How do consultants get paid?

"Delivering the knowledge you need to succeed."

Typical payment terms for consultants are either an hourly rate, a flat fee per project, or a combination of the two.

In some cases, consultants may also receive a commission for finding new clients or completing specific tasks.

Independent consultants typically work with businesses on a short-term basis, providing advice and expertise as needed.

However, some may work with a single client for an extended period.

Consultants at management consulting firms are often paid a base salary plus bonuses and commissions, which can vary based on individual performance and the firm’s overall profitability.

While businesses may turn to consultants for a variety of reasons, consultant services typically fall into one of three broad categories:

  • Strategy Consultants: Helping businesses develop and implement long-term plans
  • Operations Consultants: Improving efficiency and effectiveness within businesses
  • Tactical Consultants: executing specific projects or tasks
  • Management Consultants: Assist businesses with overall management and organization.

Now I’ll go over what you can expect as an independent consultant, senior consultant, and entry-level consultant can earn.

Senior financial consultant with clip board smiling and talking with client

Independent contractors

Consultants who have their own consulting firm are typically paid an hourly rate or a flat fee per project.

In some cases, they may also receive a commission for completing a project that helps the business save money or increase revenue.

However, most consultants are paid based on the number of hours they work.

They submit invoices at the end of each month or two weeks, and the client pays them according to the terms of their agreement.

If you’re a consultant, you probably know how much money you need to live on each month.

You can either take a salary draw from your business account or, if you have the cash flow, take money out as you need.

It’s essential to track how much money you’re spending each month, so you don’t run into financial trouble down the road.

Pay scale

Independent consultants typically charge between $100 and $200 per hour, with an average rate of around $130 per hour.

Of course, rates vary depending on the consultant’s experience, the project’s scope, and the client’s location.

Some consultants also offer discounts to clients willing to pay upfront for a certain number of hours or the entire project.

You can generally earn a higher hourly rate if you work with larger businesses or on more complex projects.

How consultants get paid by clients

Independent consultants typically use an invoicing system through a CRM like Hubspot or a payment processor like Stripe or PayPal.

When the consultant completes a project or reaches a milestone, they send an invoice to the client.

The client then has a certain amount of time to pay the consultant, depending on the terms of their agreement.

Consulting fees

Working with an independent consultant is B2B.

So like with any contract between businesses, payment terms are generally negotiable.

However, the vast majority of consultant engagements are structured around an hourly rate or a day rate.

There are a few other ways that consultants can get paid by clients, but these are the most common:

  • Hourly rate: An hourly rate is usually calculated based on the consultant’s expertise and experience.
  • Day rate: A day rate is usually used for shorter projects or when the consultant will be working on-site with the client.
  • Flat fee: A flat fee is usually used for longer projects or when the consultant will be working on-site with the client.
  • Retainer: A monthly retainer fee is usually used for ongoing projects or when the consultant will be working on-site with the client.
  • Commission: A commission structure is usually based on a percentage of the project’s total cost or the consultant’s sales.
  • Project fees: A project fee is usually based on the scope of the project and the consultant’s experience.
  • Late fee: If the client doesn’t pay the consultant’s invoice within the agreed-upon timeframe, they may be charged a late fee.

As you can see, there are various ways that consultants can get paid by clients.

The most important thing is to ensure you’re clear about the payment terms before you start working with a client.

This will help ensure that there are no surprises down the road.


Unlike working at a firm, there are no specific requirements for becoming a consultant.

For example, a consultant that worked at a marketing company for a few years could decide to start their own marketing consulting business.

However, most consultants have at least a few years of experience before starting their own businesses.

This allows them to build a network of clients and contacts and gain the necessary skills and knowledge to succeed.

However, most consultants have at least a bachelor’s degree, and many have advanced degrees or professional certifications.


