Introduction from the founders

When we first encountered freelance consulting, we had just left McKinsey and were freelancing to pay the bills while getting movemeon off the ground. Since then, the market has changed drastically. Businesses have woken up to the potential of freelance consultants, which has led to huge growth in the market.

But as more employers - and (ex-consultants) - discover freelance, questions about issues ranging from typical day rates to the best way to write a job description are also becoming more common. So, to help all employers and freelancers, we've decided to put together a detailed guide and report.

Based on proprietary data and 7 years' experience, this guide offers information and support to employers looking to work with freelance consultants, and to consultants looking to explore freelance, or already in the market and looking for further insights. We hope you find it useful!

Nick & Rich

Founders at movemeon

Executive summary

Over the past years, we’ve seen huge growth in the number of businesses that are awakening to the possibilities of freelance. Freelance consulting is currently the fastest growing part of our business:


The sudden, fast growth of the freelance consulting market is a direct result of a change in employer attitudes, recognising the quality of talent available: until recently, independent consultants were considered a stopgap at best, and less skilled at worst. But in the past few years, it has become widely recognised that they are at least as skilled as their permanent counter-parts (while also faster to hire), and so interims have become much more widely used – in 2016, one fifth of consulting spend went to freelancers according to Odgers Connect and Source Global Research.



As a result, a wider range of employers have started advertising freelance projects – and many candidates have been able to turn into full-time freelancers, instead of using interim projects only to supplement their income/between job moves.

189%
Growth in the number of employers hiring for freelance projects, 2015-18
157%
Growth in the number of freelance projects, 2015-18

Average freelance consultant salaries in 2018:

Seniority Average day rate
Analyst (0-2 years) £350 p/d
Associate (3-5 years) £457 p/d
Manager & above (6 years+) £659 p/d

Why & how to hire freelancers

1. Quality candidate pool

41%
MBB & THE TOP STRATEGY HOUSES
52%
9+ YEARS’ EXPERIENCE
27%
MANAGEMENT CONSULTANCIES

2. The logistics of freelance contracts

A. How to hire freelancers

When hiring freelancers, there are a number of things you can do to maximise your chances of hiring the right person. These tips are designed to help you from the very beginning of the process, i.e. creating a project brief/job advert, all the way to interviewing and onboarding a new interim resource.

[a.] Spend time creating a proper brief

Given the quick turnaround times involved in most freelance hiring processes, it’s often easy to skip the step of creating a proper job brief. Sometimes, you’re just desperate to get someone on site as soon as possible.

A clear, even if short, brief will help you think about the kind of interim resource you need, making it easier to choose from applicants.

This creates a mismatch between freelancer and client expectations, and it can make onboarding the new freelancer especially challenging. A clear and concise brief will help you think about the kind of interim resource you need, making it easier to choose from applicants. Equally, it will enable applicants to self-screen, saving you time in the long run.

[b.] Use your job advert/brief to sell your business, too

Quite often, freelancers like to establish long-term relationships with the clients they work with. That’s why it’s essential you sell your long-term vision for the business, not just short-term projects.

This enables freelancers to look past only immediate projects. They’re more interested in your business.

If freelancers are more interested in your business, they are not only more likely to apply, but also more likely to be invested in the work they carry out for you.

If you advertise on movemeon, our dedicated team will help you write the best job description, using proprietary data and several years’ experience.

[c.] Create milestones for every project

Milestones create an element of accountability for both employers and freelancers. If it’s clear what’s expected in the project, set against a timeline, both parties are reassured that they’re working towards the same goals at a pace that’s agreed upon.

Even having a rough outline will be beneficial to all involved. Additionally, thinking of milestones before you start advertising the role will make it easier to write a project brief/advert

Milestones also help break a project into digestible ‘chunks’, which helps timeline/map out how the project should be tackled.

For instance, instead of creating a brief that only says ‘freelancer needed for a market entry project in China’, add a little context around what the market entry strategy will involve (preferably in order). You can then set milestones against this. This could include a competitor analysis, internal/external market forces to factor in, logistics, etc. You can then discuss the prioritisation of each task and you’ll have a clear list of executable tasks to work against.

[d.] Learn from previous hiring processes

Is there something you wish you’d asked your current freelancers at the interview stage, now that you’ve worked with them for a few weeks/ months? Hindsight is not always available, but great when you have it.

