How Much to Charge as a Consultant and Be Happy

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If you’re starting your own consulting business, you’re probably wondering how much to charge as a consultant. Indeed, correct estimation of fees is vital. Charging too much or too little will be counterproductive, so it’s better to establish one’s fees based on solid research.

When providing consulting services, you should make sure that clients are having a good experience. It helps if clients feel comfortable paying the stipulated amount.

Consider your skills and market rates are a start, but this is not all: several factors make a pricing model viable.

In this article, you’ll find information on consultancy fees. You’ll learn how to build a strategy, establish value-based pricing, and communicate with clients effectively. Check out this guide if you want to know how much to charge as a consultant.

What to Consider When Charging for Your Consulting Services

Estimating Your Needs

If you want to be a full-time business consultant, there are several factors to consider. Maintaining your standard of living is key, so you need to calculate consulting fees accordingly.

What business expenses will you have? Do you need to rent an office? Can you run your consulting business from home? Will you have to sign up for memberships? Do you need to pay for any training or certifications? Do you need to acquire special software?

By knowing how much you’ll make, your expenses, and your living costs, you can set up your consulting fee structure. Remember that you need to maintain your living standards while keeping your business afloat.

Once you’ve established this, you’re ready for the next stage.

What Is the Value of My Consulting Business?

This is a key question to find out how much to charge as a consultant. Let’s assume that you have confidence in your ability to help people and get the desired results. If you know that your services bring value to people, you’re right at this stage. So, how do you figure out what these services are worth? The matter is not as simple as it sounds.

Although most people think that things have a specific set value, this is far from reality. A pricing model is an agreement between two parties. Therefore, how high or low the consulting rates will be depends on these parties.

Let’s imagine that you want to set up your consulting fees at $10,000 a day. Does it sound too high? If you manage to find a client that’s willing to pay this, that’s what your consulting services are worth.

This narrows it down to two questions: How much are new clients willing to pay for my services? How much am I willing to accept?

It all comes down to establishing consulting fees that meet your needs. However, a pricing model way above the standard will push potential clients away.

How Much to Charge as a Consultant While Deciding Your Workload

Every business owner is their own boss. Among other things, you can decide how much you’ll work. Naturally, this will impact your consulting rate.

Long-term consulting projects will take lots of time and resources. Hence, you may be getting a lower hourly rate overall. This may not be the case with shorter projects. However, one long-term project can give you more financial security than several smaller ones.

Here, the decision is only yours, but you need to consider this factor. A management consultant must take into account the estimated hours of all new projects.

The Dangers of Charging Low Fees

Experienced business people stress the importance of the seller. In other words, it’s not only about having great products but also the ability to deliver them.

Whatever consulting fees you charge, you must be confident. Otherwise, potential clients will be able to sense your uncertainty. Confidence is a key factor, and it’s not built in a single day. So, all the time you spend building up this confidence is a wise investment. However, don’t undervalue your consulting rates in the process.

If you’re wondering how much to charge as a consultant, here is some key advice:

  • When fees are too low, clients won’t see you as a bargain.
  • If you don’t value your own services, clients won’t either.
  • As a result, you’ll undervalue the industry averages.

Consider the Market Rates

Naturally, you’ll be competing with other consultants, so it’s vital to know how much they charge. Also, you must find out what value they provide. When deciding how much to charge as a consultant, compare your skills and value with the average fees on the market. Thus, you’ll understand clients’ expectations.

In such a competitive landscape, it helps to stay in touch. By connecting with other management consultants, you’ll build a network. You never know when they will be too busy to take on new clients and willing to refer them to you.

How Much to Charge as a Consultant: Average Fees

When starting your consulting business, make sure you research the average market rate. Remember that experience is a determining factor. Combine these two factors to establish your monthly fee or hourly rate.

As with any other job, pricing methods vary. It’s vital to know how much people are willing to pay for a certain set of skills. Rates range between a few tens and a few hundred dollars.