The benefits of being a consultant include the following:

  • The ability to set your own hours and work from home
  • The ability to accept the projects you work on
  • The ability to charge higher rates as you gain experience
  • The ability to travel and work from anywhere in the world


There are a few potential downsides to being a consultant, including:

  • The need to constantly market your business
  • The inconsistency of work and income
  • The pressure to deliver results for clients

Being a consultant can be a great way to earn a living.

It’s essential to weigh the pros and cons before deciding if it’s the right career path.

Consultant presenting his research to a client

Employees of consulting firms

Employees of consulting firms usually draw a salary, which can be paid out monthly or biweekly.

In addition, consultants may also be eligible for bonuses at the end of the firm’s fiscal year.

These bonuses are generally performance-based, so the consultant’s contribution to the firm’s bottom line will play a role in how much they receive.

Another benefit of working for a consulting business is that you get reimbursed quickly for any expenses you incur while consulting.

Pay range

A consultants base salary ranges from about $61k-$146k depending on your experience and qualifications.

Signing bonuses

Many larger firms will offer signing bonuses ranging from about $5k to $150k.

The higher the base salary you earn, the higher the percentage signing bonus you will likely receive.

Performance Bonuses

In addition to your base salary and signing bonus, you can also expect an annual performance bonus.

The amount you receive will be based on how well you meet or exceed the expectations of your role.

These bonuses range from about $12k-150K.


Typical requirements to become a consultant include a bachelor’s degree, strong analytical skills, and several years of experience in a related field.


Working for a consulting firm can be a very lucrative career option, especially if you can contribute positively to the firm’s growth and profitability.

In addition to a high salary, you can also expect bonuses and other perks, such as profit sharing and reimbursement for expenses.


Working at top-tier firms means competition for jobs at these firms is also much higher.

You must have a strong skillset and track record to be considered for employment.

Also, the workload at top-tier firms can be intense.

You should be prepared to put in long hours and make significant sacrifices in your personal life.

HR consultant smiling and working with a client

Owners and partners with a consulting firm

Owners and senior consultants with a vested interest in the business are usually paid differently than lower-level employees.

They may receive a lower salary, but they will also get a share of the profits (known as equity) or a share of the revenue generated by the firm (known as a draw).

If you are a consultant thinking about starting your own firm, it’s essential to understand how you will be paid so that you can make informed decisions about how to structure your business.

Pay range

The average consultant salary for someone who owns their own firm ranges anywhere from $250k-$350k.

This can vary widely depending on the size and success of the business.


A consultant’s draw is typically a percentage of the revenue generated by the firm, meaning it can fluctuate significantly from month to month.

This arrangement is often used to help cover the business’s costs, such as overhead expenses and employee salaries.


Owners of consulting firms usually have a significant equity stake in the business.

This means they own a portion of the business and are entitled to a share of the profits.

The amount of equity you own will depend on how much you invested in the business and how well the business is doing.

Annual bonuses

In addition to their salary and equity stake in the business, owners of consulting firms may also receive annual bonuses.

These bonuses are usually based on the firm’s performance and can range from a few thousand dollars to millions of dollars.

As you can see, there is much potential for earnings when you own a consulting firm.

However, it is essential to keep in mind that the amount you take home will depend on several factors, such as the size and success of your business.

Top consultant positions

These are chosen not only for the amount a consultant can earn but also for the level of satisfaction, work/life balance, and job security they offer.

  1. Senior financial Consultants
  2. Management Consultant
  3. IT Consultant
  4. Recruiting Consultant
  5. HR consultant
  6. Customer Experience consultant
  7. Sales Consultant
  8. Marketing Consultant
  9. Brand Consultant
  10. Financial Consultant
  11. Project management Consultant
  12. Personal Branding Consultant
  13. Communications Consultant
  14. Customer Service Consultant

When deciding on a career in consulting, it is essential to consider all the factors mentioned above.

Owning your own firm can be very lucrative, but it is also essential to understand how you will be paid and the potential risks.

Working for a firm may offer more job security and a better work/life balance, but be aware of the intense competition for jobs at top-tier firms.

No matter which route you decide to take, make sure you do your research and understand all of the pros and cons before making any decisions.