Does Hiring a Freelance Business Consultant is More Effective than the other Available Options?


Business Consulting is a both a highly respected and at the same time highly questioned concept. Based on the experience of the individual it swings either way.
Before addressing the question, let me first talk about how did business consulting evolve and why do typically companies need Business Consulting intervention.
The profession of Business Consulting evolved in the 50’s when the businesses started becoming large, complex and therefore in need of special skills and people with deep expertise in one, more or entire business.
Let’s begin by first looking at some of the most common reasons why a company or a business looks for outside help especially at a Business Consulting level.

  1. To obtain specific expertise. Clients typically hire people who have the skills and expertise their own staff lacks.
  2. To identify problems. Sometimes employees are too close to a problem inside an organization to recognize it.
  3. To act as a catalyst for change. No one likes change; a consultant generally can do things without getting bogged down by organizational issues.
  4. To be an objective onlooker. Besides seeing problems from a different perspective than internal staff does, a good consultant provides a fresh, objective viewpoint, then delivers results.
  5. To mentor, guide and train people in skills which they may not have.
  6. To do a company’s “murky work.” Let’s face it: No one wants to be the person who has to take tough decision which may sometimes impact the business or the employees.
  7. To use the network and contacts of the consultant.

Now, there can be many more and also very specific reasons for engaging a consultant but the one listed above are typically the ones which have been generally seen to be the reasons.
In today’s world, consultants can provide much more than just filling the knowledge base and experience of the customer. They can for example provide:

  • Strategy Development
  • help creating a business plan
  • Once strategic and business plan is created, help and work hand in hand to implement it etc.

Now, keeping all the above in mind, lets evaluate whether hiring a freelance/individual/small consulting firm is a better approach or going with a corporatized business consulting company a better approach.
Let’s compare the two against various parameters in the table below:

S.No Parameter
Free Lancer Corporate Remarks
1. Cost Reasonable High This is a no brainer, Corporate Consulting companies cost exorbitantly high
2. Quality of people engaged in the work One can search for a “real” Subject Matter Expert Consultant Large firms are notorious for sending senior people during the sales process and sending junior staff to execute bulk of the engagement Unless the assignment requires a large amount of manpower, the company is better off engaging a free lancer with requisite knowledge and experience.
3. Knowledge of the industry, locally and across the globe Medium to Low High This is an area where global knowledge data bases of large consulting companies are almost unbeatable. No individual consultant or a small consulting company can match the reach and data or a larger corporate consulting company.
4. Authenticity of the consulting capability This is a grey area for freelancers, unless one knows the freelance business consultant thru some reference it can end up being a waste of time and money One is on more sure footing as far as authenticity of the Company is concerned. The place to be careful here is the kind of team one gets. There is a lot of information available on the internet on individual consultants also. This may mitigate the risk to some level. One can also use exclusive networks of highly validated professionals, across a wide array of business areas, and offer the luxury of custom-matching talent to the specific needs of your business. Independent professionals have highly diverse backgrounds and skillsets, as they tend to work with numerous clients making them more flexible and capable of dealing with complex projects, whether that’s financial modelling to budget efficiently, or optimizing pricing to hit revenue targets.

In a nutshell, while it is not possible to give a blanket statement about which is a better option, freelance consultants or large corporatized consulting companies.
However, given the fact that businesses are becoming more and more niche players, their needs are becoming more and more specific and the fact that there are enough senior, experienced and knowledgeable consultants coming into the industry, the climate is beginning to change in favour of freelance consultants.
Also gone are the days that one saw good quality consulting only in “dark suit, light shirt and blue tie”. Nowadays people with quite accomplished background are entering in the field of business consulting and are surely worth considering for the value they bring to the table.
About the Author
Manoj Tandon holds a Bachelor of Technology from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur and PGDM from the Indian Institute of Management, Lucknow. He has over 32 years of experience in the IT industry. A large part of his professional experience has been in leadership positions, rendering Technical and Strategic Leadership to software organizations at the level of Managing Partner, Member of the Board etc. During his career he has lived and worked in UK, Europe, US and India. He is an avid writer having written for newspapers and publications like Economic Times, Business Standard etc. Manoj also has been involved in Academics for quite some time. As a guest faculty he has taught in IIM, IIT etc. and has been a member of the Academic Advisory Board of many institutes. At present he is the CEO of TMTC, a leading business consulting company.

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