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A guide to starting your career in freelance consulting

The changing dynamic of professional services has seen a significant increase in the demand for freelance consultants. Current socioeconomic and political factors are affecting the course of business decision-making, and companies are increasingly prepared to consider more flexible hiring options. 

Business critical projects to assess the future of financial position, industry focus and new product offerings all call for a quick injection of the consulting skillset and freelance management consultants are the answer. Equally, for consultants, freelancing offers the perfect marriage of work-life balance coupled with a broader variety of projects to choose from. Win-win!  

Freelance consultants need to be at the top of their game – businesses expect exceptional people who can hit the ground running from the word ‘go’. Subject matter experts are also in high demand to help with anything from small, specific projects to expert capabilities during a business transformation. 

So, if you’re considering making the move, what should first steps be? 

1)    Think about ‘Why?’ 

Is there a business idea you want to work on? A specific industry you’d like to gain more exposure in? Certain skills you want to develop? Or perhaps you simply want to reap the monetary benefits? Just like choosing a permanent role, your motivations to freelance need to be solid and these will help you choose the best projects. 

2)    Start networking early 

While there is a big market for the consulting skillset, competition levels are very high. You therefore need to market yourself before making the move; meet the right people, go to networking events, join groups on social media and LinkedIn, and understand the market for yourself. More than often, first freelance gigs can also arise from your current employer. 

3)    Be rate savvy 

The key is to know your worth but to also be flexible. If you know your day rate from your current job then that is a good starting point. But if a great opportunity presents itself at a slightly lower day rate, don’t be put off. Weigh up the skills you’ll develop, the further opportunities to network and be open-minded. And remember, once you prove you can be a successful freelancer, you will also be able to command a higher day rate going forward. General rule of thumb: Your day rate should be around 1% of your last base salary.

4)    To be or not to be…a limited company 

Generally the two options are: sole trader or limited company. A limited company is its own legal identity, so as a shareholder your liability is limited. As a sole trader, there is little distinction between you and the business. Any business debts become your debts and your personal assets are not protected. Some companies and recruitment consultancies (e.g. Freshminds) only engage limited company contractors which consequently tend to then be the most popular option – however, as a sole trader you can still engage directly with a client. It is useful to seek legal advice so you understand the real pros and cons of each option.

5)    Get help with finances 

Freelance consultants need to have excellent organization skills. If you are planning to manage a number of engagements at one time, it may save you a lot of time to engage an accountant or the services of an umbrella company. Nowadays, freelancers are also turning to apps like InvoiceBerry, AND CO, SpiderG etc. to help with invoicing and accounts. 

6)    Continued professional development

Freelancing is an excellent way to widen your industry exposure, develop and hone specific skills and set yourself on the path to becoming an ‘expert’ – with each new engagement, it is important to revisit your original motivations for becoming a freelance consultant. Constantly assessing the training and development you could undertake to supplement this process is a great way to show that you are invested in becoming the best in an incredibly competitive market. 

Although potentially a bit daunting to side step from a permanent position, the benefits and popularity of freelance consulting continues to rise. With some careful planning and a good network, there are many possibilities out there.

Ami is a Candidate Manager for the Projects Consulting team.
If you have any questions on the above or would like any more information about a career in freelance consulting, then we are here to help. 

Find out more about projects here or join the network for access to expert advice.