and that this trend will continue in years to come. So if you’re thinking about making the leap, I think now is the time to do so when everything is in flux. Let’s add one more thing to the pot, because I think this is a very positive potential trend.


Yeah, I think that’s so exciting. From a mindset perspective to McLain as you’re an independent approaching organizations and working through business development to really have in mind that they’re not looking to you to provide a cheaper option or alternative to no employee employees, they’re looking to your expertise and the value and the outcomes you can deliver to them. They’re not thinking that independent consultants are kind of my last resort, as you’ve described throughout today’s call, they’re now including independent consulting as one of their strategies to staff and manage and build to the business outcomes that they’re trying to achieve. And so independent consultants aren’t a last resort for them, when they’ve exhausted all other options that, you know, as you’re approaching potential clients really having that in mind that they’re seeking you out. They really want to work with you, they have the mechanisms in place to make it easy to work with you. And it’s really about you as an independent consultant, showing your value and your expertise and what you can bring to the table and you’re not having to educate them anymore about what you do make sense in their infrastructure?


I think you hit the nail on the head there. Absolutely. And if anybody has questions, I’m more than happy to answer them. If they want to write over to us, we’re happy to help point them in the right direction, too.


Yeah, McLean is an incredible resource and for her to offer that is so valuable. So with that Maclean. Tell me how can people find you in all your places?


All the places? Yes, of course. So MBO partners comm is our website. And if you’re looking to go independent, you can sign up for our marketplace that has lots and lots of enterprise opportunities. MBO partners.com/marketplace, my name is McLean. So I’m easy to find on our website. And you’ll get lots of emails from me if you’re independent consultant, because I send lots of helpful material as you get started on the platform. And if you’re looking to talk travel with me, it’s Lily Pond luxury. But, you know, I really hope that this information about independent work has been valuable for people listening today. And I hope it gives lots of people out there the confidence or the courage to make the leap or to test into it themselves.


That’s great. We will put all of those links in the show notes, McLean so it’s easy for people to get to, and then are they able to access the state of independence report as well?


100% So MBO partners.com/state-of. That independence, and I think the reports really beautiful shout out to Daniel Vasquez who on our team is an independent himself who helped design this year’s report. So we have MBO us tons of independence, I get to experience lots of great talented professionals in my day to day life as well.


I love it independence everywhere. Of course, thank you so much, McLean for your time today. I love what you’ve been able to share and all of the insights I’ve taken down so many notes myself, and I can’t wait for the listeners to hear this episode. And hopefully we can make it an annual thing.


Oh, I would love to come back. Thanks, Melisa. I really, really appreciate it. Good to talk to everybody today.


Thanks so much.


Thanks for joining me this week on the Grow Your Independent Consulting Business podcast. If you liked today’s episode, I have three quick next steps for you. First, click Subscribe on Apple podcasts or wherever you listen to make sure you don’t miss future episodes. Next, leave me a review in your podcast app, so other independent consultants can find that benefit too. And finally, to put the ideas from today’s episode into action, head over to Melisaliberman.com for the show notes and more resources to help you grow your consulting practice from your first few projects into a full-fledged business. See you next week.

Let's see where your opportunities to make more money are hiding...