Working on a freelance basis has many benefits, like being able to design your own schedule and choose your own projects and clients. One popular career for freelance workers is as a freelance consultant, or an independent expert who provides advice about a specific topic or concept. Freelance consultants can work in almost any industry, which means there can be many opportunities to find employment. In this article, we consider what a freelance consultant does, including job duties, skills and salary, and explore a list of steps for how to start your career as a freelance consultant.
Related: How To Start Freelancing
What is a consultant?
A consultant is an expert who uses their knowledge to help and provide advice to clients. Consultants often work with companies who are looking to improve their business operations or evaluate their financial decisions. If they work on a freelance basis, a consultant might also serve multiple clients at the same time and offer guidance in different areas of business and management. However, a consultant can specialize in almost any subject, which means there are many different types of consultants and career paths for consultants to choose from. Here are a few different types of consultants:
- Business consultant
- Financial advisory consultant
- Strategy consultant
- Marketing consultant
- Operations consultant
- Human resource consultant
- IT consultant
- Management consultant
Related: Learn About Being a Consultant
What does a freelance consultant do?
A freelance consultant helps and advises clients that they find on their own. They can work for companies or individual clients and can perform their job duties either on-site at a company's facilities or from their own home through teleconferencing. Freelance consultants can help a business improve its operations, offer advice to executives about new processes and strategies they might benefit from implementing and develop plans for updating a company's policies. A freelance consultant can also help a marketing team by contributing to marketing strategies and writing plans to help a company increase their revenue.
How to become a freelance consultant
Here are some steps for starting your career as a freelance consultant:
1. Choose your specialization
Decide which area you want to specialize in. Consultants have the choice to specialize in several different areas of expertise, so choosing your specialization right away can help streamline your process of starting your career as a freelance consultant. Determining what you want to specialize in immediately can inform other decisions you make regarding your freelance consultancy business, such as what types of clients you want to serve, which kinds of projects you're interested in working on and which skills you might need to develop to ensure you can help your clients effectively.
Here are a few areas that you can specialize in as a freelance consultant:
- Career coaching
- Public relations
- Human resources
- Social media
- Information technology
2. Set your rate
Determine the rate you want to charge your clients for your consulting services. There are a few different options for setting a rate, such as an hourly or by-contract, but most freelance consultants choose to use an hourly rate. This is because consulting work is most easily measured in the time it takes to complete different tasks that the job requires, such as conducting research and scheduling meetings with clients. To set your rate, you can consider your level of expertise, how many years of experience you have and what resources you have access to that clients might find attractive.
You can also research rates that other freelance consultants charge to gain an understanding of what an average hourly rate for a freelance consultant might be.
3. Build a network
Connect with other professionals in your industry. As consultants can work in many different industries, it can be important to establish a network that you can turn to when you start looking for freelance clients. You can build a network of professionals by attending professional development events, joining groups and online forums for professionals in your field or reaching out to professionals that you admire and would like to work with in the future. This can help to connect you with professionals that can teach you techniques for job duties and for finding clients as a freelance worker.
4. Create an online presence
Establish an online presence that promotes you as a freelance consultant. Having an online presence can increase public awareness of your business and help build a brand for your consulting business. This can be especially valuable to freelance consultants who find their own clients and projects, as having an online presence can provide a place for potential clients to contact you or submit inquiries about hiring you. You can build an online presence by creating a website that advertises your freelance consulting business as well as public social media profiles that tell the public about you.
5. Apply for contracts as a freelance consultant
Look for work as a freelance consultant. This typically involves finding clients who are looking for a consultant and developing contracts that detail your duration of employment, nature of work and the agreed upon compensation you'll receive once your contract ends. You might use your online presence to attract potential clients by promoting your freelance consulting business through advertisements and online postings that promote your services. You can also reach out to professionals in your network to ask about potential employment opportunities.
Related: Career Options for Consultants
Skills for a freelance consultant
A freelance consultant should have strong leadership skills that allow them to work independently and offer relevant advice to executive members in a company. Freelance consultants also need an extensive knowledge of the subject they specialize in to ensure they have the expertise needed to help their clients. Another skill that can be valuable to freelance consultants is organization, as they have to keep track of their projects and any information that they might need to pass on to different departments. Here are a few more skills a freelance consultant can benefit from having:
- Logical reasoning
- Adapting to change
Average salary for a freelance consultant
The current national average salary for freelance consultants in the United States is $58,442 per year. Indeed also lists average potential commission earnings for freelance consultants as $27,428 per year, which shows opportunities for freelance consultants to earn more money depending on their experience and contracts. Many freelance consultants also receive benefits through their contracts including health insurance, a flexible schedule and paid time off.