Why should you hire a freelance consultant – and for what?

Why should you hire a freelance consultant – and for what?

In this first blog post, I would like to address the question for what kind of projects it makes sense to hire a freelance or self-employed consultant and – as opposed to consulting firms – is perhaps even more advantageous.

I will try to answer this question along a couple of criteria that are typically used to select staff. In the second half of this article I will then address the question of suitable projects.


Let’s start with something that certainly plays an extremely important role when selecting an expert: credentials. You want to see that the consultant or the consulting company has already accomplished similar projects for other customers.

A consulting firm will potentially present a large number of projects and customers and give the impression that the same topic has already been dealt with many times. The freelance consultant will also be able to provide credentials – but will probably not be able to keep up in terms of the number of credentials.

What does that mean for a selection? Well, a consulting company lists references as “company references”, i.e. somewhere in the extensive network there are colleagues who have worked on this before. But these are not necessarily the ones that are being proposed to you.
The freelance consultant can only provide his or her personal references, i.e. here you can be sure that he or she has personally dealt with the topic and can bring exactly this experience into your project.

Tip: Check the references! Request a confirmation that – especially in the case of a consulting firm – the references are actually personal references and not just company references. And do not refrain from getting in touch with the contact person named in the reference.

Unbiased advice

Many players out there pretend to be consultants, but actually pursue sales activities. From my point of view, the most creative job title in this context is “pre-sales consultants”.

Even if it is not always that obvious: ask yourself what a possible value chain looks like once the consulting work has been completed. Example: You want to hire a consulting company to select a software. Who will benefit from the recommendation at the end of the project and how does the consulting company potentially benefit from their advice? Can the consulting company provide an unbiased advice?

In my opinion, a freelance consultant will act in a much more neutral way. The probability that – to stay with my example above – a software vendor has agreed e.g. a sales commission with an individual or tries to influence the outcome of the recommendation in one way or the other, in my opinion, tend towards zero.


When it comes to availability, it shouldn’t be so much about “ability to deliver” but rather about getting the team exactly as proposed.

Image, you will be presented the a-team of consultants with brilliant CVs, extraordinary experience and so on. You have contacted some of the references, have been convinced convinced of taking to the right experts and have awarded the project. “Unfortunately” it then turns out at the start of the project that consultant X or Y is not available as planned, was unforeseeably prolonged at the previous customer or something similar. Of course, a replacement will be provided – but it turns out that these consultants have less relevant experience. Worst case, the lack of experience only becomes evident during the project and requires maybe costly countermeasures.

When hiring a freelance consultant, the question of availability is rather a “black or white” decision. The consulting who is not available will not make an offer. And if he or she has made an offer but unexpectedly becomes unavailable, he or she will simply need to withdraw the offer. But a freelance consultant will not offer you an alternative team whose credentials or competencies you could not have checked in advance.


From my point of view, the question of fees can at least be viewed from two different perspectives: explicit fees and “less obvious costs” as I would call them.

By explicit fees I mean the hourly or daily rate, travel costs or the fixed price. Since a freelance consultant usually require significantly less internal administrative overhead to run his or her business as opposed to a consulting firm, this should be noticeable as a price advantage.

The other aspect – the “less obvious costs” – is often overlooked and, from a customer’s perspective, much more difficult to identify or control. These costs can arise because of performance indicator internally measured by the consulting firm, e.g. staff utilization requirements or sales targets. In no way do I want to give the impression that hours are billed without corresponding results. But in every project there are more intense and less intense phases. And sometimes in less intense phases, “additional work needs to be found” that may not actually have been necessary.

What are suitable projects?

In this last part of my post, I would like to try to narrow down the types of projects suitable for hiring a freelance consultant.

From my point of view, this depends first of all on the size or complexity of the project. If you need a large number of people, possibly with different expertise, in a single project, the selection and subsequent management of that number of individuals will probably be too challenging. Here, a “one-stop-shop”, i.e. from one single consulting firm, is certainly preferable.

However, if your project is of less larger size – I would draw the line at 3-4 consultants – in my opinion there are many arguments in favor of awarding the work to freelance consultants.

A second aspect is the level of seniority or expertise you need. When awarding a consulting firm, you always buy “average seniority”, as the consulting team is usually supplemented by a junior person (the “PMO”).

The freelance consultant, on the other hand, has exactly the (often long-standing) expertise for which you have hired him or her. So, if in-depth experience is important for your project, you should consider hiring an freelance consultant.


From my point of view, there are a number of argument for hiring a freelance consultant as opposed to consulting firm.

In addition, I hope I have been able to provide some food for thought for your next selection that you might not have considered before.

Contact me and let’s talk about the value I can add in your situation.

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