What Is Freelance Consulting? & How To Get Your First Clients

This post was originally published on this site

What is freelance consulting?

Freelance consulting refers to offering consulting (expert advice in a particular industry) as an independent self-employed business owner instead of as an employee of a consulting firm.

For example, a strategy consultant might work for a big firm like McKinsey or Bain. But a freelance strategy consultant works for themselves — hence the term “freelance.”

It’s similar to the idea of entrepreneurial consulting. More on that in the next section.

By the end of this article, you’ll learn everything you wanted to know about freelance consulting — and how to get your first freelance consulting clients.

Ready? Let’s dive in…

Freelance Consulting: Quick Links

Freelance Consulting Definition

Before we define “freelance consulting” in more depth, it’s important to define the two words that make up the phrase.

A freelancer…

  • Offers their services independently instead of working for the company;
  • Manages their own workload, choosing clients and projects;
  • Charges for their services based on time, project, or specific deliverables

Just because you’re a freelancer doesn’t mean you’re a consultant.

A consultant…

  • Provides expert advice professionally;
  • Works in a specific field or industry;
  • Diagnoses problems, recommends actions and solutions.

The quicker you begin to think of yourself as a consulting business owner — and learn the skills that that entails — the more primed you’ll be to create a thriving consulting business.

So, a freelance consultant is a consultant who offers their expert advice independently instead of for a consulting firm.

A freelance copywriter may write copy for clients. They are taking the client’s brief and providing their copywriting as a service.

However, a freelance copywriting consultant may write copy for clients — but they also provide their expert advice as well.

For example, instead of taking the client’s brief and writing the copy for their email campaign, they’ll instruct the client on the strategy for their email campaign.

And if you’re a freelance consultant, you aren’t just doing consulting work. Whether you realize it or not, you’re also running a consulting business.

Why?

Because you’re in charge of marketing yourself, attracting ideal clients, selling yourself, pricing your work, closing the deal — and then delivering your work.

An employed consultant doesn’t have to worry about much but delivering their work. But if you’re a freelance consultant, you have many more responsibilities than your work.

That’s why you should immediately start thinking of yourself as more than a freelancer.

The quicker you begin to think of yourself as a consulting business owner — and learn the skills that that entails — the more primed you’ll be to create a thriving consulting business.

Freelance Consulting Salary/Rates

How much can you make in freelance consulting?

Here are some of the data on freelance consulting salaries and rates from our recent Consulting Fees study.

Keep in mind that this data includes freelance consultants AND consulting business owners. But it will give you a rough idea of what the higher-end freelance consultants in our community are charging.

How Much Freelance Consultants Earn Per Month (USD)

freelance consulting revenue per month

Why should you start a consulting business?

One of the reasons consultants start a consulting business is for the unlimited earning potential.

With the correct strategy and mindset, freelance consultants can earn five/six figures — or even more — per month.

Here’s how much solo consultants and small consulting firms are earning per month:

  • 32% of consultants earn $10K-$45K per month.
  • 22% of consultants are earning less than $2K per month.
  • 20% of consultants are earning $5K-$10K per month.
  • 20% of consultants are earning $2K-$5K per month.
  • 3% of consultants are earning $45K-$100K per month.
  • 1% of consultants are earning $100K-$250K per month.
  • And 1% of consultants are earning $250K+ per month.

What Freelance Consultants Charge Per Hour

What are consultants charging per hour for delivering consulting work?

  • 39% of consultants charge between $100-$250 per hour.
  • 25% don’t use hourly fees.
  • 19% charge between $250-$500 per hour.
  • 12% charge less than $100 per hour.
  • 4% charge between $500-$1000 per hour.
  • And 0.5% charge $1000+ per hour.

Average Consulting Project Value

Here’s how the numbers break down for the average consulting engagement value:

  • 23%: $500-$2000 USD
  • 16%: $2001-$5000 USD
  • 15%: $20,001-$50,000
  • 15%: $5001-$10,000 USD
  • 14%: $10,001-$20,000
  • 10%: $50,001-$100,000
  • 7%: $100,000+ USD

To read the full study — as well as our recommended action steps to raise your consulting fees — read our full Consulting Fees Study.

As a freelance consultant, your earning potential is not limited by your employer.

However, if you want to earn more, we recommend you shift away from typical pricing models like hourly-based fees.

The consultants in our Clarity Coaching Program regularly charge at the higher end of these ranges by using what we teach, including…

Read our client case stories to learn how you can model their success.

With the correct strategy and mindset, freelance consultants can earn five/six figures — or even more — per month.

How To Find Freelance Consulting Jobs

If you want to start freelance consulting, you’ll need to start by winning some freelance consulting jobs.

We prefer to think of them as “clients” or “projects” instead of “jobs.” It’s critical to shift away from the employee mindset if you want to succeed as a freelance consultant.

Outside of asking for referrals, the first place freelancers often search for new clients is consulting marketplaces.