Hiring should be a learning process for employers as well as candidates, with important takeaways

These takeaways can range from the number of interviews hold to the ideal length of project. You can always ask other businesses, too. At movemeon we’ve worked with 253 employers on just freelance hires, and we are always happy to put you in touch with those in a similar position to you.

B. Contracting/risk mitigation

HMRC has detailed guidance on contract requirements and employer obligations. You can find information on the difference between fixed-term contracts, agency staff and freelancers, consultants and contractors here.

Fixed-term employees must receive the same treatment as full-time permanent staff (i.e. sick pay, paternity leave, etc.), but for contractors this is not necessarily the case. It is the responsibility of both employers and freelancers on movemeon to ensure that you are adhering to the relevant labour laws and tax advice.

Freelancers and contractors on the movemeon platform are usually self-employed, which means you arrange contracts and payment with them directly (i.e. movemeon does not pay them on your behalf; freelancers will invoice directly for the work carried out, and we invoice separately).

Insurance contributions (NICs).

The ease of hiring a freelancer for the first time is often a pleasant surprise for many employers. If you’re unsure where to start, get in touch with a member of the team and we will be more than happy to help.

C. How much to pay

Take the average pay of a permanent employee you would hire for the same role, add in all benefits, and divide by 250 (the number of working days in a year). This provides you with a ‘base rate’.

There can also be a ‘freelancer charge’ - this is there to compensate for the fact that the employee won’t be working all 250 days of the year.

If you need support on a project that won’t take longer than 2-3 days, it’s often advisable to provide an hourly rate instead of a day rate.

Similarly, if you’re speaking to a client about a defined project with a specific time period and key milestones, it might be worth proposing a total project rate, instead of a freelance day rate.

Average freelance consultant salaries in 2018:

Seniority Average day rate
Analyst (0-2 years) £350 p/d
Associate (3-5 years) £457 p/d
Manager & above (6 years+) £659 p/d

Take the average pay of a permanent employee you would hire for the same role, add in all benefits, and divide by 250

D. Optimising your project brief

Given the quick turnaround times involved in most freelance hiring processes, it’s often easy to skip the step of creating a proper job brief. Sometimes, you’re just desperate to get someone on site as soon as possible.

This is a short guide on how to provide the best brief for prospective employees.

[a.] Start with an introduction to the role

All this needs to include is a few formalities about the role. We almost always suggest posting this at the top of every brief! Here is a formatted example.

  • Role title: Freelance Strategy Consultant
  • Project start date: 1st July b
  • Project length: 3 months with potential to extend
  • Day rate: £500-700
  • Location: London.

Day rate is a great way to attract people who will align with your budget/needs.

[b.] It’s fine if a freelance project brief is short and to the point

The in-depth details can be covered on the phone/via Skype should you like the look of an application.

We recommend having a short introduction as to why the work is needed, a short list of role duties and another for requirements of the candidates.

[c.] Freelancing is on the rise and the volume of projects is increasing month on month.

This rise in supply means freelancers now have far more choice for the type of work they choose to pursue, compared to even a few years ago.

Candidate case studies

1. Luisa Casimiro, strategy, business planning & control

Luísa Casimiro is a former McKinsey consultant focused mainly on strategy, business planning and control, and with significant exposure to internationalization, sales operations, and organization, in tech, telecom, media, banking, and the public sector.

Luísa Casimiro

I yearned for work that was more strategic, autonomous and impactful (and better paid). Working as a freelance consultant gave me the opportunity to do just that!

The advantages of freelancing, to employers and freelancer

I find freelancing a very good way of tapping into the experience I acquired with one of the major consultancies while giving me much more autonomy then what I had previously. When freelancing, it is me who calls the shots, who presents/discusses the timeline and deliverables and who is ultimately responsible for the whole project. In a way, it gives consultants a lot more autonomy earlier on. This autonomy also forces me to grow. Of course, lifestyle and daily fees are also a plus!

As for advantages for the employer, when comparing to an established consultancy, I believe the key ones to be both price and agility, both in the hiring process as in the actual project itself.

Selecting freelance projects

My first priority is to pick a project I feel I makes sense to the company and that I feel I can add value to. Thus, I put a lot of effort in understanding the context of the project: the end goal, how it is structured, why it is being done through freelancers, etc.

Secondly, I seek projects where I can develop and grow my consultant profile. Only after those two criteria are met do I look at other aspects like fees or travel arrangements.

