Join the freelance revolution...
The way we work has changed radically in recent years, and many more people are turning to new models of employment or self-employment. Working for yourself has many benefits, and in today’s world, it can be easier than ever to strike out on your own.
Becoming a freelance consultant is one way to embrace a new way of working, one which can be highly rewarding. There are many different paths you can take to become a freelance consultant, and a number of challenges you’ll need to be aware of and overcome.
In this article, we'll dive into what a freelance consultant is, largely within the strategy and management sphere, the main reasons people choose this professional practice, and the steps you can take to get started.
What is a freelance consultant?
A freelance consultant, in simple terms, is a consultant who works with businesses on a freelance, contractual basis as opposed to working as a full-time employee. There are many different types of freelance consultants, specialising in a wide range of different areas like marketing, management, finance, and more.
As a freelance consultant, you’ll perform a variety of tasks, including:
Consult with your client companies to provide advice, guidance, and support driven by your professional expertise
Bring specific knowledge and understanding that nobody else can provide to a project
Work within your client’s company alongside their existing staff and often liaise with their own clients
Be responsible for your own invoicing, tax, and other legal duties
Strategy vs management consultants
Strategy and management consultants share a lot in common, but there are some important differences between the two to keep in mind:
Strategy consultants typically work with c-suite executives and leadership teams. Typically, they work with specific problems and bring valuable expertise to the role.
Management consultants tend to work more generally. Their job is to help implement long-term models for success, tackling a range of overall challenges at once.
How is a freelance consultant different from an employee?
A freelance consultant is different from an employed consultant in a number of ways, such as:
Your relationship is temporary, either with a clear end date or the expectation that it can end at any point
Freelancers are typically paid more per hour or project
You have to handle your own taxes and submit your own invoices
You’ll typically miss out on employee perks like paid time off, sick pay, insurance, company car, and more
Often, your work will be done entirely remotely with only occasional visits to the site if any
Usually, your role will be fairly specific and narrow, although this depends on your area of expertise — a management consultant will likely have a broader scope of work than a specialist email copywriter
Why become a freelance consultant?
It pays well
Freelance consultants make good money, often much more in pure per-hour terms than salaried consultants. Although earnings can vary a lot based on your industry, experience, skillset, and other factors, it’s common for freelance consultants to make a very good living. If you specialise in a lucrative niche and build a strong reputation and lots of experience, your earnings can rise considerably, often much higher than they would be in a comparable in-house role.
There are several different payment methods available for consultants — but it’s worth noting that strategy and management consultants are often paid through a day rate, which can sometimes work out significantly higher than a traditional salary.
Freedom and flexibility
Working for yourself comes with a level of freedom that is hard or impossible to find when working as an employee. As a freelance consultant, you’ll be able to pick and choose the projects you work on, have more creative control, and enjoy much more flexibility around the times you work.
In the age of widespread remote work, this factor is even more significant. Many freelance consultants now work largely or even entirely from home, saving time on commuting and the other distractions of office life. Some consultants even choose to work from a different country — as long as you’re available for regular calls and able to deliver on time, the world can be your oyster.
Choose who you work with
When working for a company, you don’t have much control over the work you do, the clients you work with, and the people you spend your days in the company of. As a freelancer, this changes and you have the ability to pick and choose (to an extent) who you work with.
This means you can gravitate towards projects that help advance your chosen skillset, are more convenient in terms of location and time demands, and are filled with people who you love working with and can learn a lot from.
While you can certainly grow your career working in a company, freelancing opens up a whole new level of potential. You’ll learn a new raft of skills like the ability to manage your own business, find clients, solve problems independently, and much more.
For many people, working as a freelance consultant gives them the confidence and ability to start their own successful business in another niche. If you work hard and make the right decisions, your potential for growth is much higher than it could be as an employee.
Do what you’re good at
As a freelancer, you get to specialise in whatever area you choose. This can be something broad, like a general sales consultant, or something as specific as a social media expert for a certain platform. By niching down this way, you’re able to focus all your energy and skill on doing what you truly enjoy and excel at. Strategy and management consultants, for example, both typically have strong analytical skills, the ability to communicate with key stakeholders, and extensive experience in their field.
Instead of getting bogged down in dull secondary work, you can spend all your time honing and developing the skills you’re best at. This can be incredibly rewarding, and can also help you supercharge your progress in your chosen field.
