Do you wish to venture out on your own and become a freelance consultant? Are you debating whether or not now is the best time to start freelance consulting? So how do you know what the right time is?
Freelancing and consulting are two professions that complement each other. After gaining enough experience in specific fields, almost every freelancer may transition into consultancy.
According to a report by Source Global Research, the entire sector in the UK is now worth over £9.75 billion, with 40% of surveyed companies dividing their share between conventional consulting firms and independent freelancers.
Based on these market results, there is no better time than now to start working as a freelance consultant.
This blog post will walk you through the importance of a freelance consulting career while offering useful insight on how to become a successful freelance consultant.
What Is a Freelance Consultant?
Consultants are individuals who specialize in specific areas, are up to date with applicable trends, and can be found in almost any profession.
Companies may want to employ freelance consultants to grow their business, change the direction or business strategy, solve problems, and get valuable solutions.
They may assist in determining a company's next strategic business step or in defining how to streamline the firm's operational processes.
Simply put, consultants support businesses in their areas of specialization by providing a unique perspective that is backed by diverse industry experience and knowledge.
As a freelance consultant, your clients count on you to offer professional advice and insights.
For example, if you are hired as a freelance marketing consultant, you may need to perform competitor analysis, organize focus groups, supervise the creation of an ad campaign, and formulate a marketing strategy.
If you are hired as a freelance SEO consultant, you may need to give insight into a brand's online presence, its official website's health, technical SEO, etc.
Why You Should Take a Leap Towards Freelance Consulting?
You should become a professional freelance consultant because perhaps you’re already providing consulting services without even realizing it.
Whether or not you use the term "consultant" on your profile, you are almost certainly doing the job. Let’s take an example of a social media manager; don’t you think a social media manager works as a freelance social media consultant at the same time?
This is because they don’t just implement, manage and monitor a company's social media strategy but they also work to identify weaker areas, offer a road map of success, and help with goal-setting to maximize productivity.
Similarly, web designers don’t just build the site, they also assist their clients in determining how the site should be designed as they know what works and what doesn’t.
So in this manner, as a specialist, you are playing a role as a consultant as well. The problem is that not all of them charge for this kind of job.
They consider the services they provide to be normal as if they were a part of their work.
However, giving advice on how to do things may be just as valuable as doing it yourself. You shouldn't give it away for free as a freelancer (at least, not always).
Here's How to Become a Successful Freelance Consultant
When you decide to take a leap towards freelance consulting, it's crucial to know what the process entails and how you shall find the road to success.
So let’s look into how you can become a successful consultant.
Recognize Your Strengths
Consider what specific skills you can offer clients to help them with their business.
Too much general knowledge will hurt your chances and give the impression that you're a jack of all trades but a master of none.
For example, consider what freelance marketing consultants do:
They are experts in promoting brands, increasing awareness, identifying audiences, and improving conversions.
Some are also good at copywriting and creating compelling copy.
So, what are your true talents? Are you more proficient in social media management or is it more effective to use email marketing as your consulting career? Choose a specific area of specialization and stick to it.
Six-figure marketing consultant Ilise Benun shares his experience as:
"You can’t be everything to everyone. Focus is essential to success.”
So, it’s crucial to specialize in your area of expertise because no one needs a generalist when they can have a specialist.
Choose Your Niche
The next move entails taking a closer look at the current market and determining your choices.
Which areas have already been saturated? Is there any place where there is a high demand but no one wants to fill it? Both of these are important considerations.
The "right" niche for you is the one in which you are most passionate and capable of solving problems.
Your mission is to assist a particular group of people in bridging the gap between where they are now and where they want to be.
So, consider the following:
What industries am I already familiar with?
What expertise, abilities, and experience do I already possess?
Also, think about your passion. You can't create a consulting career solely on your passion, but the more enthusiastic you are about a niche, the more eager you will be to learn about it, discover its problems, and learn its solutions.
As a freelance consultant, clearly identifying the target niche and clientele is the first and most important step in attracting high-value clients.
Determine Your Rates
When determining your pricing strategy as a freelance consultant, there are two ways to go.
You may set an hourly rate and estimate each project individually. This method may work well when you're first starting out, but it can become challenging when you gain experience.
