According to Forbes*, today’s professional hopes to welcome the New Year with new outcomes including more meaningful work, less stress, and better work-life balance. As these professionals search for career opportunities that are right for them, a third way – something between opting out and leaning in to the big firms – has begun to take hold. One such example of the third way is being coined the “highlancer,” a model proved lucrative for early entrant, Canopy Advisory Group.
The term refers to a new breed of freelance professionals who are highly qualified, having typically attended prestigious undergraduate or graduate schools and later honed their skills at a big firm. Their experience in the corporate world, however, has left them feeling disillusioned, dissatisfied and looking for an alternative.
“Whether the exhaustion of a busy year-end has set in or the role itself didn’t provide the expected level of fulfillment, we find many professionals are looking for new solutions around the New Year,” said Griffen O’Shaughnessy, co-president and co-founder of Canopy Advisory Group.
Driving the highlancing marketplace, Denver-based Canopy Advisory Group matches veteran professionals with Colorado companies and non-profits in need of strategic, short-term support.
“After working as a CPA and a corporate attorney at two large national firms, I wanted to make a change that allowed me to continue the work that I love without the grueling pace of practicing at a big firm,” said O’Shaughnessy. “We founded Canopy so other talented professionals could work hard on the clients and projects that interest them while also allowing them the flexibility in which they thrive.”
Canopy has matched seasoned professionals in marketing, finance, nonprofit consulting and law with Colorado organizations looking to add talent but not full-time employees. Canopy, co-founded with Brooke Borgen in 2009, has doubled in revenue year after year and offers its clients a bench of over 35 consultants. Receiving national attention for their pioneering model, Canopy serves as an attractive alternative for both professionals intentionally leaving the full-time employment landscape and the employer seeking strategic support without the nuances of onboarding a new employee.
A massive 76 percent of respondents told oDesk that their use of contractors was a long-term strategy. More than 80 percent either agreed or strongly agreed that remote hiring increases competitiveness and that the practice will soon be common.
“The business community has taken notice – with flourishing startup communities and a growing need for project-based work, hiring highlancers has increasingly become a profitable relationship,” said O’Shaughnessy.
For Brian Abrams, the board chair for the Presidential Scholars Foundation, bringing on a high-level consultant to do mission-critical work without the full-time employee status was a formidable business strategy. “Not only has [our Canopy advisor] changed the organization, she has changed to my life – now I only have to spend one hour a week meeting with her instead of the never ending treadmill that I had been on,” said Abrams.
While many professionals pursue one change in their careers at a time such as a salary increase, a promotion with additional responsibilities, a job change with a different life mix or less stress, highlancers generally are looking for all of these with their next chapter.
“After more than 10 years as a manager at multi-million dollar brands, I began to see a shift not just in the employee makeup within the organizations, but also in the way businesses approach talent,” said Dudley Williams, a seasoned product development and marketing consultant with Canopy. “And many professionals, not just working moms, are looking to add more balance and fulfillment to both their professional and personal lives, knowing there is a third-way.”
Williams studied at Cornell University and, prior to Canopy, worked in product development and supply chain management at L’Oreal and MillerCoors.
“These are veteran professionals who bring expertise, composure, big thinking and flexibility to the table – they make a meaningful impact in a way tailored to the client’s needs, yet they also are making changes significant to their personal lives,” said O’Shaughnessy.
Canopy is currently developing its Seattle footprint for a first-quarter 2016 launch.
For more information on Canopy Advisory Group or its clients and advisors, please visit canopyadvisory.com.
*“11 New Year’s Resolutions That Will Jump-Start Your Career,” Forbes, Dec. 18, 2013