Things Everyone Should Know When Hiring A Consultant or Freelancer

This particular post has been a long time coming. After 2 years of consulting I’ve really think I nailed down the things that everyone needs to know when hiring a consultant.

1. Be specific about what you want

The majority of problems that arise in the Client-Consultant relationship start here.

The majority of problems that arise in the Client-Consultant relationship start here.The client needs to be specific about what they want. The more specific the better. This includes setting goals, objectives, and determining metrics and milestones to make sure that you’re getting there. Most clients, though, will only be able to give you a broad end goal or target for what they want. This is unfortunate, but the reality is that clients don’t really care about the process, they care about the end result.

While it’s the client’s responsibility to know what they want, it’s the consultant’s responsibility to help them get there. The best thing you can do is develop some sort of a project planner (here’s mine) that can act as a road map between where you currently are, and where you want to end up. A tool like this will make it way easier to outline your service agreement and define your milestones.

2. There’s usually more to it than you think

As I stated earlier, most clients see the end result they want, and think that the path from where they are, to where they want to be is a straight line. It never is. The reality is that there’s always more to it than you really think it is.

Since I’m in the web development space, let’s use that for an example. Let’s say you’re hiring me to build you a website that will do your business justice. We’ve now met, and you’ve filled out and returned my project planner. These are the things that I’m going to figure out how to integrate before I can deliver a product to you:

  • Your Branding (colors/logo etc)
  • Your Brand Message
  • Your Target Audience
  • Marketing Concepts
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Social Media Strategy
  • Social Proof
  • Your Content
  • Content Layout
  • User Experience Design
  • User Interface Design
  • Calls to Action
  • Analytics
  • Plugins/Extensions/Custom Coding

3. It takes longer than you think

The process that I described in the example above is similar for just about every single project that you’ll ever hire a consultant for. There’s tons of background work that needs to be done before a product can be delivered, and often these individual steps take time to figure out, get implemented, and get user tested before you see them.

4. You’re paying for their time and expertise

If you’ve got a small budget, be upfront and tell the consultant. Most good consultants will either point you in the right direction so you can do it yourself, or figure out some way of working with you. Personally, I love it when my clients take the time to figure out things on their own. This usually frees me up to handle higher level strategy-type work.

As consultants/freelancers we understand that many markets are being commoditized, and there’s tons of products and services out there that are driving the cost our services down. As a potential client, you need to understand that many of those products are essentially self-serve, meaning that the only knowledge that’s going into them is your own. What makes these products cheap is the lack of knowledge and expertise.

Whatever you do, just don’t be like these people:

4. Outsourcing is more expensive than you think

Outsourcing projects can be one of the most cost effective ways of getting things done that I’ve ever heard of. If you know exactly what you want done and have great project management skills to follow through, you can have your project done for about a third of the cost.

The major problem with outsourcing, is that you have to have full knowledge of what the other person/firm is building for you. I’ve heard and seen horror stories of what comes back from India, and trust me, it always ends up costing more money, because someone’s going to have to redo all the work, or spend hours trying to figure how the work was done, and then more hours getting it right.