Practical tips for other freelancers

At first I struggled a bit in understanding what fees made sense given my background and experience. To that regard, I find that the best approach is to talk to as many people as you can (both other freelancers and people that are buying freelance projects), as well as reaching out to platforms such as movemeon.

As for invoicing, the same principle applies, but that is highly dependent on where you are located originally (and not where the project is), thus it makes sense to focus your inquiries in people within the same country.

2. Tristan Courtial, healthcare

Tristan Courtial, former PwC, Strategy& and L.E.K. consultant, has an MSc in Engineering, and an MSc in Management. As a freelancer, he gradually became more and more involved in Healthcare projects, which is now his main industry of focus.

Tristan Courtial

I liked what I was doing as a consultant, but not the way I did it in large firms. I was really looking at more flexibility, and also being able to pick the projects that I wanted

The advantages of freelancing, to employers and freelancer

Flexibility in both ways. The employer gets easy access to skills they need, and the freelancer can (ideally) pick his projects.

Freelancing can also lead to a more stable professional relationship: I was twice hired on a permanent basis by companies that I first worked for as a freelancer.

Selecting freelance projects

Identify what can I bring to them, and what can they bring to me, it has to be a win-win situation. Then having a good fit with the client is definitely important.

Finally, let’s face it, the fees are important as well. I try to avoid as much as possible projects with fees I’m not ok with.

Practical tips for other freelancers

The most important one: delegate as much as possible all the admin part. Yes, an accountant costs a bit of money but believe me (I did my own accounting for 2 years) it’s definitely worth it and saves you so much time, energy thus money in the end. Having to worry about closing your accounting while in the middle of a very time-consuming project is NOT fun.

Second: building good relationship with clients is key. I have people I don’t know emailing me as I was referred to by former clients

Finally, know that as a freelancer your career progression will be limited, or let’s say different. In a consulting firm the ladder from junior analyst to partner is clear, as a freelancer you will remain… a freelancer.

3. Florin Bora, helping companies become “Open Loop” thinkers

Florin Bora has been a management consultant for 10 years. My Born in Romania, he studied at an international school in Germany and at Cambridge in the UK. Subsequently, he has worked all over Europe and the Middle East. His area of focus is what he describes as helping companies become ‘Open Loop’ thinkers. This focuses primarily on supporting established corporates make bolder decisions around technology and what it means from a competitive point of view.

Florin Bora

When I decided to leave, I knew I enjoyed consulting and that’s the professional area where all my strengths converge. The natural follow-on was to give it a try on my own.

The advantages of freelancing, to employers and freelancer

As a freelancer, I see flexibility as the biggest advantage or plus point. Once you do it for 1+ years, it becomes to some extent a lifestyle choice and you can decide to say yes or no to a project based on where you see yourself going with that client. I had struggled with this element when working for a big consulting firm – to say “No, this project is not for me”.

For the clients (and I see them as clients still, not as employers) they get a lot of value for a lot less money. To be completely open, a lot of the freelancers who I have met have a very broad level of experience that complements their consulting toolkit. They have launched or run businesses or departments, they have thought at universities or are absolute experts in given fields or are Angel Investors themselves. Yes, you find those individuals in the big consultancies too, but let’s be open about it – in reality, you often get whoever is on the bench to come and be part of the project team.

Selecting freelance projects

It’s all about the nature of the work. If the project hits this sweet spot of an established business thinking about tapping into the scary unknowns of the venture capital and tech start-up worlds, that’s when I know I can bring the most value. The reciprocal statement is also valid but there is simply less appetite or budget for very early stage companies to have consultants come and join them temporarily. I feel this is changing a little though.

Practical tips for other freelancers

First step is to make that mental shift and to really look at freelancing as a viable career option. There are still many consultants and ex-consultants who believe it can’t be sustained, or have a negative attitude to it. Those statements are all wrong.

Secondly, find an area where you really bring a competitive edge for a potential client and work on it, improve, grow. At the same time, make sure your generalist toolkit is always there, as there’s always demand for it.

Thirdly, have the stamina to go through the lower periods when demand is reduced. These periods will come and they can be scary, but they also pass.

Finally, keep a mentor from your previous consulting life. Even if it’s just 20-30 min conversations once a month, they will be of tremendous value and will keep you connected.

What more employers should know about working with freelancers

I think there is a fallacy to look at interim consultants as employees. If I am being contracted, I come with at least three consulting hats – the partner that helps shape an executive agenda, the engagement manager that structures the work, and the analyst that actually produces the content, plus my entrepreneur one.

