Are You a Freelancer Or a Consultant?

Freelancer or Consultant“Are you a freelancer or a consultant?”

That may seem like an odd question, especially since this blog IS called “Freelance” Folder.

In fact, many people confuse freelancers with consultants and vice versa. There is a distinction and it is an important one. It matters how you position and brand yourself.


It’s Just a Title…Or Is It?

Why does it even matter if you brand yourself as a freelancer or a consultant?

Let’s just say it can affect a whole lot about your business. Your title affects how prospects and clients perceive you. In turn, it will affect how much you can charge. And it will affect how much clients are willing to pay you.

The bottom line is, one makes more than the other.

Semantics Is Everything

To further explore the difference between a freelancer and a consultant, let’s look at the definition of each word.

According to BusinessDictionary.com, a consultant is an:

Experienced professional who provides expert knowledge (often packaged under a catchy name) for a fee. He or she works in an advisory capacity only and is usually not accountable for the outcome of a consulting exercise. Some consultants (like Peter Drucker and W. Edward Deming) have brought dramatic shifts in management thinking and improvements in the performance of organizations.

And a freelancer is someone who is:

Working on a contract basis for a variety of companies, as opposed to working as an employee for a single company. Freelancers are often considered to be self-employed, and have the freedom to pick and choose the projects and companies they would like to be associated with. A common profession for freelancing is writing; a writer then has the ability to submit their work to many different places, without being tied to any one company in particular.

Therefore, a freelancer is just like an employee but on contractual basis. On the other hand, a consultant is an expert advisor who is not accountable for results.

As I understand from these definitions, a freelancer is considered rank-and-file. One of the minions, so to speak, of a business. In contrast, a consultant is at executive level, spouting out wisdom.

Knowing that, which one would you rather be?

It looks like, if you want to move up in income and public perception, being a consultant is better than being a freelancer.

(Some experts have advised freelance writers not to call ourselves that. Happily, I’ve been calling myself a “copywriter” instead.)

Actually, Why Not Be Both?

In terms of the services you offer, a combination of freelancing and consulting may be the best way to go.

If you’re already a freelancer, strive to become a consultant as well. For example, instead of being a “graphic designer,” call yourself a “visual branding consultant.”

This means you don’t simply design for your clients. You actually help them think through and come up with a strategic way of communicating their branding through visual design.

If you’re already a consultant, why not offer done-for-you packages with freelance services? For example, if you’re a “social media marketing consultant,” you could also offer to build your client’s blogs, put together their social networking profiles, and manage their email marketing for them.

You could continue to give your clients advice and strategic inputs, but at the same time offer to implement those strategies for those who don’t want to do it themselves.

“I Just Don’t See It”

What if you’d like to give yourself a promotion and offer consulting services, but you just don’t see yourself as a consultant?

There are a few things you can do to better equip yourself.

  • Keep studying your field. Read the latest books, follow your industry’s thought leaders, and implement a few of your own projects.
  • Get into the theories and conceptual approaches, not just execution. Don’t get bogged down by the nitty-gritty execution details of your freelancing area. Strive to understand the theoretical and conceptual underpinnings of why certain things work while others don’t. This means, even if you’re a web developer, you may need to learn some human psychology.
  • Just go ahead and offer a consulting service. Add a consulting option to your menu of services. You’ll never know who’ll take you up on it.

What Do You Think?

Is consulting a goal for every freelancer to strive for? Should we even be having this discussion, or is it a non-issue? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Image by desiitaly