If you’re interested in going into consulting, it’s logical that you want to know what your earning potential will be. So how much do consultants make? That answer completely depends on what type of consulting you’re interested in and how much value you bring to the table.
At one end of the pay spectrum, you have human resources (HR) consultants who on average make around $63,000 USD a year. At the other end, you’ll find financial consultants who average closer to $90,000 USD. That’s a large differential, but it’s not unusual when comparing 2 careers within the same category.
For example, if you decided to create an ecommerce website there would be a vast range of income based on what you were going to sell. Choose to feature a high-profit margin selection of jewelry on your site and your income could be substantial. If you decided to instead sell lawn and gardening tools, your profit margins would plummet. The markup is much lower on these products and they’re more expensive to ship.
Both of these business ideas center on an ecommerce site, but the average income could be drastically different. So it is with consulting. You can potentially make a fortune with either pursuit, but the statistics favor one direction over the other.
What Is Consulting?
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of consulting pay, let’s define the job. The basic answer is that a consultant is paid to give expert advice to another business or organization. But the best consultants have so much more than just expertise in a given field.
As Alexander Lewis explains:
The ability to continuously find solutions for other people, and help them achieve those solutions for themselves, requires a combination of curiosity and creativity. You must possess the curiosity to notice where problems exist, and the creativity to find a worthwhile solution.
Do you have a passion for solutions? Can you confidently share your ideas? Then you might have what it takes to be a top-tier consultant. The type of problem-solver who eclipses their industry’s average pay in their first year and helps redefine the job’s earning potential.
Digging Deeper Into Consultant Pay
Let’s start with the overall average pay for consultants. As there’s a lot of variance regarding pay around the globe, we’ll focus on pay within the United States so there’s consistency in the comparisons.
The most recent data for 2023 shows that consultants make an average of $7,091 a month. That equates to $85,092 a year. This same research indicates that monthly salaries for consultants can be as high as $16,417 (about $197,000 a year). This should be an inspiring number, and it’s attainable if you continue honing your skills and running your business in the right way.
If some consultants make more than $16,000 a month and the average is $6,854, some consultants are making less than $2,000 a month. But it’s important to keep perspective when considering that smaller amount. Many of those low-earning consultants could be doing the job on a part-time basis, never striving for a larger income.
Now let’s break down 12 different types of consulting to see how the pay can vary. All of these fields offer great potential. Remember, even if the annual average is a fair bit lower than you’re aiming for, there are part-time consultants who might be skewing the pay figures lower.
Social Media Consultant
Average salary: $52,453
Description: Gone are the days of just scheduling posts and building ads, social media consultants are now required to help businesses strategize on how to reach and engage with a target audience across the gamut of social platforms. Because of the fast-paced nature of the industry, a social media consultant has to know everything from the latest iOS updates to how to create TikTok content that generates views.
Average salary: $80,000 – $85,000
Description: Clients seek out a human resources consultant when they need help with their HR policies. Areas of expertise for these consultants include internal communication, employee training, onboarding new employees, and the administration of benefits.
Average salary: $72,600
Description: With so many options to choose from, it can be hard for businesses to decide what kinds of technology they should use. Technology consultants are brought in to review the current technology, offer suggestions for optimization, and then guide the integration of any new software.
Average salary: $65,666
Description: These consultants understand the financial world better than just about anyone. They advise clients on how to find the best products for their individual goals. Many investment consultants have prior experience working in private equity firms or big banks.
Average salary: $77,179
Description: Sales consultants understand what motivates customers to make purchases. They identify solutions that will bring more leads to clients, put strategies in place to help nurture those leads, and ultimately, help clients convert more sales. Additionally, these consultants often offer advice on pricing, branding, and positioning.
Average salary: $88,605
Description: There’s a fair bit of overlap between the work of software consultants and technology consultants. But as the name suggests, software consultants focus on software solutions rather than tackling some of the broader tasks that a technology consultant handles. In most cases, they specialize in 1-2 types of software, such as Salesforce or SAP. Software consultants are experts at workflow, data, and collaboration.
Digital Marketing Consultant
Average salary: $71,164
Description: These consultants are experts in both paid and organic online marketing tactics. They research a business’s target audience and help develop campaigns to reach them. After the business implements these strategies, a digital marketing consultant monitors the results and offers suggestions for improvement.
Average salary: $77,634
Description: The best businesses have plans for how they will acquire new customers and bolster their bottom line. And many of these businesses seek business consultants, as they can review plans and offer refinement. These consultants have the ability to identify obstacles that haven’t even arisen yet, providing proactive solutions that keep clients moving forward.