So I’m not a regular employee that has one task, but I support all these elements. Sometimes I find myself in the situation of having to explain this dynamic to the client or needing to challenge some of their resistance.

4. Aidan Kearney, strategy, digital transformation & organisation

Aidan Kearney has a background in management consulting and private equity. As a freelance consultant, he specialises in strategy, digital transformation and organisation in the media, technology and online sectors.

Aidan Kearney

I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how fast the market is growing – it makes great sense for employers, and I think it will continue to grow. While the market is very strong in the UK, I also see the use of freelancers growing in other markets.

The advantages of freelancing, to employers and freelancer

For the freelancer, the exposure to different challenges and different ways of doing things at various clients provides a fantastic ongoing learning curve. While I am there to solve one problem, I continually learn so much from new environments, people and approaches, which then gets built into my expertise and what I can offer in the future. This can sometimes be difficult to replicate in permanent roles.

On a personal level, freelancing gives you more time to develop your interests, either professionally or personally, as you can dedicate time to work or other pursuits as you like.

For the employer, it is great to access expertise to solve a problem that can’t be solved internally due to capability or capacity constraints; in my experience, without the freelancer the “problem to be solved” would rumble on over a long period of time, or would not be addressed very well internally – either due to a lack of expertise, or a lack of time amongst the existing resources. This is where the freelancer is a great solution, and is a very targeted and efficient use of budget – with a very high ROI.

Selecting freelance projects

There are two important considerations. Firstly, the project fit: it should be in an area that excites me (i.e. typically, but not always, in the media/tech/online sector), my experience and background will be really useful for the client, and the project will challenge me and build my expertise further.

Secondly, a good rapport with the client is really important. With a fixed project timeline, good communication, understanding and trust is critical; and of course, it’s just more fun to work with great people.

Practical tips for other freelancers

Focus on developing a strong core offering (e.g. subject matter or functional expertise, project management competencies etc), and build and develop this over time.

As part of this core offering, create your own training and development plan, such as through courses at business schools (online or in-person); as a freelancer, there is nobody to develop a structured development plan for you as usually happens in a permanent role. The freelance freedom is great, as you can choose exactly what is a good fit for you, and deepen your skills and expertise where you are passionate through your own development plan.

Example Projects

1. Strategy

Facebook is a social media tech giant. In January 2018, there were 2.2 billion monthly active users on the platform.

The successful movemeon member, previously worked at Arthur D. Little as a Business Analyst.

About the role :
  • Utilise strong analytical skill set to drive insightful analysis using internal and external data
  • Analyze trends within countries, channel, vertical, sub-vertical, client-level performance
  • Identify levers for driving revenue growth
Candidate requirements :
  • Strong analytical skills, high attention to detail and rigour, can-do attitude and desire to learn
  • Demonstrated experience building Excel models to solve business problems end-to-end
  • Demonstrable problem-solving ability with experience providing business insights from data
Read the original job description

About the team:-

You’ll be working on site in Dublin, driving analysis to support the team in shaping strategic direction.

Duties:-

  • Utilise strong analytical skillset to drive insightful analysis using internal and external data (e.g. revenue, product, market, industry) to support the team in arriving at business decisions
  • Utilise strong attention to detail to deliver accurate analyses and insights
  • Analyze trends within countries, channel, vertical, sub-vertical, client-level performance and identify levers for driving revenue growth
  • Support sales ops teams in running quarterly operations smoothly
  • Opportunity to be a part of a team that plays an integral role in shaping sales operations and strategy
  • Successful work achievement could lead to advancement, both in terms of position (Full-time role) and responsibilities

Skills:-

  • Strong analytical skills, high attention to detail and rigour, can-do attitude and desire to learn
  • Helpful to have had some post collegiate experience in a quantitative field that can demonstrate the analytical skillset (e.g. business analytics, business intelligence, etc.)
  • Strong proficiency in excel is highly desired; demonstrated experience in building excel models to solve business problems end-to-end is a must
  • Some demonstrable problem-solving ability with experience providing practical business insights from data is beneficial to have
  • Some experience with SQL, Tableau, Microstrategy is helpful as well
  • Ability to manage multiple concurrent projects, strong verbal and written communication skills are beneficial to have

2. PE and portfolio operations

IPH Brammer/Rubix is an industrial distributor and leader in the MRO space which is an Advent portfolio company and active in 23 European markets.

