Freelance Work for Current MBA Students on the Rise | TopMBA.com

Freelance Work for Current MBA Students on the Rise

By Pavel Kantorek

Updated March 31, 2021 Updated March 31, 2021

Freelance work can be intimidating for those used to full-time employment. However, MBAs have never been a demographic to shirk from a challenge. A recent trend for companies to ‘rent an MBA’ has provided one popular channel for finding such work, through freelance websites focused on introducing small firms to professionals who can meet their management consulting needs.

A report for Education Post maps this growth in the freelance industry, with statistics showing a 12.7% rise in ‘interim management projects’ worldwide. By 2020 it is projected that 50% of workers in the US will be freelancers (up from 30% in 2006).

In keeping with business trends, the popularity of freelancing among the business school community is steadily growing and has seen the founding of a number of new freelance websites such as SkillBridge and MBA Project Search. These sites, as well as filling a gap in the market for MBAs, offer students flexible, real-world paid work to undertake between studies or before a more permanent position comes along after graduation. Sometimes graduates might even just prefer the freedom of freelance work and look into this sort of work as a serious career path.

What can freelance work offer MBAs?

The advantages of freelance work as an MBA are varied. As a freelancer you’ll often get to choose your own hours, ensuring the work doesn’t interfere with your studies, and you’ll also be earning money, which will mean more economic comfort and an increased ability to stay on top of those student debts. Most importantly, however, is the fact that you’ll be gaining industry experience while being able to apply your newly-found MBA skills.

For future employers this experience is looked upon highly, not only because it demonstrates initiative and drive, but it also means you have real-life business experience beyond what is offered by an MBA. Taking part in class projects is all well and good, but helping get a startup off the ground outside the strictures of prescribed curricular activity is second-level stuff.

What can MBAs offer businesses?

MBAs, whether they have recently graduated or are still studying, have in-depth and up-to-date business knowledge and skills that small businesses are in need of. From as little as six months into a good MBA program, students will be able to offer insight and value to many small businesses and startups.

Finding management consulting solutions in this fashion can be very appealing to smaller firms, as it represents a significant saving as compared to hiring consultants from blue chip firms such as BCG, Bain, and McKinsey, due to the fact that they are self-employed individuals giving their time on an hourly basis. By cutting out the middle man – i.e. the agencies – infrastructure and marketing, costs are radically reduced because the only person getting paid is the freelancer doing the work.

Although prices vary, it has been reported that by using an MBA student instead of a professional management consulting firm, businesses can save themselves over US$18,000 for a consulting job lasting 35 hours.

Why freelance work is a win-win

There are a number of factors making freelance work equally appealing to both MBA graduates and contemporary businesses. With the economic climate as it is, MBA graduates, despite the investment they’ve made in their education, may not be able to jump straight into a job as soon as they graduate from business school. The advice often given is to gain as much experience as possible during your studies in order to make the transition into the business world smoother and easier for modern employers who dislike taking risks. Freelance work is a perfect way to gain new skills and emphasize existing ones in a non-traditional post-MBA environment, as well as to evidence actual business success and career initiative.

For employers, hiring from a pool of MBA consultants is slightly more risky, due largely to the fact that applicant experience is limited. Despite this, the freedom of being able to hire someone willing and excited to apply their newly learnt business skills for minimal outlay and with motivational prospects of future employment, is extremely attractive to startups and even bigger firms in need of a quick project overhaul. There is also the opportunity on these sites, for bigger and more important projects, to hire more advanced candidates who hold business experience as well as a recent MBA qualification.

Big companies using MBAs for management consulting

Though younger companies were amongst the first to see the appeal of hiring MBAs for management consulting jobs and projects, bigger companies are jumping on board. Amongst these well-known multi-nationals is the UK arm of restaurant chain Pizza Hut, US based clothing brand American Apparel, marketing and communications agency Ogilvy & Mather, and US non-profit educational organization Outward Bound.

Freelance websites for MBAs

Somewhat unsurprisingly, the large majority of freelance websites for MBAs have been founded by former MBAs themselves.

MBA & Company – MBA & Company, founded in 2009 by IESE Business School graduate Daniel Callaghan, is a job site which connects businesses in need of short term work with skilled consultants often of MBA backgrounds.

SkillBridge – Founded in May 2013 in New York by two Wharton MBA graduates, SkillBridge is a small freelancing service hosting over 300 freelancers. Two-thirds of these hold a postgraduate degree and the average monthly earnings for active MBA consultants is approximately US$5,000.

MBA Project Search – MBA Project Search is a free platform for current MBAs and graduates to be put in touch with employers who are seeking management expertise for projects in the US. Dan Mullaney, former MBA at McDonough School of Business of Georgetown University and the founder of MBA Project Search, talks of his creation as being both global and active in connecting business with MBAs in possession of relevant skills. “I don’t like the site to function as a typical post-and-wait job site. I believe there’s a lot more to be had in terms of actually being involved in the volume of applicants,” he says in a press release. Searching and applying for jobs, internships and freelance work on MBA Project Search is free for MBA students, but businesses are required to pay a small fee for job postings, depending on the job type.

HourlyNerd – A site founded by a group of Harvard Business School graduates, and backed by Shark Tank’s Mark Cuban, HourlyNerd allows businesses to hire MBA students and graduates (exclusively) for consultant work at reasonable prices of around US$30-$100.

This article was originally published in May 2016 . It was last updated in March 2021

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Written by

Mansoor is a contributor to and former editor of TopMBA.com. He is a higher and business education specialist, who has been published in media outlets around the world. He studied English literature at BA and MA level and has a background in consumer journalism.

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