Average salary: $90,000 – $100,000
Description: If you’ve heard of ransomware, then you know how devastating it can be to a business when their data is compromised. Security consultants are brought in to find system vulnerabilities and implement defenses against the wide array of threats posed by hackers.
Average salary: $84,642
Description: Processes might seem mundane, but they’re often the difference between a middling company and one that consistently hits its goals. A management consultant is able to streamline a client’s processes to achieve even better results. These consultants usually specialize in workflow, finance, and data analysis.
Average salary: $88,497
Description: These consultants are masters of all things related to money. They’re often brought in when a business is either unclear about their financial situation or consistently struggle to manage their money effectively. Financial consultants collaborate with accountants and other specialists to find inefficiencies and errors. Their work can often help clients save a substantial amount of money.
Average salary: $93,956
Description: The bigger the company, the bigger the need for systems. A systems consultant has the experience to evaluate a client’s IT systems and then enhance the functionality. This includes integrating various software, improving security, and managing data.
Average salary: $98,468
Description: A senior consultant might have a background in any of the specialties listed above, but they have since moved into a leadership role where they run an entire team of consultants. Aside from serving point for their team, a senior consultant might also lend their expertise to clients.
Additional Notes About Consultant Compensation
Of course, compensation is more than just your gross income. As a consultant, you can enjoy a wide range of benefits. Examples include:
- Flexible work schedule
- Work remotely
- Health insurance
- Vision insurance
- Dental insurance
- Disability insurance
- 401(k) matching
- Ample PTO
Given the autonomy you enjoy as a consultant, you have the opportunity to carve out the compensation that means the most to you. If a benefit is important, communicate it to clients early and make sure it shows up in the contract. You have a lot of power as a consultant, so use it to put together a career that truly rewards you for your efforts.
Read more: The Complete Guide to Getting Clients for Your Consulting Business
How Much Do Consultants Make FAQ
When's the right time to start a consulting business?
There's no time like the present. Consulting or starting an agency is one of the most cost-efficient businesses. All you need is your skillsets, office supplies, and a laptop to start. Although you can create a consulting business at any point in your career, it will be effective if you have work experience in the field or certifications that showcase to potential clients that you're legit.
Can I do consulting part-time?
Yes. Consulting is an easy side hustle to do outside your 9 to 5 or paired with another part-time job. Just be careful that your full-time job has no non-compete clauses or that your moonlighting doesn't affect your performance in the daylight. Also, starting part-time with 1-2 clients is an easy way to prove your value and build your portfolio, so you'll already have a track record of success when you commit full-time.
What's the best consulting job?
The job that fits your skillset and passion. As a consultant, you'll need to be up-to-date on industry trends and training to provide value to your clients. If you're not passionate about your focus, you'll quickly burn out and leave your clients scratching their heads about why they paid you in the first place.
Getting Started as a Consultant
Many consultants feel awkward about setting their rates in the early stages of their careers. The amount you’re charging is impacted by so many factors—experience level, tenure, location—that it can be hard to lock down a figure that you feel confident pitching to clients.
If this scenario sounds familiar, don’t sweat it. You’ll be in good shape as long as you calculate how much money you need to bring in each month to cover your expenses and feel successful. Do some research to learn more about the going rates for consultants in your industry and area, then decide what you’ll need to earn.
It will be an ongoing process of rate-setting. Anytime you feel that you might be coasting, reassess the situation. Here are some questions you can ask:
- Am I still being challenged?
- Am I still earning enough to meet my needs?
- Am I still earning enough to enjoy my life?
- What new skills do I have in development?
- What new skills have I mastered?
- Have I shown a proven value to clients?
As long as you’re consistently taking the time to think about your rates, you’ll sound educated when you talk about them. And your tone and delivery mean everything to clients. As Jesse Sumrak explains:
Confidence goes a long way. Your client wants a consultant they can trust, and that trust is established throughout negotiations and working together. When asked, don’t present your rates as a question. State your prices and be prepared to stand your ground.
While there will always be room for compromise in negotiations, never apologize for the price of your expertise. You’re a talented entrepreneur who offers distinct insights. And you deserve to be paid accordingly.
You’ll be able to maximize your compensation as a consultant if you nail down the other aspects of running a business. Our library of free business courses covers many crucial topics, such as negotiations, advertising, copywriting, content creation, and goal setting.
Each course is taught by a proven entrepreneur who not only has what it takes to succeed but has demonstrated their prowess again and again. They share insights and strategies that took years to master, allowing you to bypass the typical chaos of launching a business and get to the best parts of being an entrepreneur.
So if you’re ready to launch your career as a consultant, there’s no time like the present. Choose a couple of our courses that you feel will provide the most essential information, sit down in a comfortable chair, and get ready to take copious notes. You’ve got this!