To calculate consulting fees, check out this salary information:

Restaurant consultant fees: $53,131/year or $26.57/hour

Marketing consultant: from $64,257/ year or $21.34/hour

Business consulting fees: $69,868/year or $29.92/hour

Human resources consulting fees: $63,836/year or $36.79/hour

Tax consulting fees: $67,693/year or $29.01/hour

The market rate is based on what clients are willing to pay for your expertise and skills. In other words, the numbers above indicate what people are paying for similar services.

While you may be able to charge three times the average, you must consider what’s affordable for potential clients. Even if you have the right set of skills, it’s no help to you if no one can afford them.

Choosing the Right Pricing Structure

Pricing models vary according to clients. While some prefer to pay a per-hour rate, others want to pay per project. Flexibility is key in this regard. Instead of choosing one single structure, be open to other possibilities. At the end of the day, what matters is that you’re getting fair remuneration. Thus, you can satisfy your salary expectations while keeping clients happy.

You’ll find that the per-project rate is popular, but there are other alternatives. You can choose from a monthly retainer, hourly fee, or weekly pay.

Hourly Consulting Rate

In this case, you estimate the hours spent on a client and then bill them accordingly. This is the simplest pricing structure, especially for a new consultant.

When you have your own consulting business, you also have many responsibilities and expenses. There’s no company or entity to compensate you for bookkeeping, tax filing, and healthcare. As a result, your hourly rate will be higher.

Three Times the Hourly Rate

To establish their hourly rate, some consultants charge according to their estimations. They take the per-hour rate that they would earn working as an employee and double or triple it. Naturally, they add benefits too.

Some prefer to use the triple rate because it covers three stages: one-third is for the actual wage, the other third is for expenses, and the last third is for administration costs. Because it’s simple, this is one of the most popular pricing models.

For example, let’s estimate the hourly rate based on an employee’s average salary. This is a full-time employee earning $75,000 a year. Dividing the annual salary by the number of working weeks in the year, and dividing that by the number of working hours in the week will give you an hourly rate to start with.

(75,000 / 50) / 40 = $37.50/hour

37.5 x 3 = $112.50

So, $112.50 would be your hourly rate.

52-week Pricing Models

Although this method is more complicated, it’s worth a try. It works especially well when transitioning from a corporate job to your own consulting business. In this model, you would estimate your weekly pay in the following way:

  • Establish the salary that you want to earn.
  • Divide that number by 50 (the number of work weeks in a year, taking two weeks off) and then by 40 (number of working hours in a week).
  • Mark that number up by 25%-50%.

For instance, let’s assume that you want to make $60,000 a year. Divide 60,000 by 50 (approximately 1,154). Then, divide that figure by 40 (about 28.85). Then, mark this number up by 40%. The result is a rate of approximately $40 per hour.

The markup is meant to cover your training and business costs. This includes taxes, benefits, and additional expenses. The costs will vary according to your niche, tax responsibilities, country of residency, etc.

 

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Median Hourly Method

With this method, the first step is to find the median of what you earn compared to the market rate.

Thus, if you earn $65/hour and the market rate is $45/hour, the median rate is $55. Most consultants charge at least twice the median rate. However, this factor depends on your niche.

Project Rates: How Much Should I Charge?

The hourly method of charging has its drawbacks. One drawback is that it sometimes makes clients feel uncertain. If they don’t know exactly how much they will pay when going into a contract, it can stop them from moving forward.

Another thing to consider is that with time, you’ll get better at what you do and will learn to accomplish more in less time. As a result, you end up making less money as you become more efficient if you charge by the hour.

A project-based rate can be the solution to these issues.

Charging clients by the project rather than by the hour could help turn things around. By now, you know how much time a certain task would take you. Hence, you can estimate how much to charge as a consultant for a certain project. If you work on similar cases, you can work out a steady project rate. Here is a good formula to figure this out:

(The estimated hours to complete the project + 20% for unexpected situations) x hourly rate = per-project rate

Example: You have to develop a marketing plan for a new app. You estimate the process will take you 10 hours. Add 20% (two additional hours), in case you have difficulties. In total, you estimate a needed 12 hours to complete the project. Since your hourly rate is $40, multiply 12 by 40 to get your result. The project rate for building this marketing plan will be $480.

All in all, this works for both parties. While you get the rate that you deserve, the clients know exactly how much they will pay when they hire you.