This is because as you advance in your career, things will get simpler for you.
For instance, planning a marketing campaign took you 15 hours of work one year ago, but it now only takes you 7 hours. So, hourly rates become problematic in such instances.
Another way is to go for value-based pricing, which is strongly recommended right from the outset of your freelance consulting career. You will do so by charging a per-project rate from your clients according to the value you provide to their work.
You must have read an old story about Niels Bohr that proves this well:
A business's machine breaks down. The business owner calls for the assistance of a physicist to resolve the problem.
"Hit it right here with a hammer," Bohr says after examining the unit and drawing an X on the side.
The unit springs into action after the company's mechanic hits it with a hammer. The company owner expresses his gratitude to Niels Bohr and sends him on his way.
The owner receives a $10,000 invoice a few days later.
The owner is taken aback and calls Bohr to send in a comprehensive invoice since he was there for hardly 5 minutes. Bohr accepts, and the company owner opens a new invoice a few days later that reads:
Drawing X on the side of your machine: $1
Knowing where to put the X: $9,999
So, find out how much the issue costs your target customer and how much it would be worth to them to get it solved.
Networking Is the Key
You can't just assume that your services or talent will speak for itself and that you don't need people to connect; you can’t be a successful freelance consultant while still being an introvert.
One of the best places to start a consulting network is within your current professional and personal circle.
Know who can give you clients, and then send them emails or brochures. You may also deliver your sample items or service vouchers to your family, colleagues, and former clients as gifts.
It might be a good way to inform them that you've stepped into consulting business and are looking for fruitful connections.
The next and the most effective way to land clients is to join online freelance platforms and market your services there.
Hunting and getting work through freelance marketplaces is the simplest and most convenient way to earn money as a freelance consultant, no matter which niche you go for.
Also, make sure your professional social media accounts, such as Twitter and LinkedIn are up to date before diving into the online arenas.
Hone Your Skills
Now that you know your niche and have identified market needs and desires, you can hone your skills to become an exact fit with what the market wants.
Make a great business plan and a quick landing page that can be used as a sales tool and as your freelance consultant portfolio.
Demonstrate your abilities and prior experience, as well as what you might do with future business partners.
While you work on your unique selling proposition, you may realize that you lack specific skills to succeed in the industry/market of your choice. It's also possible that you actually need to improve only a particular skill.
In this case, you can improve your knowledge by enrolling in a local or online course. When looking for proper training, find out who is hosting it and, if possible, chat with people who have already completed the course to see if it is worth your time.
Freelance Consultant Salary
At this point, you must be thinking about how much does freelance consultants make.
This goes without saying that freelance consultancy can be a lucrative career path. This is due to the fact that some types of expertise are extremely valuable.
Freelance consulting is something that takes you years to develop and you should be charging for it if you’re providing it.
As of April 27, 2021, the average freelance consultant salary in the United States is $78,639, with a salary range of $67,728 to $88,540.
Salary levels depend on a variety of factors, including qualifications, certifications, additional skills, and the number of years you've worked in your field.
How Much Should You Charge as a Freelance Consultant?
Freelance consultant rates differ as per the diversity of niches. The first two considerations to make when setting your price range are:
How much will you be able to accept in exchange for your time?
How much will people be willing to pay you for your time?
The market rate is the average price for your specific consulting services that a typical client would pay.
If a typical business consultant charges and earns $100 per hour, the "market cost" is likely to be between $50 and $150 per hour.
It is highly preferable to set project-based billings. Suppose the client simply wants their website designed, and they have set aside money for it.
When you clearly say, "I will charge you $3,000 to create your website," rather than playing around with hours, your client knows exactly what they’ll have to pay in exchange for what they’ll get.
Setting up freelance consultancy rates, like everything else in the industry, is an informed guess. You can adjust upwards if you're seeing more demand than you can manage, or downwards if you're having trouble generating any demand at all.
The Bottom Line
In this comprehensive guide, we've set out everything you need to know to become a top-rated freelance consultant. You will work out each piece of the puzzle without any additional coaching if you have enough passion and time to achieve your goal.
Just be cautious when choosing your industry and niche because the wrong one will lead you nowhere in your freelance consulting career.