The Ultimate Guide To Freelance Strategy Consulting Talent Platforms

In 2012 I worked for a firm called a-connect that gave me my first exposure to the “future of work” — nobody was calling it that yet, but I saw a clear shift. Our firm staffed independent professionals, many of which were alumni from firms like McKinsey, Bain and BCG, but many were experts with experience in specific domains like pharmaceutical manufacturing, leadership training facilitation and six sigma.

The consultants I met and talked to seemed energized, fulfilled and pretty damn happy. This despite often not knowing what their work schedule or earnings would be more than three or six months ahead of time. The trade offs in certainty and comfort of full-time employment seemed to be more than offset by increased autonomy and control.

From my first exposure to this world, I knew it was a step I might want to take. Five years later, I had the courage to finally take the leap. I’ve been learning a lot and went into it knowing I wanted to share what I learned. Setting up a business on your own is still quite confusing — from taxes, to legal matters to banking to client development — a lot of the resources are still hard to find or take some time to understand.

What follows is the first in a series of many things I learned along the way (I will also cover healthcare, finances and legal structure). This covers the existing talent networks available to independent business strategy consultants.

Note: Please let me know if there is anything I should add or update based on your own experience!

Business & Strategy Consulting Networks Overview Map

Talent Networks 1.0 — Client focused, high-touch, limited tech

These are companies that have a “high-touch” approach to the independent consulting world and tend to invest a lot of internal resources on developing strong client relationships. These companies typically have full-time employees that find projects and also recruit top talent to join their network. There is often little or no transparency on the flow of projects that the company has coming in, but all projects tend to be highly vetted and with high-priority clients for these firms. These firms tend to build businesses around a 30–40% margin.

Business Talent Group: Per their website, the typical consultant that joins their network has “Training at a top-tier consulting firm and/or… Deep industry knowledge or functional experience from top companies, A track record of excellence and roll-up-your-sleeves attitude, An MBA or similar graduate degree from a leading school (Preferred, but not required). They are based in the US and seem to have one of the strongest project pipelines of the firms in this category.

a-connect: a-connect has a I worked at this firm and they focus on “project execution” — the projects range from subject matter experts or solo experts on projects to large teams supporting global transformation projects. In the US they do most of their work in pharmaceuticals, but also focus on financial services and industrials globally. They are based in Switzerland and have a pretty robust business in that area. The majority of their work is non-US, but they still do have a sizable US presence.

Eden McCallum: Very similar to a-connect and BTG, but based in London. They also have offices in Amsterdam and Zurich. I haven’t run across them in the US, but imagine they have selected projects here.

HighPoint Associates: US-based company with offices in New York and London. I don’t have much experience with them, but imagine they are very similar to a-connect, BTG and Eden

Genioo: Started by a former a-connect employee, they appear to do most of their work in the pharmaceutical space in the Northeast and also in Switzerland. I just signed up for the platform, so will add more insight when I have it.

GLG Strategic Projects: GLG has recently moved into the short-term project space. I have heard they are doing a lot of market research and PE due diligence projects and focus on aligning the projects with their core interviewing and research offerings. They are investing a lot in this side of the business, so this will be a key platform for consultants to follow. Right now they have an online profile you can customize, but do not have any transparency into projects and the staffing process is handled behind the scenes.

Talent Networks 1.5 — Client focused, some tech

These firms are similar in the underlying business model to the talent network 1.0 firms but set up closer to the business model of a recruiting firm. They have a limited one-way technology platform and transparency of current projects. Given these firms are full-time focused, their freelance internal margins may vary, but I imagine they range from 20–40%.

Ex-Consultants Agency: They have offices in LA, Chicago and Miami and are focused on full-time opportunities but also have a decent amount of contract opportunities. Their job Board is completely transparent to members, though it can be a bit hard to find.

