By Lisa Walls-Hester
Lisa is an CFO/FC with over twenty five year's experience as an accountant and analyst across a range of International blue chips. More recently she has been owned and managed small businesses and currently freelances as a finance writer and analyst.
Whether you are an interim, a contractor, a freelancer or a consultant - the new name on the block for us is an ‘iPro’. We are Independent professionals and we are forging a major shift in the nature of work and ways of working.
An iPro is a highly skilled self-employed individual, who works for them self and does not employ others. This workforce now contributes 25% of workers in many industry sectors including professional, scientific and technical specialists and as such has become a critical element in the contribution to economic growth and business success across Europe.
A European-wide research study (The Rise of Europe’s Independent Professionals (iPros) by Patricia Leighton, Professor of European Social Law at the IPAG Business School, France) identified that this trend to independent working is forecast to increase and is being labeled a phenomenon. Numbers of iPro’s have increased since 2004 by 45% from just fewer than 6.2 million to 8.9 million in 2013, making it the fastest growing group in the EU labor market.
This flexible and creative segment of the labour market has long been a valuable contributor to the UK economy, in its Global Competitiveness Report 2014-2015; the World Economic Forum identifies the UK as being in ninth place in the top ten most competitive countries in the World, due in part to its flexible workforce. It concluded “The UK’s flexible and highly skilled knowledge-based contractor workforce is a major factor influencing inward investment.”
Why are iPros increasing in numbers?
UK companies have been implicit in the growth of this category of independent worker by making this career proposition prevalent and a profitable option for all parties to the contract. Increasing numbers of professionals are recognizing that iPro working is a legitimate and realistic career option and no longer just a stopgap en route to a permanent role.
Good for Companies.
Companies recognize that iPros drive innovation, flexibility and efficiency in the organisations where they work. A company gains a cost-effective highly specialized skill set when it is required, and for a determinable period.
Situations where financial iPros have traditionally seen the most demand are: during merger and acquisitions, when new systems are proposed and implemented, to provide uninterrupted workflow during changes of key personnel, re-structuring, major asset disposal and raising finance.
iPros have a highly specialized skill set and valuable experience that they bring to an assignment. They are the crème de la crème of their industry and companies hiring them procure this valuable asset when it is needed even if they cannot afford it permanently.
Good for Individuals.
An iPro is more likely to gain wider range of experience than their peers in a permanent role. The exposure to diverse corporate cultures and business systems is an invaluable tool on any CV and will make it stand out from the crowd and drive remuneration higher. The ability to choose assignments and enjoy the job ensures that output standard remain high, and consequentially iPros will have an increased level job satisfaction.
Frequently changing assignments means new faces and new contacts, which are invaluable for references and networking. Increasingly iPros are taking the opportunity to undertake an overseas role and experience new cultures.
New media and the increase of supportive environments in the form of professional hubs and business-oriented social networks mean that iPros can forge their own collaboration networks. iPros are no longer working in isolation, the era of collaboration has arrived and there is potential for unlimited support and intelligence amalgamation with online business networks.
Not for everyone.
There are still the traditional disadvantages to this career path such as having to administer your own income, expense and tax affairs. iPros make their own pension arrangements, and need to maintain their own medical and professional insurances, which would otherwise come with a permanent employee package. Holidays and sick pay need to be factored into your fee base along with down time between contracts or assignments. Financial discipline to smooth the feast and famine cycle is a requirement for iPros.
This is not the career path for those needing job security and predictable financial income, or those uncomfortable with constant change. The elemental requirement of humans to be part of a social structure and community is lacking for IPros.
Some individuals perform better with structural motivation from a boss or other team members and permanent employees are more likely to experience sharing in successes or failures within a team function, which is more rewarding or supportive respectively.