Many service providers are occasionally in a dilemma on whether they should work as freelancers or as consultants. On the other hand, clients can find themselves wondering who to hire between a freelance and a consultant worker. Both types of workers have their advantages and disadvantages. But first who is a freelance worker and who is a consultant? What is the difference between their mode of working and the obligations between the customer and the seller of services?

The common ground between a freelance and a consultant is that both types of workers are referred to as independent contractors. In both cases these workers are not employees of the clients they are working for. Instead, their commitment to the person or company they are working for is based on individual projects. Terms of work are negotiated and agreed on per job. For this reason, they don’t enjoy the same benefits fulltime/permanent employees enjoy.

Other similarities between freelance and consultants include:

  • The client they work for has no obligation towards their (the independent contractor) tax obligations
  • There are no minimum or any particular bracket for the money they can earn
  • Depending on where they are located, the client can be accountable to their safe working conditions.

From the foregoing it might appear as if a freelance and a consultant worker are the same. Although the similarities are many, there are subtle differences.

Who is a freelancer?

A freelance worker usually is an individual who has multiple clients he is working for. This can be individuals, small to medium businesses or even corporates.  A freelance is always an individual who has to look for new clients and maintain old ones – all being dependent on personal effort.

The pros and cons of a freelance

Freelance pros include:

  • Works for themselves
  • Determines their own pay
  • Sets their own time
  • Can determine their working area
  • Depending on the type of work they do, they can work from anywhere.

Disadvantages include:

  • Unpredictable work flow
  • No fixed income
  • Possibilities of not being paid
  • Usually have no rights or even mention whatsoever in the works they accomplish
  • Need to manage and market their services. This can be emotionally and physically draining with time.

Who is a consultant?

A consultant/consultancy is a type of freelancing services that is structured in a way that is more legally binding. It is usually between an individual (the consultant) and the client he is working for. A consultant doesn’t necessarily need to be a person per se. Instead, it can be a company with the right experts to offer the needed consultancy services needed. Likewise, the client can be a company that is buying the services or a company that is arranging the consultancy services for other companies.

Independent consultants in most cases deal with projects that have multiple aspects to them. This may involve services such as preparation, implementation, management and assessment of a project.

In a way, consultant independent contract workers have to enter into complex arrangements with their clients and many legal issues have to be considered before the initiation of the project.

The pros and cons of a consultant

Depending on the type of consultancy, the risks a freelancing individual is exposed to are not likely here. Where a consultant is a company, they may have mechanisms in place that ensures they are paid in time and in some cases their consultation services are appreciated. This becomes an important marketing tool for their services.

When the consultant is an individual independent contractor service provider, then the pros and cons they encounter are the same as in freelance independent contractors.