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When to Hire a Consultant

By Jane Markell

Is Your Workload Mission: Impossible?

One of the biggest challenges for managers and business owners today is simply getting the work done. Most managers today have a difficult time staying afloat — typically they must juggle several jobs, manage and train a team of people, and direct outside agencies and vendors. They are expected to keep management and direct reports informed and on track while at the same time, do their own job and deliver results on time and on budget.

Many successful managers have discovered that using skilled contingent workers with 5-25+ years of experience — to fill resource gaps and manage time-consuming programs — can be both a cost-effective and reliable solution.

The Key to a Successful Outcome Is Answering Some Basic Questions

  • Is this project best suited for an outside consultant?
  • How long do you need this resource?
  • Do you need someone on-site or is that flexible?
  • How many hours/week? Or is it just about delivering work on a schedule?
  • Is this a "try before you buy" consult-to-hire?
  • What is the budget for this resource?
  • Can you define a project scope and deliverables?
  • What kind of experience does the project require? Will the project require minimal or extensive training and oversight by you or another full-time employee (FTE)?

If the project is long-term, requires extensive training or oversight, and your budget is small, then you may be better served by hiring a more junior FTE than an experienced consultant. In this case, you and the worker are making an investment, so unless you’re looking to find a consultant who wants to go full-time, or your company prefers to only work with independent contractors, this is not the ideal situation for a career consultant.

Conversely, if the project is well defined and you are looking for someone to take the lead on a project, report to you periodically, and come back with answers and options without a lot of hand-holding or training, a senior level consultant can make a huge contribution and free you to do your job and get the results you want.

Projects Where Consultants Work Best

Companies typically call upon experienced consultants for a broad range of temporary or on-demand types of projects, which include but are not limited to:

  • Temporary backfill for employee leave
  • Technical or marketing resource for a short-term need such as an event, product launch, or new product release
  • Business start-up: interim marketing, product development, or operations specialist to define role and hire permanent senior manager or team
  • Business or financial analyst to set up reporting or tracking for a group or business unit
  • Business expertise: business modeling, training and development, or case study development
  • Creative or digital project management for a specific project or objective, such as new website development, rebranding, site optimization, or conversion to a new platform
  • Content development for SEO and social media
  • Vendor/Service Provider RFP: consultant to research, provide requirements, and manage selection and evaluation process for new creative or service agency or vendor(s)
  • Seasonal based business resources, e.g. accounting specialist for end of year or tax season, or annual user group meeting planning and logistics
  • Market research: gather information and present findings for business case development or new product development
  • Part-time employee for project management overflow for lower priority projects or ongoing programs such as email marketing or collateral development

Once you’ve determined that a consultant is what you are looking for, you’ll need to determine who to hire and what kind of skills and experience are required. Look for my blog post that covers this, "Finding the Right Consultant – Experience vs. Cost."

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About Jane Markell

Jane Markell is a Digital Marketing Leader and Creative Project Manager based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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