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Staying ahead of the curve: How on-demand talent gives your projects a competitive edge

By Niclas Thelander

Staying ahead of the curve: How on-demand talent gives your projects a competitive edge


Many consulting leaders face the same challenge when starting a new project- how to quickly assemble a qualified team when the in-house availability on the bench is not ideal. In most of these cases time is of the essence. Project leaders are not dealing in months, but often days or weeks (if they are lucky!) between project approval and kick-off. 

In that short time they are on the hook to assemble a winning team that will meet and exceed client expectations. This is no small task- even in large firms with hundreds or thousands of professionals. A solution that more and more consultancies organizations are adopting at scale is the move to a hybrid talent model comprised of both in-house and independent, on-demand talent. 

International Labour Organization (ILO) data shows that 48% of all workers worldwide are self-employed. 

ILO modelled estimates database” ILOSTAT via World Bank

Because the market for top-shelf independent consultants and subject-matter experts is growing by the minute, there is no shortage of qualified professionals to choose from. The hybrid approach to talent can give you and your project the competitive advantage you need to deliver exceptional results to your clients, as well as build capacity for future projects and project extensions. 

Here’s how…

In this article: 

How hiring on-demand talent can:

  1. Help you fill urgent skill gaps 
  2. Build organizational capacity and agility
  3. Bring fresh perspectives & executional excellence to your projects

Filling in the expertise gaps

Your project just got approved and you have a little over two weeks to assemble the army of skilled professionals you will need to deliver the promised results to your clients. 

The clock is ticking. 

The problem isn’t necessarily the lack of internal talent for the job. The challenge is that your in-house experts are fully utilised on other projects, and the people on the bench don’t have the right profile to successfully deliver the project. 

This is precisely why so many consulting leaders and organizations are turning to the agile talent model. By tapping into a pool of highly qualified on-demand independent consultants and SMEs, they are able to quickly mobilize a team that is perfectly aligned with the needs of the project. No more sacrificing on capabilities for the sake of speed. 

An added benefit is that most independents consultants and professionals can be onboarded quickly with a lot less approvals than long-term hires. 

Capacity building & agility

Building an agile team comprised of a mix of internal and external talent can have benefits for the firm beyond the skills profile of the project at hand. 

In addition to  the already mentioned advantage of being able to fill the exact talent gaps your need, having a solution available to always be able to assemble your army of freelance experts can build long-term capacity for future projects and project extensions. 

The flexibility that comes with on-demand talent means that you will have access to expertise at your fingertips the next time you need to assemble a team fast. This agile model allows you to onramp or pause work as needed in response to shifting business priorities. 

What’s more, hiring talent on a project basis takes away heavy overhead and allows you to be very precise with your project budget,  helping you avoid long-term fixed costs. In an uncertain business environment, having this level of control over resources is critical and a competitive advantage. 

Fresh perspectives meet a bias for execution

One of the unique and less talked about benefits of independent talent is that they tend to have a bias for execution. 

The main reason for this is that the portion of the talent pool that leaves employment to pursue independent work is usually quite entrepreneurial. These folks are action-oriented and at the top of their game. They want to focus on delivering projects, not playing internal politics. This inclination can add much needed execution skills and energy to projects.

Additionally, working as an independent has a steep learning curve. Independent professionals are often adapting to a wide variety of contexts, projects and skills- this makes it easy for them to quickly integrate in a project case team. 

The experience they bring from execution-focused projects in industry can give your team advantages in terms of avoiding typical implementation pitfalls, identifying upselling opportunities, and bringing valuable insights into the competitive landscape. 

The cross- pollination of internal and external expertise is another way independent talent can give your project a competitive edge. 

Key points 

  1. Hiring independent talent allows you to quickly build a skilled team without sacrificing quality or capability. 
  2. Employing agile talent is often more economical than maintaining a sizable permanent workforce, particularly for project-based, or fluctuating workloads. 
  3. Independent talent can bring execution expertise, new perspectives, and ideas, enabling firms to innovate and thrive in a rapidly evolving business landscape.

Final takeaways

Embracing on-demand talent not only addresses the urgent need for skilled professionals to drive your projects forward, but also positions your organization for long-term success in a rapidly evolving landscape. By seamlessly integrating independent consultants alongside your in-house team, you gain a competitive edge that combines expertise, execution capabilities, flexibility, and fresh perspectives. 

The quality of on-demand talent has never been better- often superior to what is available on the full-time hire market. What’s more is that the pool of talent is growing at lightning speed. In our recent Talent-On-Demand Report we saw significant growth in our ecosystem of highly skilled freelance talent across various regions, spurred by a rising trend towards embracing independent careers.

Growth in approved independent talent applications to Outsized by region:

Growth in freelancer registrations on Outsized's platform 2023

Source: Outsized Talent on Demand Report 2024.

This trend will only continue to grow as organizations continue to develop agile talent models to remain competitive in a fluctuating business environment.  Leveraging this agile model will remain instrumental in staying ahead of the curve and delivering exceptional results to clients while navigating the dynamic demands of the business world. 

Embrace the power of on-demand talent today and unlock boundless opportunities for innovation and growth tomorrow.


Download our 2024 Talent on Demand Report for the latest on-demand talent trends and insights across India, Southeast Asia, Africa & MENA. 

About the author

Niclas Thelander is the Founder & CMO at Outsized. He started his career in banking with leading Nordic bank SEB, then worked as a strategy consulting manager at KPMG. He later held in-house strategy and corporate development leadership roles in banking and insurance. Before founding Outsized, he was Director of Value Creation at emerging markets private equity fund LeapFrog Investments, driving growth, impact, and efficiency projects in portfolio companies across Asia and Africa.