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What Freelance Management Consultants Actually Do (And Are They Really Worth It?)

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Published:
August 5, 2020
Reading Time:
9 minutes
Leo Saini
Experienced copywriter who spends a lot of money at restaurants and regrets it later.

You know the drill. Google the best freelance platforms and ring them up to find a consultant to assist you with your business situation. But what do freelance management consultants actually do? Do they just type some stats in an excel sheet and tell you what to do? Or do they create a fancy PowerPoint presentation that gets lost in the sands of time and never gets used?

It’s difficult to truly know a consultant’s role if you have hardly ever worked with one. And if one doesn’t really understand their role, it makes them more hesitant and skeptical about this whole “hiring a consultant” thing.

In this article, we’ll briefly discuss what management consultants actually do and how they do it. If you read it till the end, you’ll probably realize what you’re missing by not hiring one. So hop on our boat and let us navigate you through the life of a consultant.

It Begins With a Statement of Work

Once you have chosen one of the best freelance consultants you possibly can, they’ll create a statement of work for you. In this document, you’ll find exactly what your consultant is going to do for you. This includes the description of their services, scope of work, major deliverables, project duration, timelines, budget, payment method, and a free sailing trip to Spain. Well, maybe not the last part, but you get the gist.

The statement of work is a very common document that the best independent consultants in the industry use to communicate their plan of action efficiently. Rest assured, the document will help you understand exactly what you’re paying for. And you’ll also have the opportunity to involve your legal team in case there are some clauses in the contract that you don’t understand. Quite often, clients propose several iterations in the SOW - even if they are created by the best freelance consultants.

Nevertheless, you’d be amazed by the structure of the statement of work. The best independent consultants will also provide you with extra details, such as process flowcharts and fishbone diagrams. This will enable you to understand the whole process better. After all, visual representations are far easier to follow. When the final SOW is created and you’re satisfied that the consultant you’re in communication with is the best freelance consultant for your business, you can sign the contract and officially close the deal - very similar to employing a staff member or onboarding a new client. See? It’s a process that you’re already used to. Hiring a consultant is not so stressful at all.

Whether it’s financial transaction data or consumer surveys, your consultant will get you the information you need to make the right decisions.

Then the Data Hunting Begins

What do most people do to gather data? Well, they turn to their old friend called Google. However, the best independent consultants go to great lengths to dig out the most precious data that most companies don’t have access to. Of course, data collection will probably begin with the consultant asking for your company’s internal data, such as the sales figures, customer profiles, etc. But that’s just the beginning. The best freelance consultants usually have ties with commercial database firms.

These firms hold extremely valuable data that is not available in the public domain. Whether it’s financial transaction data or consumer surveys, your consultant will get you the information you need to make the right decisions. A consultant might also have their own database that they can provide you with. In some cases, a consultant would make a few phone calls or conduct several site visits to gather the required information. And if that’s not enough, they can collaborate with other industry experts, interview them, and obtain the data. It’s a no brainer, but the quality of recommendations will ultimately depend upon the quality of the data.

Analysis, Analysis, and Some More Analysis

After gathering heaps of relevant data from various sources (and having a few cups of coffee), a consultant can start analyzing it. Companies often have a lot of data but not all of them utilize it in the best possible manner. However, a big part of a consultant’s job is analyzing data. They’re acclimated to the ins and out data analysis - and that’s why they do it like a pro.

best freelance consultants, What Freelance Management Consultants Actually Do (And Are They Really Worth It?)

Now, analysis is a very broad term. There are quite a few types of analysis that your consultant can choose based on the situation. When the outcomes are uncertain, you can expect a ‘scenario analysis’ that can prepare your company for various unpredictable events in the future. A consultant can also evaluate various options and their consequences using the ‘decision tree analysis’ technique. And, if you have a lot of ‘what if’ type of situations at hand, your consultant can conduct a ‘sensitivity analysis’. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Several books have been written on analysis and the best freelance consultants are aware of the right methodologies and frameworks.

Let’s get a bit practical now. Suppose you’re about to launch a new product in the market but you’re not sure if your target audience would like to buy it online or in-store. In such a situation, your consultant can collect and analyze data and share their findings. Now, for example, if they find that customers aged between 18-35 would prefer to buy online and the rest prefer both online and in-store purchases, then this could be a very crucial insight for your future product placement decisions.

Recommendations Are Given Based on the Insights

Finally, the moment you’ve been waiting for arrives. After creating a detailed analysis, a consultant will give you their recommendations. They’ll recommend what actions your business should take to achieve its goal and why. Once again, it’s not as simple as it sounds. Usually, you’ll be provided with a document that begins with an executive summary of the whole project, followed by the key insights that are obtained through analysis, followed by recommendations. As a representative of the business, this will be your opportunity to go through the key findings and suggestions.

If you have some queries or objections, this is the time to bring them up. Most companies that haven’t worked with a consultant before might think that a consultant’s job is over after giving recommendations. Well, it’s not really true. In some cases, consultants might need to gather more data, conduct more research, and refine their recommendations. However, recommendations only work if the company actually executes them. And you don’t have to say goodbye to your consultant yet. If you want them to, they can help you implement their recommendations.

Now the question is: Is a consultant’s work worth the fees they’re charging? Well, as you’ve already read above, a consultant’s job is way more complicated than what most people think. Once you hire one, they’ll examine your problems from all angles, gather as much data as they need, analyze the whole situation, and provide solutions that could take your business to the next level.

So how does one find the top consultant? The simplest way to do it is to approach the best freelance platforms that have access to hundreds of consultants for you to choose from. And how does one find the best freelance platforms? You already know the answer - it’s our good friend Google. Make sure the consultant platform you’re about to onboard has credibility, positive online ratings, client testimonials, and last but not least, transparency when discussing daily rates (because you don’t want hidden costs to show up out of nowhere in the future).