The successful movemeon members previously worked at BCG and A.T.Kearney.

About the role :
  • Make key analyses on UK customers, margins of different categories
  • Provide help with cost analyses
Candidate requirements :
  • 2-5 years' experience at a top tier consulting firm
  • Strong analytical skillset
  • Transformation experience preferred but not required
Read the original job description

Day rate:-

£500 – 1000 p/d

Duration:-

2-3 months

About the team:-

We currently have a European transformation team led by an ex McKinsey principal and ex-Bain Cap with a team below him of 3 ex-McKinsey and Bain managers. We need analysts and an associate with a strong consulting toolkit to make some key analyses on UK customers, margins of different categories and to provide some help with cost analyses.

About the company:-

IPH-Brammer is Europe’s largest supplier of industrial maintenance, repair and overhaul products and services. It was created from the merger of IPH with Brammer in 2017, following the acquisition of Brammer by Advent International. From around 650 + locations, 8000 IPH-Brammer employees help to specify, install and provide a leading range of industrial products and services to more than 220,000 customers. The newly merged business had combined sales of €2.3bn in 2017 and is a leader distributor in bearings and power transmission, tools, general maintenance, assembly, machining and personal protective equipment.

3. Project Management

LoveCrafts hired a Strategy Consultant, the project duration was 3-4 months (with possible extension). The successful movemeon mem- ber previously worked as a Business Analyst at McKinsey & Co.

About the role :
  • Structure the project
  • Lead the analysis and manage the analysts
  • Deliver high quality products to clients
Candidate requirements :
  • 5-7 years’ working experience
  • At least 3 years in consulting at a Tier 1 firm
  • Strong communication skills
Read the original job description

Day rate:-

€800 – 1000 p/d

Duration:-

6-12 weeks

About the team:-

ShARE is currently comprised of two senior advisers - one a former senior partner at McKinsey and one a former senior partner at BCG - and the founder, who is an ex-BCG consultant from their Paris Office. The founder studied in France, China and India, before working in Africa for 7 years, where he was the country director of Sierra Leone, the country director for Ethiopia and the head of Strategy for the Tony Blair Institute. During his time in Africa, he worked directly with more than 20 ministers and 2 heads of state.We are hiring a project manager to run our consulting projects with strategy, marketing and innovation senior executives of large MNCs. The consulting team will be composed of a partner (ex BCG and McKinsey), the project manager and four part-time analysts from top schools.

About the role:-

Over the last eight months, we have worked on projects in Indonesia, China, India, Ethiopia, Europe, and Brazil on issues related to construction, energy, innovation and the automotive industry. We are taking on an increasing number of projects, and therefore need to hire a project manager either on a freelance basis for a 6-12 weeks assignment or on a permanent position (to apply for the permanent position, please see our permanent job posting on movemeon).The project manager role is structure the project, to lead the analysis, to manage the analysts and to be responsible for delivering high-quality products to our clients.

4. Due Diligence

L.E.K. is a global strategy consulting firm with offices across Europe, the Americas and Asia-Pacific. They advertised on movemeon for a Freelance Associate. The project length was 4 weeks.

The successful movemeon member previously worked at PwC as a Senior Associate.

About the role :
  • We are currently looking for a Freelance Consultant for a three-week project to support the case team on a Due Diligence.
Candidate requirements :
  • 1-3 years’ experience in management consulting.
  • Strong analytical sills
  • Fluent in English/French
Read the original job description

Day rate:-

Up to €400 p/d

Duration:-

5 weeks

About the team:-

L.E.K. Consulting is an international firm that specialises in strategy, transaction services and performance improvement consulting. It advises the largest private and public sector organisations, private equity companies and smaller, more entrepreneurial businesses.With a reputation for resolving the most complex commercial issues, L.E.K. helps business leaders consistently make better decisions, deliver improved business performance and create greater shareholder returns.The firm was founded in 1983 and employs over 900 staff in 20 offices across Europe, North America, and Asia Pacific. The Paris office was opened in 1989.

About the role:-

We require multiple Freelance Analysts to work on a strategy project in the context of a potential CDD for a corporate client which will start on the 22nd of August for 5 weeks (full-time).The project manager role is structure the project, to lead the analysis, to manage the analysts and to be responsible for delivering high-quality products to our clients.