ECA’s opportunities — mostly full-time offerings

Talent Response: This company was started a couple years ago in Boston and serves to support existing consulting firms in adding depth to their existing talent. They offer both full-time employment and part-time contract opportunities. Their current opportunities are completely transparent (you do not even need to join the network to see them)

Talent Response’s current opportunities in Boston

Talent Networks 2.0

These companies are talent-focused and leverage technology to make the entire process transparent and painless. They offer clients and independent consultants a way to interact directly. While they give up some control over quality of projects and consultants that can join the platform they make up for in ease of use and scalability — which will inevitably lead them to have many more opportunities than the relatively un-scalable 1.0 companies. The margins within this group can range from 0% (LinkedIn focused on selling subscriptions to premium services) to 20% (Catalant) to 25% (Talmix).

Catalant: Formerly HourlyNerd, this company is the most promising one in the entire space. With investors like GE and top-notch projects from companies like Wal-Mart and other Fortune 500 companies, Catalant has a good balance of small, short-term lower budget projects and higher pay long-term strategy projects. Their platform is two-sided, meaning freelance consultants and clients can interact directly. The platform supports proposals, call scheduling, contracting and fee negotiation.

example of a project opportunities which you can apply directly

TalMix: Formerly called MBA & Company, this company also started as a tech-platform. It is a two-sided platform, meaning you can interact directly with the clients through a proposal. Most of the projects are Europe-based, but they have had an increasing amount in the US. They do not appear to be growing as fast as Catalant, but should continue to be a player in the market given its technology.

TalMix platform

10eqs: They have a strong platform, but it is still one-sided. You cannot see all the project opportunities. They still have internal people that ping you about potential project opportunities. I have not worked with them yet, so I will update as I learn more.

The 10eqs platform

LinkedIn ProFinder: LinkedIn appears to be spending more time on this platform recently, but I do not have much experience with it. The current platform appears more focused on creative and tech talent, but it may emerge as another way to find strategy consulting projects. Right now they are focused on selling premium options, much like their underlying platform, rather than taking a percentage of fees. LinkedIn’s strength is the underlying adoption rates of the core platform and search abilities. While they do not appear to be a serious player in this space it is hard to count them out in the long-run

no requests yet 🙁

UpWork: Much more centered on tech — data scientists, programmers, online marketing etc… but I signed up anyway just to explore the platform. Within the first day, a potential client reached out looking for someone with strategy consulting experience. Their platform is probably the most user-friendly and has a lot of tools and resources built-in (including video chat and phone calls). Given their strong platform, I think its worth signing up and paying attention as they gain more clients.

UpWork’s platform

Talent-Centered Networks

I believe this will be an emerging space as more and more people are working independently. These firms, like Umbrex, are focused on adding value to a community of people working in the same space while also operating as a unit that can unlock more overall opportunities for the collective.

Umbrex: This is started by a fellow independent consultant and is a talent-focused network that is focused on strategy consultants (typically coming from top firms like McKinsey, Bain or BCG) and focused on professional development, camaraderie, and community. As organizations continue to place more value on skills and the number of independents increase, I would not be surprised to see these niche collective community-driven groups increase dramatically.

The only current strategy network 100% focused on talent

Consulting Firm “Extended Bench”— Tech-based, focused on serving the firm’s current clients

These networks, which have emerged over the last year, seek to tap into the independent consulting world and flexible labor models in order for the companies to serve current clients more effectively. I believe these networks will help the firms improve at the margins, helping them access talent more effectively, but will remain on the sidelines and struggle to be profitable growth areas for the firm. Since they are finding talent on current projects, this model likely doesn’t assume a fixed margin, but instead is priced within the context of the project economics.

PwC Talent Exchange: This is a platform run by MBO partners and seems to have a pretty large amount of opportunities in the risk, accounting and technology space for current PwC engagements. Their platform is still in its infancy. I applied for a role and my information went into the cloud, with me never hearing back.

PwC’s current platform

Deloitte Open Talent Network: Deloitte recently launched an open talent network, which seems very new — the site does not run very well. I imagine they are taking a similar approach to PwC. Currently, there are only seven total projects listed on the platform, including two jobs as a videographer

Deloitte’s Current platform

BCG Reserve: This program was just announced to alumni and is still being developed — more information to come, but I am excited to see how BCG and presumably McKinsey plan to enter this space

About Paul Millerd

Paul is a writer, creator, and curious human that is passionate about how people can reimagine their relationship with work to do things that matter. He published The Pathless Path in 2022.