ROI-based Consulting Fees

By basing your fees on an ROI, or return on investment, structure, you charge clients based on the value you provide. This can be tangible or intangible.

In this case, you don’t charge for your time or your deliveries: you charge for results. At the end of the day, this is what the client wants more than anything.

Value-based pricing is an art, and here is a guide on how to approach this strategy.

  • Talk with your client.
  • During this conversation, you find out that their goal is to gain three more clients per month.
  • Each client is worth $500 for them, which gives you a number to work on.
  • Before using this number, establish the intangible value (the project’s subjective factors).

For instance, you can ask the client what the desired outcome would do for them. Now, you know that they want three new clients each month. Moreover, each is worth $500 to the business. So, if you help them achieve this objective, you’ll be helping them earn $18,000 a month and $117,000 a year.

ROI formula: intangible value + tangible value + annual revenue = value-based pricing

Let’s say that you’ll help your clients increase their revenue by five percent in two years. Then, you must factor this growth into your plan. In line with this, if you will generate $117,000 for the company, you can estimate your rate at different levels.

  • 5% of $117,000 = $6,000
  • 10% of $117,000 = $12,000
  • 20% of $117,000 = $24,000

All in all, this pricing strategy is beneficial. It will bring you much more income and deliver results. However, this requires a highly-qualified consultant.

Establishing a Retainer Fee for Your Consulting Business

With a monthly retainer rate, you charge a fixed price for a certain number of hours. This usually works well with routine tasks. Consultants can have a steady income by charging a retainer fee, which may be valuable for a freelancer.

Keep in mind that clients will probably want to see your work before closing such an agreement. So, after a few months of charging a per-project rate or an hourly wage, you can move forward to the next stage. By that time, you’ll be acquainted with the client’s needs. On the other hand, the client will trust you. Offering them this payment structure is convenient for both parties.

A monthly retainer rate works better for certain jobs. For example, a graphic designer can provide a certain amount of deliverables per month. Likewise, an IT manager can charge for monthly monitoring services.

The downside is that you may end up working more to receive less. Therefore, it’s better to offer this deal to clients you’ve already worked with before. Setting up clear expectations is key within retainer pricing models.

Communication

Talking about money can be uncomfortable. Therefore, consultants must have special skills when it comes to communication. You’ll have to discuss consulting fees with all your clients. So, if good communication doesn’t come naturally to you, you’d better start practicing. Be confident when it comes to your fee structure, and be as transparent as possible.

Negotiating with some clients will be harder, but this is something that you’ll learn with time. While some clients will have experience with consulting services, for others this will be their first time.

Keep in mind that, sometimes, compromising is necessary. For instance, the client’s budget may not be enough to pay for your fee. In this case, rather than rejecting them, try to negotiate.

During these conversations, you have the final word. Only you know how much time it took you to get where you are now. Naturally, you won’t give away your service for free. While you must be open to negotiation, always value your work. If you provide value, there will be more than one client ready to accept your fees. Having a high reputation and a stunning portfolio always helps.

How Much to Charge as a Consultant: Final Thoughts

Deciding how much to charge as a consultant is no picnic. However, this process can help you measure the true value of your consulting business. Start by considering your needs and goals, and base your rates on this. Also, factor personal expenses into your pricing strategy.

No matter what method you choose, whether it’s a per-hour rate, monthly fee, or another pricing structure, you must base your decision on your skills and experience, and be confident that this is the right choice. All clients want to get results, and this is something that you can leverage to your benefit.

To summarize, establish how much you want to earn. Then, conduct market research and find out what your competition is offering. When choosing the right strategy for yourself, keep in mind that hourly fees are ideal for beginners, but as you become more efficient they can be detrimental.

Pricing per value is another great option, but you must make sure you deliver what you promised. Generally, this approach is for the most experienced consultants. Finally, if you have worked with a client for long, you can offer them a retainer fee structure. Thus, you can deliver a certain amount of tasks/projects each month. You’ll get a fixed income, which is not to be underrated in the freelance world. Finally, use this guide wisely and you’ll be much closer to charging a fair fee.

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Marija Angeli
Marija Angeli

Full Stack Developer