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Explained! What Is a Freelance Consultant and How to Become One

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November 25, 2022
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7 minutes
Experienced copywriter who spends a lot of money at restaurants and regrets it later.
If you clicked on the article, you may be wondering: What is a freelance consultant? Rest assured, you clicked on the right article.

There’s no denying that freelancing in general is on the rise. There are several stats from credible sources which can prove it. These days, more and more people want flexibility and freedom. Gone are the days when professionals would spend thirty years in the same cubicle and retire. In fact, such a working arrangement in this day and age would be considered a nightmare.

It’s true that workers in many industries, especially knowledge workers, are adopting this new way of working. You may have heard of freelance graphic designers, copywriters, and photographers. But can consultants get into freelancing too? And, if yes, then how to become a freelance consultant?

Let’s dive into it.

What Is a Freelance Consultant?

You may be used to the term ‘freelancer’. And, of course, you have heard the term ‘consultant’ many times too. But what is a ‘freelance consultant’?

Well, first, let’s discuss what exactly a freelancer does in general. 

Freelancers, in any industry, are contractors who engage with a company for a particular task or project. They aren’t employees as such. This means that they can choose who they work with, engage with multiple clients at the same time, and set their own rates. 

However, the client is not obligated to offer them employee benefits like insurance, sick leave, gym membership, tools of the trade, etc. So, although there are some benefits to being a freelancer, there are some drawbacks too. 

Okay, so we’ve discussed the term freelancer in a general way. Now, let’s discuss it from a consulting perspective. So, what is a freelance consultant? 

You see, most successful consultants start their careers working with big consulting firms. However, it’s insanely competitive there. Consulting firms are widely known to have an ‘up or out’ policy. This means that you either climb ‘up’ the corporate ladder or you’ll be ‘out’ of the system. Apart from this, there’s usually a strict hierarchy and promotions only come after a few years of work. 

This system may not suit everyone. That’s why some consultants, who are bright and hardworking, may choose a different path. And that is freelancing as a consultant in a nutshell. To elaborate, freelance consultants do everything that a consultant from a big consulting firm does. However, they’ll find their own clients, negotiate deals themselves, and lead the project. There won’t be a senior consultant telling them what to do, and there won’t be any competition with other consultants. Freelance consultants can choose their own hours, clients, and fees. This sense of freedom and flexibility is one of the reasons why consultants become freelancers. 

If you want to know more about freelance consulting, you may like this article: Freelance Consultants Are More than Just a Trend


  • Experienced consultants may choose to leave the corporate hierarchy and start freelancing for better work-life balance, autonomy, and flexibility.
  • Taking sales and consulting-related crash courses can give you more confidence when you plunge into freelance consulting.
  • It’s advised to have practical experience as an employee at a consulting firm before you start freelancing.
  • Choosing a specific niche for freelance consulting and excelling at it may be the best choice in the long run.
  • Online consulting platforms can help you find new clients relatively easily as compared to any other method.

How to Become a Freelance Consultant?

Well, we started this article with “what is a freelance consultant”. But now, it’s time to give you some actionable insights on how to become one. So, pay attention, because each of these steps is important.

1. Get a little more education than a university degree 

If you’re reading this article, then it’s highly likely that you’re the type of person who takes education seriously. It’s also very likely that you have either completed an MBA or are thinking about pursuing it. But if you want to become a freelance consultant, you may need some more education. We’re not talking about another university degree—that’d be too lengthy and time-consuming. However, there are some short-term courses that can help. 

For example, to become a freelance consultant who gets clients constantly, you should get some sales training. The fact is, being an employee in a non-sales position doesn’t give you the much-needed sales experience. As a freelancer, you’ll need to learn how to close new projects. So, getting some education and training in this field could be very helpful.

Also, you could take some crash courses to brush up on your knowledge of consulting frameworks and strategies. Consultport Academy, for example, offers courses such as Business & Corporate Strategy, Internal Analysis, and Implementation & Change Management Strategy, to name a few. It’d be a good idea to take some of these courses and quickly go through what you have learned in university. After taking these short-term courses, you can also have a boost in your confidence as a consultant. And that is something you’ll surely need when you’re talking to clients. 

2. Earn some work experience with consulting firms 

Here’s the deal: If you want quality clients, you’ll need to have some work experience first. Unless you’re very well-connected and can find freelance clients easily as a result, it may be difficult to get into freelance consulting without experience. So, you should ideally start working with a consulting firm first and get some practical experience. When it comes to consulting firms, the more prestigious they are, the better it’ll be for you. For example, if you introduce yourself as John Smith, Ex-McKinsey, or Laura Simpson, Ex-BCG, your name will carry a lot of weight. 

However, you don’t necessarily need to be with MBB or the Big Four to become a freelance consultant. What you need is knowledge of how consultants actually solve problems. During your time as an employee at a consulting firm, you’ll learn all-things consulting. You’ll learn how to collect quantitative data and qualitative data. You’ll learn how to use an issue tree and fishbone diagram to get to the root of the problem. You’ll learn how to practically use consulting frameworks. And most importantly, you’ll learn how to present your recommendations to clients. 

The fact is, these things cannot be taught over the internet. You have got to engage in them to truly understand them. Being a freelance consultant without this knowledge may be futile. So, get some work experience first. 

3. Choose a niche

Ideally, you shouldn’t just want to become a freelance consultant. Instead, you should strive to become the go-to person in a certain niche of consulting. So, instead of calling yourself a freelance consultant, you should call yourself a ‘freelance digital transformation consultant’ or a ‘freelance HR consultant’.  

In the article Still Worth It? An Overview of Freelance Consulting in 2023, we have mentioned some niches that could grow post-pandemic. These are as follows:
  • Private Equity
  • Healthcare
  • Insurance
  • Tech
  • Retail
To learn about each of these sectors and how consultants can benefit from them, give the article a read. Apart from the aforementioned industries, you could also become a freelance consultant in M&A, risk & resilience, strategy, marketing, sustainability, operations, or digital sectors. 

4. Market your freelance consulting services

As mentioned before, when you become a freelance consultant, you’ll have to find clients yourself. So, consider yourself to be a one-person business. Now, you may be thinking: How to find clients as an independent consultant? Let’s find out.
  • Networking: Your personal and professional network can be of great help when you start off as an independent consultant. Especially if you’ve already worked as a consultant and have good relations with potential clients. So, use your network to spread the word.
  • Social media: LinkedIn can be a great tool for budding freelance consultants. You could post consulting-related content to attract clients to you. However, it can take a long time to build a personal brand online. Meaning that even though social media is useful, it shouldn’t be your only way to find clients.
  • Speaking engagements: Do you know who your target audience is? Do you know which events they attend? Well, then try to speak at those events. In particular, you should discuss how you solved a client's problem in the past and explain the results they achieved because of your expertise.
  • Online consulting platforms: This is by far the best way to find clients as a freelance consultant. Online consulting platforms, like Consultport, can connect you with potential clients easily. This is how it works: First, you send your CV to an online consulting platform. Then, based on your skills and experience, the platform representatives will connect you with clients who are looking for someone exactly like you. How convenient!
In conclusion, freelance consulting is an exciting and challenging career choice. If you’re someone who doesn’t want to be in a hyper-competitive corporate environment, you should try freelance consulting. The ability to work with the people you like, when you like, and from wherever you like is priceless. So why not do something that makes you feel like you have more freedom and flexibility?