Be your own boss
Being your own boss can be an incredible feeling. As a freelance consultant, you get to decide who you work with, set your own terms, manage your own time, decide how much you will earn, and enjoy more creative and professional autonomy. For many freelancers, this aspect alone is worth quitting the world of traditional employment and striking it out alone.
How do you become a freelance consultant?
Establish your unique, valuable skills
The first step to becoming a successful freelance consultant is to work out what value you can deliver to your clients. What are you good at? The list of areas a freelance consultant can specialise in is almost endless, so take some time to establish what you can offer and how you will market your services.
Think about what you have done in the past, either as an employee or for your own projects, and how you can apply this experience and these skills to a freelance consulting role to help your clients. As well as your skillset, you’ll also need to get clear on which industries you work best in.
As well as identifying your own skills and strengths, you also need to locate a need for your services. This allows you to pitch yourself as a solution to specific problems that people already have, filling a demand in the market. To find out where this demand is, go to sites like Quora, Reddit, and social media platforms and search for the problems people in your industry are posting about.
Set your rates
How much money do you want to earn as a freelance consultant? Start by working out your desired yearly income, and then divide it by the number of hours you’re happy working to calculate your preferred hourly rate or day rate.
It’s important to keep in mind that as a freelancer you won’t be entitled to many of the perks involved with a traditional salaried role. That means you’ll have to take into account things like sick pay, holiday pay, car costs, health insurance, and a range of other expenses that might otherwise be covered by your employer.
There is a range of different charging models you can use as a freelancer. Sometimes these will be set by your client, while at other times you’ll be free to use a charging model of your own choosing. Some examples are.
An hourly rate
Getting paid per deliverable (for example, per project or per report)
A day rate
A retainer model where you’re paid a set amount per month regardless of how much work you do, not unlike a traditional salary
These all have different pros and cons, and the best choice for you will depend on the project type, your client, and your own preferences.
Grow your business and find some clients
Once you have established the area you want to work in and how much you want to charge, it’s time to start finding some clients. There are many different ways to go about this, and in today’s digital world it’s easier than ever to connect with companies and get started growing your freelance consulting business. Here are some of the most common options:
Use your existing network. Unless you’re starting out completely afresh, it’s likely you already have some contacts in companies or clients you have worked with in the past. This existing network is a great place to start — reach out to specific people and let them know you’re working as a consultant and how you can help.
Reach out via cold email. As well as people you already know, you should also be reaching out to new potential clients. Email is a great tool for this if you can find the addresses of specific people at your target companies. Just reach out with a well-written, eye-catching introductory note explaining what you do and how you can help, and offering to set up a meeting.
Use snail mail. In today’s digital world, the method of sending a physical letter to your prospects is often overlooked. But this is precisely what makes it so effective — you’ll stand out from the competition and establish yourself as innovative and resourceful. The best outreach letters are smart, polite, clear, and get straight to the point.
Use social media. Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and even Instagram can be excellent tools for connecting with clients and finding gigs. Start by joining groups and communities that are relevant to your areas of expertise, and connecting with people at companies you’d like to work with. Don’t just spam people with offers — build a reputation by providing good advice and value first.
Build a website. Your own website helps to add a layer of professionalism and credibility to your new business, and can also help attract a lot of traffic via SEO. Make sure your site is well-designed, easy to navigate, and clearly states who you are, what you do, and your experience.
Go to industry events. Industry events and conferences are a great way to meet potential clients in your niche and land on people’s radars. If you can land a speaking engagement this can be an incredibly effective way to make an impression and promote your services.
Use a recruiting service like Freshminds. At Freshminds, we help freelance consultants connect with new clients, build their brand, and get more gigs. A service like ours can help you take your freelancing business to the next level by ensuring a steady stream of work in exactly the right areas for you.
Learn to manage your own business
Building a freelance consulting business is one thing, but then you have to manage and maintain your business on an ongoing basis. This involves a completely different set of skills to getting started and its own unique set of challenges. You’ll need to learn how to efficiently manage your time, take responsibility for your own work (and the results you generate), and possible juggle multiple different clients.
On top of that, you’ll also need to get familiar with routine admin tasks like invoicing, handling taxes, receiving payments, and more.
Making the move to becoming a freelance consultant can be an extremely rewarding experience. You get to do what you truly excel at for a range of exciting clients, helping them get tangible results through your own expertise and skill. Going freelance can also be challenging, and requires a whole new set of skills and resources.
At Freshminds, we connect freelance consultants with clients. We can help you grow your business and establish a successful and promising freelance career where you can make a difference and enjoy the many benefits of this model of working. Get in touch to learn more.