Consultant vs Freelancer: What’s The Difference and Which is Best?

  • Quick Tips
  • 4 mins read

If you’re a new freelancer, you may be wondering what the difference is between a freelancer and a consultant. This is a great question to ask as it could greatly affect the next few years of your business. 

Both consultants and freelancers are self-employed professionals who work with businesses to help them achieve their goals, but there are some key differences in the day to day workflow.

Which you choose ultimately comes down to your skillset, industry, and how you want to help other people.

Here’s everything you need to know to make the right decision based on my years of experience having done both. 

First of all, what exactly is a freelancer?

A freelancer is typically someone who works independently, takes direction from their client based on needs, and offers their services to a variety of clients. 

Usually for an hourly rate or a project basis based on estimated time until completion. 

They may have expertise in a particular area, such as writing, SEO, or graphic design, or they may be a generalist who can take on a range of tasks. 

Got it, so what is a consultant?

A consultant, on the other hand, is usually brought in to provide expert advice on a specific issue or project. 

Consultants are experts with years of experience in their area of expertise and likely have successfully implemented the type of work they are offering to clients for themselves prior. 

They work with a company to help them solve a unique problem or reach a specific goal. Consultants are likely to charge higher fees based solely on the perceived value they  bring to a client’s business in the form of deliverables, versus an hourly rate.

My personal opinion on which is best after being both over the years

When I was first starting out my career as a business owner, being a freelancer made a ton of sense. I had a skill set that was valuable to some, but still really rough around the edges. 

So going on platforms like Upwork, Craigslist, or Fiverr made sense because I could work on small, pre-defined projects while I built up my skills and worked my way up from there. 

It was a win for me because I got paid to learn and level up, while the client got exactly what they paid for at an affordable rate. 

Over time though, as I started working with multiple clients at a time with ongoing monthly work, it was becoming clear that my time and energy was going to run out if all I did was hourly based projects or projects where I had to work a bunch of hours to get paid. 

That’s when I learned about value based pricing and it completely changed how I offered my services. 

It was that moment in time that I decided to make the switch into being a consultant. 

After that I made the following changes:

  • Streamlined my offerings from being ad hoc deliverables to one system of implementation and one solution  
  • Change my hourly rate to a fixed monthly fee based on the monetary value I was bringing to the client’s business
  • Started describing the benefit that brought to the table versus the tactics that I used to get clients there. For example “double inbound leads for local businesses” vs “offering google my business optimizations”
  • Used tools and contractors to facilitate implementations versus doing everything myself
  • Helped clients make fundamental positive changes to their business by guiding them through my system, versus doing everything they asked of me

So in terms of answering “is being a consultant better than being a freelancer?” I say that neither is better or worse, but over time, most people I’ve met naturally evolve into consulting or developing their own agency after a while. 

With this strategy, you can continue to scale your income and help your clients more deeply, without burning out from having to work 24/7 as well. 

Hope that helps!

Ken Marshall

Ken Marshall is the Founder of Best Freelancer Tools as well as a husband, former freelancer, recovering foodie, mini Australian shepherd puppy dad, and serial entrepreneur (mostly failures, lots of lessons). He is passionate about helping others achieve their full potential.