What’s the difference between a consultant and a contractor?

Contractors, consultants and freelancers

Differences between Contractor, Freelancer, and Consultant

A lot of individuals aren’t aware of the difference between consultants, freelancers, and contractors. However, each word has a different connotation when illustrating the relationship they have with clients. Therefore comprehending the differences is a vital for your future success if you wish to  provide these services.

How do you know which one you are?

The primary role of  a consultant is evaluating their client’s needs and offer expert advice on what should be done. Whereas freelancers and contractors are generally hired to perform specific duties or to deliver projects.

The difference between contractors, freelancers, and consultants also becomes noticeable when you start discussing the financials and engagement model.


happy consultant imageConsultants are usually independent and self-employed. They have extensive knowledge, training, and skills within their field of expertise. Consultants deal with specific or whole business areas. They make recommendations and offer advice on how to improve businesses. Consultants do not undertake the hands-on work themselves, but they guide their customers on how to execute their proposals. Furthermore, due to the skill and expertise they earn high payment rates for the services they offer.

Some consultants have managed to bring dramatic changes and performance improvements to their customer’s firm.


Contractors are also skilled experts who work for themselves. Clients hire them to complete specific projects or provide other services on a contractual basis. A contractor will usually work on site at their client’s premise. They complete work in an agreed time-frame, although it’s common for a contract to be extended.

Companies will hire contractors only for the period of time their skills are required. They also do not need to pay employee benefits including sick pay and pension contributions. The lack of the employee benefits means that a contractors can negotiate lucrative daily rates for their work.


Freelancers complete specific projects for customers, usually away from the clients’ premises. The amount of money a freelancer charges for services will depend on the work and skills required. Freelancers will charge either a fixed priced for a project or an hourly rate.

Contractors versus Freelancers

The primary difference between freelancers and contractors is that the former can work on multiple tasks for many clients while a contractor works for only one client at a time

Whichever career you undertake, the only thing that matters is that you are capable of doing what your clients have hired you to do. The only variance is that when working as a freelancer you’ll be completing projects for fixed price or an hourly basis for multiple clients. Where as a contractor will likely be working for single client full time.

Operating as a consultant

Consultants follow prominent leaders in their field of operation online and read the most recent books related to their skills. Consultants usually employ conceptual approaches and theories while advising their clients, not just the execution. Instead they strive to comprehend the conceptual and theoretical underpinnings how particular things operate.

Keep in mind that everyone can make their website or CV look great – but you can be sure that as a consultant, you can be found out very quickly or before you sell yourself.

Merging the job titles

You may feel that you have the necessary skills needed to perform more than one of these roles. As a contractor you may venture into consultancy, and switch between to the two. A lot of consultants and contractors also choose to pick up some freelancer tasks between consultancy or contracts work.

When hired into a particular role, you might find that the client who has hired you do not have a clear idea of precisely what they need. Therefore, you can find yourself offering advice and hands-on project delivery. And whilst you may find that tasks feel outside of your area, they do provide a great opportunity for experience and self development.


You should note that a consultant is not superior to a freelancer or a contractor, and vice versa. What matters is the quality of your work and whether the goals were achieved. However, how you categorise yourself will have an impact on prospecting for your next opportunity.

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