There comes a time when every small business owner realizes that she needs expert input and if you’ve reached that point in your business you have probably asked yourself whether it is time to hire a consultant. The terms “consultant” and “contractor” are sometimes combined these days with so many entrepreneurs offering independent services to businesses. If you realize you need outside help but the sometimes vague distinction between contractors and consultants has you scratching your head, this brief overview of the differences can help.
If you need specialized knowledge and expertise for a temporary project or fixed length of time, hire a consultant. Consultants are experts in their field and typically charge much higher rates than contractors or employees would be paid and often serve the purpose of finding a problem, creating a solution, or optimizing an area of your business. The time you spend with a consultant is more expensive and intensive than with a contractor, and the consultant works with you to implement plans and changes, rather than working independently.
A consultant provides expertise and input whose use is extendable. In other words, if you need ongoing, dynamic work and information, hire a contractor or a virtual assistant who is specialized in the area you need assistance in. You work with them temporarily but the result should be a great amount of growth or capital for your business. Consultants tend to have unique or combined specializations and are truly experts in their field. They may specialize in family-owned small business management, execution, and implementation of strategic plans, or organizational management among other things. A few examples of areas where consultants can help you jump-start your business and create lasting changes include:
• Sales decreases
• Strategic planning
• Cash flow issues
• Organizational restructuring
• Rebranding or product launch
• Project management
• Analysis of marketing techniques and efficacy
If you need specialized work and applicable knowledge that is ongoing, hire a contractor or take on an employee. Contractors provide regular work, just as an employee would, that may or may not be specialized, though it is specific. Contractors tend to work more independently than consultants because they perform work or ongoing projects whose outline and execution are specified by the business. The main difference between a consultant and a contractor is that contractors do not provide intellectual capital or input that will direct the course of the business; instead, they serve as executors of specific tasks and steps that you have defined for them. You may hire a contractor for:
• Bookkeeping and/or payroll
• Regular or repeating projects like tax filings
• HR management
• Administrative support
• Email Marketing
• Content creation and writing
To be clear, contractors can certainly be experts in their field, but their work follows the guidelines and standards of your place of business or industry—for example, doctors and some lawyers. When you hire a contractor, the authority is all yours, whereas a consultant works collaboratively with you—more like a partner—or becomes a temporary director of some area of your business.
At Jennie Lyon Virtual Assistant services I provide both contract and consult work in many different areas of expertise. Hopefully, this short guide has given you a clearer idea of whether you need a contractor or consultant to move your business forward.
In fact, let me do you a favor, download my free workbook that walks you through partnering with a virtual assistant. If you do one thing for your business this year, get help! You can’t do everything yourself, collaborating with a virtual assistant is a great way to grow your business!