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We all have had this idea, somewhere in the back of our mind…

clever-visualsOne day comes when we consider leaving it all behind, to scratch an itch, or free ourselves from office politics and the stresses and strains of corporate executive life, to follow our own dream.

On this very day, we see there is still time for a better work-life balance, some space to leverage our values, reputation and special abilities. Maybe we had a dream job or a someday project we care about, and now is the time… maybe our expectations in the corporate world do not align anymore with our own ambitions.  Sometimes, it is just our company future plans that invites us to consider other plans and to reinvent ourselves.

Embracing market risk in our careers is a high-percentage move. Many of us already crossed the chasm to become independent or create a new company, boldly inventing a unique career trajectory.

Intrigued to know more about life on the “other side”?  Then read on...


The Office Fédéral de la Statistique (OFS) estimated that in 2017:

  • 13% of the working age population was independent (either as independent worker or SA/SARL owner) – this represents 600,000 individuals.
  • The overall figure has been declining in Switzerland for the last 20 years, due to a strong local job market – yet remained stable for non-Swiss people.
  • Independent workers are 10-years older on average than employees. This gap has been growing for the last 20 years and illustrates both the requirements to succeed as an independent (experience, capital equity, network…) and the choice/necessity to extend professional activity span
  • 1/3 of independents work with associates and 1/4 with a network of partners
  • 92% have chosen to become independent, 68% are largely satisfied and only 6% dissatisfied…


Including supplemental income independents, McKinsey Global Institute research revealed that 20-30% of the working-age population in the USA and the EU-15 engage in independent work. The majority of independent workers pursue this path out of preference rather than necessity—and they report higher levels of satisfaction than any other group:

  • Free agents report higher satisfaction on 12 out of the 14 dimensions measured (scale 1 to 6)
  • Satisfaction levels are significantly higher regarding work-life balance, creativity, independence, empowerment, recognition and opportunities to learn, grow and develop
  • They are happier with their overall level of income and are just as satisfied as traditional workers on income security and benefits


Independent work has significant growth potential in the years ahead, considering the stated aspirations of individuals and growing demand for services and flexibility. The new gig economy (online platforms) is also having an impact on this market, but how that impacts the executive market place is yet to be seen.

Independent-earnersIn particular, companies and organizations can benefit from an independent workforce to improve their scalability and agility. There is a middle ground between outsourcing and insourcing that can be best fulfilled using on-demand experts and executives. Independent work pools also allow organizations to add entirely new capabilities on transformative projects – creating mix-and-match project teams to explore innovative (even disruptive) approaches. The availability of independent (on-demand) executive can be particularly valuable to startups and companies going through transformation that cannot afford full-time positions or may not be able to fund them in the long run.


So, being independent looks great – all the more when you enjoy seniority, expertise and a solid network. However, like many things in life, all that glitters is not gold.  It is not an easy path nor is success guaranteed, but it can certainly be fulfilling if it aligns with your character and aspirations.
The main challenges to overcome include, but are not limited to:

  • Personally feeling the impacts of P&L and cashflow.
  • Living with delegating to yourself and not having ready help on hand, e.g. IT support
  • Managing resources as a company of 1
  • Separating your business persona/brand from you yourself. Qualifying and celebrating both wins and losses as a part of personal growth.
  • Develop differentiated skills, integrate and adapt your expertise - continuously
  • Think as a fully-fledged business – not corporate on a small scale


For some, these challenges and many more can be considered undesirable and not their “cup of tea”.  For others, this is an opportunity to grow, to be fulfilled and to embrace risk and challenge for financial, emotional and self-determining rewards.  Being truly accountable to oneself in business, as well as in life, is liberating and fear-inducing. If this is the increasing trend for many in the market, then we should each prepare now and seek what our roles are in this economy, either as independents or indeed as people in corporate leveraging the independents.

Making these as conscious informed choices, rather than forced, knee-jerk or aspirational decisions increases the possibility of success.  Learning from others, their successes and their failures and the differences between an independent landscape from the one you may be familiar with, will enable you to adapt and choose. Adapt a growth-mindset now and put into practice what Nelson Mandela said, “I never lose. I either win or I learn”.  Whether independent as an independent, or independent in a company, aptitude and attitude are still the essential source, allowing you to personally and professionally thrive.

Authors: Eric Balossier & Morgan Matthews, experienced executives from publicly listed companies and startups, are embracing the journey of independents. A concord of French and British nationalities, they created Gemplify - a Swiss company registered on the 4th of July - formed to uncover the gems in businesses and people, amplifying them, simplifying complexity and creating purposeful growth. Driving strategic commercial excellence via meaningful conversations across the business development lifecycle.

They are active contributors to the Excelerate Partners (EP), an agile and diverse network of executives founded by André Delafontaine and recent corporate member of Executive International. Visit Excelerate.Partners for further information.

« L'activité indépendante en Suisse en 2017 » - https://www.bfs.admin.ch/bfs/fr/home/statistiques/catalogues-banques-donnees/publications.assetdetail.6386014.html

Independent work: Choice, necessity, and the gig economy » - https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/employment-and-growth/independent-work-choice-necessity-and-the-gig-economy

Photos by Clever Visuals and Johnson Wang / Unsplash

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