A consulting marketplace is a website that connects companies looking for experts with consultants who can provide that expertise.

Typically, you’ll apply to join one of these marketplaces. If you’re approved, you get access to the project list. When you win a project, the marketplace takes a fee.

Pros & Cons Of Using Consulting Marketplaces

Pros

  • Consulting marketplaces (like Catalant) can provide you with additional opportunities: leads, projects, and clients.
  • Buyers using these marketplaces have a specific need and are actively seeking a consultant, which can quickly lead to an engagement.
  • These marketplaces provide a variety of tools and resources that make it easy to collaborate with multiple clients.

Cons

  • You often have to give up a significant percentage of your fee (20-30%+)
  • You don’t own the client relationship and can be penalized for contacting the client outside of the marketplace’s system in some cases
  • You risk becoming reliant on a particular platform and your business takes on their risk — if they increase fees or shut down, you pay the price

(Read more on our full article: 7 Consulting Marketplaces For Finding New Clients)

Consulting marketplaces can be a great additional source of new leads and engagements.

However, at Consulting Success, we believe that freelance consultants should not rely on referrals or marketplaces.

Instead, you should learn how to build a Marketing Engine: a marketing system where you learn how to attract clients like a real business.

What does that entail?

Here’s what you want to focus on with your marketing:

1. Outreach: reaching out directly to start having meaningful conversations with your ideal clients.

For example, a direct LinkedIn message or email sharing valuable content with an ideal client to add value to their lives — and to get them interested in what you offer.

2. Follow-up: following up with ideal clients and adding more value.

For example, sending a direct mail to them — something they would find interesting, meaningful, unique (like a case study or white paper), and prompts them to reach out to you to learn more.

3. Authority-building: Publishing content to position yourself as an authority and to support your outreach/follow-up efforts.

For example, using your consulting website to publish articles that help your ideal clients.

If you combine outreach, follow-up, and authority-building, your marketing will be effective and fulfill its purpose: to build relationships with your ideal clients and to create conversations with them.

To learn more about marketing — and how to position yourself as a consulting business owner instead of a “freelancer” — read our article/study on How To Start A Consulting Business in 2024.

Freelance Consulting Case Study: Learn From Our Clients

Chris Bilich is an engineering proposals consultant.

He’s a master at helping engineering firms construct winning proposals and polished presentations to secure lucrative government contracts.

He guides his clients through the entire process: from drafting eye-catching proposals to delivering knockout presentations that left selection committees awestruck.

However, earlier on in his business, he faced one of the most common problems among freelance consultants.

Chris was completely reliant on a major “whale” client.

Not only that, he was making another common freelance consulting mistake: charging by the hour.

“From a financial perspective, I wasn’t really running a business. I was running an hourly side hustle,” he realized.

Chris knew he needed to build his consulting business on a solid foundation before one small mistake could end it all.

So, after Googling for advice specific to consultants on marketing, fees, and pricing, he found the Consulting Success blog.

Finding the information useful, he applied to our Clarity Coaching Program.

With the help of his coach Patrick, Chris made quick, drastic changes to his consulting business:

  • He learned to convey the value could bring to his clients
  • He stopped relying on an hourly rate and switched to a higher-leverage pricing model
  • He began sharing his expertise, attracting meaningful connections
  • He created a bonus structure in his contracts so he was paid fairly for the outcomes he created for his clients

The result?

Chris went from 1 client to 5 high-paying clients.

He raised his fees by 40%.

And today, he isn’t a glorified contractor. He’s a true consulting business owner.

How did Chris go from 1 client paying mediocre rates to 5 six-figure clients?

  • He did the same thing Kevin did to raise his fees from $10K to $50K.
  • He did the same thing Eli did to rebuild her business up to 6-figures (after the worst year of her professional life).
  • He did the same thing Tony did to increase his revenue by 4x — and build a team of full-time employees.

Chris reached out for help.

Get Help Getting Into Freelance Consulting (& Growing Beyond That)

The quickest way to level up from “freelancer” to consulting business owner is to work with a coach and community that has helped thousands of others do just that.

If you want to bypass years as a struggling freelancer and skip straight to adopting the mindset and practices of an entrepreneurial consultant, we can help.

At Consulting Success®, that’s our mission:

“Helping Entrepreneurial Consultants Build Profitable, Scalable, and Strategic Consulting Businesses”

In our Clarity Coaching program, our consulting coaches have helped over 1000 consultants to build a more strategic, profitable, and scalable, consulting business.

LEARN MORE ABOUT CLARITY COACHING

We’ll work hands-on with you to develop a strategic plan and then dive deep and work through your ideal client clarity, strategic messaging, consulting offers, fees and pricing, business model optimization, and help you to set up your marketing engine and lead generation system to consistently attract ideal clients.

You’ll learn how to generate more profit with every project you take on — and how to land more clients than ever before. Learn more about Clarity Coaching and get in touch to talk about your situation and goals.

Skip to content