Consulting FAQs

The following are some frequently asked questions related to hiring or engaging a professional consultant.

  • What exactly is a consultant and what do they do?  A consultant is a professional that has a particular area of expertise that provides defined services to a client at a negotiated rate.  While there are a number of different types of consultants some of the more common types include: Management Consultant, General Business Consultant, Information Technology Consultant, Marketing Consultant, and Information Assurance consultant.  Consultants are usually hired for a finite project or a finite period of time to support the client with a very specific need that the client cannot address with existing ‘in house’ resources. 
  • Why should I hire a consultant? Consultants usually provide very specific expertise in areas that are often not cost effective for companies to maintain ‘in house’.  By engaging a consultant on a defined, finite basis, companies are able to budget more effectively and are only paying for services provided.  By using contracted services, companies do not have to bring another employee in to the company.  Consultants, as 1099 contractors, are responsible for their own payroll taxes, benefits, insurance, and other aspects of their employment.  
  • What should I look for in a consultant?  Before hiring a consultant for any service you want to ensure that they 1) possess sufficient formal knowledge and experience in the specific area that their services will be required and 2) that they have a history of success with similar clients.  Never be afraid to check references and never hesitate to “ask the hard questions” to gauge the consultant’s expertise and knowledge.  Finally, you should evaluate the consultants professionalism and their ability to communicate both verbally and in writing.  Remember, a consultant is only working for a finite period of time.  To maximize your investment you need to have a ‘deliverable’ provided which is well written and articulate.  
  • Will a consultant tell me what I need to do to be successful?  A good consultant will never tell their client what the client ‘should’ do.  All companies have different internal politics, business constraints, and other issues that affect which business decision is right for the client.  An experienced consultant will provide options based upon their understanding of the situation and the project and will offer advantages and disadvantages to the solutions.  This will allow the client to make an appropriate decision based upon the business needs and challenges of the particular organization. 
  • Are consultants expensive? This is a difficult question to answer.  Typically, consultants charge more per hour, or day than an ‘in house’ employee.  That being said, companies do not pay taxes, insurance, or other benefits for the consultant and pay only a contracted rate.  Additionally, due to the specific expertise the consultant provides, it is often less expensive to hire an expert for a defined project which requires a very specific type of expertise than to hire a full time employee with the same expertise.  Don’t view consultants purely in terms of cost.  If you cannot perceive a very real advantage to hiring a consultant then you likely do not need the services of one. 
  • Who owns the work product?  Your company should always own the work product!  If your company hires a consultant and does not contract to own any work produced from the engagement then you are making a mistake.  Remember, consultants get paid well for their expertise.  Anything they produce for you, while being paid by you, should belong to you.  This includes inventions, slogans, marketing ideas etc.  It is a fact of consulting that sometimes really good ideas come from working with clients.  I am personally proud when my clients can capitalize on something I have helped them create.